167216_1684645274579_2817286_n

How to Tame the Bull Named Facebook

by Tim James

In 1991, a 5’2” 125-pound cowboy stared into the face of Wolfman Skoal. a young 2,000-pound bull with a bad reputation. So bad, in fact, that a $500 bounty existed for any rider that could tame the beast and ride a full 8 seconds. Wade Leslie accepted the challenge. As he mounted the bull in preparation for his ride, the bull promptly lay down in the pen. He considered getting off. But then the bull’s owner reassured him that Wolfman Skoal would perform. Sure enough, once the gates opened, the bull leapt straight into the air like a rocket and preceded to do its best to eject Wade. Wade had different plans, however. He not only succeeded in riding Wolfman Skoal for the full 8 seconds, but also became the first, and to date, only bull rider to score a perfect 100 points in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Not unlike bull riding, marketers are constantly creating content that is competing with both their competitors and the platform on which that content is published. Right now, the biggest and baddest bull around is Facebook. One could say that as Facebook grows up, its personality continually changes, forcing marketers to continuously change with them. As it finally enters its teens, this 10-year old has decided that, at the moment, it happens to like video content. In bull riding, judges calculate a score for both the rider and the bull. Riders know that their score depends on both how they ride and how their bull performs. A rider can stay on a bull for the full 8 seconds. But if the bull isn’t rowdy enough to impress the judges, the rider can still receive a sub-par score. Keep this in mind when developing your content. In marketing, the success of your content starts with the content creator (the rider) and is dependent on Facebook (the bull).

In early summer of 2014, Facebook began releasing in-depth data on video performance. Social media resource Socialbakers eagerly dove into that data in an effort to tame the bull and finally give marketers information that would assist them in their quest for video marketing success. Through the study of 1,000 Facebook pages containing over 3,000 videos, it was found that videos of ~21 seconds long were the most successful. The main metric used to determine a video’s success was its completion rate (i.e.: the percentage of people who watched at least 95% of a video). As in most rules, there are exceptions, yet the in-depth study showed that the longer a video was, the lower the completion rate.

There are many variables that can be used to explain this phenomenon, ranging from attention spans in general, content that’s not engaging, and the bandwidth needed to view a longer video on mobile devices. Not enough time has passed since the release of this data for more comprehensive studies to be done. One thing is certain, however, and that is that Facebook is increasingly choosing to deliver video content to its users’ newsfeeds. The study of Facebook video performance found that ~57% of viewers who started watching a video, completed the video. The Socialbakers study even went as far as to make a preliminary finding that “If this data holds true, Facebook videos are outperforming YouTube videos.” They speculate that the reason for this “could be attributed to more intelligent distribution of videos on Facebook, due to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm doing a better job of matching interested users with engaging videos than YouTube does.”

Keep in mind that these statistics are based on a preliminary study of Facebook video content in general. We’ve found that the money spot for completion rates on videos are between 1-1/2 to 2 minutes long across all other video platforms. The reason for this is that product videos tend to be sought out by a consumer rather than being delivered to them by the platform. We expect that this will remain consistent, as consumers who visit a dealership’s Facebook page to view an inventory video have purposely sought out this content. Consumers looking to purchase a vehicle are willing to make a longer time investment for the simple reason that it is directly tied to a significant expense. Mobile users are statistically willing to make even longer commitments ranging from 2-1/2 to 4 minutes depending on the device.

Any type of content produced by a business has a limited amount of time to capture a person’s attention. Video content has an advantage in that it is the only content that tells a viewer exactly how much of a time commitment they have to by displaying its total viewing length. And if your content is engaging, consumers will give you more of their time. If not, you’ll find them abandoning your message quicker than a bull can throw a rider.

