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Websites: Why Your Smallest Investment Still Pisses You Off

We’ll let you in on a little secret. For years, decades really, you’ve been able to throw some words and photos onto recycled trees, shoot a check out for $5,000 a week and create a line so long out your front door you were laughing. And now you have a virtual ad up every day for one quarter that price (or less for most dealers) and bang your head against a wall.

You might even think that your last print ad actually did better than any other source in recent memory.

The only rules that changed when you relied on print was if your rep would “take care of you”, a competitor would drop out of the paper for a week, you had a better lost leader than the closest same-brand store or if you included dealer cash or bought down rate and nobody else did that weekend.

Nowadays how you show up, where you show up, when you show up doesn’t make sense to you and don’t have anyone even get you started on pricing as gross erodes, software tells you how to optimize your lot and competitors you’ve never heard of are showing up in your pump-in, pump-out report.

You would gladly spend $30,000 a month to see your latest promotion, however if another rep or consultant walks in with a haphazardly assembled SEO report telling you that their services are needed immediately for $2,000 a month you’ll give them the Axel Foley treatment in Beverly Hills Cop.

And now you’re told that your current website provider platform isn’t up to snuff (what is a subdomain or a second “site”??), your paid ads don’t convert, leads are down and your cost per sale is up. You’re pissed. And mostly because you don’t understand what to do and how to do it or how to get your vendor(s) to do it, not because your most important advertising source can’t work.

It’s your smallest investment (you’ll spend more in coffee services, porters and trips to 7-11 for Red Bull for your staff to start logging their ups and follows ups in CRM).

Studies don’t matter. Analytics don’t matter. Lead ROI doesn’t matter. Not until all of the basics are covered. Not until you have an understanding of your $700-$3,000 per month spend. It’s never been a pay-for-it-and-leave-it even though every vendor tells you it is.

Websites are one of your three greatest investments and the least expensive (the other two are your staff and your CRM). Don’t ignore it and them blame anyone else. You shouldn’t spend money for anything you don’t understand. Don’t be the one who knows more about what clubs Jordan was using last weekend, yet nothing about the platform your website runs on or that you need to deliver four sizes of your latest ads instead of one. Don’t get pissed off at one of your smallest line items, get smart and get results.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Want R.O.I. on Anything? Start Using Anything! (Or Settle For B.S.)

One of the first questions that is asked of us when engaging a dealership is “what is the R.O.I. of (fill in the blank)?” Well our friends, from leads to software, to websites and PPC, the question that is being asked is wrong.  If you ask what is the R.O.I. of a product, let me ask you what is the R.O.I. of air?

Well, it’s noting if you don’t use it.

Over the past seven years, we have proven over and over a multiple R.O.I. on all digital aspects compared to before we arrived. And remember, that is usually with no or little vendor changes. Why is this? Because there is no return of investment without education, understanding and utilization.

Dealerships usually buy due to fear or loss, standardization or acceptance of a product, or a unique opportunity (first-in-market). Rarely are those opportunities truly vetted out. While we are not saying to stop before purchasing a product or service that has market penetration because there is a compelling otherwise to do so, we are advocating full assessment prior to signing.

Take lead providers, for example. While most have taken a (B.S.) marketing position and away from you buying leads, most dealers have more “opportunities” in their ILM/CRM than they know how to handle. Buying more leads? Usually you drop your R.O.I.

Also, return on investment is calculated improperly. Is it closer to income and expense or profit and loss? Yes. Until you are properly educated, coached and assessed regularly, there is no R.O.I. because the assumptions are in the wrong place. Show me a dealer closing 10% of their leads, add another provider and, after six months, you will have a dealer with a higher cost structure closing 10% of their leads. Insanity.

Spoiler alert: do the math, work it and get results. For every new website, software, marketing tool and process, you must back it up with hard-core training (no matter how much that word sucks) and sustainment. That is how our average client that buys in fully to our processes and business rules doubles results in less than a year.

Recently we have heard about more catastrophic website or software installs than ever before. What’s the R.O.I. on a vendor search, pitches, proposal and negotiations, set-up fees, months frustratingly lost followed a switch back to the previous or another new provider?

