Archive for June, 2008
When you send out direct marketing materials, be they postcards, letters or emails, how personal are they? You’ve certainly abandoned the “Hello Valued Customer” greeting for a first name… but is that where it stops? Are you using past purchase history, geographic information, age and income levels and such to create truly personal messages and offers?
The database technology the drives today’s direct marketing — and the digital printing and data-driven email marketing that make the data come to life — allows for a level of personalization that we could only dream of a decade ago. And these technologies open up new doors for the smart marketer — and give us all a new responsibility — to make good use of that data.
This means not offering a minivan to the 24-year-old single male, or the two-seater sports car to the mother of three. It means targeting the customers who bought big SUVs from you 3 years ago with messages about the new hybrids or other vehicles that will get them out of that gas guzzler. It means being smart — and that will lead to profits.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
I consistently see marketers in all industries trying too hit marketing home runs. They’re swinging for the fences with every television campaign, direct mail piece and online promotion. And just as often, they’re putting all their financial energy into each swing, ensuring that they’re only going to get one shot. And their intentions are good… but they’re also misguided.
Good, sound marketing is about consistently putting out targeted, timely communications with a compelling message and actionable offer. It’s about hitting singles and doubles every time you step up to the plate. That’s how you win ball games and that’s how you win the marketing game.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
Published: May 30 2008 by iMediaConnection
As you would expect, today’s biggest trends in the automotive industry all revolve around e-commerce. As more consumers head online to research and shop for vehicles, vehicle sellers and marketers have to provide the websites, electronic tools and online information consumers want and need.
Yet, they are also challenged to attract and retain in-market auto shoppers to their online turf, especially during a weak – and therefore highly competitive – economy. This calls for innovation in areas such as campaigns, eye-catching visuals and clever SEO tactics. Following are five of the big marketing trends we’re seeing in the automotive industry and how they’re affecting and changing the online environment overall.
Although mobile marketing has been popular for a while, it’s only recently that companies in the automotive space have started to optimize this communication channel.
Take a look at the work of some companies currently employing this technology. Dealership e-newsletter service IMN Loyalty Driver has started including mobile coupons in its publications. When customers receive an e-newsletter that includes a coupon, they enter their cell phone number into the space provided and within seconds the coupon is delivered to their phone as a text message. To redeem the coupon, customers only have to show their phone at the dealership.
Mobile marketing company Gumiyo makes it possible for a dealer to place trackable keywords, VINs or stock numbers next to vehicle advertisements (both print and online) that consumers can text from their cell phones. These buyer-generated text messages receive automatic dealer replies with specific vehicle information, or promotions with links that launch a cell phone’s web browser. Services like this make a dealer’s inventory directly available to cell phones, potentially shortening the sales cycle and increasing the value of offline advertising.
Innovative uses of video
Full-motion vehicle videos are steadily gaining in popularity. We’ve seen many dealerships and portal sites licensing video content because it delivers compelling presentations that keep viewers on sites longer which, in turn, raises conversion rates. In response to the overall success of video-based ads in the automotive market, vendors are starting to experiment with video in unique and innovative ways. The Wall Street Journal online for example, is now using a video component to supplement many of their articles and special features, including those about the automotive industry.
Another great example of this is MyDealerBroadcast. The company is working with dealerships to deliver automated, personalized email messages in response to customer vehicle inquiries. Each message includes an embedded photo along with a link to a vehicle video. Once an email is sent, the dealership sales team receives instant text and email alerts whenever the customer interacts with the message, so they know what leads are hot and when to follow-up. Not only does their product guarantee that a customer vehicle inquiry will be answered promptly, the inclusion of video gives the customer immediate access to the information they want in an eye-catching presentation that grabs attention and better primes them for the sales call.
The automotive industry is data-heavy: With numerous new vehicles released every year, each with more than 10,000 option and pricing configurations, a dealer or portal trying to get complete vehicle information online and provide configuration and comparison services has a steep development hill to climb. Because of this, web services are rapidly gaining in popularity.
Web services allow companies to focus on core competency – how the application manipulates and enhances data for the best consumer experience – rather than structuring, warehousing and updating the source data. In addition, using web services for VIN decoding, mapping to used vehicle values and configuration and comparison reduces development cost and shortens the development cycle because it obviates custom databases and coding. And unlike framed-in applications, web services allow for the freedom to customize every aspect of a website’s look and feel.
Dealer generated leads
Virtually every dealer has a love-hate relationship with third-party lead generators. On the one hand, they deliver solid sales leads, but on the other, volume does not equal quality, and multiple dealers often receive the same leads.
