Online Video—the Next Frontier in Dealership Marketing
I was watching some of Warehouse 13’s online shorts last night and I realized that slowly, but surely, online video has grown to at least half of my viewing time and I’m not alone. According to a Comscore study from February of this year: in 2011, the number of streaming videos increased 44 percent to 43.5 billion; the average online viewing time grew 37 percent; every single day more than 100 million Americans watched online video on average, a 43 percent increase over the previous year; and these trends show no signs of slowing down in 2012—from YouTube to Hulu, consumers are watching a lot of online video.
With stats like these, it’s obvious that dealers need to be involved with online video, but what are the best practices? How can you make sure your videos rank high on the search engines? What kind of content will draw consumers to your website? How can video integrate with your other online and offline marketing? To answer these and other questions about online video, we spoke to several experts: AJ LeBlanc, managing partner of Car-mercial.com and Carbuyersengine.com, Paul Moran, president of Vboost, Inc., George Nenni, vice president of operations for Dominion Dealer Solutions, and Doug Freeman, product manager, social and video for Dealer.com.
What to post
Sometimes the online videos people watch are inexplicable, just look at Gangnan style, but what kind of videos will draw customers into your dealership?
According to Paul Moran, “Two types of video content work best. First is content that the customer is specifically looking for regarding exact vehicle information that is important to them. The second type is more subtle, but has more impact—that is content that is sent to the customer through friends and family. The content must be compelling enough that the consumer is motivated to share it. That causes a viral lift that brings added exposure for the dealership. Whatever approach you are taking, one thing is constant: The more you can put out there the better chance you have of increased exposure!”
Exposure is essential to the success of online video marketing, but “There are a number of different approaches to take here,” explained George Nenni. “To start, if a dealer does nothing else they should post a few thematic videos about the store. These should be thought of as online commercials, highlighting their history, ownership, community involvement, and culture. They should also include videos for each department of the dealership, fixed ops, sales, used cars, and body shop. Many dealers also find that posting inventory delivers good results. They may choose to post every vehicle on their lot, or only post specials or highlighted inventory. With posting inventory, a dealer has a choice of either the pan and scan videos, which take still photos and create simulated videos, or the dealer can capture true video of each car…Whether doing videos on fixed ops or inventory, pan and scan or true video, the accompanying soundtrack should include a pleasant narrative voice, and optionally a soft music backing to fill the dead space.”
Doug Freeman also feels that inventory is a good fit for online video. “On average, inventory videos have shown to give a significant lift in both traffic and leads for dealers. The closer we can get the consumer to experience the vehicle and the brand, the better, and these videos provide that connection,” he explained.
AJ LeBlanc also feels that different types of videos should be used depending on where in the buying cycle the customer is. “There are two types of videos that can work well to grow a dealer’s sales—each aimed at reaching consumers in a different part of ‘the funnel,’” he noted. “Informational videos distributed within organic search will help the consumer to feel they are getting some value from a particular dealer, in the form of useful information that truly helps in the decision making process when buying a vehicle. That perceived value will help to strengthen the dealer’s brand, and trust from a consumer. The other type of video that can really drive traffic and sales to a dealer’s site and showroom are direct response videos, distributed through pre-roll, and targeting the appropriate types of consumers.”
Optimizing videos for search
It doesn’t matter how informative, compelling, or entertaining your videos are if consumers can’t find them. So we asked our experts about optimizing videos for search.
First we put this question to AJ LeBlanc and he told us that, “The primary goal of the search engines is to deliver relevant information to their users. Since there are an infinite number of potential search terms that a user can search for (and users are becoming more specific in their search queries) the key, to optimizing videos for organic search, is to create multiple videos, where each one specifically targets a search term and provides relevant information about that search query to the user. Beyond just the correct creation of the content, it is important to make sure that the videos are ‘search engine friendly’ by including relevant meta data in all of the most appropriate places, as well as leveraging all opportunities available for captioning etc.”
Paul Moran agreed that, “Google and Bing both give higher scores to video search results, because end-users find the content more engaging. As a result it is critical to properly tag and index your video files to be SEO friendly so that the search engines can rank them clearly alongside the other results and they will naturally appear with higher rank if you do this.”
“When I think of search engines, I’m not only thinking about Google, Bing, Yahoo, but also YouTube itself,” added George Nenni. “Having a keyword-rich title is not only important for search, but also because the first characters will appear in search results pages in YouTube. You want to put the most relevant keywords early in the title to potentially ‘hook’ the viewer. You have up to 120 characters, and my advice is to use every one of them.
Next comes the video Description. The first characters of the Description also appear in the search results pages, so put your most important and relevant keywords and thoughts early in the description. The very first characters in your video description should be your URL, and you should also include the http: so it will be clickable. I would advise you to additionally include social network links in the Description (twitter, linkedin, facebook), and don’t be afraid to repeat clickable links at the end.”