The next time you create video content and stare the bull named Facebook in the eye as you prepare to either submit or be submitted, keep in mind the following: high quality, engaging video content that quickly captures a viewer’s attention will increase the length of time that you’re able to stay on the bull and impress the judges. And just like bull riding, they are the only people that matter.

moneyball3-610x405

Using Moneyball Strategies to Win the Content Marketing Game

by Tim James

In a recent article published on Marketing Land, an author used the famous concept of Moneyball and applied it to content marketing. If you aren’t familiar with the Moneyball concept, it began when Billy Beane became manager of the 2001 Oakland Athletics. Mr. Beane hypothesized that a team doesn’t necessarily need a superstar to win games. The key to winning in baseball is scoring. To score runs, a team must have players that can get on base. Rather than allocate millions of dollars (which the organization couldn’t afford) for superstar players, Mr. Beane used data and algorithms to identify players who may have been considered sub-par, but had high on-base percentages (i.e.: they could hit and get on base consistently). Using this strategy, he was able to put together a team that went on to win against stacked teams of superstars.

The author of the Marketing Land article went on to explain how successful content marketing paralleled the Moneyball strategy. Marketers shouldn’t be spending tons of money in an attempt to hit homeruns with one great viral video as their only piece of content. What they should be doing is building better “team members” by consistently creating high quality content of interest to its audience. In the automotive space, many dealers believe content creation is anchored in their inventory. While inventory is certainly the most important asset a dealer has, there are many other types of content that dealers can produce easily and with low expenditure.

Car buyers are seeking different types of information at different points in the buying cycle, whether that information is about a new vehicle, the reputation of a dealership, or if a used vehicle is a good value. Dealers that consistently produce a variety of high quality content have more opportunity to get on base. Using the analogy of Moneyball, think of a blog post or walkaround video as being “at bat”. The more times you’re up to bat, the more chances you have of getting on base with a consumer. Success in content marketing begins with eyeballs on your content. Peaking a customer’s interest enough to submit a lead gives you the opportunity to advance them around the bases. Dealers don’t need to hit homeruns to score. They simply need to get on base through a lead submission, phone inquiry or dealership visit. Get on base enough, and the runs (sales) will happen.

You cannot score runs, however, if you never try to hit the ball. Content marketing can be simple and affordable but it’s a long-term commitment to taking as many swings at the ball as possible that will yield the greatest return on investment. Instead of allocating large amounts of money in an attempt to hit homeruns, consider changing your focus to one of getting on base more often through the consistent creation of content. You never know which piece of content will produce the homerun for you but I guarantee that you’ll never hit one if you don’t swing the bat. The sooner you step up to the plate and start swinging, the sooner you will begin to see shoppers moving around the bases and your runs starting to increase.

Closeup on business woman showing thumbs down

The Single Worst Thing A Dealership Can Do In Video Marketing

by Brian Cox

It has long been considered a best practice in search engine optimization and search engine marketing to use deep linking to take searchers to the exact content they are searching for, rather than simply directing them to your home page. If the searcher is not taken directly to the content they are seeking, they are forced to do a second search for the information once they hit your site. In many cases, searchers will simply click the “Back” button and move on to the next result. Consumers don’t have the time or patience to navigate your website, whether they landed there through an organic search or clicked on a PPC ad. There’s nothing more frustrating when researching a product online, clicking a link and being taken straight to a store’s home page, rather than the actual product page. Google recognizes this and takes deep linking and relevant results into account in search engine results as well.

In video marketing, there is a similar phenomenon that businesses use that is parallel and equally frustrating – video pre-roll. Video marketing success is determined and measured by how many people actually watch your video. Video pre-roll is, in general, just as annoying to consumers as pop-up ads. If a consumer is exposed to your video marketing message, is interested and clicks to watch it. To then have to watch a commercial before actually viewing the content they desire, can be just as frustrating as being taken directly to your home page. Volkswagen recognizes this and integrated it into a video ad campaign for the new Brazilian Beetle, the Fusca. The campaign takes advantage of the fact that consumers hate having ads appear before content. The “skip ad” option on YouTube has to be the most clicked on link on that site. Where does your mouse hover while you wait the obligatory 5 seconds simply so you can view the content you actually want to watch? A study by research firm MetrixLab concluded, “Of those who has seen pre-roll ads, 94 percent had skipped them, and 52 percent said they did so frequently.”