Stop talking about R.O.I. until you spend more on your personnel, education, accountability, scoring, bonuses (not get-it-done spiffs, by the way) and intra-staff support. That’s when you get return.

Until then, you can continue to buy based off of “your competitor is using this and they’ll eat your lunch” or “only 5 more cars sold with our biz-bang-boom and you’re in profit!” or any other snake oil sales job you fall for.

Oh…and one more thing to consider. Results occur top-down with an true ownership, understanding perspective. Not bottom-up make this work garbage. So take that pill and swallow it…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

You Didn’t Care About The Cheese In the First Place, So Move On

Many today rant about change and how someone moved their cheese. The mindset of those who expect a static retail world show many who effuse about “the Good Old Days” while using mobile apps for airline tickets, ESPN Mobile for football scores and drive times delivered to their home desktops prior to leaving for the office.

The paradigm hasn’t shifted as much as it’s already taken the dirt nap.  If you’re not ready for consumer-based everything, it’s time to reassess where you fit into automotive retail.

As an industry, we fall grandiosely behind what consumers expect. Recently a friend of mine’s mother was shopping for a vehicle.  They caught an ad (yes, a newspaper one) and showed up at the dealer to find out that the stacked rebate offer was sold only the day before.  After reprimanding that they should have never looked at a newspaper anything, the shopper retooled and headed out via web-based information (the new 2013 vehicle was purchased yesterday, from an honest dealership).

Since the very-public FTC crack down (and resulting settlements) on dealerships just a couple months ago, it is easy to see that the cheese moving has nothing to do with our comfort zone, consumerism or reality. By and large, dealerships will continue to do as done: Get the customer in. foursquare them, throw the keys on the roof and keep them caged for a number of hours, lest they escape when the salesperson leaves for the “desk”.

A few weeks ago, at the Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver, my presentation included a statement: “given the chance, 75% of dealerships would turn off their websites tomorrow”. Frankly speaking, that’s likely not too far off from the truth. This is based on entering and speaking with hundreds of dealerships a year. What can be done to alleviate the burden from those that don’t want it?

Automotive retail must move at the speed of the consumer, not pull the wool over their eyes even faster!  The longer we live in year-1995 speakers and training, the faster customers will leave and push consumer-direct sales and other alternatives. Remember folks, 1994 was the year that Ford initially launched FordDirect.com!

The tools, data (for some- to most-part), capabilities and technology are available to us today. Let’s not bury the positive side of retail with 6-hour visits, bait-and-switch tactics, “we’re always here” mentality and less-than-deserved experiences because we are still waiting for the “up bus”.

If you aren’t ready for the cheese to be moved (newsflash: it already did), move on. Let someone else fill your position rather than having your sales staff ask a potential customer “would you buy it for fourteen-five?” when you don’t intend to come off of seventeen and back that up with an awkward T.O. only to find the customer gone in a minute! Consumers expect more, and damn it so do you, so why do it?

Maybe it’s time to forget the cheese and move onto whine… (Oops, meant wine).

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Automotive Digital: The Cost of Being Minimized

It's no secret that we're on the move. All of us. You might even say that the speed at which things change is breakneck. What is less known is that as we speed toward wherever "there" is, the more we seem to be willingly giving up. The homogenization of dealerships is rampant…and it's the dealer that checked the box.

Our industry moves at the speed of retail. There is no two ways about it. While the mainstream media still focuses on what happens with the OEMs, just know that you are the king, not the pawn. That is until you make a choice: hire the preferred vendor so you can co-op funds; use the standard POPs since it's easier; use the brand website so you don't have to "maintain" two. And so on.

Consumerism is driving retail, which is at conflict with the OEMs. At the same time, dealers by-and-large are giving up the ghost because of cost. Well folks, the greater cost is being minimized. You can want it as much as possible and you still won't have your cake and eat it to. At least not in the digital realm.

So while customers are screaming for attention, service, why-buys, value, appreciation, satisfaction and validation, you throw a redundant website, a canned script, a formulaic email, a prepackaged walkaround, a canned welcome and broken sourcing practices at them. All to hopefully deliver the same car that's available at multiple competitors.