Some companies in the space are helping dealers to skip the middle man and generate their own leads by creating small landing pages for individual vehicles, or by using SEO to drive consumer traffic to these pages. eBizAutos, a leading innovator of online marketing solutions for dealers, and NowMarketPlace.com, a new company creating dealership websites that combine the power of video and the web, are putting the power of lead generation in the hands of dealers.
OEM-owned vertical ad integration
Vertical ad networks are a big topic right now, and in the automotive space we’re seeing manufacturers using this model to create their own vertical channels. General Motors, for example, recently began offering its dealers a comprehensive digital marketing package for free. Designed to drive more in-market shoppers to GM dealership websites, the program will enable GM to better coordinate its national advertising message with its dealers’ local advertising for consistent messaging that grabs casual shoppers, as well as sophisticated, brand-savvy shoppers.
These five trends attest to the industry’s commitment to attract and retain online vehicle shoppers. The steady sophistication of websites, marketing campaigns and interactive tools is a boon for customers and, therefore, the automotive industry itself.
Published May, 2008 by Digital Dealer Magazine
You have heard a lot of rumors circulating about a recession in the United States. Whether it is true or not is a moot point. When I sat down to ponder this question I was hit with the concept that you should always be operating your dealerships as if you were in a recession and make sure every penny is accounted for while trying to squeeze everything you can out of each and every department, including the Internet.
Today I want to focus on your Internet business, which I break down into a couple of sections for ease of analysis.
Web sites and technology
I look at this section of the business as a rock hammer to a master mason. These are the tools you need to shape our business and achieve your desired outcome. What is most important is that you have the right tools in place and you are maximizing the utilization of the tools each and every day. There are great technologies out there that do all sorts of interesting things, but as my fiancé told me when we moved in together, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, throw it out.” I thought that made good sense or maybe she just wanted more closet space; I will never know. But in our business when you are not utilizing a specific technology or tool by 75 percent or more you are not getting the most out of the technology. So maybe it is time to try to live without it or get busy increasing your utilization of the tool. A great dealer friend of mine has always brought up a good point when referencing technology. He comments that 15 years ago we didn’t have any of this stuff, yet now I have all this great technology, but wonder whether it is really helping me sell more cars or just keep pace with the local marketplace.
When was the last time you sat down and looked at your entire marketing spend and dissected it? I mean all of it. I walk into stores so often that they tell me they are spending 25k, yet after I go through the dealership doc I find out they are really spending about 40K because things are not being put into the advertising line of the statement correctly. Sometimes I hear that it got charged to this account because of this reason or that one goes there because of that reason etc. Is it advertising? Charge it to the right account. When you can get a complete 360 degree view of your advertising expenditures you can start to really focus what you are spending and where to help you create a more accurate cost per unit retailed figure.
Also, take the time to know what you are marketing and the messages that you are using. Are they in conjunction? Do they conflict? Your business is dependent on your ability to reach people in the marketplace and entice them to take action. Is your marketing doing that for your dealership?
Customer communication processes
This is one of the most overlooked and important areas of the Internet department. I know you set up your follow-up schedules when you first set up your CRM and you don’t think you need to tinker. As consumer buying habits mature online so should how you approach and manage these relationships. I would set up and print every letter in your CRM monthly and make changes. Also, change follow-up schedule length and timing. You would be amazed at how a few key tweaks can open a flood of activity within your existing lead management tool. You would be shocked that I still walk into stores that are using subject lines in their e-mail marketing and customer correspondence that I guarantee will be triggered by spam filters. Yet all you have to do is look online to see what words are triggering your messages to get spam-boxed and make sure none of your e-mails are using any of these keywords. Get involved; roll up your sleeves and dive in. Your business depends on it.
This area is still the one most dealers, including myself, struggle with almost daily. Finding the right people to execute the vision is another key piece of this puzzle to recession-proof your dealership. People are assets and must be trained and consistently driven to improve the dealership’s bottom line. Which means involving your team with not the typical, “We don’t have enough units out speech” but a much more hands-on approach to how their specific actions or inactions are affecting the operation. When people are genuinely brought into the picture a new level of teamwork happens. It takes a while but is well worth the effort. Take stock of your team and make sure your vision and message is being transferred throughout the dealership.
Today’s dealership challenges are difficult especially in the ever-changing Internet department, but with a little extra effort and some basic analysis you can watch your Internet sales grow: rain or shine, or recession.
