29 Apr

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Got to Cover Your Bases in Social Media

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How to Bridge Cultural Divides with Auto Shoppers

cultural-divide

 

Demographics Matter

The other day a friend said to me, “Facebook is for old people. Ewe.” She was referring to the fact that while she does use social media, Facebook is not part of the mix for her. It was quite evident that there is a cultural divide forming right now, especially considering that she is 28 and her sentiment towards Facebook is not uncommon for people within her demographic.

According to current research, the largest age demographic using Facebook 35-54 year olds, a prime car buying demographics, yes, but not for long. The age segments behind this are both on the decline when it comes to Facebook usage.

Do you see the cultural divide forming?

How does this affect your dealership? Are you and your staff aware of what is taking shape? Do you have a plan for what lies ahead? Does that even matter?

I believe it does. Businesses are always susceptible to anticipated yet unforeseen obstacles and interference.

titanic-sinking

 

Don’t Depend on Others

The “unsinkable” Titanic in 1921 had an architect and a captain, both confident in their vessel, themselves, and each other, both knowing the risk and magnitude of the Titanic’s greatness. They relied on a crew to navigate the ship safely to New York.

The crew failed.

Your dealership is a vessel. Whether or not it is a titanic could be a different story, but it is a vessel. Your vessel and its crew can go down too in unseeming circumstances.

How do you combat this?

Embrace Change

For starters, I think you must be prepared to adapt and change. For some dealers this might require embracing paid media on Facebook which today is referred to as a “pay-to-play” social network. Not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly a present-day reality. Paid media on Facebook allows you to reach highly targeted audiences at a low cost right where you need to be…on news feeds of peoples’ smartphones.

For some dealers this might mean embracing YouTube, LinkedIn, or even Pinterest for that matter. YouTube has extraordinary advertising potential for dealers in search (SEO) and with branding (Pre-roll display advertising).

Regardless of what it is, you must be on your toes at all times, willing and ready to try new things and make them work.

 Yes, I know, you hear this all the time. Well maybe it is true.

History Repeats Itself

I remember in the early 2000’s talking with dealers rejecting the web and the idea of websites. They hated the “Internet Shopper” because she was too informed. I often wonder how long before that tune changed with those dealers.

Today is no different with Reputation and Social Media. Ignore it or procrastinate it and you will indeed fall behind. No doubt. Quite frankly, you might already be falling behind if you aren’t tackling these essential digital marketing strategies.

Take Action

Fortunately it doesn’t take much to cover your bases. By implementing a few simple measures at your dealership, applying some of the right technology, and partnering with the right vendors I believe you can get your dealership in the top 25% of the dealer base when it comes to your online presence.

Why? Because believe it or not, the effort required to address the basics are not that difficult. The cost is still relatively low compared to most forms of advertising and the majority of dealers are still “getting around to it.”

So where are you? Still getting around to it, or taking action?

20 Mar

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Get a CAT Scan of Your Dealership at Internet Sales 20 Group in Atlantic City

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Internet Sales 20 Group Atlantic City

A typical “20 Group” is structured for Dealer Principals and General Managers to meet and discuss ideas and techniques for success. Most 20 Groups are brand specific to a manufacturer or franchise. Dealers from the same OEMs get together and compare numbers, discuss incentives and MPA’s to discover where the dealer ranks among others in their franchise.

 

These “20 groups” are a great way to network and keep in touch with other dealers across the country. They enable dealers to help each other grow and evolve their dealerships to maximum potential through true synergy.

 

The Internet Sales 20 Group (IS20G) event hosted by Dealer Synergy twice a year is influenced by the traditional 20 group model from organizations like NADA and NCM and similarly includes benchmarking and composites. The IS20G is the next evolution in 20 groups.

YouTube Preview Image

 

This April, IS20G will be held at the Revel Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. Like before, I will be working alongside Dealer Synergy Founder & CEO Sean V Bradley to help conduct the dealership composites we have put together for 20 dealers that will be participating in this 3-day intensive workshop.

 

These composites are like a CAT Scan of your dealership evaluating things such as website performance, SEO, Reputation, Social Media, Lead Handling, and more. All things that ultimately affect your bottom line and can always use improvement.