Very few dealers are making the investment to differentiate everything about their operations. You will never sell more saving money. You will never retain more customers while cutting costs. You will never achieve market increases while focusing on consolidating services. You will accelerate your demise.

Progressive businesses continually stay in front of trends, measure more effectively, create opportunities, listen more effectively, invest wisely and attract more eyeballs and customers. Those that don't….don't. 

The OEM-supported and mandated programs that are happening and a growing rate many times are being managed by companies simply adding on costs. Their insight doesn't push results, it standardized you. BDCs are being recommended for management by two preferred vendors for one manufacturer right now. You will sound and read just like your closest competitor. Is that your goal? No, is that really your goal? How much money will you save to get your Internet lead and phone closing rates up 10-50%?

If you save $1,000 a month since you can receive co-op funds with one BDC company, did you save money when you lost 20 units that should have been sold otherwise? Your social media is accelerating you to the same fate with most OEM-pushed companies. However since you don't read your own dealership posts, maybe it really doesn't happen.

At the end of the day, it's all good since the reporting says you're doing a great job. Right? Wrong.

The cost of being minimized, standardized and homogenized has still not hit an industry that's nearly minting money again hard enough between the eyes. To those that are fighting the fight, staying agile, focusing on results as much as the bottom line and not losing their grasp on where the digital consumer (which is all of us) is guiding us…here's to you! You'll be the ones who win.

For those who choose to be a mindless, factory clone, here's to wishing you the lost excitement, zest, fire and desire that you started with. You gave up the digital battle for whatever reason you did, hopefully you can save more than your money…

IM@CS Adds Experienced eBusiness Consultant Edward Shaffer

As online business continues to change, car dealerships still struggle with understanding, education and improved results. Edward Shaffer brings a wealth of experience to IM@CS

 Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services (IM@CS) has chosen the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) conference starting January 25, to announce the addition of eBusiness Automotive Industry veteran Edward Shaffer to the dealer services team.

Mr. Shaffer will be responsible for in-dealer consulting covering dealer-direct and manufacturer program business. IM@CS educates, manages and supports with leading retailers their website, SEO, lead generation, client retention, social media and other tactical results-driven activities. By uniquely partnering with automobile dealers, industry-leading results have been generated over the past six years.

“We are excited to announce the addition of Edward to our expanding team, focusing on process improvement and implementation, eBusiness best practices and unmatched dealer education. His experienced gained at retail with the Park Place Dealerships organization translates to dealers’ bottom line” states Gary May, Founder and President of IM@CS.

“Retailers and OEMs are struggling, 20 years into the Automotive Internet era, with increasing conversion rates, understanding their digital results and attracting a larger client base. We have been able to produce well-above industry increases over the past six plus years. With Edward now in the field we can partner with more retailers who understand digital and solid process, that are looking for the next level in results” added May.

“I am thrilled to have been chosen by IM@CS to grow and continue the work Gary has started with dealers. This is the natural evolution of my career and I am looking forward to making a difference in our industry”, Shaffer said.

Shaffer and May will be attending the entirety of the NADA convention, allowing dealers to schedule appointments through Tuesday afternoon.

# # #

About IM@CS – Founded in 2007 to address a large void in digital marketing education for car dealerships and other large-ticket businesses, IM@CS delivers on website/SEO, sales training, CRM/BDC, social media management and other marketing as well as key revenue areas untouched by most consulting and training companies. IM@CS has been featured at leading conferences and webinars including DrivingSales Executive Summit, JD Power & Associates AMR, Social Media Club Los Angeles, Innovative Dealer Summit, PCG Digital Marketing, Internet Battle Plan, DealerOn, KPA, eXteres and NADA 20 Groups.

The Year 2012 In Review? (What’s An Automotive Industry Nutshell?)

(Warning, 1000 words below!)

