Are You Throwing Customers Away Due to Lack of Communication Channels?

I was recently in need of a moving company. There was one in my community that had done such a great job of branding and building consumer awareness that I decided to give them first shot at my business. I WANTED to do business with them because of their brilliant marketing.

When I was ready to pull the trigger, I Googled their business name and went to their website searching for an email address so I could interact with them and get information via email.  However, when I landed on their website, the only contact option offered was to call them.

Well, I had seen their number all over the place already, on signs throughout the neighborhood, on the side of their vans, through paid search ads, organic search ads and their organic search listing. But that’s not how I wanted to communicate with them! I wanted to email them, as that is what I prefer, but they didn’t provide that option. So, guess what? I bounced from their website and searched for other companies that would allow me to communicate with them the way I felt comfortable communicating.

This is an interesting analogy as the same problem is so prevalent in our industry — Do you know how many times potential car buyers have moved onto your competition as you do not allow them to interact with you by their preferred method of communication?

If you aren’t offering every form of communication possible, or fail to clearly post all methods of contact throughout your website, you are probably losing potential vehicle sales and service opportunities more often than you think. Consumer preferences for how they wish to contact and interact with a dealership can vary greatly. Some want to call and talk to a live person. Some want to text. Some want to email. And now, with today’s technology, the younger crowd wants to communicate via live video stream – something most dealerships aren’t prepared for.

Regardless of how the customer wants to interact, my guess is that you want to sell them a car. If they are of the same mindset that I was, you could easily lose that opportunity by failing to provide the form of communication the customer wants to use. And therein lies the problem.

There are many generations in the market today buying vehicles – and each one (not just generations but people) prefer different forms of communication.  They may even prefer a different sort of communication at different times, or with different businesses. Imagine if I wanted to communicate with that moving company at 1:00am. I couldn’t even send them an email because all they had was a phone number!

Our goal shouldn’t be just to move shoppers through our sales funnel, it should be to make it easy for shoppers to move through our sales funnel.  To accomplish this, you must ensure that all your bases are covered when it comes to providing your customers – or potential customers – their preferred means of communicating with you.

If you are like most dealers, I am sure you try, unsuccessfully, to communicate with customers that submit lead forms all day long. Why make it difficult for them to engage with you when, in fact, they may really want to?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Engaging video needs to be quality video. Whether you’re making it with an iPhone, or a $10,000 camera, it’s important to make sure that a viewer (or viewers) can clearly make out what is being recorded. As personalized video and social media content such as Facebook Live are becoming increasingly popular, there’s one thing many aspiring video marketers fail to consider… 

Sound quality. 

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how expensive (or inexpensive) your video equipment is, almost all tend to lack microphones that are of sufficient quality to really isolate the speaker. Think about it. When you’re doing a video walkaround for a customer, consider all the challenges you face. You’re probably doing it on the dealership’s lot, which means all sorts of background noise is going on: other customers; people paging each other; service department noise; weather-related noise (like wind); and, since most dealerships are roadside, you probably have some traffic noise too. All of these background sounds can easily affect the sound quality of the video and make it difficult for a customer to hear you clearly, which makes the video less engaging –despite how great the video quality may be.  

 The same issues can arise with personalized email videos, or any type of video content. Your showroom isn’t going to go silent just because you want to record a personalized video email to a customer. It just won’t! There are phones ringing, salespeople talking, customers milling about, perhaps kids in the service waiting area, or even background music playing. All of these things can also affect the overall quality of the video and detract from the professionalism you wish to present to your customer.  

 My advice is to invest in a great microphone. Regardless of the equipment you use to make the video, there are many choices for external microphones that will work with it and it doesn’t have to be expensive. By simply adding an external microphone to your smartphone, DSLR or video camera, you can greatly increase the clarity and engagement of your video. Nothing is worse than creating a super video only to find out later that some car horn in the background, or other noise, interferes with your voice.  

If you’re the type that makes videos on your own (i.e.: selfie video emails or walk arounds), then a simple corded lapel microphone should be sufficient to adequately capture your voice and minimize ambient noise, while not interfering with your video production. If you have someone filming you, whether that’s with a smartphone or DSLR, consider upgrading to a wireless lapel microphone. This allows the camera to be further back, hides microphone wires and minimizes ambient noise, while nicely capturing your voice.  

Go ahead and keep making those videos. People love watching them… but they also want to hear what you’re saying. Follow this advice and you’ll find that your video quality increases and your audience is more engaged. 

The Real World of Conferences! 

I’ve been in this industry for over two decades and in that time, believe it or not, (while I sure don’t want to age myself here) I have participated as an exhibitor and speaker at EVERY Digital Dealer conference. I’ve run sales teams and had booths at all of them –regardless of which company I was working for.

But, you know what I’ve never done at any single show? I’ve NEVER lamented or complained about the lack of dealers, low prospect count, or lack of ROI.

Why?

Well, the truth is, being an exhibitor at a conference is MUCH more than simply setting up a table and backdrop. There’s a lot more to it than simply being there — no matter how large or fancy your booth may be.

How many times have you yourself thought – or heard the staff you sent to the conference say things such as:

  • “Attendance was bad. There weren’t any dealers.”
  • “The dealers wouldn’t talk to us.”
  • “Dealers acted like we were invisible and brushed us off.”

Or something to that effect.

Listen, just as in any other form of marketing, conferences are an investment. You spend money and expect to see a return on that investment. It’s certainly a hefty investment, that’s for sure! Therefore, as an exhibitor, you should do everything in your power to ensure your conference investment gets a good ROI. However, the problem is that, unlike online data, a large human factor is involved in conferences, which can dramatically affect the outcome.

