Automotive Digital Marketing

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Sometimes I have to look for verification on a calendar that it is actually 2012 and not 1992, and while it shouldn’t still surprise me it continues to do just that when I am confronted with the extreme disconnect that still exists between the evolution of the car business as a whole and the dinosaurs that continue to populate most managerial roles at the dealership level. It seem like the manufacturers get where the business has adapted to, hell most car companies have dedicated staff handling social media and customer interaction and fully encourage dealerships to as well.

Many large dealer groups I have had experience with have some real forward thinkers on their boards and provide goals and guidelines about how to get into and manage online communities and their importance but when it comes to the application there are just so many out and out failures at so many dealerships due to lack of understanding and or unwillingness to even consider something that isn’t part of the way its always been, the way they have always done things… Believe it or not conversation’s like the following happen every day, yes in 2012!

GM: I just got an email from corporate; we need to set up a page on this plus Google thing. Its free and they want each dealer to get it done, you need to get on it.
Me: Uh, well… our page was up on Nov. 7th, the first day that Google + open up business pages actually. Would you like to see it?
GM: Is it gonna sell me a freakin car? No, I don’t need to see it, just make sure if I go and tell corporate its done that it is, don’t make me look stupid…

GM: Hey, we need to get some videos of our customers and post ‘em on that FaceTube crap pronto. Corporate is all hot about video so get on it so I can tell ‘em we did it and then we can get back to selling cars…
Me: Actually, we have well over 40 customer delivery videos already and they are posted continually on both our company Facebook page and our YouTube channel. Would you like to see them?
GM: Facebook, YouTube, Face Tube… whatta you making fun of me? Just get it done so I can get these guys off my back, and since your so on top of things smart ass how come you aren’t sellin more cars now??

GM: Hey, I just finished my projections and to hit my goals I need you and your team to increase sales up to 75 new cars per month so you need to hire more people cause you cant get it done with what you got now.
Me: Well, with our current closing ratios as strong as they are all that really needs to be done would be a combination of a strong PPC plan and perhaps increasing our lead volume from our best lead provider and we could certainly get to your numbers. I have emailed you each of the last three months with my recommendations on increasing volume.
GM: That’s sounds expensive so no. Just hire more people and if the ones you got want to keep their jobs and not see a drop in pay they will figure out how to sell more cars, more people always means more sales, dumbass…

Its so incredibly frustrating to sit through presentations from amazing folks like Ralph Paglia, read the wisdom and insights of folks like Brian Pasch, Kathi Kruse and the members of all the forums I pour through and then be inspired by incredible motivators like Renee Stuart only to be told to stop wasting time with my nose in a screen and get my guys out on the floor to ‘grab an up and sell a damn car’…
Out there, somewhere is a Dealer Principal or GM that gets it. Understands the value of a positive atmosphere in which employees strengths are praised and employees are valued as vital aspects of the overall success of the dealer ship and not easily replaced lackeys who should be able to consistently ‘man up’, take the chew out and go sell something.  The possibilities of what could happen if the shackles of what worked in the past aren’t restraining us from moving forward are incredibly exciting, evolution needs to speed up and the dinosaurs that yet still hold tenaciously on to the GM chairs across the land need to fall into the tar pits and go away!
I’m just sayin…

Thanks for listening... :)

Views: 1004

Tags: Automotive, General Manager, Sales Manager, car dealer, management, team


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Comment by Ashley Poag on February 14, 2012 at 9:42am

A culture change needs to take place in your dealership. I know it’s frustrating to deal with but so many who are used to the old way of selling cars are simply stubborn. Pat yourself on the back for being a forward thinker and a champion in your dealership. What’s really disappointing is that if that way of thinking doesn’t change I really don’t think a dealership can survive in today’s market. That’s why Insignia Group works so hard to provide good information and tools to help dealership stay current and competitive.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 13, 2012 at 4:36pm

I really admire Mark Tewart's sage advice... He is experienced at working with hundreds of dealers and managers over the years and there is a ton of wisdom in his guidance.

Comment by Philip Moore on February 13, 2012 at 12:58pm

The world is changing so fast that even the "enlightened" can have a hard time keeping up.  Here are a couple of examples of my favorite developments in 21st Century advertising.

1) Real-time bidding or Demand-side platforms (DSP) - using tracking pixels on lead submission confirmation pages, the DSP can track conversion from your online display advertising and optimize the bids across ad network sites.  For example, if you set your lead acquisition value at $8, the DSP will automatically increase the volume of ads on sites where the lead generation is costing less than $8 and decrease the bids for ad space on the sites where the cost per conversion is greater than $8.  It takes a few days for the sytem to "tune", but the ROI gains are huge over every traditional advertising form.  If you're interested in learning more, check out the latest research from Forrester here


2) KPI Broadcast - The way we buy television and radio advertising is changing from guaranteeing impressions to guaranteeing results.  Ad agencies are figuring out how to merge household profile data from services like Axciom, set-top box data from Rentrak, and your own performance data like floor traffic, web visits, service volume, and sales to optimize your broadcast media buy. 

TV and radio ratings are currently based on audience samples.  These samples are made up of people willing to participate in research.  Did you agree to the survey the last time your phone rang during dinner or did you politely ask to be removed from their call list?  Did you click on the link in the survey invitation or hit the "unsubscribe me" link. Only those willing to devote the time to sharing their opinions can be counted in sample-based ratings like Neilsen and Arbitron. 

