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Don’t Be So Serious!

by Brian Cox

A little over a month ago, a couple of employees at a car dealership in Illinois published a music video on YouTube titled “Keys In A Box,” which parodied a sketch from Saturday Night Live. These two individuals proceeded to have a great time and showcased their dealership in a creative and fun way. Their reward? Over 67,000 views in just one month, as well as compliments from Jalopnik, Edmunds and AdWeek. I wouldn’t be surprised if this helps place the dealership top-of-mind when a local customer is ready to buy their next vehicle.

 

 

Having fun with your branding and being creative with any videos can help you stay top-of-mind with your customer base. Think of the Volkswagen commercial that debuted a few Super Bowls ago – the one where the little kid dressed as Darth Vader and ran around trying to use the “Force.” It was a huge hit and created a lot of media interest and created quite a firestorm on social media.

But why do videos like these stay in our minds while other types don’t?

The answer is simple. They tell YOUR story. The buzz this fun and creative dealership video created is very likely worth more than any print or television ad they could have purchased. And my guess is that all it cost was a little time investment.

Videos are a powerful way to connect with customers. They allow you to share your unique personality. Whether you develop inventory videos for your website, or personalized videos destined for a specific person, take advantage of this opportunity to connect with your customers online. Create a lasting and memorable impression.

Think about perhaps finding the fun, creative people in your dealership and let them do a little outside-the-box thinking. Yeah you’ll probably have to nix a few of the crazier ideas. But I bet you get some great stuff out of it. Consider stepping outside the box a bit and share what is unique and different about your dealership. I am willing to bet you will notice the difference in customer response.

Sports Car Film Strip

Why “Just Do It” Is A Waste Of Time

by Tim James

In this high tech age, there are numerous tasks that an Internet or eCommerce Director has to tackle in order to correctly market their dealership and its inventory. In the past, you were doing a great job if you were writing custom detailed vehicle descriptions and taking multiple photos of your pre-owned vehicles. You were a superstar if you were also doing these things for your new vehicles. Then video entered the picture. Some dealers embraced video and used data feeds to syndicate video, vehicle descriptions and photos to their website and other third-party sites. Forward thinkers also uploaded the videos with proper tags and descriptions to YouTube.

However, with the fast pace of advancing technology, the number of consumer touch-points keeps growing and it has become an almost overwhelming task to keep up and still try to sell cars.

But one thing hasn’t changed, the key to a successful marketing strategy is getting the right content, in front of the right shopper, on the right touch-point, and at the right time of the buying cycle. The more exposure you get for your content, the more impact that content is going to have on your sales. Content that’s not seen is worthless.

I remember a story from not too long ago about one of the largest volume dealers in the world. This dealer was manually uploading their inventory to their website and every third party website for over 10 stores – one by one – daily. They chose to pay someone $100+ per DAY, rather than use automation and data distribution technology to accomplish the same task at a cost of just $150 per MONTH.

I’m starting to see a lot of this same mentality today with video. Many dealerships have gone out and purchased some great video production tools, and are doing a great job producing some very good video content. They are then manually uploading their content to YouTube and manually embedding links on as many touch-points as they have the time and ability to do so (not all touch-points allow a manual upload). They would rather invest hours of their time to manually place their content on fewer touch-points, than use automation and data distribution technology to accomplish the same task (with more touch-points) for just a couple hundred dollars a month.

I believe that many dealers, managers and Internet directors understand the importance of having their dealership and inventory positioned properly and in as many places online as possible. The problem I see is two-fold: They either don’t understand that technology exists that could transform their Internet marketing and sales without putting an undue burden on their staff. Or they don’t believe that the investment in this technology will produce results.

I can guarantee you this. If you’re simply doing it for the sake of doing it, you’re wasting your time. If nobody sees the content you create, it might as well not exist. The fact is video is “content,” just like any of the other “content” that you utilize to market your dealership and inventory. You don’t spend your day manually cutting and pasting your other content on multiple touch-points all day long — manually uploading photos, and manually writing vehicle descriptions over and over. Why on earth would you try to manually manage your video syndication when producing the content can be time consuming enough.

