Automotive Digital Marketing

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Brian Pasch recently uploaded a very useful PDF document into the Presentation File Exchange Forum on ADM. A comment I made in response to reviewing this document is shown below. However, the primary reason I wanted to give my comment its own Forum Discussion thread on ADM is the very last section of my comment below... What would YOU, as an ADM Professional Community member think about the concept of using this community as a starting point to building a tree non-profit professional trade association dedicated to improving the skill sets of its members and furthering the status of our chosen profession as one which merits increased demand and respect from dealers, similar to what they now consider for professional roles such as Comptroller, Accountant, Finance Director, General Sales Manager, IT Director and such?

I have a vision that is really what many of wanted when the AAISP organization was founded and several hundred of us went to the first Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville, which was actually more "AAISP" than "Digital Dealer" to most of us at the time... I would love to see some opinions on this subject... Including, what if Mike Roscoe let us reinvigorate AAISP by giving control over to a non-profit professional association? However, please do not respond with anything negative about the history of AAISP or any disparaging comments about Mike Roscoe because, well, quite simply, I have a ton of respect for Mike Roscoe and in many ways his bull headed persistence on Digital Dealer Conferences being profitable and self sustaining is why they are still happening. Plus, I want to include Digital Dealer 8 in my unbroken streak of having been a speaker at every Digital Dealer Conference to date, so don't get me on Roscoe's s*** list with nasty comments... please.

Brian - Thank you for a well written and insightful overview of automotive microsites, however I disagree with several of your assumptions and assertions that are stated as facts... Regarding the history of microsites; I was marketing, selling and installing microsites before TK Carsites was in business! In 1999 when I worked for the HAC Group based out of Wynnewood, PA and they acquired Automark of Norfolk, VA we began selling microsites to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers, then expanded those offerings as we worked with Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota dealers. Our approach to microsites included a strategy around what we called "Model Franchises" and "Profit Centers". For example, Ford dealers would often times do so well with the Ford SUV lineup at the time that we would build a full featured microsite focused on Ford's SUV models... Other dealers would invest in an F-150 Microsite. Profit Center microsites initially started with Special Finance and then went on to include Fleet and Commercial, as well as a few other variants.

As the companies were sold and purchased, other acquisitions made and new Vice Presidents ordained and put in charge, I repeatedly found myself put in a position of defending microsites as an effective dealer marketing strategy... In fact, the disputes I had with what eventually became Reynolds Web Solutions after certain key acquisitions, and the eventual dismantling of Automark, weaighed heavily upon my decisions to leave what had now become a division within Reynolds and Reynolds and go to work for Courtesy Chevrolet. Again, while certain key people were leaving BZ Productions (Results) and TK Carsites was being formed as a result, I was at Courtesy Chevrolet building and launching a microsite strategy while ramping up an eBusiness Operation that leveraged the traffic and opportunities from this network of microsites into a 400+ Unit Sales per month Digital Marketing and Sales Operation. Even though there is a lot of bad blood between David Jackson and me at this time, I would like to point out that he built a business around the model I designed for him which at the time was called Fresh Start Studios and is now called Fresh Microsites. Due to the problems I have had with David, I am loathe to recommend or promote his business, but for the sake of historical accuracy, his automotive microsite business and examples of his work going back to long before the "Power of 5" was offered by TK Carsites can be seen at You have no idea how much it chaps my hide to put a link to David Jackson's business on my comment! But, for the sake of historical accuracy and in response to the incorrect conclusion that TK Carsites was first to market with a dealer microsite strategy, I am compelled to do so... In fact, at Digital Dealer I in Nashville, TN in early 2006, I presented a workshop on dealership microsite strategies and showcased over a dozen microsites that I designed and Fresh Start Studio built to my specifications... After my workshop ended, the leaders of TK Carsites approached me and we discussed how they might develop a microsite platform and supply Courtesy Chevrolet with microsites. At the time, I was still partnered with David Jackson in a relationship where I helped him secure dealership business outside my market area in exchange for work he would do at little or no charge for Courtesy Chevrolet building microsites, so I passed on TK's offer to build them for Courtesy Chevrolet... In hindsight, I wish I would have worked something out with TK Carsites because David Jackson turned out to be a traitor and I believe the owners and leaders at TK Carsites to be ethical and trustworthy... Despite the fact that they compete with my own team at ADP Digital Marketing, I have no problem acknowledging and complimenting them on the work they have done since that conversation in Nashville in early 2006. In fact, when TK first went to market with the "Power of 5" several of my team mates at ADP came to me and said "this looks like they productized what you did at Courtesy Chevrolet", and I would agree with their observations.