These systems also report in 15-minute increments.  If you channel surf, whatever you were watching through the first few minutes of the 15-minute block will get credit for the whole block.  Set-top box (STB) data is passive data collection at the second-by-second level.  STB can tell you who actually sat through your whole commercial and a few big ad agencies are now asking networks to guarantee viewers of the ads rather than the shows the ads run in.  When you know how many households actually viewed your TV ad in a week, then you can correlate the variance in ad views with the variance in your KPIs and model the true ROI of your TV.  Forward thinking agencies are now figuring out ways to systematically test different networks, shows, pods within shows, and even position of your ad within the ad pod to optimize your TV budget.  The accountability of advertising on the Internet is absolutely driving the TV stakeholders to finally catch up and bring analytical rigor to their claims.  Thanks to the web, it's finally a buyers market for traditional advertising.

Comment by Andy Shambarger on February 13, 2012 at 12:48pm

Glory Halleluyah!!! Someone Else, Someone Else..... At least your GM can answer e-mails. I've all but given up. Turned myself into the Web, Inventory guy. To hell with the rest. To top it off the GM hired a New Guy two weeks ago. Worked for Autotrader for 6 years. Was let go 2 or 3 years ago. I come in from our south store to update some inventory, run reports and a few other things and who's sitting in the new guys office but the Autotrader rep???? The next day the rep. WTF? Ask the GM! We're having him look things over to see what we can do to improve. After all he is an Expert!!! Really??? I have never met or talked to an Autotrader rep that was'nt trying to sell you something...... Now there's a Rant... Can't wait until we move to Florida. I'm going to find me a small store, put in an app for sales and Nothing Else!!!!

Comment by Kathi Kruse on February 13, 2012 at 12:36pm

Whoa, I love your rant Mike!! (Thanks for mentioning me too:-) I'm seeing a huge "groundswell" of employees at dealership taking matters into their own hands. They're starting Facebook pages to communicate their own "personal brand" and these people are becoming influencers in their own right. I had a gal say to me, "I just cant' make a livin' waiting for people to walk through the door anymore." Her manager thinks Social Media and digital marketing are a fad. Jason is right, the more forward-thinking dealers will get the lion's share of business. Rock on, dude!

Comment by on February 13, 2012 at 12:19pm

As with others, I see it everyday.  I agree with  Brian Pasch , time to move on.  Your GM is most likely what I call a goat herder.  Very common to have a collection of scape goats to place blame to the owner.  I worked for a GM who went through 8 UCMs a year and the owner saw no problems with it.   You are inspired and many dealerships need you.  Find a new place, give your 2 weeks notice and watch them fail. 

Comment by Jason Manning on February 13, 2012 at 11:29am
As employees become more intelligent on our new industry standards, many dealers will lose their EXISTING talents to the more forward thinking dealers. There is no room for errors or omissions in our industry, at this time. The transition to artificial intelligence in our CRMs is happening. The move to digital marketing is fast. This transition must be handled by intelligent employees who can be given the tools and support by their Owners, Principles and General Managers to move the dealer forward. Anyone who does not respect the efforts to change, is lazy and comfortable. Unfortunately they are, quickly, leading their business and employees to The Grand Exit of The Automotive World. Good luck with that Tenured Dude!
Comment by David DeSantis on February 13, 2012 at 11:13am

Mike-Great posts, and it's not ranting.  It's speaking the truth!  I actually sent the link to your post to one of my kids to read, she's 24.  After being fired, without cause in December for the second time from a dealership.  All I could tell my kids was, it wasn't me, it was them!  This time the owner was pissed at me.  Why?  Because, under the authorization of the GM, I created an internet marketing campaign for these specialty vehicles we carried.  I bought multiple domain names, created a website for them, did fb, and youtube.  We owned the Google search results for these vehicles.  Under the manufacturer of them in the results, all our stuff was on the first page of Google.  The hook I used, was we offered free shipping, which the GM approved of.  I told him everything that I was doing.  The owner found out about the site I did.  How?  At two of our other locations, they had two separate customers wanting to negotiate the free shipping out of the deal.  Which, I fully expected to happen, and spoke to the GM about when he was deciding to do free shipping or not.  The owner wasn't happy about me doing the website, and asked me to take it down.  Which I did, reluctantly.  I had spoken to the manufacturer rep a couple times when we were kicking butt.  He praised me for what I was doing for their product on the internet.  Well the manufacturer of the these vehicles got wind that the owner didn't own the domain of the site I did.  They quickly filed for a trademark, which they didn't have before, and I offered to transfer the ownership of the domains to the dealership.  All I asked was for reimbursement of my expenses, which the owner agreed to and then told me I was fired.    

I, like others on ADM, have grown very disenchanted with dealerships, and probably will never go back to work for one.  Dealer principals and managers need to get their heads out of their asses quick!  What they don't realize is that they are loosing people that have the ability to not only increase their revenue, but position their companies where they need to be with the internet.  For those of us that are very passionate about what we do.  Constantly, all the friggin time, having to justify your value to them, isn't worth it.

  Btw, I mentioned that was the second time I was fired.  A few months after I was fired from the boat dealership, the previous GM took over one of the company's wet locations.  He called me, and wanted to meet with me.  I went and spoke to him, and asked why he called me to come help him.  His response, "Because you know how to generate revenue from this internet stuff".

Comment by Jennifer Sanford on February 13, 2012 at 10:19am

Mike - Wish I could say I haven't had that experience before.  Thankfully, I now work for a company that embraces digital marketing.  My best advice is to proactively show your GM some of your ROI calculations on your various techniques.  He will undoubtedly be impressed with your effort and the comparison.

Comment by Dave Erickson on February 13, 2012 at 10:12am

I just left a dealership that was exactly like that you described then I read Joe Webb's article on Getting out of Dodge and left a few weeks later for a new dealer. I couldn't be happier. 

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