OK,
who's got their 2013 game face on? Nobody? Good, let's make things difficult!!!
2012 was one heck of a year: consumer demand is still up and growing for cars
(although demand still outstrips what sold), mobile use is skyrocketing (albeit
not remotely matched by dealers providing strong solutions), digital demand is
still growing at a breakneck pace (while use of traditional media by
dealerships is up), vehicle technology, especially in-car, is amazing and
overwhelming (while we still can't truly get a MPG sticker correct without driving like we're dying) and quality
is better than even with IQS improving (hand-in-hand with more
"media" coverage of massive recalls). Yup, 2012 was quite the year…

So ask
a car dealership what they're doing and about 16,500 answers will flutter
around "more _________ and less ________ while focusing on our key
strengths in _____________". And that, by the way, will be the answer
around January 5-15th because, unlike other industries that revolve around
retail, we seem to be focused on a date non later than January 5 to close the
year. Newsflash: 2012 is done. Make more calls, send more emails, offer more
dealer cash/rebates/incentives/consumer cash/financing discounts and leases and
you're still not going to sell more. Hello?!?! The "Oh, we pulled 10 more
from our competitor" crap doesn't fly. You'll sell what was essentially
already in the hopper and be happy with it.

Over the last twelve months we saw
highs and lows in the automotive industry, mostly driven by International
factors like economy, emerging markets, regulation, partnership and bankruptcy.
As a matter of fact, we are more tied than ever to what happens in Europe and
Asia, even considering how insular as we tend to be. Whether or not we get to
see a new Cadillac in the States depends more on what happens in Germany than
ever while BMW's success likely depends on what happens in South Carolina. 2012
saw the continued demise of storied as well as soft brands everywhere.

In the passing of this last year, it's
important to reflect on how we actually invited people into showrooms while not
making it any more enjoyable (except for the new showrooms which mostly made
the factory happy while getting better looking floor tiles and slightly better
tasting coffee to customers and some of those neat kids' play rooms we desperately needed). We
switched website CMSs, dealership CRMs, DMSs, SMSs and POPs but did satisfaction with
dealerships actually go up as much as 2012 IQS? Jaguar is still tops
(well, 2nd behind Lexus for 2012 models) on the list and they can't seem to
sell the damn cats…

What did 2012 deliver to your business?
If you've not asked your customers more than your factory reps, your
salespeople and your accountant, you will miss the boat by a larger gap in
2013. Yes, you will continue to sell cars next year and maybe, fortunately more
again, but where does that stop based on solely looking back or not at all?

Where your concentration needs to be,
right now, is around March 2013 because your next 6-8 weeks are already figured
out for the most part. No matter how many "cycles" we have, after 100
years of automobile sales most think that there is some magic to the last few
weeks of the year. Bullhooey.

If you want to succeed starting next
Tuesday, there is no other way to do it than be steadfast in every aspect of
your staff, processes, facility and follow through. Your greatest efforts need
to be put into place around the touch points (hint: it's not the cars!). Those
are showroom (real and virtual) and people. Nothing else matters without those. We are asked regularly how to "jumpstart" sales to the
effect that many talk about in the industry. If you've not been bombarded by
spam marketing and videos, it usually sounds like "100 to 500 cars
overnight with our processes" and "our sales events will have people
driving in from everywhere" and don't forget "our websites will
optimize so well (or drive leads so easily), no other dealer will be able to
touch your numbers, you'll dominate and just have to deliver cars". Rat
dung!

Get the best assets in your business
today that understand how everyday people use technology and expect to be
communicated with. If that means more green peas, then do it! Training?!?!
Tearing down your salespeople to build them back up means you have the wrong
people and wrong processes! It's not "that Internet thing" any more
than your cars are "those things that have engines and tires". It's
time to grow up and look forward. If you 15-pounder 15% of your customers, expect 50%+ of
your reviews to scream you suck.

If you want to look at things in a
nutshell, read another whitepaper about how great a solution is (6- to
12-months after it's relevant while you signed up to get marketed like mad by the
same company) and look backward. Our industry is depending on people who look
forward with only what's needed about past performance as indicators, nothing
else. Improve incrementally prior to making the huge, sweeping changes like we
hear about so much and maybe, just maybe, you'll see about 3-4 months that the
big stuff is not so big after all because you were able to move the needle
consistently. Overnight success is a short-term facade over impending disaster.
Count on it.