Additionally, although my own team's full scaled dealership websites did not make the cut in your Pasch Consulting Group report, we are hard at work building an entirely new dealer web site platform that I believe will be as good or better in many respects (including SEO) than the platforms you reviewed in your report... By starting with a clean slate and using ADP's development resources in Portland, OR, Houston, TX, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Coventry, RI we have devoted more brain power, development experts and coders than any previous effort that I am aware of specifically focused on building a dealership website platform from scratch... And, despite the temper tantrums I have thrown and the meetings I have walked out on because of the debate around core architecture and feature structures within this new platform, I believe that ADP will go to market with a dealer website platform and design architecture that is more effective at serving dealer digital marketing objectives than anything that is being marketed and sold to dealers right now. In fact, I have convinced senior ADP management to allocate budget to hire independent consultants to review our team's design and architecture before we go to the next step of launching the prototypes on development servers... Why? Because it costs less to make changes before the prototypes are built than after... Brian, hopefully you will take Bill Reilly up on his offer to hire PCG to review our new dealer website design architecture and make change suggestions...

Finally, I would like to say that in addition to correcting the "History of microsites" that you wrote in your document, there are several key components that I have previously and continue to describe in building effective microsites. These components include:
1. Table of Contents on the index (home) page of the microsite, along with descriptive text based (anchor) links pointing to the dealer's various other microsites, eCommerce sites and Social Network or Community site.
2. Index page title should lead with the same first two or three keywords that comprise the microsite's URL.
3. Photo Gallery daughter page accessible from the index page via text based link, with vehicle model or other relevant photos that have file names accurately descriptive of their content. ie; "2010-Ford-Mustang-GT-Rear-Quarter.jpg" or "Courtesy-Chevrolet-New-Showroom-North-View.jpg" for example... Here's an example of a microsite photo gallery daughter page from before TK Carsites Power of 5 was brought to market: 2008 Chevy Malibu Photo Gallery
4. Product Specifications daughter page accessible from index page via text link which contains multiple H1 and H2 section headlines describing the product specification category, such as "2010 Ford F-150 Frame and Body Specification" or "2010 Chevrolet Corvette Engine and Drivetrain Specification". Obviously, the relevant specifications detailed below the section headline. Here's an example of a microsite product specifications page: 2008 Chevy Malibu Specifications
5. News and Reviews daughter page accessible from the index page via text based link. This is a page within the microsite where road tests, press releases, articles and news stories relevant to the microsites focused subject matter. For example, on the original microsite, the "2008 Chevy Malibu Press" link from the index page goes to a microsite page with multiple articles, road tests and reviews authorized for reprinting to the OEM, and via franchise, Courtesy Chevrolet.

Obviously, there are many more daughter page concepts that would serve a dealer's microsite well, and because the examples above were built several years ago, I am certain that extensive improvements could be made today, but the fact that the examples I cite are so old, they further corroborate my objection to you giving credit to TK Carsites for the first car dealer microsite offering... Please do not mistake my request for historical accuracy as a criticism of TK Carsites or their Power of 5 dealer offering, in fact I truly admire what TK Carsites has brought to market. But when it comes to historical statements such as what you assert, I take objection to giving TK credit for something that may have been influenced by my previous work.

Here's a few microsite examples that were originally launched well before TK Carsites conceived of the Power of 5:

I do have to make a disclaimer type of statement... Each of the 4 examples shown above was originally built by David Jackson at Fresh Start Studio. When David betrayed me, I took my designs and had Jonathan Monterecy at BZ Results duplicate them and host these microsites on BZ Results servers. David Jackson is upset about this, but I have my original designs that I sent to David in their pre-production Microsoft Word drafts, so I have proof that each microsite was my personal work. I don't like plugging Jackson, because I now believe him to be unethical, but he did build the original microsites for Courtesy Chevrolet and he did do a great job of working with me and listening to my instructions, then executing them well.

Again, all of this was done long before TK Carsites developed their Power of 5 offering! Why does any of this matter? Because, as I have previously stated, if as an industry and a profession we want to encourage the sharing of ideas, strategies, tactics and best practices, it is important that we acknowledge where these tools originated when they are used further dowstream as part of a new implementation or publication. My own personal mission is to establish automotive digital marketing as a respected profession with practitioners and thought leaders. I would like to see the subject become courses at colleges and universities, and am also committed to the original concept behind the AAISP, a professional non-profit organization dedicated to certifying those who meet skills and knowledge standards and providing certified members with the ability to earn more income and be more sought after in the job market.

Which brings me to another idea... What would you, or anyone reading this think of transforming the ADM Professional Community into a federally chartered non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of improving our profession and providing knowledge and skill sets?

In addition to Brian's post on the ADM Presentation File Exchange Forum, Brian Pasch's Microsite Document is available for download below... I have also uploaded a couple of articles in support of my request for historical accuracy around the use of microsites by car dealers.

Tags: Automotive Microsite, Brian Pasch, Marketing Strategy, Question to ADM Members

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Thank you for the update since I've never heard anyone talk about FreshMicrosites,com nor have I run into them at any of the events, so the only perspective I have is what I see on the marketplace in the past few years.

I always knew you to be an advocate of microsites but didn't know the history of your approach, so I will correct the PDF and we can re-upload the document to keep it meaningful to dealers who want to learn more about microsites.

In every industry, good ideas are enhanced and copied, as so this is a good reminder of how the business has evolved and continues to evolve. So together we can continue to be micorsite advocates.

I updated the PDF to reflect the microsite history section and please us this copy to update the old copy on ADM.

