Dealership Marketing

I cut the cord. DEATH to TV!

That title might be slightly inaccurate, as it really should say DEATH to cable.

I cut cable TV out of my life about a year and a half ago.  It is all Internet for me.  Admittedly, it has driven my chicken wing and alcoholic beverage consumption up because I have to go to the local sports bar to catch a game, but I’m not complaining.

I’m not writing this article to talk about my experiences in relying solely on the Internet to deliver anything and everything to my TV – you can catch that here.  I’m writing about how the TV was my last connection to the 3 big boys of traditional local marketing (Newspaper, Radio, Television).

Yes, I agree with you, I am a bit ahead of the norm.

As more and more people shy away from our marketing comfort zones how are we to get our messages out going forward?  Sure, there is PPC, SEO, billboards, display ads and all that jank.  But what we should really be talking about is a revolution in marketing.  This is a revolution that is going to rip advertising to its core.  It isn’t about shifting mediums; it is about a complete and utter shift in delivery.  And guess who isn’t in control anymore:  you the marketer.

Today’s marketing is about Push.  Tomorrow’s marketing is about Pull.

Today we push our message to a broad group of people as far as we can reach.  It doesn’t matter what media it is, we are simply trying to get as many eyeballs on our message as possible.  That has been the basic way marketing has been practiced ever since we were able to purchase ads.

Consumers are shying away from this method.  Supply is plentiful, deals are only a few clicks away, and your loud voice is just an annoying interruption.

Tomorrow’s advertising will be more about public relations than what we call marketing.  It will be based on your deeds.  It will be based on your image; your brand, and it will be shaped by your customers.  We’re starting to see the power of consumer reviews.  For car dealers, the power of reviews is still in its infancy.  For restaurants, it is full bore.

But there is another piece we can’t see.  It is a piece that lives behind privacy and topples governments.  It is social media and it is mostly Facebook.  For the first time individuals can quickly and easily rely on a lot of their friends to help them make purchase decisions.  These aren’t just decisions about cars.  Your friends are asking for advice on virtually everything.  Think of some of the questions as practice for when they really start looking for suggestions that have massive impact on the way local businesses are viewed.  If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen your friends ask for advice.  I see it every time I view my news feed.  People flock to the most influential; the one with the most “klout” on that particular topic.  This is the person you’re going to see marketers flock to as well.

It is just the beginning.  Be cognizant of it.  As marketers, understand this is going to reshape the messages we send.  Don’t be the next Middle Eastern dictator.

P.S.  Have you ever noticed how DealerRefresh has had some major impact on various automotive vendors?

  • T
    Tom White Jr
  • November 2, 2011
Have you read google's Zero Moment of Truth?  You are reporting pretty much what their data suggests...  HUGE opportunity for those who get it and a HUGE challenge for those guys still in love with traditional media...  Nice and timely post Alex!
  • J
    Joe Pistell
  • November 3, 2011
Just to stirr things up, I'll take the other side of the argument.

Take a moment and think if you've seen the TV commercials for Internet Giants:
-TD Ameritrade
-Etrade (the talking baby ads)
-and on and on

Compare that to the poster child of "Pull Marketing",

Push vs Pull.
Why in the world would Internet ONLY companies embrace old school TV (Push)?  Why have they not abandoned push and gone to the cheaper pull marketing?

PUSH MARKETING is all about sending out a branding message with a goal to influence the use of the Internet.  

PULL MARKETING works best if your business is special and your site can communicate your unique biz model.

For car dealers, Old School Push branding messages can work if you have the business profile to make it work for you.  The vast majority of dealers donot have the "ideal profile" for push marketing.  

To further complicate things, Pull marketing can work for them, but, just like, for pull marketing to work, your website had best deliver a meaningful message to your website visitor.

Add to this, how many car dealers can really make their site so special that it "rings the bell" for the pull visitor?
Joe - would you mind giving me your definition of pull marketing?
  • J
  • November 3, 2011
Thoughtful article, Alex.  I can't argue with anything, other than perhaps the impact of Facebook (and I'm wondering where you got that picture of my TV). I like the idea of "Pull."  I think you can build some impactful strategies around the notion of "Pull."

I've been thinking about this quite a bit.  I can't get past the fact that "Social Media" is simply a new buzzword for "Word of Mouth."

And this is the thing:  Word of Mouth has always been THE BIGGEST source of reputation management and advertising influence that exists.  Because you can now measure and track (somewhat) Word of Mouth on Facebook, are businesses that have always paid attention to their reputation and standing in the community -- businesses that "Do It Right" for the right reasons -- impacted by Facebook?  I really don't think so.

Now, here's where I see Social having the impact: the Schlock businesses.  You know what I mean -- the slam-bangers, Tires for Life, the "Sign Here" while their arm is over the contract guys.  The ones that don't care about repeat and referral business.  I can see Social having a "leveling" effect in that it may force an onus on actual customer service once they figure-out that there's no real way to spin the "reports."