 

I invite you to join me and host of others at this unique event by registering today at www.internetsales20group.com. This will be my third time attending this event and I can honestly say that IS20G is every bit the hype you hear about it. Visit the website and check out some of the videos up there. More importantly, consider attending. IS20G is fun and powerful and will not disappoint.

06 Feb

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Live Event Social Content Syndication: Old Concept, New Format

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Chicago Auto Show Media Center

This week and I am at the Chicago Auto Show running an experiment I am dubbing Live Event Social Content Syndication. The idea is nothing new but the format and execution are. This is my first true official experience as a media/press member at a major event like this. One time I made up my own fake press badge and appeared at an auto show to make some videos. Yeah, I am such a renegade!

Media and press coverage at auto shows of course is nothing new. The media room and showroom floor are riddled with TV crews, magazine staff, reporters, photographers, PR folks, you name it. Of course many of the folks here are preparing content for their social media channels and profiles. What they aren’t doing though is syndicating this content down to auto dealers. That’s why I am here.

What they aren’t doing though is syndicating this content down to auto dealers. That’s why I am here.

Stemming from a partnership with SOCIALDEALER and the CATA (which hosts the event), we have enrolled a number of dealers to participate in the experiment which will allow us to publish content directly to their Facebook pages through a simple process known as Social Content (or Message) Syndication.

Content Syndication is nothing new. It’s been around for decades. But syndicating social content to auto dealers is a fairly new practice. SOCIALDEALER has been doing this with CARFAX for more than a year now, helping CARFAX reach more than 3 million eyeballs on Facebook through multiple posts each week. SOCIALDEALER also is conducting a pilot with Ally Auto to see how auto finance information performs in this format.

What’s exciting about this experiment with the Chicago Auto Show is that A.) the content is live and B.) the content is some of the most popular content in the world! We all know the importance of engaging relevant content for your friends and fans in social media. Fortunately for auto dealers, automobile-related content is considered some of the most interesting and engaging information. And what is more exciting than the hype and the buzz going on at a major auto show?

Dealers across the globe can tap into this free social content simply by enrolling their Facebook page(s) with the CATA Connect4Content program, a free program powered by SOCIALDEALER that allows them to publish auto show content directly to their Facebook pages. Enrolled dealers will receive daily updates that they can choose to publish to their pages through a simple Approve/Deny process. Dealers that choose the Auto Approve option will receive 2-3 pieces of brand-specific information to their page each day. This is huge because as we know Facebook is only able to show a post from your page to 3-5% of your fans. By posting multiple times a day your dealership will reach more fans. And it’s all automated!

Here are a few examples of the type of content dealers will receive…

Toyota FT-1 Chicago Auto Show

KIA Debuts - Chicago Auto Show

Nissan Debuts - Chicago Auto Show

While there are kinks to work out and lots of educating to do to create buy-in for the concept, I do believe there is true potential in this. Magazines and media brands have always benefitted from these types of major events. Now dealers have a chance to benefit as well.

 

18 Jan

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Ally Partners with SOCIALDEALER to Offer Social Media Content Solution

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Ally Auto SOCIALDALER Syndication

SOCIALDEALER recently announced that it has partnered with Ally Auto to provide social media content to enable dealers to reach tech-savvy customers. This is the second major pilot that SOCIALDEALER will be performing with its Content Syndication solution.

The program, called “Connect4Content,” removes the most common obstacle for dealers looking to bolster their social media properties – the need for a constant stream of new and engaging content.

Through the use of SOCIALDEALER, Ally dealers now have access to engaging automotive content furnished by Ally Auto that can be posted to their Facebook pages to help attract customers and build buyers’ confidence. The content is designed to assist dealers in reaching the tech-savvy, millennial generation – those 16-32 years old – currently the largest generation in U.S. history.

Ally is the first auto finance provider to work with SOCIALDEALER to provide this type of service to its customers.

I was part of the team the designed this program with the two companies and I know it extensively. I manage the process and the relationship daily. It’s exciting to see what can be achieved. There is much potential with Content Syndication.

You can learn more about this on the SOCIALDEALER blog. I will be in the Ally booth at NADA all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. You are welcome to swing by to check it out or just to chat.

Hope to see you there!