Since your post had many elements, let me say that I am very happy that ADP/BZ is coming out with a new "ground up" technology offering for car dealer websites. The current platforms offered didn't get the highest scores in the 2009 ASMA report as you mentioned but at least there is an independent review mechanism that can include the new platform in next years report.

Since a few website platform providers that were not recognized with an ASMA award this year have told me that they are coming out with new platforms at NADA in Orlando, I will be going to see first hand the new offerings at their booths. You can be sure I will be writing about what I see. If the changes you speak of are delivered than I couldn't be happier for you because then you would have a strong core technology to build your external social media and SEO offerings around.

The ASMA report will continue to evolve to recognize those companies that are providing the best website and Internet marketing tools for car dealers. The 33 page study took a good amount of time to prepare and the feedback I have received has been very positive from both award winners and those that did not get an award. Some have told me that its a good tool to help them when trying to make a decision on a new platform; a buyers guide of sorts.

Next year we will have a more formal awards presentation and it would be great to see you and your team as an award winner. The ASMA report I hope will be a standard bearer for unbiased reporting. So make sure that the ADP/BZ team delivers on your promise to impress! :)
I cannot speak for TK Carsites but from my understanding of the Power of Five concept they are breaking down a dealership website onto 5 domains. Could each domain be classified as a Microsite? Probably so, but I do not think that was their original intent.

What can be done with various publishing platforms, my cool aid is wordpress, microsite development and design can actually be performed inhouse or at a very low cost for dealers. Brian points out in his report that Dealer Trend has designed a wordpress plugin to display inventory, but it looks to only be tied to using Diamond Lot inventory feeds, we are developing one now that will work with any .csv file. You can see the precursor to it at where we are using it now with the ebay api. Eventually we will release it in the public domain for anyone to use.

Right now I am planning a visit with a dealer in Indiana to teach them how to deploy microsites on their own using the wordpress platform and will be providing dealers with this same information at our Boot Camp in February. Details below...

Building Microsites on Wordpress

So you think wordpress is just a blogging platform? You can build wordpress microsites by repurposing manufacturers feeds with your own content that can bring an avalanche of traffic to your website and eliminate your competition from money search terms.

You will need a basic understanding of html and know how to install wordpress to get the most value from this workshop. Included will be three themes that we use for client’s sites that you can make your own. Just getting access to these themes and learning how to use them is worth the cost of the conference alone.

We will show you how to set up three different styles of microsites.

* Specials using repurposed print collateral.
* Model specific microsites
* Model Comparison Sites

To answer your question: "What would YOU, as an ADM Professional Community member think about the concept of using this community as a starting point to building a true non-profit professional trade association dedicated to improving the skill sets of its members and furthering the status of our chosen profession as one which merits increased demand and respect from dealers, similar to what they now consider for professional roles such as Comptroller, Accountant, Finance Director, General Sales Manager, IT Director and such?"

I believe that a great number of users on this site are here for the exact purpose of improving our skill sets and knowledge of the great big (although under appreciated) world of the "Internet (insert job title here)".

I have to admit I know very little about the vast majority of the topics started on this site but I take the time to try and learn more about them simply because they are being talked about. (Thank goodness for Google Reader and who ever posted about it so I may have it and LOVE it!)

It is because of sites like ADM I have some knowledge about SEO, SEM, microsites and many of the other great topics. Since our positions have always been misunderstood and misused there has always been little time in my day to learn about new products, ideas and best practices. Mostly this is my own fault but I would like to think it also has something to do with the lack of demand and respect you commented on.

I would love the opportunity to learn more from respected professionals like you within any available forum, group or community like ADM. Please let me know how I can assist in any way!

In response to transforming ADM into a non-profit, I think it's brilliant. I would be proud to put up an ADM certified logo on my sites, linking to a micro-site about the professionalism a dealer must achieve and maintain for the certification. A code of ethics sub-page would be stellar for credibility.

I'm always impressed when I visit a blog and the about page has a guideline of policies. I find it ads so much to simply state we support the "Blogger’s Code of Ethics" To have an ADM digital marketers code of ethics would be equally impressive on a car shoppers perspective in my opinion.

Let me know if you need a recruiting hand north of the border.
Hey Ralph,

I certainly agree with the value of providing credentials to ADM as a professional community, however, the federal maze associated with developing and maintaining a "non-profit" organization is a tangled web that I would love to discuss with you outside of the public domain. I strongly suggest that you take that part of this forum into the real world since every comment posted in the formative stages of development will impact the application and evidence of intent.

If the goal is to educate the auto industry and provide additional certification for member contributors - I am already in! Unfortunately, the moment you expose the platform to the "presumption" of profit - or at least a revenue stream - you open issues that may not really exist. You have already established that ADM is a labor of love and that you do not get support - monetary or otherwise - from ADP or any posted vendor links. That is already a "differentiator" from other sites - including my own - that is a self described commercial venture that charges to place banner ads or links.

As far as the micro-site issue and history, Brian Pasch and Paul Rushing have already kept that ball rolling and I will jump in tonight after I finish paying the bills with today's work product.


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