“Car Bomb: variation of the infamous “boilermaker beer cocktail. Made with Guinness, Baileys Irish Crème, and Jameson whiskey. Found to be most tasty by those in the “car” industry”….. More on that later, but let me just share that this shot tastes like gasoline mixed with cottage cheese and nitroglycerine… Another fun time was had by all at the 7th Digital Dealer Conference which was held in Nashville, and yes, a few “car-bombs” were enjoyed after a great day of sessions.
I started Sunday with Brian Pasch’s session on how to “Move Ahead of your Competitors with Content Based SEO Strategies”. Brian has earned a well deserved reputation at being great at automotive SEO (he DOMINATED Cash for Clunkers!), and his presentations are well attended as they are “rich in content”. What do I mean? While many other presenters might provide some tidbits of info as a teaser to hopefully hire them later, Brian shares the actual strategies of what he is doing for his automotive SEO clients. His approach is that he knows there will be folks out there who do not have the time to implement these strategies themselves, and will then hire him. Sounds like “transparent selling” can pay off… Brian shared that “the most important hire in 2010 for a large dealership will be a full time content writer” and that this move would be the greatest ROI decision large dealers would face. With the 2 major Google algorithm movements this year, I agree wholeheartedly. Of note, at the end of the conference, Brian gave his “Award of Excellence” to DealerFire after completing his review of all of the major automotive website providers – congratulations!
More photos and Video after the break
Next up was Stan Bradbury with “Get Ahead by Becoming a Leader in Mobile Communication”. Both Stan and Brian Pasch’s presentations were “standing room only”. Unfortunately, their meeting rooms were too small and were very stuffy (which is my only gripe about our location, very nice otherwise). Many of us that attend these conferences are doing our best to stay one step ahead of this rapidly moving market, and I believe mobile communications is something we need to figure out. Stan (Dealer Text Solutions) shared how technology shifts have changed our business, and how much more rapidly these moves take place now. From our dealerships first using phones, then faxes, then websites, then emails, and now mobile communications, the pattern has shown that the aggressive dealers who identify and embrace these technology shifts are the dealers with the highest returns when these market changes take place. Attending this presentation raised a lot of questions for me, primarily – how do we use mobile comms to sell cars? I don’t think anyone can truly say they are sure of how to do this, as we are still working on the logistics of working with this. For me, I am very curious as to which CRM provider will provide a seamless solution where we can “text” our customers directly from our CRM tool…
Social Networking was a very hot topic at the conference, and I attended several sessions which addressed this issue. Perhaps I am having a cynical moment, but I believe that many dealers are overly concerned with “getting their Facebook and Twitter” setup when their most pressing concern should be to address the key fundamentals to successfully selling cars on the Internet (great website, inventory management, sales process, etc). Our dealership was involved early in the social media movement, and we are even profiled by some of these presenters as being an example to follow, but I must share that the more I work with social media, the more I need to change my attitude and approach towards using it. My gut feeling at this point is that our social media presence should focus on managing and promoting our positive online reputation. You can have the best “fan page” in the world, but I think the truth is that when we look at any of these pages, blogs, or other sites, the majority of the “fans” or “followers” are our employees or counterparts within our industry. It is different if you carry a brand which has passionate followers like Porsche or BMW, but I don’t think you can expect to create a Kia blog and see similar results (we carry 3 Kia rooftops, so don’t start screaming at me…)
I am sure the previous paragraph will open a bucket of worms, but this leads into another subject. Many of the folks I talk to attending these conferences are just trying to figure out what to do with their Internet department. Attending a show like this is like opening your mouth and having a fire hose inserted into it with the nozzle on full stream. You receive an immense amount of information, and folks are quickly overwhelmed. “Hey Kevin, how do I photograph my own inventory and write a unique description for each vehicle, then create and manage 150 additional micro sites, followed by 25 blog entries on the different models we carry, then attempt to register my profile with 2500 social sites (which keeps growing every day), setup and manage my search engine management account, update our website specials, implement our mobile phone short code campaign, complete some SEO on our sites, review our Google analytics so far down that I know which room of the house that someone is surfing our website from, and then make some custom videos that I post at 19 different video hosting sites, each with a different title and description…” The answer is – YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. With all that said – when it comes to social media, I would encourage folks to pick a few of the primary social sites (Facebook, Youtube) and do a great job with them, rather than trying to do a little bit of everything poorly. Look at what you do with your other friends with these sites, and keep your presence at the “conversation” level. Don’t keep talking about “Great sale this weekend only!” – But do share what your satisfied customers have to say about you, and provide useful, relevant I info that you would share with them if you were with them at a social gathering…
Shaun Raines gave a great presentation on “Internet Existence: Is it making you or breaking you?” Shaun always has a great presentation as he has the ability to keep things real, and his genuine desire to make positive changes within our industry is easily seen. If you have been to one of Shaun’s presentations in the past, he likes to give away Hot Wheels to those attending. Tied into this is a great tip from Shaun – stock up on some Hot Wheels for the brands you carry, and when a shopper comes in with their kids, give their kids some of the Hot Wheels, and let them know that regardless of what happens today, at least they are going home with a new Chevrolet (Honda, etc)… ReachLocal is fortunate to have someone like Shaun Raines onboard – the folks in our industry trust him.