Todd Smith is one of the leading authorities on Internet technology and its utilization in the retail automotive industry. For the past year Smith has been the general manager of a Northeast Chevrolet dealership putting into practice all the techniques he teaches. Lear, LLC, Smith’s consulting company, is focused on leveraging technology to enable other dealerships to sell more vehicles at a higher gross profit while reducing customer acquisition costs.
In our increasingly flat world, where the international marketplace is the only marketplace, it’s becoming harder and harder to define exactly what “American Made” means. And nowhere is the issue more confusing than in the automotive business. Is a Ford made in Mexico an American car? How about a Toyota that’s manufactured in America?
Difficult questions, obviously. How are you positioning such things to your customers? Is “American Made” as important to them as it was 20 years ago? Do they even ask?
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
It’s been said, “the devil is in the details.” Which means, of course, that the difference between success and failure is often something small and seemingly insignificant. This is absolutely true when considering the effectiveness of your dealership’s marketing. Try experimenting with the following little details and you may realize some huge gains in your return on investment.
Timing. Sending your email campaign out first thing in the morning? Try mid-afternoon or midnight for different results. Or trying sending the message on a different day of the week or time of the month. All of these things will make the difference.
Personalization. Have you made an effort to make your direct marketing personal? Does that personalization stop at “Dear John” or are you using everything you know about a prospect to make their communications specific to them?
Email Formatting. Not all emails are created equal. You’ve got the full graphic and multimedia capabilities of HTML or the more traditional, potentially more personal, all-text email. They each have their place. Experiment with when and where you use each format to try and maximize results.
Offers. Which drives more traffic? $500 customer cash or 1.9% financing? How about a $50 bill just for test driving? How about $100? These little details can make a huge difference.
Expiration dates. Trying to drive immediate response, toy around with a 24-hour-act-now offer. Or try stretching it out to 3 or 4 weeks. Again, different timing will drive different responses from different customers.
The difference between mild success and rousing, ring-the-bell success can be found in these little devilish details. Experiment with them and you may very well find the results you’ve been looking for.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
Published: June 05, 2008, iMedia Connection
With consumers tightening their purse strings, it’s more important than ever for marketers to reach out to potential customers with relevant offers they can’t refuse.
Debate continues in the media as to the fate of the U.S. economy: Are we in a recession, or merely flirting with one?
For brand marketers, it turns out, the effect is the same. Consumers, made wary by gas prices over $4.00 a gallon, the mortgage mess and less-than-stellar employment forecasts, have tightened their purse strings. And when consumers spend less, marketing — traditionally a company’s first budget-cutting line of defense — is in trouble.
Yet there is much evidence, scholarly and anecdotal, that points to the wisdom of maintaining marketing spend during a recession. In fact, a recession is an ideal time to take advantage of consumers’ comfort with familiar brands by creating web-based interactive, direct-response campaigns that offer special promotions and savings.
Why web-based? A recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that 81 percent of internet users research products online — for convenience (78 percent), time savings (68 percent) and the ability to find bargains (ranging from 38 percent of 50-to 64-year-olds to 62 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds).
Tough economic times not only lead consumers to do online research, they lead to more time spent researching and comparing brands and prices. A recent Prospectiv survey, which discovered that 84 percent of those polled had changed their shopping habits due to concerns about recession, gives further clues to consumer behavior in this economic downturn:
- 66 percent are logging more hours online researching and comparing brands and prices
- 74 percent would welcome more online offers, coupons and e-newsletters from their favorite brands and products
- 60 percent are more likely to sign up/join a website or online community that offers recipes, healthy meal ideas, cooking tips and savings they can use at home
As consumers under financial pressure ponder a switch from favored brands to generics, brand marketers must seek out ways to engage consumers online, using direct-response interactive marketing to reinforce the value of brand.
We strongly believe that marketers should consider countering the effects of the downturn by stepping up programs that build strong relationships with consumers who have exhibited interest in your goods and services. Take the opportunity to add to your in-house opt-in email newsletter list and reach out with these tips:
- Consumers are eager for special promotions and savings during tough economic periods — now is the time to consider a brand-building campaign.
- Consider campaigns designed to generate leads as well as near-term sales. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or website, use a well-timed, anti-recession campaign to drive traffic.
- Provide information that’s clear, relevant and easy to find online. The Pew study found that 43 percent of searchers were frustrated by a lack of information, or the difficulty of finding information about brands they were interested in. Another 32 percent were confused by the information they were able to locate.
- Be selective in your programs. Market only to consumers you identify who have an interest in your product/brand and have requested your offers and promotions.
- Be aware that some 70 percent of internet users are still concerned about giving out personal information or credit card information online. Treat your customers with care — many of them are wary.