When that happens -- and it will be QUITE a while -- the businesses that have always done it right will then be negatively impacted: social will force the next great consumer movement: excellent customer service everywhere. Great for consumers.  But the good ones -- the ones that have always been good -- will lose their edge.

All theoretical and hypothetical, of course -- as you know, I have no experience in reality :)
  • J
    Joe Pistell
  • November 3, 2011
Alex, you wrote:

"Tomorrow’s advertising will be more about public relations than what we call marketing.  It will be based on your deeds.  It will be based on your image; your brand, and it will be shaped by your customers.  We’re starting to see the power of consumer reviews.  For car dealers, the power of reviews is still in its infancy.  For restaurants, it is full bore"

Pull Advertising is social media based advertising (i.e. reviews).

IMO, reviews in our space is fragmented and lacks impact not because shoppers aren't interested, it's because our industry never had a yelp or to fill the void.  

Google Reviews are a joke. Reviews need to ride along side the product offering (Like Yelp or TripAdvisor) for the synergy to work.

Did I get it right?
  • J
  • November 3, 2011
I agree with you Joe that today, it's nowhere near the "impact zone" for car dealers -- especially Facebook and some of the review sites.

But I do agree with Alex that the train is a'comming.  Especially when you stop equating "Facebook" with the bulk of the power of "Social."  I think Social is a whole lot more than Facebook.  I really believe Facebook is just today's shiny rock -- something bigger and better will come along in due time and replace it.  But "Social" in the larger context will continue (but probably labeled under a new buzz-word :))
  • J
    Joe Pistell
  • November 3, 2011
IMO JQ, the future is right here: 

"Reviews need to ride along side the product offering (Like Yelp or TripAdvisor) for the synergy to work."

When we're on TripAdvisor or Yelp... ready to MAKE A DECISION, reviews are a search filter (i.e. hotel near MCO, with 4 stars or higher but <200$). Then,  when the list gets real short, reviews are the tie breaker.  

Our industry never got a "founding player" that could marry products with reviews. 'Trader and Cars have arrived late and have buried the reviews taking it away from the search criteria (i.e. SUV with Nav from dealer with 4stars or higher but under $20k).
  • J
    Joe Pistell
  • November 3, 2011
Speaking of when the founder of TripAdvisor sold out to Expedia (or similar), what industry did the co-founder Langley Steinert go to next?


Did he build the TripAdvisor of the auto industry? No.  He built  NOTE: Langley Steinert came to DealerRefresh's forums back in 2010 to address my post about his business.
I think you're missing the point Joe.  You seem to only be focusing on consumer reviews and that's just one small segment of what I'm talking about.  It is easy to focus on those though because they're black and white; they're readily visible.  I'm talking about a whole thing that is happening outside of your vision.  Neither you nor I can see it because it is happening behind a privacy net.  

All I'm saying is that you should be aware of it.  It isn't black and white; and it isn't apparent.  That thought should make you very uncomfortable by the way.  But if you're aware that it is happening (don't Gaddafi this one) then you'll concentrate your efforts on things that help to better your public relations perception (process, branding, reputation, etc.).
"Tomorrow’s advertising will be more about public relations than what we call marketing.  It will be based on your deeds.  It will be based on your image; your brand, and it will be shaped by your customers." Hit the nail on the head Alex!

Pulling 3 words out of this quote, we can get to the heart of the issue. We tend to use ADVERTISING and MARKETING interchangeably. We need to stop doing that and stop it today. Advertising and PUBLIC RELATIONS are both subsets of Marketing, today and in the past.

When Traditional Advertising was thriving, we had full control of our message. Customers today have much more power. The internet has given the average Joe much greater ability to "screw with" our message.

When you say "It will be based on your deeds" you couldn't be more correct. Customers today will talk about what we do, and pay much less attention to what we say. And they have a much louder voice than they ever had before. Public Relations and Social Media are inherently much better suited to two-way communication than Traditional Advertising.

It's all Marketing, but it's a profoundly different Marketing Landscape than 10 years ago.
  • J
    Joe Pistell
  • November 3, 2011
ahhh, I see... now I think I TOTALLY get it Alex.  Let me know if I got it:

Piss off a customer and they'll instantly hit FaceBook to vent among friends.  

The avg FB user has 130 friends.  Piss off 3 customers a week, that's 20,000 negative ads per year (not including pals replying).  And these negative ads are sticky (people remember them).

Year or 2 later, the Dealer can't explain why his business is soft, never knows what hit him and corrects the problem by spending $$$ to replace his lost traffic.   

hmmm... never thought about this silent killer.  damn scary stuff.
Yep - don't get Gaddafi'd :)  

But on the positive side, start thinking about how you can get your customers speaking to their friends positively about you now.  This is why I mentioned "klout" in the article.  Try to recognize who has the most clout and do something above and beyond the call of duty to make yourself remarkable (read Seth Godin's Purple Cow).

And I just found out, directly from Facebook, that the average user now has 170 friends.  They'll be updating their numbers soon.
Great post Alex.

