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Do dealership reviews really sell cars? Are you confused about the discussions surrounding the importance of reviews? When you read reviews are you reading about the product or about where you are buying the product - Be Honest. This week on Think Tank Tuesday, learn the truth behind all the effort you've given to working on your dealership's reviews.

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Tags: Potratz, ad, advertising, agency, automotive, car, company, dealership, marketing, partners, More…paul, potratz


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Comment by Ryan Leslie on February 13, 2013 at 3:41pm


Let me answer a couple things you said with straight talk. I'm not going to sugar coat it so we can get straight to the meat of this issue:

  • Anyone can make a survey read what they want- I agree! I think that is exactly what you are doing!
  • the percentage of people that do read dealership reviews is much smaller than the industry tries to present. - There is a mountain of data on this from well respected research firms, you've not supplied a shred of credible data to support this claim. You mentioned a survey size of 62k, I've seen Google surveys I could barely make out on the Hangout video that amounted to maybe 3k responses to a Gated-Content survey which we both agree is suspect at best.
  • The surveys you quote could be simply taken out of context as you try to take our study out of context also but keep in mind you don't have all the data. - Taken out of context? I can only assume you haven't read any of these studies. I'm fairly convinced of that to be honest, it explains why you have so much misplaced faith in your own data and the conclusions you've drawn from it. I'll be happy to review your "data" if you want to release it, but recognize that you are contradicting Nielsen, About, Cone, Google, Polk, Harvard, eMarketer etc... Do you honestly believe your data is up to par with any of these, let alone ALL of them? They ALL disagree with you, Paul, ALL of them.
  • What I am saying is there are many other things a marketer or business owner should be focused on before how to build reviews - You may want to pick up a few of the studies I suggested earlier. In your video you mentioned that it was your opinion that Toilet Paper had a more tangible effect on the reputation of a dealership than their online reviews. Consumers will never know what kind of toilet paper you buy, they WON'T be there to care!
  • I am sorry that the thoughts I have presented make some uncomfortable- I'm not uncomfortable with your thoughts, Paul. I am very uncomfortable with you presenting them as facts!

A dealership's reputation isn't online or offline anymore than your inventory is online or offline. Your inventory is your inventory represented online and off; your reputation is your reputation, represented online and off. Neither exist in a mutually exclusive vacuum. The best online efforts can never cover for offline antics, but suggesting that providing great service in store is the ONLY requirement for a positive online reputation is totally inaccurate.

I've never supported paying a 3rd party to manage or build reviews. It is the dealer's responsibility to protect, preserve and promote THEIR reputation. I'm also not challenging you on this because I work for DealerRater. The idea that your data and any conclusions you've come to from it is a threat to my livelihood as you suggested in your Hangout video and again here is more than a little off base. Believe me or not, but I was trying to help you not go down this path because I'd already seen the results from the Polk study released Sunday at NADA I referenced earlier.

Paul, this is not personal at all, I don't think you're a bad guy, but I think you've got a bad case of thinking you know something that you can't know based on a flawed study you conducted and your own personal shopping behavior.  It is abundantly clear to me that you do not have a good grasp on this particular topic and the opinion that you are sharing with dealers as fact is frankly irresponsible. You are a tremendous marketer, your retargeting strategies are top notch, I can't get away from you online. There are many things I wouldn't dare question your knowledge on, but this is clearly something you haven't taken time to educate yourself completely about and what you are saying is just plain wrong.

Final Thought: There is nothing wrong with challenging conventional wisdom and thinking out of the box. There is something very wrong about willfully ignoring all of the evidence in favor of your own preconceived notions and conclusions. Dealers, please use all of the resources available to you. Many dealers have called me to share their personal success with review content marketing. I'm hopeful that some will join the conversation.

Comment by Paul Potratz on February 13, 2013 at 10:23am

Hello Ryan, Thank you for taking the time to watch the video and see the Google Hangout.  Let's start with surveys.  Anyone can make a survey read what they want and I can understand your concern over the information I am sharing since you are employed by Dealerrater.  I have nothing to gain since I have no products to sell as a result of me talking about how shoppers interact with reviews about a "dealership".  

1. First off I am NOT stating "no one reads reviews about a dealership".  

2. What I am saying is the percentage of people that do read dealership reviews is much smaller than the industry tries to present.  