2013 can be great for many, even
amongst the raising concerns about economic and other pressures. The best
always raise to the occasion, it's just that it needs to be done in newer ways
more consistently. And remember to make changes with anything that you do by
benchmarking and recording first because so many will pull the wool over your
eyes and scream "we did it for you!". We see it every day. There are
some great dealership partners out there. Remember that opportunity is missed
by most because it comes dressed in overalls. It's work and most of the time
it's slow.

So relish in the success you've had in
2012, you deserve it! At the same time try not to look back all that much. It
will take longer to catch up than you realize. The automotive world moves at
the speed of retail. That is the only truth. So stop slowing yourself down more
than needed.

Much success in 2012 and thanks for
continuing to read…

 

Best Practices: Professional
Insight,
 Powerful Results

The Difference Is One Letter…And What It Gets You Is Much More

Many times people ask me why IM@CS is not a training company, even though plenty of people call what we do by the "T" word. The response every single person receives, for the last five years – and emphatically – is that people despise being trained. People, more successful ones for sure, love learning. In short, we've never had a staff member at a client that ever deserved such a low pat of the attention span.

Education, however, is what people and businesses that want to succeed tune into. There are plenty of trainers to choke 17,000 new car franchises to death, and then some. There are so very few educators, especially in the digital space. That aren't beholden to vendors they recommend (read: if you take a fee from a client and a commission from a vendor, that's called a conflict of interest). That don't work at a store 40 hours a week (read: that's an employee, not a consultant). That learn from outside the industry (read: recirculating existing data, quotes, white papers and results from others is simply an affront).

Education, for the few that want it, is the only thing that moves our industry forward. "Getting back to the basics" and "blocking and tackling", while called for and part of daily operation especially when things drop through the cracks, is needed. However, you can't increase results from eCommerce, increase your SEO footprint, establish social media signals, improve your email lead response rate or conquest a new market or brand by "doing what has always worked".

This week brought a great opportunity to share what might be considered as more "digitally savvy" dealerships and vendors in a conversation with an industry colleague. He happens to be someone that I respect, having OEM, portal and agency experience including outside automotive. He asked, among other items, what we're most proud of that we were able to do with a now, more-successful client. My response was that he should ask them, not me…

You see, training is something you do everywhere for everybody that "needs it". Education is something that you provide with varying degrees of success, seeing the results later through your clients and only for those that absolutely want or will kill for it.

One thing I've always been passionate about in providing services to different business over the past twenty plus years is watching their growth. By providing turnkey services or an enterprise-wide platform, as needed as those services are, the baseline is so muted. That doesn't get me or the team of people I get to work with up in the morning. What does is making a difference through education and then supporting the education. Anyone call sell or buy a widget. And many will tell you their widget is better or drives better results. Bulls**t. The people using the widget to their best capability win. Remember who people buy cars from? The least educated one, right?

So what's the difference between training and education? Education is one letter longer. And likely the only thing keeping your dealership back from excellence…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Tricked Ya! Been Here The Whole Time…

So it's been eight weeks since the last post. It feels like an eternity. But it's likely been longer since the companies and people your business depends on have done something for you either. Was that the point of my hiatus? Not quite. It's been incredibly busy here as our client list as well as staff have grown. It has, however, been a great experiment to get requests to start posting again and watch the analytics. But not to worry, everyone else has had your back. Tricked ya! Well, maybe not…

So anyway, how has 2011 started for you? Chances are things are not much different unless the recent NADA and Digital Marketing Strategies Conferences are now on your "I've attended them" list. For the thousands of dealers at NADA in San Francisco, there was a significant buzz that has been absent for the past few years. For the fifty plus dealers at DMSC in Napa, the feedback has been tremendous and the workshop leaders are preparing…wait for it…for FOLLOW UP webinars with the dealers. That will be a first, and something I've been asking event promoters to do for four years (even recommending it to four event heads in the past eight months). Tricked ya! Nope, that's never been done before…

So change has been in the air and it seems that some of it is actually sticking. The dealers that have been ignoring the screaming and yelling have realized that this can be their year by achieving chunks of change consistently. Yeah, you can still hear "it's still about blocking and tackling!" and "it's back to basics for us!", but it's been the most refreshing eight weeks to get calls, emails, tweets and Facebook messages asking for change. Even from some otherwise typically content business owners and managers. Tricked ya! Well gosh, comfortable is not so much anymore…

So, more impotrant that what our small band of ambassadors think…what has been happening for you, your teams, your store, your community? What have you already achieved this year that you want to share? And what will you do to move our community forward? The dealers MUST participate in greater numbers than ever (even though that's not hard to achieve at all) to assist each other. So get your thoughts written down here…and make it count!

