Come on – Does Video REALLY sell cars?

by Tim James

Technology has drastically changed the way businesses and auto dealers operate. Hey, think about it. It was not too far in the distant past that we did just about everything via fax machine. Leads came in, financing was secured and, well, just about everything was via fax.

Consider this… there was once a time when radio and newspaper were the dominant media for disseminating messages to consumers. Potential customers read the newspaper every day and listened to the radio as a primary form of entertainment.

Then along came this revolutionary device known as television. At first, it was expensive and limited to the more affluent classes. However, it very quickly grew into almost 100% of households. Then along came TV commercials. Many car dealers asked themselves, “Why do we need to advertise on television? How is that going to sell more cars?”

However, they soon saw the results and eventually came around. Television continues to be a major player in most dealerships’ marketing budgets. Radio focuses on listening, newspaper focuses on reading, while television combines the two, making for a much more impactful message.

Then along came the Internet and these curious things named “websites” popped up. Consumers were fascinated and dial-up connections became AOL’s claim to fame. Remember those discs which used to be packaged in every magazine, arriving in your mailbox every other day?

The Internet continued to advance. Businesses started buying domain names and setting up websites. And dealers asked, “Why do we need a website? How is that going to help me sell more cars?”

Fast forward to today and every dealer has a website, whether they want one or not, courtesy of the manufacturers.

Now let’s visit mobile phones. Remember when phones were in big suitcase looking things? They were that way because they had to be. Slowly, as technology advanced, they became the brick phones, then consumer demand kept making them smaller… and smaller.

However, as bandwidth increased, and streaming video became popular, all of a sudden Samsung came out with a phone that was… BIGGER!  Why? What changed the trend away from smaller and towards bigger? Video. Video is easier and more entertaining to watch on a bigger screen. And other manufacturers followed suit.

Of course, we cannot talk about cell phones without talking about the providers. It wasn’t that long ago when just about every provider had an unlimited data plan. Slowly but surely, as data usage by consumers increased, those unlimited plans were eliminated.

But, you have to ask yourself, “What event precipitated the disappearance of those plans?”

The answer is simple. Data usage spiked. The reason it spiked is simple… video. With only 1 GB of data, you could visit 3,000 webpages, receive 1.5 million WhatsApp messages, upload 4,000 photos, send or receive 10,000 emails, watch 310 minutes of YouTube videos or listen to 160 songs.

Once video became the most popular media, data usage spiked, as it takes up a lot of bandwidth. Rather than clog up their networks, cell providers opted to eliminate unlimited plans and, in some cases, throttle speeds for heavy users.

But now the trend has reversed… again. Cell providers know that mobile users are streaming video. Cell companies with smaller market shares began to differentiate themselves from their larger competitors by, once again, offering unlimited data plans. Slowly, the other smaller carriers fell in line until the largest, Verizon, finally began offering unlimited data on February 13th.

The point is that consumers want… and crave… video content. Technology has reversed itself from small to large, cell phone providers have reversed themselves from eliminating unlimited data to embracing it. All because the media of choice for today’s consumer is video.

Let me state that here again — the media of choice for today’s consumer is video.  So, if you are still asking yourself, “Why do I need video? How is that going to sell me more cars?” Well, that’s like just a few short years ago when dealers were asking, “Do I need a website?  How is a website going to sell me more cars?”

Technology is not going to slow down and wait for us just because we aren’t ready to embrace it. Video IS already the most powerful online marketing strategy for those businesses that have already embraced it.  As with any new technology, there are “Leaders,” and there are “Laggers.” Which side of history do you want to be on?

Video Marketing: The Death of Boring

by Tim James

While I often talk about “basics”, that’s simply because many dealers are still not reaping the benefits of video marketing. But let’s say your dealership is doing video marketing. Perhaps you’ve made a commitment to conduct live video walkarounds for every vehicle. Maybe you’re engaging your customers via personal video e-mail. And perhaps it’s working well. Most people would advise a marketer that is having success to follow the old saying “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Well, sometimes that may not be the right answer.

Consider the “Red Bull” brand. They are widely known for producing some of the most successful viral video marketing pieces ever – including setting a record for the most live concurrent video views, with 9.5 million users watching their space diving video. The brand focused on creating video content that illustrated daring and astonishing feats of athleticism. As a result, it earned the respect and attention of many major brands across the country. But then… they changed their strategy. And everyone gasped.

Why would any company change a video marketing strategy that is considered (and measured) as the bar to achieve? Why change something that is working so well?

We may never know why Red Bull decided to change their strategy away from big time, exciting event videos that consistently went viral. What we do know is what they changed it to: Consistency.

