email

Why Face-to-Face Conversations are More Important than Ever

By Timmy James

 

By nature, humans are social creatures. Need more proof? One of the worst punishments our legal system has come up with is solitary confinement. Not only is this dreaded by inmates, but it can also affect their mental health. Whether an introvert or an extrovert, we all crave personal interaction.

Like many of you, I am currently working from home. And, at the end of one day last week I had an impromptu meeting with one of my customers. The meeting started on the phone but, after 15-20 minutes of the call, we decided to switch to a live-stream one-on-one video call. While we continued talking about the business matter, the conversation quickly changed into a personal chat. Just two people who have been working from home for many days now. While we both interact with people throughout the day, most interaction is via the phone or text. When we switched to the live-streaming video call, emotions changed into joy and excitement that we were having a personal, live, face-to-face interaction with an individual outside of our homes.

Even before this health crisis, people wanted to have live interaction. That’s exactly why sales managers are renowned for telling salespeople to “Just get them in.” Of course, at the moment, we have a quandary. Many salespeople are out of work, CRMs are still spitting out the same messages and consumers are still shopping for vehicles… but nobody is answering them.

We’re dealing with a situation unlike anything seen since the measles or polio breakouts decades ago. The entire country is hunkered down, sitting at home with their families. And many are very bored. What do people do when they are bored? They tend to accomplish tasks they’ve been meaning to but have not yet found the time for. And guess what? This could very easily include researching a vehicle purchase. 33 states have either halted or limited vehicle sales forcing salespeople to stay at home. However, in many cases, their CRMs are still receiving leads. OEMs are offering aggressive incentives and interest rates are low.

Car sales are all about emotions. That’s why the standard has always been to get the customer to test drive, kick tires, breathe in that “new car” smell and take mental ownership. However, before any of that can happen, a salesperson or BDC agent needs to create rapport to get that specific customer to choose their dealership.

Customers currently don’t have the luxury of visiting the dealership. But you can approach that level of face-to-face contact with live video chat. It builds the rapport needed for the customer to decide who to buy from and what to buy. Your dealership can interact with these customers in a personal way while building that emotional relationship with the salesperson, the dealership AND the vehicle. And what do those interactions produce when doing this via live-streaming video calls? The same as it produced for me and my customer — Joy and excitement. It helps move that customer down the line to the sale.

Many dealerships are experimenting with virtual test drives and video calling to provide that in-store face-to-face experience right now and having amazing success. But like all sales processes, it must be done right to have the most effective impact. Many of the popular video calling platforms out there require both users to install plugins or download the same apps to assure cross-platform and cross-operating system compatibility. These platforms are great for organized meetings, entertainment, or educational purposes. But when you need to engage a customer or a lead from your website, or for email/texting communications, the best video calling technology to utilize is one that allows a “one-click” audio and video communication to work inside web pages through direct peer-to-peer communication. This eliminates the necessity to install plugins or download apps and ensures an instant video connection; no matter what device or platform the customer or lead is utilizing.  This could alter the entire experience completely and make the difference between a GREAT video experience, and no communication or experience at all (another lost lead).

So, consider using live video chat to have that face-to-face interaction with your customers that is very much desired, especially right now. Combined with good storytelling through strategic vehicle and dealership marketing videos, it could easily slingshot your dealership into a consumer’s first choice. Not just in these times when it is even more crucial to communicate this way, but also when everything goes back to normal. And now is the time to start planning for the future. You don’t want your competition to beat you and take your customers away!  Get that competitive edge and create those loyal customers now!

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?

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Those of you with spouses have probably heard this at least once: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” Whether at home or at work, miscommunication can cause plenty of problems.

Have you ever misinterpreted the tone of an email that a colleague wrote to you? Perhaps you thought a tersely written email meant that person was angry, but in fact, they were just rushed. Or someone joked about something in an email, but you took offense because you thought they were serious?

Miscommunication is so common that it’s one of the main reasons why some dealerships require BDC staff and salespeople to use templates for customer communications. And it’s why some CEOs are issuing video recommendations to employees, instead of email memos.

Videos allow people to see how you’re saying something, leaving little room for error in the interpretation of what you’re saying. In fact, videos are so effective at expressing personality and tone that it’s become trendy for job seekers to send video resumes to prospective employers.

Let’s face it: a public perception still exists that in general, car dealers are not humble, caring or honest. One bad experience with an overeager or aggressive salesperson is all it takes to forever sour the car-buying experience for a consumer.

As a dealer, how do you change this perception? You could try creating marketing slogans and post them on your website, in ads and in emails, but words by themselves don’t have much impact. Online consumers are very adept at scanning information to find out what’s important to them; which isn’t necessarily what the dealership thinks is important. We all have the ability to ignore or visually ‘tune out’ messages right before our eyes.