3. I am saying that paying for a third party company to get reviews or manage a businesses online reputation is not a practice I would use for my business.  I feel the online reputation starts in the business, on the phone, on chat, and on the lot. Treat people right and provide a nice shopping experience and reviews will happen organically.

4. I am saying that people trust their personal friends and social friends more than a review site and if you touch as many people as possible with professional service that will create word of mouth.

5. I am saying enough with all the review sites!  A dealership staff has enough things to do in the course of a day with customers wanting to do business and now they have to stress over having reviews on all these websites which some are free and others are PAY TO PLAY and which some PAY TO PLAY review site use to or do sell advertising for competing businesses on one's review page.  That does not sit right with me!

6. The surveys you quote could be simply taken out of context as you try to take our study out of context also but keep in mind you don't have all the data.  

7. What I am saying is for business owners to think of their own behavior and ask the behavior of their friends and even do a simple survey/poll on facebook, survey monkey, or zoomerang and see what the majority of people feel is important.  

8. What I am saying is there are many other things a marketer or business owner should be focused on before how to build reviews or pay for reviews.  To me that is putting the cart before the horse.  e.g. updated vehicle specials, pictures of all vehicles, walk around videos, test drive video, customer video testimonials about the vehicle not the dealership, answering phone calls, phone training, lead process, and I can go on. So point is there are people wanting to buy now and the biz owner is focused on getting more reviews or spending valuable ad dollars for reviews.

So in closing I am not defending a position I am just stating what car shoppers have told us and sure I presented the data in a very raw form since I have nothing to gain.  

I think the majority of people know I am data and analytics individual and I love to share.  I also really enjoy studying customer behavior.    

I am sorry that the thoughts I have presented make some uncomfortable.  

Again I am not saying no one reads the reviews about a dealership.  I am just saying it is not the majority and paying to play for reviews is not what I agree with.  

In fact do the majority of people even read reviews about an individual vehicle??? I think that will surprise you and for your information that is what ZMOT is about.

Final Thought: Business Owners, Marketers must always be thinking and challenging so they can grow and find new ways to increase opportunities.  

Comment by Ryan Leslie on February 12, 2013 at 3:11pm

Paul and I have been discussing this for a few days now on Twitter. The end result is that his opinion is derived from a Google Survey campaign, undefined "Dealer Surveys", and his personal experience and anecdotal stories of buying from Big Box National Retailers. I have nothing against Paul, but I do have something against misleading dealers, intentional or otherwise.

Please read what market research experts have to say about the reliability of Google Surveys for this kind of empirical research here. The abridged version is that the results net a.)Weak Data Presented as Fact, b.) a DIY Method that Leads to Misunderstood Results, and c.)Lack of Segmentation that Hampers Usability. Those are the words of experts in their field, not mine.

I'm still unclear as to why Paul is trying to defend this position and I'd hoped that it would resolve quietly on Twitter. I'm not interested in a drama-filled Vendor Spat for the entertainment of the ADM masses, but I think it is tremendously important that the community recognize that Paul represents an extreme minority position using his own research exclusively to support a position that is contrary to every other study on the topic.

Google's ZMOT, Nielsen Trust Index 2011, Trust Factors July 2012, Harvard Business Review study on YELP ratings Oct 2011, eMarketer study dated Feb 7th 2013 on proliferation of reviews to name a few, and that is just a few. (Ralph, please feel free to hyperlink to these well known studies, I did not do that out of courtesy to you. If you think it is necessary feel free.)

Just this weekend at NADA, Automotive News covered industry research authority POLK at a press conference that used DealerRater data to authenticate a 25% greater lift in sales for dealers that average 4 stars as opposed to those that avg 2. Here is the coverage of the story that starts at the 1:47 mark. Mr. Bob Shuman of Shuman Chrysler Dodge Jeep in his own words echoed the findings. He is far from alone. I have had a handful of dealership owners and employees that have reached out to me since Paul began promoting his study with their own personal accounts of sales attributed exclusively to their reviews.

Consumers absolutely use 3rd party reviews of your business to determine where they will shop and buy. The idea that reviews matter less than coffee, carpet or toilet paper is preposterous, your online presence is an extension of your physical presence without distinction. None of those things matter at all if you are eliminated from the consumer's search because you believe the consumer isn't reading your reviews.

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