Tricked ya! Dealers don't really share on the forums and blogs… Well I hope you do…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Parting Shots, Starting Shots. They’re Not Too Different. So Get Real!

Chances are you've been on one of the many sides of this lately: Just moments ago I sent a Facebook message to a dealer, responding to my initial message after receiving a "friend" request from them on Facebook. The message in the middle, the one from them, essentially asked me to show them any Facebook language indicating that setting up a personal page for a business was a violation of their terms of use. That was in addition to their indicating that, after reading into it, a business page might be a "good option as they are more tailored to businesses".

Folks, for better or worse it's 2011. Being in business is not about turning the open sign to "open". Being in business means you are serious about it. That every part of your business is on the radar. That being as how nearly everything that you do away from the dealership is digital you should be doing it at your dealership. You can't be serious about it being half-assed.

If you communicate with your Internet leads 50% of the time in your ILM/CRM and 50% of the time in Outlook, you WILL get 50% of the results, not 100%.

If you make a serious effort to contact leads, customers, be-backs and more 50% of the time and spend 50% of the time shooting the s&*t at the water cooler, the point, the desk, the lot and on the web, you WILL get 50% of the results, not 100%.

If you do a relatively good job at scheduling appointments 50% of the time, great job 50% of the time, you WILL get 50% of the results, not 100%.

And if you pay attention to half of the new, relevant, digital information available to you and pay attention to half of the old school, down and dirty, blocking and tackling, back to basics, you WILL get 50% of the results, not 100%. If you are lucky….

You see, as we close one year and start another what you do, and not what you talk about doing, will dictate what you get. This is not rocket science. Stop ignoring what is right in front of you… What we're hoping for is that you get the message. And there's no cost or strings attached! Ignore the messengers all you want. Don't ignore the message here!!!!! Heck, there are plenty in our industry getting (and paying for) a much larger audience and covers of magazines just to tell you what you should be well past.

Yes, it is our job to do the job right the first time. Especially if you have the information and resources! Dealers making sure the coffee and pastry service is just right while ignoring their sales process? Nothing in the world is more akin to stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. Yes, the customer feel good is important. But calls filled with a bunch of ahs, ers and ums with a bunch of I's to boot or sending someone an email blast 120 days after they bought with a payment $50 less per month for the same car will never take the place of a great donut and a latte.

And it will never take the place of having the best new-owner orientation in the city or even the state or region. Oh yeah, those went away when things got tough and have now been replaced by $5,000 a day "trainers" and $4,000 a month social media services. Man, someone has your number and they've been sharing it!

Our parting shots for 2010 are absolutely no different at all from the starting ones for 2011. A number of dead-on predictions for the last year were ignored by at least 95% of the industry. Will an increase in sales for the majority of dealers in 2010, and hopefully again in 2011, have people ignoring really solid insight and strategies again? Let's hope not.

Aside from the factory banging on you to punch cars so they can reach new sales levels (or try to save their year), January 1 is not the start of a new month or new year. It's the next day after December 31, when you'll likely be doing the same exact thing you were doing on June 16.

So get real…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Cars.com Webinar: Cashing in on Web 2.0, Using Social Media Sites to Drive Sales

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As online communities grow in ever-increasing numbers, are you a part of the conversation or standing on the sidelines? Social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter allow you to engage your customers outside the store and develop relationships that drive repeat and referral business. This webinar examines the rules of engagement on these sites to help you understand the channels and how you can capitalize on them.
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In this session led by Kathy Kimmel, Cars.com director of automotive consulting and dealer training, you'll learn how to:

  • Identify which social media sites connect your store with in-market shoppers
  • Incorporate social media sites into your sales process
  • Develop site-specific tactics that help you engage car buyers and encourage open communication
  • Determine who should manage your social media presence

Friday, August 14, 2009 12:00 pm EDT / 9:00 am PDT

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