- Monitor campaigns closely for performance and redirect your efforts as needed to improve results.
- Consider using pay-for-performance lead-generation programs. You’ll pay only for results, versus clicks or impressions.
Don’t forget the most important metrics of a brand campaign — quality and relevance. In difficult times consumers aren’t shopping for nice-to-haves; they are focused on must-haves. Here, pay-for-performance lead-generation campaigns that build your own opt-in email lists and produce consumers who are interested in your product and brand are particularly useful because they make it easy for marketers to ensure relevance, and simple to measure lead quality at several points in the campaign, before handoff to sales.
Finally, in a down market brand marketers must maintain a laser focus on lead-generation best practices to ensure high quality leads and maintain a respectful relationship with consumers to build trust and discourage abuse of consumer privacy.
Opportunity for brand marketers comes in many forms. In these unstable economic times, it is incumbent on marketers to reach out to consumers with offers, promotions and information that reinforce brand preference, provide much-needed purchase information, and offer advice, tips and ideas for living well while saving.
From eMarketer, May 27, 2008
An old digital format still has plenty of life left
Compared with today’s virtual worlds, e-mail is solidly Web 1.0—an almost archaic communication channel.Yet e-mail works, and marketers and advertisers keep putting it to new uses. Moreover, consumers—whose opinions are the ones that matter—genuinely like e-mail. Nearly three-quarters of adult e-mail users in North America said they used it every day, according to an April survey conducted by Ipsos for Habeas.
Two-thirds of adult respondents said they preferred e-mail for communicating with businesses. Just as many—and this is the important part—said they expected to still prefer e-mail five years from now.
“Far from being eclipsed by Web 2.0 and other emerging communications methods, consumer expectations suggest that e-mail will be the workhorse channel around which future online communications will revolve,” said Des Cahill, CEO of Habeas, in a statement.
That is not to say that consumers are ready for random, untargeted e-mail. Opt-in is still key. Consumers are even willing to help marketers custom-tailor their messages. More than 88% of respondents said they would like more choices in e-mail content and frequency, including options on advertisements and special offers.
So if e-mail is set to remain a consumer favorite for the next several years, that must mean e-mail ad spending will grow during that time, right?
Yes and no.
eMarketer predicts that e-mail ad spending in the US will hit $492 million this year, then increase by 55% to $765 million by 2012.
And while e-mail accounts for only about 2% of all online ad spending, eMarketer predicts that percentage will actually drop to only 1.5% of online ad spending in 2012, despite the growth in dollars spent. The amount spent on other formats will dwarf what is spent on e-mail, thanks to its low cost.
E-mail is cheap marketing. The pricing scales well, too: The cost of sending a million e-mails is little more than the cost of sending a thousand. However, this can also cause problems.
“E-mail is so inexpensive that it lulls many marketers into underestimating its influence on entire campaigns and a company’s brand,” said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer.
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
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 â€“ 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.
There are no more late adopters
For years, we’ve heard the excuses. At first it was, “most of my audience would rather shop on the lot,” and then it was, “Some my audience still doesn’t have internet access,” a short time later we heard, “There are still some people out there who don’t use the web to do their background research,” and even later we got this, “There’s still a group of consumers out there who refuse to use the internet, so we have to stay in the paper and on television.”
Well all of those excuses had merit at one time or another. And now, we’re here to say, that the time for all of those excuses has passed. The number of people who are both capable of purchasing a new or used automobile, and are non-internet users is so incredibly small as to be unworthy of your time and attention. And the same can be said for dial-up internet users… don’t you worry about them anymore either. The age of the late adopters has come and gone. And even those that came late to the online party have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
So what does that mean to your marketing? A few things…
- 1. No sense in segmenting your marketing into digital and non-digital formats, now. Every consumer is a digital consumer.
- 2. Assume that every customer is going to visit your web site. Count on it. It’s already happening.
- 3. Assume those customers know as much (or more) about pricing, options, financing, special offers and manufacturer’s incentives than your sales people do.
- 4. Don’t shy away from multimedia content, embrace it. Your audience is broadband.
- 5. Focus on the user experience of all your digital marketing. It’s just as, if not more, important than the experience a customer has when they visit your lot.
- 6. Don’t apologize for being digital. In fact, target your competition who isn’t up to date on technologically.
- 7. Realize that all your materials, now more than ever, need to work together.
These are just a few of the ways an all-online audience will change the way you approach identifying and reaching out to new customers. The days of the late adopter are long gone. Act accordingly.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
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