Taking this a step further, many dealerships are now front-loading their videos with commercials for their dealerships. Video marketing is a very powerful way to market your vehicles. When a consumer takes interest – regardless of where they encounter the video – forcing them to watch a 20 second (or longer) commercial for the dealership, prior to showing them the actual video of the vehicle, can be even more annoying then pre-roll ads. If 94 percent of people would skip watching a video pre-roll ad, how many consumers will sit through a commercial for your dealership, knowing that they cannot skip it?

If the vehicle videos on your website have pre-rolls branding your dealership, this forces the customer to watch the same marketing message for every car they review. So we suggest not putting them on your website videos. If you have to have a pre-roll then keep it short and create two versions of the video, one for your website without pre-roll, and one with. Another option is to not use pre-rolls and just put post-rolls, this way you are still getting your message across, but without inconveniencing the customer.

There’s nothing wrong with branding your videos. In fact, you should. There are many opportunities and methods you can use to integrate branding into your videos – from walkarounds to company culture or frequently asked question videos. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with creating commercials as content and a way to promote your sale or dealership. However, you should use them independent of your other content. Don’t make a consumer choose not to watch your vehicle marketing because they don’t want to sit through your commercial.

Just as in deep linking, you will see better results by immediately serving up relevant information on the subject a consumer is searching for. You’ll see more views, lower bounce rates and increased conversions for the most obvious of reasons: consumers will watch them.

Businessman's Hand Holding Toy Car

Sell the Car, Not the Price

by Tim James

Ever since the first car dealership opened, dealers have understood the emotional impact of “the walkaround.” As consumers move through the buying cycle, they get to a point where they don’t just want, but need to experience a vehicle that they are interested in. In the past, most consumers would visit the dealership in the evenings, when the lot was closed to avoid “being sold.” But driven by their need to experience the vehicle in person, they still came, day and night.

Well, believe it not, nothing has changed! Consumers still have an uncontrollable need to experience a vehicle first hand as they move through the buying cycle. The only difference is that the initial experience takes place online via a Vehicle’s Detail Pages (VDP Pages). Imagine, however, if a dealer could put one of their vehicles (or their entire inventory) in every mall, venue and every other busy consumer traffic area in their PMA, at no additional cost. Now image if they could have a salesperson at each and every location to talk to customers 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.

While placing a vehicle and a salesperson everywhere in the physical world isn’t practical for dealers, it’s absolutely possible in the digital world. In this age of online shopping, one of the most important assets that any dealer has is their inventory’s VDP. Chances are very good that car buyers who land on a dealer’s vehicle display page are very close to buying. Every vehicle in their inventory should thus be displayed to its best advantage, and on as many potential touch-points that a car buyer is likely to visit as possible.

Let’s face it. Most of your in-stock vehicles are competing for consumer interest. Many dealers choose to attract consumers via low prices, sacrificing profit for the sale. Smart dealers understand that high quality, visually appealing inventory marketing will get a shopper emotionally attached to a vehicle. It will motivate that shopper to want to visit their store to test drive “their” car long before any “price” motivation will. The fact is, once a shopper begins forming an emotional attachment to a vehicle, you no longer have to be the lowest price to motivate the shopper to visit your store.

Nothing can generate a higher level of emotional attachment than a quality video presentation of your inventory, nothing. The best part of the equation is that your shoppers actually want to see videos of the vehicles they are considering. In fact, video content is quickly becoming the media of choice for consumers. 85% of automotive shoppers stated that they watched a video of a vehicle during their car buying experience, and half of them (49%) take action immediately after watching. While dealers are sure to have nice websites, great pictures of vehicles, attractive newspaper ads with calls-to-action, many neglect the fastest growing type of marketing (and the type of marketing that will have the biggest emotional impact) – video.