If you focus your efforts on ensuring that you have great video content, and then utilize technology to get that content on as many of the sites consumers view in the car buying process as possible, then you will be significantly more likely to have the right content, on the right touch-point, in front of the right consumer, at the right time of the buying cycle. This is the only thing that’s going to engage more shoppers and increase sales.

Nike’s old slogan of “Just Do It” needs to be revised when applied to successful marketing strategies today to “Just Do It Right.”

Ciel et Message

Building Rapport Before the Lead Is the Way to Win the Sale

By Tim James

In my last blog article, I discussed the importance of building rapport with leads through the use of “Why Buy From Me” and “Lead Response” videos personalized for each customer. Now I would like to take this one step further — Building rapport should in fact start much earlier than simply upon the receipt of a lead.

Think about the first contact a customer has with your dealership. Chances are good that they either went to your website, or found a vehicle that matched their interest on a third party site. At this point, detailed descriptions, images and video walkarounds can certainly make your vehicle stand out from the others. But how about further increasing the probability that the customer chooses to deal with you over any competition? How about building trust and rapport at this first entry point instead of waiting for them to put in their personal information and enter your CRM as a lead?

Just as you can integrate video walkarounds of the vehicle on VDP pages, you can also integrate your “Why Buy From Us” or “Why Buy From Me” videos into your vehicle display pages, as well as your most visited page on your website – your homepage. Sell The Dealership, Sell Yourself, Sell The Car…This simple rule can have a significant impact on the number of shoppers who see your online advertisements and ultimately trust you enough to reach out to you and inquire about a vehicle. And a HUGE impact on your sales once the customer arrives on your lot.

These actions help to build rapport and establish trust prior to receiving a lead, making the process of contacting the customer and engaging them that much easier when you do receive a lead. The fact is that you can build so much likeability and trust with a shopper that they decide that “you” are the dealership or sales person that they want to do business with, even before they have landed on a specific vehicle. You will even have shoppers who call you, email you, or even just show up at your dealership, without having settled on an exact vehicle, simply because they like and trust your dealership, or one of your salespeople. They thus reach out to you to help them find the right vehicle. Combine the above actions with walkaround videos and personalized video e-mails and you’ll find it much easier to win over a customer, leaving your competition in the dust.

Start creating rapport at the first touch-point, otherwise you could find yourself competing with four other dealers for the potential customer’s attention. A successful sales career is all about building relationships. The earlier in the car buying process that you can accomplish this, the easier it will be to engage a customer, more customers will show up for test drives, and you will haggle significantly less over price. You will get more sales and higher gross, because you are the good guys and the shopper wants to do business with YOU!

Boy is presented flowers to girl

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody To Love?

By Tim James

That classic line from the song “Somebody to Love” by legendary band, Queen epitomizes the destination for consumers and the goal of all salespeople. There’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ve heard the phrase “People buy from people they like.” In the past, a consumer had to come into a dealership to start the car shopping process. This is where the important skill of “building rapport” came into play for salespeople. Great salespeople learned quickly how to find common interests and develop relationships with their clients, while assisting them to find the right vehicle.

Fast forward to today. Consumers now have the option of car shopping anonymously. Dealership Internet and BDC departments are inundated with leads arriving from countless sources. Consumers chose to share some or all of their information after narrowing down their online research. They’ve engaged with you to some degree and have given you the opportunity to earn their business. You must remember, however, that to the consumer, you are only a car dealership. Chances are also good that you are not the only car dealership who they (or a third party) has given this opportunity to. All dealerships have auto-responders and the standard “Why Buy From Us” email templates are sent to leads pretty quickly. Because the consumer is inundated with these templates, they are meaningless.

The fact is that people buy from people they like. So, how do you make that emotional connection with a lead? It’s certainly not through e-mail templates.

Consumers like to be treated as if they are special. They can smell an e-mail template before it even hits their in-box. While it’s fine to tell your dealership’s story, don’t forget the importance of building rapport — it will go a long way towards winning the sale.