Red Bull decided that producing regular, consistent video content (more quantity) would pay off over producing less video content — even if the videos as a group are not as “epic.” And what did this achieve? In the last year, Red Bull has created 639 videos that each have more than a million views, with a combined total of 1.7 BILLION views, and almost 33 million engagements.

While each individual video itself gets less engagement than one of the EPIC videos, overall the brand is achieving more views and engagement at less expense. Red Bull’s gamble on a consistent stream of video content, over occasional highly produced epic videos payed off.

What does that mean for your dealership?

Creating consistent content – walkaround videos, creative commercials, etc. – will absolutely engage consumers. But it’s not all about following some straight line on the road to your destination. Creativity will pay dividends – it’s a matter of regular content but also doing something to catch attention and set you dealership apart from the competition.

Take a step off the line and be a little adventurous.

Take for example a dealership in Minnesota, White Bear Mitsubishi. They adopted a white bear as their mascot and have created countless commercials and content including a person dressed in a giant white bear outfit. (If you’ve never seen them, they’re great!) But it isn’t the commercial that shot them to stardom, it is the OUTTAKES from the commercial. On their Facebook page alone, these commercial outtakes have had 6.9 million views, over 35,000 likes and over 100,000 shares!

It’s also been syndicated, made into memes and featured on television news reports! Did they expect this kind of exposure by simply posting some silly outtakes from a commercial they did to support their local hockey team? No!

The point is that they continued to produce content. They stepped outside the box. And because of that, the world is now talking about them. Had they never tried, they’d never have succeeded.

Wouldn’t you like to have those kind of results and exposure for your dealership? The only way that’s ever going to happen is to go out and start making video – and never stop.

Video Marketing: Sell, Don’t Tell.

by Tim James

Why are we obsessed with television and movies? Because, just like books, they have the ability to capture our attention and transport us into fictional situations and universes.

Regardless of whether the movie or television show is fiction or non-fiction, this is an engaging way to tell a story that we’re interested in hearing and also seeing. TV, movies and video make stories come alive in ways that connect with our emotions – whether through fear, sympathy, action or drama.

But what if you went to a movie and rather than watching the story of a young farm boy transforming into a hero by blowing up a huge space station, you were presented with only the facts. Just an outline or bullet-points. That wouldn’t be very engaging, would it?

Video marketing is no different. It’s really easy to forget that in order to engage the viewer, you need to connect with them. Telling them how great your product is with facts alone would be like doing a walkaround for a customer, simply reading the information on the window sticker.

That is certainly not very interesting, engaging or creative.

In car sales, salespeople are trained to do vehicle walkarounds by first identifying any attributes of importance to that particular customer. The salesperson then shows and explains any features and benefits in the vehicle which fulfill that individual customer’s interest. To put it plainly, great salespeople tell stories about their products that put their audience “in the story.” They don’t just present facts, they generate a desired emotional response by focusing on “why” a product is needed, not just what the product is, (sell “why,” not “what”).

Effective video marketing – including walkarounds, personal video messages and any other kind of video you can think of – is no different. That’s why so many consumers love Super Bowl commercials. It is also why some commercials make us smile, laugh out loud, or even bring a tear to our eyes. They are effective because, in most cases, they manipulate our emotions to connect those products and services with us on a personal level and make us want to engage.

You can do the same thing with your video marketing efforts and, by so doing, establish more of a bond with the customer. Show your customers that you are interested in helping them with THEIR needs (not just selling them a car) and it will increase the likelihood they will engage with you, or reach out to you, should they simply come across a video on a VDP.

Video marketing isn’t rocket science. BUT you still need to have a strategy to do it effectively. Try changing your focus from trying to talk to everyone, to talking to a single person. Tell your story, the vehicle’s story, or whatever story you wish to relay with your video, as if that person is standing right in front of you. These types of videos resonate with individuals more than any other tactic. Why? Because the viewer feels as if you’re talking directly to them, rather than to some generic mass audience. And those are the types of videos that both engage and connect with the viewer.

Most advertising attempts to connect with as many people as possible. Sure, it may be segmented so that the message is demographically or geographically targeted. But, in the end, people can tell the difference between if you are speaking to them directly, or to a generic, random group of people. Yes, they may intuitively know that some video on some random VDP page wasn’t made specifically for them. But, EMOTIONALLY those videos will have a more impactful influence on them. And that’s the whole point of video marketing. Facts may provide details about your product, but an emotional story will sell it.

Video Isn’t Only for Marketing

When it comes to video, most dealerships tend to think of it for purely sales department use, and sometimes in service. From communicating with customers via personalized emails, to live video walkarounds, video is certainly an excellent way to engage customers and increase VDP views. It is also a great tool for the service department to better explain and illustrate service recommendations and educate customers on the necessity for any needed repairs.

However, there are a couple of other powerful uses for video that tend to be overlooked when implementing a video strategy.