Think about it like this, your online advertising should be focused on motivating a shopper to “visit your dealership”, not “buy a vehicle”. Price based motivation is asking the shopper to commit to a purchase before they’ve ever even visited your store or test driven the vehicle. Meanwhile, a video’s power is inherent in its ability to involve multiple senses when displaying the vehicle to an online car shopper. Having high-quality videos will allow shoppers to experience your inventory at the highest level possible online, making it more likely for a shopper to become emotionally attached to a vehicle and have an uncontrollable need to visit your dealership to take a test drive.

Having the ability to then place that video on multiple touch-points throughout the buying cycle increases the odds that the consumer finds, views and chooses your vehicle over your competitor’s, regardless of whether it’s the lowest price.

Improve the quality of your inventory marketing to potential customers and you will see more interest, higher conversion, more profit per sale and a faster turn rate. Sell the car, not the price.

blue, burning, close, component,

Don’t Let Your Video Become a Flash In the Pan

by Brian Cox

There’s no doubt that video marketing, in general, has become increasingly important in today’s world. Google has the search market cornered which is why, as marketers, it is important to pay close attention to the changes they make. However, did you know it’s even more important to pay attention to the second largest search engine in the world? You might think that I’m referring to Bing but, in fact, the second largest search engine is YouTube. Thus the importance of video for SEO.

Dealerships have increasingly embraced video in various degrees for years – from simple stitched videos to professionally created live walkarounds. There’s no doubt that consumers love video. In fact Google’s recent automotive study indicates that over 80 percent of car shoppers will watch a vehicle video and then take immediate action.

The challenges that face car dealerships when it comes to creating videos are the same as they have always been – time and money. There are many solutions that exist for car dealerships in video marketing. I’m fairly certain that you would agree that ANY video is better than no video. And you may even believe that all video is equal. Well, with this blog, I hope to help dispel those erroneous thoughts.

Let’s start with the fact that live video is the most effective (which it is). I don’t think any dealer would deny that, in a perfect world, they would have video walkarounds for every one of their vehicles. The infrastructure and format of your video is just as, if not more important than the quality of it. Some providers use flash-based video which allows them to offer video services to their dealer clients at a lower price point… and, on the surface, there is no visible difference between a flash video and a real video. In reality, however, there are huge differences.

Flash videos are self-contained videos that require a player (like Adobe Flash Player) or a compatible web browser with a plugin. It wasn’t too long ago that flash video was the de facto standard. Technology, however, has changed. Consumers are increasingly accessing the Internet and websites using mobile devices. Guess what’s not compatible with those? You got it, flash video. In fact, in mid-July of this year, Google itself announced that it would start issuing warnings to people attempting to access websites containing flash with the statement “Uses flash. May not work on your device.” Chances are really good that a consumer coming across a website or video that receives this message will probably not continue, but rather seek their answers elsewhere.

Your website will certainly not benefit from video if your audience is not viewing it. In fact, flash video isn’t supported by any Apple device, nor Android versions 4.1 or higher, according to Google. These devices account for a HUGE share of the mobile market. Flash video is also not compatible with some third party inventory sites, and it also has problems with syndication to social networks and other touch points that consumers are on.

Real video, on the other hand, offers a few very important distinctions as web developers gravitate towards such things as HTML5 with mobile capabilities and syndication. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “Nearly half of the U.S. population has a mobile phone with Internet access, and one out of five page views on the web happen on a mobile device – a number that is growing every month.” Needless to say, if you are using flash, you are already costing yourself 20 percent of potential traffic.

As a dealer, how do you know what kind of video you have? The answer is if your videos are syndicated across the web, viewable on a mobile device or tablet and the search engines can see them, you are doing the right thing and have real video. If not, you most likely have flash.