Highly successful dealers have started sending out individualized “Why Buy From Me” type videos in their e-mails. These videos are personalized to each and every customer. These are not just a homogenized blanket “one size fits all” type of message. The reason this works is because of a very simple concept known to salespeople. By saying someone’s name, you recognize them as a person… and individual. No longer is your video message “My name is Tim. And I would like to earn your business… Mr. Blank.”

Instead the message is directed to the individual as … “My name is Tim and I want to earn YOUR business, Mr. Smith.” — That’s a very different message.

What do you do if you see someone you know walking nearby, but out of reach? You yell out their name! Why? Because it gets their attention! And that’s exactly what personalized video responses accomplish.

The bottom line is that the possible touch points on the consumer’s online car shopping path are increasing at an incredibly rapid pace, almost daily. It is becoming more and more difficult to stand out and claim a customer’s attention. This very simple technique can make your interactions more personal and help to gain the customer’s attention. I am sure you will find that more people appreciate, respond and give you the opportunity to earn their business.

After all, we all simply want to find somebody to love. Make sure that somebody is you.

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Don’t Get Distracted by Gadgets and Gizmos: Master the Basics to Succeed

by Brian Cox

For years, dealers have been inundated with technology. Salespeople from every vendor in the automotive space are continuously calling to present the latest and greatest product that is going to supercharge your sales. Great salespeople can convince a dealer or general manager to try products. Some of these products are excellent and could actually help … if you understand how to use them to their full potential.

There are some dealers that have both the time and expertise to devote to learning and using technology. But, sadly, that’s not realistic for many dealerships. To the vendors presenting their products, it may seem easy. However, if the product or service isn’t used to its full capabilities, chances are good that a dealer doesn’t stay a client very long.

If you are one of the rare dealerships or auto groups that has a tech-savvy employee who understands the products and services, and also has the time to use and implement them, you are ahead of the game. If, however, you aren’t in a position to hire or give someone these responsibilities, chances are that all of the gadgets and gizmos that sound wonderful will end up collecting dust. In any profession, continuous practice in the basics of your profession can assist you in growing and developing more advanced techniques.

As a dealership, there are certain basic services that are necessary. You need a DMS and CRM to track customers, vehicles and transactions. You also need a website that consumers can visit and gain information from. And, in order to capture the attention of online car shoppers, you must have the ability to distribute your inventory to your website and all your third-party sites, in a way that provides maximum exposure and appeal.

Technology continues to develop at the speed of light and is almost impossible to keep up with. It’s really not that long ago that many dealers did not see the need for a website, let along photo and video descriptions and a digital marketing strategy! However, the fact is that over time, the early adopters had a huge advantage over those who didn’t use technology to create exposure for their dealership and inventory.

The bottom line is there are a HUGE amount of gadgets, gizmos, who’s-its and what’s its available to help enhance your presence with today’s vehicle shoppers, both on and offline. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, and what’s important. If you want to do it yourself and don’t have the budget to hire someone internally, or an outside resource, take a step back and think about learning, practicing and mastering the basics before graduating to more advanced technologies. Otherwise you just may find yourself in a cave surrounded by thingamabobs wondering what they do!

Dating

Car Shopping: The Dating Game

by Tim James

For many car owners, their vehicles become an extension of their lives, a partner, and something that they have a true emotional bond with. In most places, cars are necessary to life. We use them to get to work, visit friends and family and take our kids to football practice. According to an article on the Tempo blog, a study done by Harvard Health Watch found that, on average, a person spends 37,935 hours driving during a lifetime – over 4 years of their lives. It’s no wonder that consumers build an emotional connection with their vehicles.

A time will come for nearly every consumer when a new vehicle is necessary. Perhaps because of an expanding family, an accident, or the fact that the age and condition of a current vehicle necessitates it. These can be emotional times for people, and can be an important thing for us to consider in the buying process — the fact that some consumers have emotional attachments to their current vehicle and are looking for their next “partner,” if you will.