  1. Human Resources – Every time your dealership hires an employee, a typical onboarding process likely involves lots of paperwork and a significant amount of time spent reviewing manuals or other materials that tend to be rather dry, boring and hard to get through. Video can be a highly effective tool in these instances. Use it to pre-record important company policies and other onboarding information in a more engaging manner that new employees will find easier to remember and will tend to pay more attention to.

    Video can also be used by your human resources department in recruiting and hiring. Video resumes have become increasingly popular. They are much easier for human resources to review and get a real feel for an applicant. They also offer more insight into the personality of the applicant. This works especially well when considering a salesperson. If you think about it, a video resume is simply a candidate selling themselves to you. In addition, it shows effort on the part of the applicant and weeds out those that may be applying but have no real interest in a career in retail automotive. This saves human resources and management staff time in the selection process and can bring in better potential candidates for interviews.

  2. General Questions / FAQ – Another great use for video is to identify general questions that customers ask and then create video content for your website. Examples could include: “Why does it take so long to buy a car?” or “Why an extended warranty or service contract should be considered.” These videos provide rich content that engages your customers. It also serves to show those visitors that are on your website – but who have not yet contacted the dealership – that you are helpful and willing to provide information.

This type of information is exactly what customers search for during their journey along the many touchpoints in the car buying process. Ask your salespeople, service advisors, F&I managers and receptionists which questions tend to be asked repeatedly. The customer probably already tried to find the answer on your website and, had you offered the content, it could have swayed that customer towards choosing your dealership over your competitors. By providing this content, it helps keep customers on your website longer, engages them, and has the hidden benefit of increasing search engine optimization.

We live in a society with short attention spans. These days, for the majority of consumers video is THE preferred method of communication. Regardless of generation, most people simply would rather watch a video than read a long article, blog post, or technical description.

Save your dealership time, increase exposure, recruit more efficiently and make the onboarding process more engaging by making your video strategy more comprehensive… I promise you it will soon pay dividends.

img-inflatablegorillas-videos

Inflatable Gorillas or Videos?

by Tim James

Most dealers have spent many years in the car business. They know what it takes to sell cars. They know when a customer walks onto the lot, the salesperson must give a professional presentation while being able to emotionally connect with and excite the customer into making that purchase.

To this end, most dealers are really great at merchandising their vehicle inventory on the lot. The cars are gleaming, the rows are tight and they use balloons, inflatable gorillas and other attention-grabbing devices to create an air of excitement.

And what about their online inventory? With more than 90% of car shoppers beginning their journey on the Internet, is your dealership doing everything it can to merchandise your vehicles online? After all, your inventory is your #1 asset.

Unfortunately, most Vehicle Display Pages (VDPs) on dealership websites look very similar to each other. This is not the fault of the dealers or even the website providers; these page formats must be standardized so the inventory data can be pulled and distributed to third-party sites. But the result is that these pages, their data and photos look static. A dealership’s most important online merchandising presentation, of their #1 asset, and it is unemotional, unappealing, and has nothing unique about it at all.

That’s why more dealerships are creating inventory videos. Videos convey information while appealing directly to car shoppers’ emotions. In a video, you can include intros that state your dealership’s value proposition; what makes you stand out from your competition? You can include custom promotion and incentive information; why should this shopper come to your store today?

In videos, you can include information beyond what just appears in the inventory data. Instead of reading data (the what), your customers listen to custom voiceovers that appeal to their comfort-loving side, or adventurous side, or budget-conscious side (the why).

Inventory videos are a great way to make your VDP pages shine. However if you decide to go this route, make sure your customers are aware that you have these videos! One mistake that some dealers make is that once the videos are created, they get buried somewhere or can only be accessed via a tiny button somewhere that may have a video symbol but no real call to action.

Fortunately many website vendors are realizing that VDPs need to be re-designed (only slightly) so that videos are more visible. If your dealership is creating inventory videos, make sure your videos can be seen! Here are a few tips:

1) Add a video slider or widget featuring inventory videos on the homepage of your website so your online visitors know that you have videos.

2) Make sure your inventory videos are clearly visible on your VDPs

3) Create a landing page for each inventory video. This will make it easy for your shoppers to have access to your value proposition, customer testimonial or additional inventory videos without having to search your site. More importantly, it puts these videos in front of your shopper at a time of the buying cycle where they can have the biggest impact on your sales. Your landing page should also include a call to action and a lead form.

4) Give your videos emotional appeal! Use professional voice over, music, banners and intros to convey your dealership’s personality and make the customer want more.

The fact is online merchandising efforts have a greater reach and more impact on potential car buyers than merchandising efforts on your lot. As appealing as that purple inflatable gorilla may be, inventory videos are bound to give you more bang for your buck.

