marketing strategy

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?

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?

[VIDEO] Google’s 5 Auto Shopping Moments – Part 2: Is It Right For Me

In this series of video blogs, Flick Fusion COO Tim James shares Google’s 5 auto shopping moments that every dealership should know and how to take advantage of those moments to lead customers to your dealership.

Weekly ISM Checklist

from drivingsales.com, posted 6/3/08

Now for the weekly check list.  ISMs need to be completelting these items on a weekly basis and reporting to their management on their progress of each of these items.  Following this task list regularly will greatly increase your success: 

Weekly Check List

Date _______

1. __ Visit dealership website. Call toll free and other phone numbers to ensure they’re working and being answered properly.

2. __ Check AutoTrader, Cars.com, UsedCars.com, and/or other third party website photos, pricing information, and phone numbers.

3. __ Blind shop competitors selling both similar and different makes and models.

4. __ Post any upcoming Events and Specials on website. Be careful about posting any future discounts or pricing – those should be only posted once they are on, or when they are about to end to instill urgency.

5. __ Schedule broadcast email once per month, at the beginning of the third week of the month. Preferably, send on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Always have something for the customer first and foremost – give them a compelling reason to open your email.

6. __ Schedule automated targeted email campaigns to existing customers, including interests, specials, birthdays, etc.

7. __ Check with vendors to see if there are duplicate addresses they are sending leads to, to former employees, etc..

8. __ Test templated emails to see how they are arriving to customers.

9. __ Check your site for manufacturers compliance or non-compliances issues.

10. __ If you find any issues, send an email to your vendor (so you have it in writing), cc-ing your GM or ID, and immediately follow up with a phone call. If the issue is not resolved in 24 hours, re-send the email, and cc you GM or ID. They should take it from there.

Following these processes and checklists will help you maximize you efforts and success! Good luck.

http://drivingsales.com/blog/rafi/2008/06/03/weekly-ism-checklist/

7 Strategies for Marketing in a Downturn

Published: May 22, 2008, from iMedia Connection, by: Guy Maser

The following tips will carry your company through the lean times and beyond.

In a challenging economy, you must find new ways to make marketing work more effectively, get more out of marketing investments, and measure and account for marketing decisions. In short, you must make changes. Doing the same things in an uncertain economic environment and expecting the same results is, at worst, a definition of marketing insanity. At best it is a flawed strategy.

How can your company be one of those success stories that market and grow their businesses during challenging economic times? The following strategies will help you allocate marketing investments to better performing programs that will carry your company through the economic downturn and beyond.

Get targeted
A fundamental but sometimes overlooked marketing tenet is to “fish where the fish are.” In other words, invest in those specific, targeted media where you know your customers and prospects will be exposed to your message.

Research shows that virtually all engineering, technical and industrial professionals now use the internet throughout their work process. The same holds true in most B2B markets. But the internet is vast, and the fish you are looking for may be using specific websites where the content is directly related to their information needs. Work with your media partners to identify and target those sites.

Measure performance
While it’s always the right time to purge marketing programs that don’t perform, it may be time to scale back any marketing plans whose results you can’t measure or are unsure about. In other words, re-allocate and “right-size” marketing budgets to measurable programs. Online programs — which are built around delivering visibility, impressions, clicks, leads and customers — are easy to measure.

Think integration
Integrated marketing means your marketing strategy takes advantage of multiple media, resources and customer touchpoints to create a whole that’s greater and more effective than the sum of its parts. The more that marketing efforts are integrated and comprehensive, the greater impact you can achieve in gaining visibility in your market, qualified leads and sales.

Maintain frequency and consistency
The benefits of regular visibility in the market tend to compound over time as more prospects recognize your company. This improves your opportunity to get on a prospect’s short list of potential vendors and also shortens the sales cycle. A consistent online presence where your customers and prospects are looking for information — including websites, directories, search engines and e-newsletters — will help your company stay visible as well as provide measurable lead generation benefits via online contact.

Push and pull your way to success
Most marketing can be classified as either push or pull: companies push their message out through tactics such as direct mail, advertisements and e-newsletters; and they also establish a presence in online directories, websites and search engines to pull customers in real-time when prospects are searching for information, products and services like those your company offers. Rather than struggling over whether to allocate resources to push marketing or pull marketing, seek out a media partner that has your target audience captive and can offer both push and pull programs under an integrated program.

Focus on quality over quantity
If marketing efforts focus solely on quantity over quality, fewer leads will convert, more sales resources will be wasted, and sales people will begin to distrust marketing’s lead generation programs. Commit to programs in which quality is a key attribute: programs that can deliver interested prospects, provide prospect contact information and offer reports of program performance.

Seek assistance from media partners
The economy is likely forcing you to make harder and smarter decisions about allocating budgets. While you may be facing challenges, you don’t have to face them alone. Ask media partners to demonstrate how their marketing solutions help your company achieve the strategies mentioned above.

Ask them:

  • Do they have your target audience’s attention?
  • Can they keep your company visible to prospects and customers at all times?
  • Do they offer a variety of integrated marketing solutions aligned with your goals?
  • Can they provide both visibility and lead generation? 
  • Do they deliver targeted, quality leads with full contact information? 
  • Do they provide reports you can use to measure the performance of your marketing and justify your marketing investments?

During challenging times or when things are going well, marketers need to clarify goals and create tailored, integrated marketing solutions that complement the current media mix and extend their companies’ ability to compete and win business in the market. Utilize a wide range of digital media advertising and marketing solutions. Consider keyword ads, email marketing, searchable product catalogs, banner ad networks and industry-leading e-newsletter advertisements. Figure out the right combination and you will deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience and integrate with your traditional marketing efforts.

 http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19318.asp

Watch for Personal Bias

As marketers, we’re constantly building, tweaking and adapting our marketing plans in an effort to maximize the return on our marketing investment. In doing so, we have to make judgments about which tactics will be most effective. And that’s where, if you’re not careful, mistakes can be made.

One of the most common mistakes I see marketers make is to forget a simple truth that should be obvious. That truth is this: You are not your audience. It’s the same mistake that causes us to buy birthday gifts for our friends that are actually something we’d like, rather than something he or she would enjoy.

You are not your audience. It seems obvious, but forgetting it can have profound implications. Just because you personally don’t respond to direct mail, watch Channel 8 News or like the color red doesn’t mean that’s not the right solution to your marketing challenges. Learning what personal biases you may have is important when designed a campaign meant to influence other people.

So, trust your audience, trust past results and trust the numbers… they won’t lead you astray nearly as often as your hidden, personal biases.

D. Jones
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
SmackDabble, LLC