Duncan Scarry talked about the “The Top 10 Initiatives to Implement in 2010”, and his presentation verified one of my greatest areas of emphasis in this coming year. Duncan showed a TV commercial that was made for one of their car dealer clients. While measuring the results of this TV commercial campaign, they could see that their phone calls increased significantly following the airing of the commercials (I believe around 140%). But… the call tracking numbers indicated that the calls were coming in from the dealer’s website. This is the pattern that I have been closely following for some time. Our shoppers see, hear, or read our traditional media, and then they go to our website before they decide to contact us. Before, our traditional media would drive our customers to our physical dealership. Now, they go to our online dealership. Why – because they have never wanted to go to our physical dealership to get “pressured” into buying a car. Now they hold the power with being able to get the information they need online.
It is incredibly important to understand this, because when our shoppers hear/see our traditional media, they expect to see that promoted information on our websites. Is your website updated with current information, specials, and banners that tie into the “Mazda Lease Special” that your dealership is pushing on TV, radio, or print? Even better, does your site tie into any national or regional OEM marketing promotions? This past month Nissan was promoting a Nissan Altima lease special on TV, radio, print, and online (I think I saw the ads every day on AOL). So when folks hear or see this, and they search your local Nissan website, is your site updated to tie into this? I am going to go out on a limb here and state that you should probably spend more time working on this issue than the very small amount of traffic that might come in from your Facebook fan page or a Twitter update… Useful tip of the day: You can do more with less in 2010 by taking advantage of all of the money your OEMs are spending to market on your behalf by taking a minute at the beginning of the month, going to your OEM site (e.g. www.nissanusa.com) and looking at their current promotion, and then updating your site to tie into that… Better info means higher conversion which equals more leads… all with a little extra effort and no additional money.
Do you have a “static” website provider? By that I mean this – did they develop their website platform some time back and they now intend to milk every last cent of profit out of their product while putting minimal to no effort to improve it? If so, I believe you should be very concerned. There have been 2 major changes in the search platform by Google this year, and if your website does not search well with these new changes, and is not adjusting to ensure they do, then you need to find a new provider. Sorry folks, no names – but I can tell you after talking to multiple vendors that a key factor I am looking for with any vendor we partner with is that they have a dynamic solution which is constantly changing with this market. (and while I am on this subject – pet peeve – a “partner” vendor helps you become more efficient by continuously improving and providing more value, NOT by adding improvements and constantly asking you for more money for these new “ala-carte” features…).
Ahhh – the “word on the street”… I always try to take the time to meet new folks, and ask them what they are looking for at the conference, and what their top concerns are for 2010. Unfortunately, I listened to several who shared that they just want things to “return to normal” in 2010. I believe that this is a big mistake. Our industry is going through a major change, and we must be more efficient, and learn to do more with less, as well as “re-learn” how to sell cars in our market. If you think the “old days” are coming back, and we can sit back, withhold information, and conduct “business as usual”, your dealership is going to be in trouble. The power has shifted towards our consumer, who has the information at their hands and can shop us online. Are you prepared to work with that?
I had several people on the floor share with me their excitement over 2 vendors (WideStorm and Vision Selling Systems) who were exhibiting an online negotiation product. I have to admit, I am intrigued as well and look to test this out.
Is there any nightlife in Nashville? Are you kidding – if you love live music, you should be in heaven as Nashville proudly claims to be the Music Capital with good reason. After multiple “Car-bombs” and some great food, we visited Tootsies where 2 live bands were performing at opposite ends of a bar that is about 1/3 the size of one club back home, lol. I think my highlight was seeing 2 girls approach Jeff Kershner and asking him “Are you that (giggle-giggle), – that guy from Dealer Refresh? (Giggle-giggle)”. Wow, real life automotive blog groupies. Damn, there goes my whole cynical theory about social media, lol.
Once again I have piles of notes from this conference (and believe it or not, I do go through it and create “tasks” within my Outlook to follow up…) and lots of great ideas to pursue. It is so easy for us to get absorbed in our jobs and forget one key thing. We work with other PEOPLE. Real live breathing human beings that have feelings and emotion. I will candidly share that the thing that amazes me about this industry is how poorly we treat so many of our people. With so many things that we must do well to win our customers’ business, you cannot do it yourself. It must be a team effort. Take some time to let your people know how much you appreciate their hard work, listen to their suggestions, and most certainly ask them to help you. A “pat on the back” goes a long way further than an “a55- chewing” or a “what have you done for me today” attitude. I am on the same boat as Shaun Raines. I not only want to lead our dealership to be the best, but I want to “make a difference” in making our dealership not only a place you want to shop, but also want to work for. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Digital Dealer 8 (I hear it is Orlando, not sure…) Cheers!
Review by Kevin Frye the eCommerce Director of Jeff Wyler Automotive Family