If marketing "is based on your deeds," and I'm not disagreeing, then customer satisfaction with delivery and service had better be a big priority. Tom mentioned the ZMOT book. By definition, the Second Moment of Truth lasts for years in durable goods industries. We are not selling candy bars that are quickly consumed and identical to the previous one purchased. Shoppers modify their opinions of the products we sell them and the service we provide them over the course of ownership. 
I spoke earlier this week on a webinar about when to spend on traditional media and when not to. Branding is simply not as important as it once was, and it's harder to do right. Satisfaction during the ownership process is more important than ever, right up to and including the trade-in value. Dealerships can talk about social media as a cool and wonderful thing without earning deep relationships. That doesn't stop at the deal-closing handshake, it starts there.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • November 3, 2011
I typed this comment this morning but I'm just now getting around to post. So I apologize if it doesn't completely fit into the ongoing conversation here...

Funny you writing this. For a few reasons I'll get into.

Personally, I don't watch much tv. And when I do it's on the DVR. I just purchased an apple tv a few weeks ago. A purchase I now wish I had made long ago. Love it!

I also subscribe to Hulu. The source for most of my Cable content (with forced preroll commercials).

I switched my Netflix account over to stream only. Mostly for the kids; movies, cartoons and documentaries (and my fav - Ancient Alien series). But their library of latest releases is no where close to where it needs to be.

I still hold onto cable but not sure why. For the UFC fights? I hear Xbox just signed an agreement with them for streaming. I'm really not sure why I have it to be honest.

Alex, your article may have shed light back on a decision I've been thinking about for several months now.

I'm not the norm. Alex, your not the norm,  and many DealerRefresh readers are not the norm. But let's agree that the norm is currently the 80%. And TV still has its place.

However, this isn't the message Alex is trying to get across. The point is, marketing has fragmented so much and as it continues, it will be harder to push your message / brand.

Great story. True story. Sitting in a marketing meeting with my dealer groups owner last week. The conversations are usually lively and veer into discussions around marketing in general. We were on the topic of ZMOT (I've sent and encouraged all my GM's and management to read) which lead to a study that has shown consumers are spending less time on retail websites and establishments but over all conversion and sales are up.

Why is that?

Out of no where the owner (Brandon) starts agreeing and understands how that could be happening. He goes into sharing his shopping (decision making) processes for a rifle scope he's been looking to purchase. He mentions he had been on several blogs and forums and even joined one of the forums in order to ask the community about this particular scope.

He made a decision based on online social interaction. Social media. Online peer to peer conversation. Whatever you want to call it today.

The point is he was doing exactly what more and more people are doing when it comes time to make a decision.

I looked at Brandon and said "and you don't think people are following the same process to research and purchase their next vehicle?". It was an ahha moment for someone. :)

Another simple example. I just purchased my first iPhone the day it was released. Do I or don't I get the insurance. I didn't visit the websites or the local AT&T store to make a decision. Instead I posted my question on Facebook and received several great ideas and suggestions on what to go with (thanks Arnold).

I'm guilty of equating the term social media to facebook.  When the discussion at the dealership goes down the social media path, educate your GM and managers that social is much more than facebook. It's forums, blogs, photo share, location based apps and so much more.

Im not saying people are making their decisions differently now because asking others their opinion has always been around (word of mouth) but lets agree the ease of doing so and the volume of opinions received has dramatically changed.
You make a great point. I think both you and Alex are correct and it comes down to demographics.

Go look at any keyword report for a dealership and you will see that a vast amount of traffic comes from the dealership name...which means that word of mouth, traditional media and that big neon sign out on the highway are creating awareness. The question is...who are these folks. I think these people are the 30 and over crowd that hasn't unplugged cable tv and are not skipping the commercials. These are the same people that are buying cars right now. 10 years from now the mix will be different and we will have more people who have unplugged. How will we make them  aware of a dealership's brand? dealerships better look good on google maps/places because your online rating may be the only opportunity to differentiate yourself.

BTW, The reason these guys(Travelocity,Orbitz,PriceLine,Kayak, are pushing so hard on tv is because Google clipped their wings in SEO. You have to have a brick and mortar location to compete in most local search now-a-days...which forces these guys with budgets to buy adwords. This also clears the way for Google to be a player in any online marketing business...don't be surprised if we see an auto channel and travel coming from google soon.

-Michael Sos
I disagree with your assessment that "google reviews are a joke". It is poorly implemented but only industry stooges like us know that. The average consumer sees these reviews every time the dealer shows up in a search. They have a huge impact right now.  Trip Advisor, Yelp, dealerrater, citysearch are slowly moving away from the impact zone of where NEW consumers will see them and google is influencing this. As of right now the only way that potential customer will see a DealerRater review is if dealerrater shows up in a local search for the dealers name. The reason they show up is because they have review content that the dealer helped create by handing out cards. Once dealer stops influencing customers to go there and the page gets stale and it will fade from the first page...thanks to the new algorithm.
  • J
  • November 7, 2011
Most importantly, Alex, you may have heard that I will soon be moving.  Can you help me set-up my new system??  :)