 

14 Jan

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Autobytel Acquires AutoUSA

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RVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Autobytel Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL), pioneer of the automotive Internet and the company dedicated to connecting automotive consumers with dealers and manufacturers, today announced it has acquired Ft. Lauderdale-based AutoUSA, a longstanding, premier Web-based auto leads and services provider, from AutoNation, Inc. (NYSE: AN).

The purchase price included $10.0 million in cash, a $1.0 million, 6% convertible note payable in one lump sum in five years and convertible to Autobytel common stock at a conversion price reflecting a 20% premium over the price of Autobytel’s common stock on the date of closing, and warrants giving AutoNation the right to purchase approximately $1.0 million of Autobytel’s common stock at an exercise price reflecting a 5% premium over the price of the stock on the date of closing. The transaction was financed by Union Bank, N.A. through a newly established $9.0 million senior secured term loan, and by drawing on Autobytel’s existing secured working capital revolver. Both the term loan and the revolver carry interest at a rate of LIBOR plus 2.5%. The term loan is amortized over a period of four years. AutoUSA generated 2013 revenues of approximately $30.0 million, with positive operating income and cash flow. The company believes that the transaction will be accretive to Autobytel’s 2014 results.

Autobytel said the acquisition expands its reach and influence in the industry by increasing its national new and used car dealer network to more than 5,200 from approximately 3,800, while boosting its business with auto manufacturers. It also enables the company to offer its new mobile and SaleMove products to a larger customer base, while continuing to build on relationships with OEMs and large dealer groups, including the AutoNation family of dealers.

Autobytel, which was founded in 1995 by former Southern California car dealer Pete Ellis, has again grown to become one of the most influential automotive services organizations, providing high quality leads and innovative marketing and mobile services to dealers and OEMs. The company serves a critical role in the industry in helping car buyers find the right vehicle while delivering highly relevant consumer purchasing information to its industry partners.

Phil DuPree, President of AutoUSA, has joined Autobytel as Executive Vice President, President of Dealer Services. As an inducement for joining the company, DuPree was granted an option to acquire 40,000 shares of Autobytel common stock at an exercise price equal to the closing price of Autobytel’s common stock on the acquisition closing date. The option will initially vest based on certain financial performance criteria related to Autobytel’s dealer services group and then on DuPree’s time of service with Autobytel.

“AutoUSA brings a new, high quality client base to the Autobytel family and strengthens our existing relationship with AutoNation, which is the largest U.S. automotive retailer,” said Jeff Coats, Autobytel’s president and CEO. “The transaction solidifies our leadership role in the industry, enabling us to offer an even larger base of dealers and automakers top quality products, including leads that convert to sales at nearly three times an estimated industry average, and a wide range of mobile products designed to sell more cars.

“AutoUSA represents an outstanding fit with Autobytel. In addition to its core leads business, AutoUSA’s suite of complementary third-party, Web-based services includes payment-based pre-qualification tools, incentive programs and other products and services designed to help dealer customers and manufacturers increase their sales,” Coats added.

“Since 2000, AutoUSA has developed very strong relationships with dealers across the country. The combination of Autobytel and AutoUSA adds strength to both organizations and represents an opportunity for consolidation in an industry segment that remains fragmented,” said Mike Maroone, president and chief operating officer of AutoNation, Inc. “This combination benefits automotive consumers, dealers and manufacturers, alike.”

As previously announced, in addition to AutoUSA, Autobytel also recently acquired Advanced Mobile, LLC, now known as Autobytel Mobile, which provides a full lineup of auto industry mobile products and services such as mobile apps, mobile websites, Send2Phone capabilities and text message marketing, and TextShield, a web-based portal that allows dealers to centrally manage text communications. Also as previously announced, the company recently made a strategic investment in SaleMove, which enables auto dealers and manufacturers to enhance the online shopping experience by interacting with consumers in real-time. These new services will be available to Autobytel’s expanded network of automotive dealers and manufacturers.

About Autobytel Inc.
Autobytel Inc. provides high quality consumer leads and associated marketing services to automotive dealers and manufacturers throughout the United States and offers consumers robust and original online automotive content to help them make informed car-buying decisions. The company pioneered the automotive internet in 1995 with its flagship website www.autobytel.com and has since helped tens of millions of automotive consumers research vehicles; connected thousands of dealers nationwide with motivated car buyers; and helped every major automaker market its brand online.