Why is it that at every conference some exhibitors come out with pots of gold, while, at the same time, others complain about poor results? Common sense should tell you that perhaps the exhibitors leaving with the gold are doing something different. Something right.

But what is that?

In a first-of-its-kind, never before seen at a conference session, I will share my decades of experience as a Digital Dealer exhibitor in an exclusive pre-conference session arranged especially for you by the conference organizers. Our joint goal is to help ensure your success at this conference.

Be sure to attend so you can learn the things I have done, trained my team in and executed over every Digital Dealer Conference to ensure success. Learn best practice tips that will ensure you and your team leave the conference with ample contracts and prospects, along with the knowledge that you made a wise investment in the conference.

This special session, sponsored by the Digital Dealer Conference, is designed to make sure that exhibitors leave with maximum connections, relevant conversations and the prospects they need to ensure a successful investment.

Another reason to attend is my renowned, wonderful and engaging co-presenter, Arnold Tijerina, president of Storytailer. Many of you will know him as he has been behind-the-scenes at over 18 Digital Dealer Conferences. He has attended in just about every role; ranging from dealership employee, to working as my employee at one of my past vendor businesses to drive traffic to the booth and close deals. He has even worked for the conference itself and, because of that vast variety of experience, can share insights and observations he’s had over the years.

I sincerely hope we can share some valuable knowledge with exhibitors – both old and new – which will help you be more successful in connecting with and earning the business of dealership attendees while at the conference.

I look forward to seeing you there!

If you are an exhibitor at Digital Dealer 23, you’ll want to register and attend this special pre-conference session “An Exhibitor’s Guide to Success at Digital Dealer.” Digital Dealer is offering a pretty valuable perk for doing so!

TheDigital Dealer 23 Conference & Expo will be held this Sept. 18-20th in Las Vegas, NV. Register now to start building your agenda by choosing from more than 100+ sessions!

How to Shoot Professional Quality Videos with a Smartphone

When dealerships first start their video marketing programs, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Will I have to buy an expensive camera?” The answer is no. Just about everyone these days has a smartphone that can shoot HD video. When used properly, the quality of video produced can be exceptional. All it takes is practice.

Most dealers start with inventory walkaround videos and these are probably the trickiest videos to shoot, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

First, to ensure a good high-resolution (and non-pixelated) video, adjust your camera setting to record video at 1920 x 1080 and 30 frames per second (fps), unless you plan to extract your still images for the inventory from the video.  In that case you may want to utilize 60 frames per second (fps).

Next, invest in a stabilizer. Most smartphones have a pretty good stabilizer built into them today, but they will only make a good video better. This is the merchandising layer for your inventory that most shoppers are going to view, so invest in the tools that you need to provide the best experience for your shoppers that you can. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can walk around the vehicle while holding the smartphone steady in your hand. The result will be a bouncy video that will make your viewers seasick and result in low video completion rates.

A hand-held stabilizer or tripod is better than nothing, but if you want to produce the best quality video invest in a 3-axis gimbal for a couple hundred bucks. It is worth every penny! For top of the line stabilization a 4-axis gimbal is even better, but may run you a couple thousand.

Currently we recommend using a set-up that includes your smartphone, and the DJI OSMO camera/gimbal combo. This is a really cool camera that takes amazing quality video and connects wirelessly with your smartphone, so you can use your smartphone to view what the camera is recording.

You can find a DJI OSMO starter kit for around $500 and depending on how you want to accessorize it, you may spend $700 to $800. This is a small investment that will make your inventory shine!  GoPro also offers some great camera/stabilizer combinations that cost less and produce very good quality videos as well.

Once you have a stabilizer, the next thing you’ll want to address is lighting. Smartphones have small lenses so adequate lighting is critical. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re shooting outdoors, but always position the vehicle so you will not be pointing the camera into direct light, such as the sun.

When you first begin shooting walkarounds, you may want to allow extra time to shoot the entire video two or three times. With each ‘take,’ experiment with different ISO settings, which measure your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. On a sunny day your ISO settings will be lower and on cloudy days your ISO settings will be higher. If you do shoot on a sunny day, avoid shooting midday because that’s when the sun casts the harshest shadows. Instead, schedule shoots for early morning or late afternoon.

For vehicle walkarounds, you want to feature shots panning the side of the vehicle, as well as the front and back so the viewer has a good sense of what the vehicle looks like from all angles. Open the doors and shoot the interior, both front and back.

Then focus on shooting the features that you will use to sell the car, such as the Infotainment system, new tires, safety features, etc. The total length of your walkaround videos can range from one to four minutes. Don’t believe experts who tell you that all videos have to be one minute or less. Though this is probably true for a bad or dull video, if the presentation is informative and entertaining, two, three or even four minutes is okay. There are plenty of dealerships that get 80 to 90 percent completion rates with videos that long, and plenty of dealerships that only get a 50 to 60 percent completion rate with their bouncy and dull one- minute videos.

If you are worried about the audio track for your videos, you can have your photographer shoot your videos and have a data driven audio track added to the video automatically.  If you are adding your own audio while shooting the videos, or if you decide to shoot your walkaround videos featuring a salesperson or spokesperson giving a live presentation, invest in a good noise-cancelling microphone.

Either way you can always go back and replace the audio layer of the video if you want or need to without having to re-shoot the video.  You can even personalize the audio layer of the videos for specific leads (personalized walkarounds) without having to shoot another video, saving you a LOT of time while producing an identical personalized walkaround video to one that was shot from scratch.

Finally, expect that the first few videos you create will probably suck. Don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect. Keep doing it and eventually things will click. Pretty soon you will find your own unique style and every walkaround video will become a mini-masterpiece.

What tips do you have for shooting professional quality video with your smartphone?