Think Virtual Reality is a Fad? Think Again.

by Tim James

Virtual Reality has been quite a craze recently with video gaming and other consumer electronics. However, the high cost of entry and expensive units limited its reach. Even Google’s cardboard VR glasses required smartphones that cost upwards of $700. The Oculus Rift Goggles were even more expensive and required high-end computers to work.

Now, however, Sony has provided a more cost-effective way for consumers to experience VR with the release of VR glasses designed for use with the Playstation 4 game console. With an installed base of 44 million Playstation 4 owners, the glasses instantly sold out on pre-order and are still hard to acquire, which illustrates the high demand for VR experiences. This release immediately made Virtual Reality readily available for mass consumption.

But if you think 44 million is a lot, what about rolling out Virtual Reality to over 2 billion consumers?

Well, that’s about to happen!

In a recent article, Facebook’s CTO revealed a roadmap for the future of Virtual Reality. As you may or may not know, Facebook owns Oculus Rift. However, according to Facebook, their plans for the future of VR for Facebook users do not include Oculus Rift. Instead, Facebook is working on a standalone product that will make Virtual Reality glasses which are integrated with Facebook “cheaper, easy to use and highly distributed.”

The project, named StandAlone, could instantly thrust Virtual Reality into almost every consumer’s hands, transforming it into common use in all areas including conversations via messaging (both audio and video), marketing and content on Facebook’s platform. Imagine experiencing all of the content posts and marketing messages in a VR setting.

Many automakers are currently implementing or actively working on their own VR experiences. And a few already have VR content in place. Virtual Reality is here and consumers are pursuing and embracing this technology. With the cost of entry decreasing and consumer adoption increasing, Facebook’s VR glasses could instantly change the game.

Dealerships that aren’t prepared or that have not already implemented VR experiences with their inventory merchandizing may find themselves scrambling as this technology is increasingly in the hands of consumers. VR isn’t going away, and it is not a fad. It’s also not the future. It’s the now.

Are you prepared?

Design a Video Showroom to Banish Customer Fears

by Tim James, COO, Flick Fusion

Car shoppers still hate to visit dealerships. Ask them why and they’ll tell you they don’t like pushy salespeople, they’re afraid of being ripped off and that buying a car still takes too much time (among other reasons).

In an attempt to banish these customer fears, dealerships come up with marketing slogans like, “No haggle guarantee,” and “Your friendly neighborhood dealer.” But car shoppers remain skeptical. They take to social media, ask friends for recommendations and read online reviews. And increasingly, they’re watching videos.

Video is by far the most powerful communications medium because it taps into our emotion at a sub-conscious level. As human beings we evolved to pay attention to how other humans talk. We interpret their body language. We sense their sincerity. Our very survival can depend upon whether we decide to trust someone–or not.

Instead of telling prospects to trust you, show them they can trust you with videos designed to banish their fears. Create a video showroom on your website that mirrors your sales process and answers your customer’s biggest question: “How will I be treated when I visit this dealership?”

Once you have some good video content, your strategy needs to evolve around getting this video content in front of the right shopper at the right time. Just throwing it on the Homepage or About Us pages of your website doesn’t solve the problem.

Think about it: you train your sales team to “sell the dealership, sell themselves, and then sell the car” when taking an up. This should also be your strategy on your website. Your value proposition and testimonial videos need to be on a landing page along with your inventory videos. So when shoppers click to watch your inventory videos, you are selling the dealership and building trust when it matters most.

What videos should you include on your inventory video landing page? Here are some great ideas:

Value Proposition Videos. After a car shopper decides which make and model they want, the next question they ask is, “Where should I buy it from?” Your video showroom should contain several value proposition videos that give your customers reasons to buy from you.

These videos may have titles like, “Family owned,” “Community involvement,” “Huge selection of vehicles,” or “Fair and upfront pricing.”

Educational Videos. First-time customers and even repeat customers who have not purchased in a while may not know what to expect when they visit your dealership. One of the best ways you can avoid disappointing customers is to set expectations. Create at least one video that takes the customer step-by-step through the process of buying a car. Tell them how much time it will take and explain why each step is necessary.

Customer Testimonials. Today’s car shoppers want social proof. It’s critical to have several customer testimonials in your video showroom that show ordinary people talking about why they like your dealership. When videotaping your testimonials, ask your customers to share what their biggest fear was, and how it turned out they had nothing to fear at all.

Intro Videos. Introduce your general manager, sales manager, service manager and parts manager with personal profile videos. Ensure that the subject is at ease and comes across as likable and friendly. People want to do business with people they like. Video can immediately create that perception, giving your prospects the feeling that they already know and like your staff.

The more you can remove your prospects’ fears and objections, the more you should see an increase in calls, appointments and ups.

What are you customers’ greatest fears? Do you have ideas for videos that will banish those fears?