1. Where do you work and what is the URL for your dealership(s). Feel free to list multiple URL’s.
Swope Toyota in world famous Elizabethtown Ky. I say world famous because they filmed the movie “Elizabethtown” here. I was busy that day so they had Orlando Bloom fill in for me 🙂
The site I am responsible for is http://www.swopetoyota.com
2. How did you get into the Automotive Business?
After finishing my enlistment in the U.S. Army as a Combat Engineer (can you believe they let me play with explosives?) I was working for a local construction company and I noticed that the guys having all the fun and making all the money worked in the sales department <for that construction company>. I applied for a job in the sales department and I was told I needed to have some sales experience. I thought that the Automotive industry would be a great place to get some sales experience and help build my resume for that particular job. That was three Dealerships and eleven years ago!
What are you currently driving, and if you could have any other car what would that be?
I sold my Celica and my suv doesn’t start worth a T, so I will have to plead the 5th on this one… 🙂 However a better question for me would be what do I ride? I currently have a Trek 2300 road bike, KHS XC 604, Trek 6700 hardtail mountain bike and parts from many others including a snapped frame from my Giant NRS made out of carbon fiber that you see in the pics below (if anyone reading this has some connections at Giant shoot me an email, I can’t seem to get any help on the warranty side of things). If I had my pick of any car and not have to worry about money constraints I would probably go with a tricked out Supra similar to the one pictured.
4. What are you currently working on? What’s your big push?
On the business side of things I would like to expand my auto actions in my current ILM with some compelling home brewed videos and take our email campaigns to the next level. So much to do so little time!
On the personal side of things I would like to finish remodeling my new home and get it ready for my wedding at the end of September. Yes after being single for 33 years I am making the plunge.
5. How would you rate the relationship between your Internet efforts and the traditional dealership departments on a scale of 1 to 10? If you answered anything less than 10, what would you like to do to improve those relationships?
In the car business you can never rate yourself a ten because there is always room to improve and challenges to overcome. The area I would like to see more improvement, or awareness, would be in utilizing our tools and technology throughout the dealership to help close deals. Our website has a ton of information that can be accessed with a few clicks of the mouse, we have software that can help educate consumers on our very competitive market pricing and we have a ILM that can send out E brochures, videos and customer surveys. Many of our salespeople find these tools very valuable and recognize the ease of use, others not so
6. If you had a limitless budget, how would you structure your department?
I would hire Christine Robertson to star in my videos! You’re doing a great job Christine! I told Alex the processing fees video is excellent.
7. What is your favorite thing about the Internet side of this industry?
Before I explain my favorite thing I would like to explain how I ended up in this particular side of the industry. In 2003 I became the GM Buypower Manager at the GM Dealership I worked for, they decided they had to have someone deal with those pesky Internet shoppers. So I acquired a PC for my desk and a shiny new plaque that said Buypower Manager. Our effort was minimal in those days and we all hoped this Internet fad would end before we went crazy. I recently cleaned out my Yahoo! account that I used back then (yes I said Yahoo) and looked over some of the old emails. To make a long story short I wouldn’t have purchased a car from myself back in my Buypower days. When I came to work at the Swope Family of Dealerships, they got wind of my previous position and decided to get serious about Digital Shoppers. The old website was axed to get on-board with Dealer.com and I got an Internet Lead Management tool. I have no idea how I survived without an ILM tool to track my contacts and leads. I am sure many of you remember the days of tracking down quotes in outlook and bcc’ing with mail merge codes..let me tell you that is not fun.
My favorite thing about this side of the industry is the technology that moves business along at quantum speeds, I like to look at E-Comm as the “special ops” of the industry, we get to play with all the latest and greatest technology not unlike special ops units in the military. I enjoy watching this thing grow, not everything can be measured by sold units, I love tracking the growth of our unique visitors to the site and seeing what campaign draws attention.
8. What is your favorite thing about Dealer Refresh?
My favorite thing about Dealer Refresh lies in the name; a place to refresh when technology goes bad. Yes, this business can get quite stressful at times, and not very many folks around the dealership have experience in dealing with the frustration that comes with trying to build rapport via emails when the consumer won’t pick up the darn phone or your pics won’t batch image upload correctly. Dealer Refresh is a place to refresh your thinking with new ideas that have worked for other Dealers or maybe someone sees a flaw in your process that you might have overlooked, and sometimes it feels good to just have a laugh or two about something that happened in the Ecomm world and refresh your train of thought. Dealer Refresh is a place that the new school ideology of the auto biz shines and the many contributors of Dealer Refresh realize that by sharing and improving the overall Ecomm experience for web shoppers that we will all prosper.
9. Brian, you’re in the process of building a full studio for used car photographs – how did
that get started and how tough has it been getting it done?
We’re located in Elizabethtown Ky. (population 24,000) not exactly a huge metro area and we have folks that visit our store because of our marketing efforts online. We always strive to accommodate and serve our customers the best way possible and decided it was unfair for folks driving from a 100 miles away or more to make that decision without great high quality images. We had a strong need and desire to upgrade our photos so we could represent our vehicles online without any distractions or shadows. Our goal was not for brochure quality images but for images with great pictorial information that a web shopper can use to decide to visit our location or even purchase the car without a visit to our physical location.
IPIG was a group formed by Carl Swope our President and included many key individuals of our Auto Group; Susan Gifford our Marketing Director, Steve Phillips, Terry Constance, Andrew Sunkel, Ryan Callison, Ryan Hodges and myself did much of the research in house. The actual renovation of the old dusty garage that had been used for much of nothing except collecting junk into a magnificent photo studio to serve our customers was completed by Steve Phillips and Terry Constance. We had some issues that we had to overcome such as limited space to maneuver the vehicles that we were photographing, correct lighting with low ceilings, building inspectors (not fun) and the list goes on. In the end I think we could have improved in some areas but I have been very impressed with the test images we have shot so far. The pic below is not the finished product, we still have some lighting issues to work out but we should be shooting full time by mid-September.
10. What do you do outside of work?
In case you haven’t figured it out I like cycling and outdoor activities.
Start of Wild on Waverly mountain bike race 2007. Yes Waverly Hills has a mountain bike trail, just don’t get lost!
This is at the end of the race, notice the pale look to my skin and the confusion in my eyes? In the cycling world that is known as blowing up, the fuel tanks are empty.
Dealer Refresh wants to thank Brian for his support and contributions. That’s one hell of an undertaking you’ve got going on with that photo studio – we can’t wait to see the final results! Good luck with wedding too.