When a consumer watches a video, however, it’s not as easy to tune out the message. Videos offer a multimedia experience with live action, sounds and sights, so the entire message is absorbed. Retention rises too. Video viewers retain 80% of what they hear and see in videos, versus just 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they see.

This is partly due to the fact that so much of our communication is non-verbal. Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had a customer service experience and were put off by the customer service rep, even though they were saying all the right things? Perhaps you believed the person wasn’t truly sincere. Or perhaps their tone started getting defensive, leaving you with the impression that they didn’t care about your problem.

When we communicate, we pick up multiple cues from facial expressions, gestures and tone. This happens largely on a sub-conscious level, but the end result–the emotion we feel–is very conscious.

If you’re looking for ways to improve customer perception and communications at your dealership, try creating the following videos.

  • A value proposition video that features a dealer or other company spokesperson showing, not telling, what your dealership has to offer
  • Vehicle walk around videos that generate emotion and excitement about your inventory
  • Customer testimonial videos that feature real customers saying nice things about your staff; these do a lot to alleviate car shoppers’ fears about a bad experience
  • Lead follow up videos from salespeople that engage car shoppers; if the salesperson comes across as likeable, these greatly increase the probability of response
  • Service videos that feature service staff help to build trust and the perception of honesty

Of course, you have to make sure that your videos are conveying not just the right message, but the right tone. When you first start to create videos, ask as many people as you can for their objective and true opinions. Don’t get emotionally attached to the videos you’ve created, and don’t get defensive if the feedback from others isn’t what you want to hear. The last thing you want to do it spend time and money creating videos that turn prospective customers off.

Video communication is powerful, so use it wisely. More than two million years of evolution has equipped most humans with the ability to accurately sense insincerity, arrogance and plain old hogwash. So say what you mean, and if you don’t truly mean it, don’t say it.

How to Make a Value Proposition to Die For

by Tim James

The first thing most people do when meeting someone new is to introduce themselves. This first meeting can quite easily dictate the future outcome of the relationship. If you come off as insincere or indifferent, the other party will probably not engage you again. However, greet someone with genuine interest and sincerity and you just might make a friend for life.

The same exact principal applies when introducing yourself to a customer that submits a lead or visits your website — except for one small thing – you can’t see them.

Most dealers nowadays have some sort of value proposition content that they put in front of customers. It typically appears in the form of an e-mail template or written content on the website (your “About Us” page, for example). While this is better than nothing, it is certainly not the most effective way to meet someone. Human beings are driven by their emotions. Heck, oftentimes the simple act of buying a vehicle can be emotional. A value proposition done with video has a distinct advantage over any written message – the customer can see you. Humans communicate in more ways than just speech. We use our eyes and ears and monitor everything from body language to facial expressions. These subtle cues can sway whether we believe someone is sincere, sarcastic, lying or joking. Written content cannot as effectively project any of these on to a customer. And, since you cannot see or even know who you will be meeting with these online leads — you should strive to create the best value proposition video possible.

What is a value proposition video, really? There’s a very simple answer to that question. A value proposition video is your dealership’s opportunity to convince a customer to choose to do business with you. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that in any interaction someone is being sold. This is no different. You are trying to convince (sell) the customer of the fact that you are a good choice for them. If, when creating a value proposition video, you approach it as if you were tailoring the perfect elevator pitch, you’ll have a better idea of what you should say.

Here are a few tips about what a value proposition should and should not include, along with some techniques on how to interject a little personalization into these videos.

Make it short. – No customer is going to watch a 5-minute video about how great your dealership is. Plain and simple: If you can’t describe what you do, the problem you can solve for the customer, why you are different and why they should care, in 60 seconds, you should re-evaluate your value proposition.

Stop making it about you! – Most value propositions inevitably include statements such as “We’re the best!”; “We have the lowest price.”; “We’ve been in business for 187 years,” etc. Stop that. The customer is NOT meeting you, they are in the process of deciding whether they WANT to meet you. Do you see the difference? The more you can avoid using the pronouns “We” and “Us” and “Our” the better.

While most value proposition videos try to talk to EVERYONE, make yours more personable as if you were talking to an individual. Use pronouns such as “I” and (even better) “you.” The only person that matters at that specific moment in time is that one single customer. Craft your value proposition as if you were making it for that one person. And then proceed to make your video about them. If the video is going to be displayed on your website, your dealer principal or general manager should deliver the message. If the video is designed to be sent to a customer that submitted a lead online, the message should be delivered by the person sending the e-mail. This transforms the video from a generic, impersonal piece of content to one which will have greater meaning to the person watching.

I’m not saying that you have to make an individual video for each internet lead (although that would be a very powerful tool in your sales process), rather you should have one created for each dealership employee – whether that’s a manager, salesperson, internet manager or BDC rep – that responds to and interacts with customers who submit leads. Remember, this video is NOT a “Why Buy from Me,” that’s another topic. This is a “Why Buy from Us.”