20 Dec

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Dealertrack Acquires Dealer.com

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Dealertrack Technologies Inc. (TRAK), which makes software used by car dealerships, will acquire Dealer.com for about $1 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Shares of Dealertrack rose as much as 5 percent to $45.04 after the close of regular trading in New York today.

Dealertrack will pay $620 million in cash and about 8.72 million shares of stock — valued at $373 million at today’s closing price of $42.80, for Dealer.com, which offers digital marketing services to the auto industry, the person said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

The purchase is the largest for Lake Success, New York-based Dealertrack, whose software connects car dealers with lenders and credit-rating companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company has spent about $461 million on 19 takeovers, not including the purchase of Dealer.com, the data show.

Dealertrack’s shares have gained about 49 percent this year, giving it a market value of about $1.9 billion as of today’s close. The company has about 44 million shares outstanding, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Dealer.com, founded in 1998, is owned by private-equity firms including Apax Partners LLP and Accel Partners. The Burlington, Vermont-based company provides online marketing and sale services to 7,000 car dealers in the U.S.

The transaction values Dealer.com at about 20 times its earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, the person said.

11 Dec

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Charting Your Course for the Future Web with Google+

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Google+ Strategy

In a recent workshop I conducted for the CATA (the Chicago Automotive Trade Association that puts on the Chicago Auto Show each year) I discussed with a group of dealers the importance of a Google+ strategy and not letting Facebook be your only major Social Media investment. I did not anticipate what seemed to be such a welcome response. Believe it or not, most of the dealers there were more enthusiastic about G+ than they were about Facebook.

 

While we did not get into why this might be, my observation was that the dealers present felt that Facebook was a.) becoming a pay-to-play system which is creating trust issues for dealers and b.) the future demographic of Facebook users appears to suggest that it might not hold its relevance over time.

 

To address the pay-to-play concern I think it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Buying media is how it works with traditional advertising so there is no need to hold it against Facebook for becoming this way. There is still an organic importance to to Facebook that can and should be embraced.

 

As for the future demographic of Facebook users, reality is this is only skepticism of not pessimism. Facebook is indisputably a mainstream media source that has become a part of the global fabric of consumerism. While it is true that older age demographics are embracing Facebook while younger ones are spending time elsewhere, this doesn’t threaten Facebook’s relevancy over the next several years which from a marketers standpoint is practically eternity. Point is, Facebook is relevant now as an advertising medium and can be expected to remain so in the years to come.

 

social-media-network-traffic

 

Facebook vs. Google+

 

That said, there is a key difference between Facebook and Google+ which I think is worth recognizing.

 

Facebook is in the business of connecting paying advertisers with its user base. Facebook gives advertisers access to insights and information about its users that make for easy targeting for relatively little cost.

 

Google is in the business of connecting its users with information it knows the users want and need. This is done based on each user’s online activity and social connections.

 

Understanding this fundamental difference between the two networks is important so that you know how to tailor your strategy around them. With Facebook, you can target people based on their expressed interests, determined by their actions. With Google+ it’s not so much about targeting, but about connectivity. The circles you are in and the circles you place connections ultimately drive the Google+ experience.

 

Knowing this, there are some things you can do to immediately enhance your Google+ experience in anticipation of Google+ playing an increasingly more significant role in your online strategy.

 

1.) Create a G+ Business Page

If you have not already done so, make sure you have a G+ Business Page. This is a simple process that takes only 10-15 minutes to complete. If you do have one then make sure it is properly optimized and linking to your website, your blog, and your other social media profiles.

 

2.) Post SEO-minded Content

One of the great benefits to using Google+ is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While SEO tactics have and continue to change over time, chances are Google will always want to know how your website, your brand, your message, and your content are relevant to people searching online. One of the best ways to make sure Google knows these things about you is to post content relevant to your audience. This might seem obvious or even natural, but the practice of producing SEO-minded content is a constant work in progress.

 

3.) Use your Personal G+ Profile Page

In addition to your G+ Business Page you also want to have a Personal Profile. For one, people might be reluctant to follow a business page but inclined to follow a personal profile. Additionally, when you publish content to your business page you can use your profile to share it and interact with people on the page.

 

These are but simple tips you can deploy quickly and easily. But don’t stop there. Keep at it and evolve these tactics. Google+ is an entirely different animal that you don’t want to ignore. Better start now before you fall behind.