One of the largest advantages to real video is semantic search. Search engines don’t have the capability of indexing flash video. Real video, properly tagged and built using a semantic structure, can be indexed. Not only can they be crawled by search engines, but the search engines will read each video as an individual web page. This increases your page rankings. Last, but certainly not least, real video has the ability to be syndicated everywhere. All of those touch points that consumers use when vehicle shopping can display your video and increase the reach and impact of your video marketing. Of course more exposure brings more traffic viewing your inventory. And the more traffic your inventory receives, the more leads, conversions and sales you’ll see.

The bottom line is that flash video is a bad solution for video marketers. Flash video may be cheaper than real video, but what are you losing in the end? Just because it’s a shiny object and looks pretty, doesn’t mean that you should be using it. Real video offers businesses the ability to have a bigger footprint with their video marketing. It increases the effective of any marketing and the likelihood that a consumer will want to AND have the ability to watch it. This is the whole exposure aspect of real video plus real syndication. It equals more traffic, which equals more leads. The few dollars you may save by going the flash video route will pale in comparison to the profit you’ll lose from customers who never see your video or visit your dealership.

paint-can-11

Paint Your Way to Increased Profits

by Tim James

As a sales and marketing professional, you probably learned a long time ago that the best way to present your products is by using words that paint a picture. Not just any picture, a picture that puts each shopper in the picture; helps them visualize owning your product; and then mentally experience the emotional pleasure that results from that ownership.

Painting the right picture is crucial for any type of sales. At dealerships, effective salespeople utilize this technique to help the customer visualize driving that new car on a road trip; how comfortable they’ll feel during the trip; how safe they’ll feel on the road and the peace of mind they’ll have knowing that their car will function properly the whole way.

Painting pictures is even more important when dealing with customers you can’t engage with physically, such as online shoppers. Your vehicles are competing with thousands of others for the attention of the shopper. Over the years, inventory marketing has progressed as dealers have increasingly made efforts to better stand out. There was a time when many dealers didn’t even have pictures of their vehicles online. However, it has now become standard as over time, dealers have realized that including pictures increases sales and inquiries. Once everyone started doing this, progressive dealers realized that having MORE pictures made their vehicles stand out from their competition even more. Many dealerships consistently now average 30+ photos of a single vehicle in their marketing. Well-written descriptions have also become important selling points as they personalize the vehicle for the customer. These descriptions can also paint a fairly decent picture to get the reader emotionally committed to the story.

As powerful as good photos and a well-written description are, they pale in comparison to the informational and emotional power of video.

In fact, according to a recent article in TechJournal, Forrester Research reported that one minute of video was worth 1.8 million words. Imagine the emotional commitment you can generate for your inventory! Here are some other statistics shared in that article:

  • Video in email marketing can increase click-through rates by over 96%
  • Opt outs from subscribers were reduced by 75% due to video content in email marketing.
  • Video appears in around 70% of the top Google listings.
  • People who view product videos are 85% more likely to buy.

Customers don’t have the time to visit every dealer that has a 2012 Honda Civic in stock. If your vehicle doesn’t paint a picture that gets a shopper emotionally committed, chances are your vehicles are simply caught in a price or distance filter. Painting pictures, on the other hand, personalizes the vehicle and makes it stand out. Customers want to hear the story of a vehicle. Why do you think vehicle history reports are increasingly popular for consumers? They tell a vehicle’s story.

People process stories in a different way than facts and figures. Successful salespeople avoid catering solely to the analytical side of people, as that’s the part that will tell them that they should buy the least expensive vehicle. You want the customer to involve their emotions in their decision-making. That’s the part that will convince them that they should do it now. That’s when they visualize themselves as owners, not shoppers. Not just owners of ANY car, owners of THIS car…THEIR car.

By utilizing videos for your inventory, you’ll create a better experience for your shoppers resulting in more shoppers taking mental ownership of your inventory, and will hold more gross in the process. Everybody wins.