An example of a “Why Buy from Us” word track delivered in a personal way is as follows:

“I can assure you that you’ll have a great buying experience here. You’ll find a great selection of vehicles and knowledgeable sales consultants who can assist you in finding the vehicle that best fits your family’s needs and budget. Just as my other customers have, you’ll want to keep coming back after you buy your vehicle here.”

That’s one great way to deliver a dealership value proposition in a way the customer feels as if you are talking to them, and that it is not all about the dealership.

Quality counts – If you are going to make a single video to be repurposed, ensure that the video is filmed, edited and presented in a high-quality and professional manner. Simply filming a selfie while standing against a wall is like showing up to a job interview dressed in shorts and flip flops. First impressions matter — and you only get one chance to make one. So, make this one count. These may very well be the most important videos you make. Deliver them in a proper, professional way, and you’ll find that customers watch them and that they make the impact you’re searching for.

In the end, a value proposition video is not a commercial. It’s your first opportunity to convince a prospective customer why they should choose your dealership over your competition. Pulling this off successfully will start to build a relationship and trust in you and your dealership. And, once you have those, the odds of you winning the business increase exponentially.

A Primer on Video E-Mail Response

So, you’ve decided that you want to send video responses to internet leads, but you don’t quite know where to begin. Well, first, congratulations! You have made an excellent decision that will engage more of your customers, build rapport faster and elicit increased responses. Now to the nuts and bolts of how best to do this:

Technology – The simplest tool you need to create video is probably right in the palm of your hands. You may even be reading this blog on it, right this minute. I’m talking about your phone. These days, most smart phones have pretty impressive video capabilities. On the other hand, perhaps your dealership is willing to invest in a little dedicated video equipment. That is great as well. The biggest thing to understand is, regardless of whether you’re shooting video from your smartphone, or from an expensive camera, you need to ensure that you’re familiar with all of the settings that the camera offers and how to use them. Read your manual. And, In the case of an expensive camera, pay attention primarily to the Exposure Triangle (ISO, Aperture and shutter speed). Understanding these three features, and how to manipulate them, will help you produce great looking quality videos.

Deliverability – I am frequently asked about the best way to deliver videos to a customer via e-mail. Should the video be embedded in the e-mail or linked? Well, embedding a video inside an email sounds cool. But, “sounds cool” isn’t functional because only a few e-mail clients would actually play the embedded video. In addition, many spam filters flag e-mails that contain embedded video as spam. This means that most of your customers won’t even see them. A video is worthless if it doesn’t make it through spam filters. Because of this, your best option is to utilize a video landing page and insert a link to the video which is embedded in the landing page.

Creativity – Creativity is an important piece of any video marketing strategy. First, decide how you are going to utilize your video content. Are you going to build a library of stock video responses to send to leads? Or, are you going to personalize each one? Perhaps a combination of the two? Regardless of which strategy you choose, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. That being said, each one can be effective if it is implemented properly.  Here are some fundamentals that apply universally:

  • Use the word “VIDEO” in the subject line.
  • Use e-mail to support your phone call strategy, not replace it.
  • The focus (i.e. the call-to-action) of the video should be to get the customer to call you.
  • SMILE! There is nothing worse than seeing a video with an unhappy face.
  • Use a video landing page that contains the video you created for the customer along with additional supporting videos such as your dealership’s value proposition video, your salesperson’s introduction video and perhaps even some video customer testimonials. Sell the dealership. Sell yourself. And sell the car. All at the same time.

Hosting – One of the most important pieces of the puzzle for an effective video marketing strategy is where your video is “hosted.” All of your video content, including your video e-mails, should be hosted on the same platform so that you can track the viewing data of your shoppers across all touch-points and match that shopper with their history within your CRM. This also allows you to deliver “viewer specific” content to your shoppers based on their history and/or geo-location. Hosting videos on the same platform allows you to see if the prospect you sent the video email to watches another one of your videos on your website, cars.com, AutoTrader, Facebook Video pages, a blog, through another e-mail, etc.

Make certain that your video hosting platform knows what it is doing and can serve up real-time marketing/re-marketing content, or special offers, all based on rules that you can set, in order to return the best results. You can even geo-target your competitor’s lot. This means that if a specific shopper ends up visiting your competitor, but then decides to come back and watch your video e-mail just one more time (or any of your videos for that matter), you then receive a notice that they are on your competitor’s lot, while your video throws up a last chance offer to entice them over to you, before they buy elsewhere.

I hope this blog provides some useful data on the fundamentals of implementing an effective video marketing strategy. With the right tools and technology, you’ll find that it’s not that complicated at all.