Brands lure consumers to their vehicles with original content designed to generate interest in their make. It is then your job to take that and transition it to interest in a specific vehicle. Think of it like speed dating. The car lots of the world are now represented online with every dealership of every make representing potential suitors. However, few do a good job of representing their potential “dates.” The consumer wades through countless profiles and descriptions trying to find their next “partner.” The process becomes frustrating as the consumer’s search narrow in, become more specific, yet they are met with numerous profiles that all virtually look the same. You have the same 35 to 50 photos as everyone else, the same list of features, and the same buttons with the same calls to action as everyone else. Why should the shopper choose you?

The point is that successful dealers make it as easy as possible for a car shopper to start the love connection with THEIR car by telling the vehicle’s story through images, narratives descriptions and, most importantly, a good unique video.

But that’s not all. Let’s take the dating analogy again — Perhaps match.com isn’t the ideal place for you to meet that next special someone. It’s certainly not the only dating site in existence. To position your dealership’s inventory to have the best chance of success, you need to make sure that you are on as many dating sites as possible. Ensuring that your car has the best chance of getting chosen involves developing a strategy that reaches the right shopper on the right touch-point at the right time in their buying cycle. With the right strategy, you will appeal to the fundamental emotional relationship that most shoppers are searching for (it’s not just a car to them) and successfully match more shoppers with their next “partner” than you will by simply trying to motivate the shopper with “price”.

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Why Video Is Important For Your Marketing Strategy

by Brian Cox

When businesses ponder how to increase their presence on search engines, they typically turn to SEO strategies. Content marketing has always been a large part of any SEO strategy. It’s a given that the more fresh, relevant and unique content you produce, the better chance your online properties will have of showing in search engine results. According to an article by Search Engine Land, in the past, when considering an SEO plan, the primary type of content marketers thought of was text. As consumer behavior changes, however, visual content is becoming increasingly important.

According to the article, a Google study that tracked consumers’ points of influence on their path to purchase, found that 64 percent of consumers were influenced by video they saw on YouTube – 2/3 of which were “how-to” and “product visualization” type video. These videos match the content type that auto dealers use. In fact, according to the study, 60 percent of consumers reported that online digital marketing factored into their path to purchase. And a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that experts are now advising marketers to move 10% to 25% of TV ad dollars to online video.

Today’s vehicle shoppers have many decisions to make along the path to purchase. A consumer who visits an online shopping portal will typically be presented with a list of vehicles that meet their criteria in order of price, lowest to highest. They will then start filtering out vehicles from those results based on such things as mileage, condition, vehicle descriptions and pictures and video provided by the dealer. Vehicles with no (or poor) descriptions or ones that lack photos and video have a greater likelihood of being passed over. Vehicle description pages that contain rich details including images and video stand a far greater chance at seeing customer engagement. It’s hard to believe that anyone would disagree with this very basic assessment.

The same idea translates to search engine optimization. The goal, obviously, in any search engine optimization strategy is to be found whenever a consumer makes a relevant search. According to Search Engine Land, however, that’s not what the real goal is (or should be). Simply showing up does nothing except satisfy a marketer or SEO practitioner’s ego. The true goal is click-through-rate. The more opportunities you can provide a customer who is searching for a vehicle to find your dealership and/or vehicle (i.e. the more times you appear within a given search), the greater the likelihood will be that they will click on a link to your content versus your competition. To accomplish this, you must have a presence on all the consumer touchpoints in every medium possible – video, images and text – thereby offering more content for a search engine to crawl and deliver within the results.

The bottom line is that consumers are using more resources than ever before when shopping for a vehicle. Ensuring that the type of content a consumer wants to see is present on every touchpoint is essential to increase web traffic and consumer engagement. Don’t get me wrong, simply throwing money into video marketing is not what I advise. You would be wise to invest in a comprehensive video strategy that maximizes the exposure, quality and effectiveness of your video content. It will make the difference and allow you to dominate all of your online marketing channels.