Using video to connect with consumers
It’s fun to have your videos go viral, but connecting with consumers is more important to increasing sales. So we asked our experts how video can help connect consumers with the dealership.
George Nenni told us that sometimes it’s not viral videos, but personal videos that help dealers connect with their customers. “A growing segment of dealers is creating personalized short videos as part of their CRM process. As leads come into the dealership, the salesperson responds with not only an email, but attaching a short, personalized video that may show some actual highlights of the desired vehicle. I feel this can truly separate the store from competitors, since it would far surpass the expectations of most buyers. Dealers who are sending personalized video message to their leads, prospects, and current customers are seeing a lift in conversion. Sending a direct video personalizes the interaction and better engages prospects and customers.”
George also explained that, “Successful dealers send every lead a personalized video, send every service lane customer a quick video of the recommended services for their vehicle. We also see many dealers adding videos to the desking and F&I process to help educate consumers and help with the sometimes lengthy queuing process involved with car sales. Image the power of handing a dealer an iPad loaded with key videos for each stage in the sales process—that is powerful. The great part of using personal video in your dealership is that most of the footage does not have to be professionally produced. I would recommend hiring professionals to help with the dealership overview videos, since that investment will be spread across hundreds or thousands of views. But for personalized prospect and customer videos, these can be quick and simple videos captured from the dealer’s desk through a computer camera, or by using a smartphone. Also keep in mind there is a difference in messages and usage for one-to-many videos vs. one-to-one. Both are great tactics with the right message and purpose.”
Doug Freeman also believes that video can be an effective way to communicate with prospective buyers. “Communicating through video is particularly effective when you are looking to educate and engage the customer. A testimonial video, for instance, helps translate one consumer’s experience with the dealership and brand in hopes of inspiring a potential new customer.” In addition he said that, “Certain how-to topics also benefit greatly from being delivered with the accompaniment of sound and visuals. A dealer’s site could enhance its service operations by creating a ‘how to check your tire pressure’ video, which would be much more engaging and valuable than a stark word document that offered a bullet list of step-by-step instructions.”
When trying to connect with consumers, AJ LeBlanc reminded us of the importance of communicating on a personal level with consumers. “Video content that emphasizes the people behind the dealership (interviews with service technicians, salespeople etc.), putting a face on the business, helps to communicate to customers that the business is not just a big corporation that doesn’t care. Another good type of content that customers can relate to is testimonials from others consumers who have also been through the car buying experience with the dealership.”
For Paul Moran, whether you’re making a video for an individual or the entire web community, “It’s all about the content. Create compelling content every single day—You are never done inserting messages into the marketplace. Ideally you send your customers content which feature them in the message…By giving the customer a creative message which they are compelled to share, you create a bond. Your customer is now your advocate! They go to work for you, spreading your brand in the most powerful way possible—It’s the new way to get word-of-mouth exposure.”
Integrating online video with your other marketing
Integration is an essential part of twenty-first century marketing. So we wanted to know what our experts thought was the best way to integrate online video with their other online and offline marketing.
“There are two primary ways to integrate video with other marketing campaigns, online and offline,” AJ LeBlanc told us. “First, any online display campaign should include video pre-roll as part of the overall strategy, as video is the best way to communicate and reinforce messages. Pre-roll campaigns should be coordinated with other campaigns by using retargeting techniques to add frequency to overall online advertising impressions. In other words, use video to reinforce messages to consumers that have seen other types of online ads for the same dealer. Secondly, it is well known that online search is driven by other media, so both online and offline marketing efforts will lead people to search for more information about a dealer. Using VSEO is the ideal way to capture those users when they do turn to a search engine after seeing marketing messages in other types of media.”
Paul Moran told us that the key to integration is to, “Create compelling content that features your customer and their new car, and they will do the rest for you. Social media is all about self promotion and/or sharing experiences. Give every one of your customers something to share and you will have hundreds of opportunities to expand your online presence every month. I believe that every video has the potential to be viral, if it is interesting and entertaining it will get forwarded and posted. If you do not know how to do this or don’t have the staff, hire a viral marketing company to do it for you.”
George Nenni reminded us that when it comes to marketing, you should have a consistent look and theme. He pointed out that, “From a theme perspective, the look, feel, messaging and branding of the videos should tie in closely with the dealers other marketing campaigns. Being thoughtful about logo use, slogans, colors, and treatment will make sure it is part of a successful branding campaign. The videos should be considered for inclusion in any and every one of the dealer’s other marketing campaigns, for instance including links to videos in email campaigns or posting videos on social media sites.”
Online video is here to stay, in a few years it will surpass even broadcast television as a way to reach consumers’ eyeballs, but it is still a new medium. Thankfully, creating and posting online videos is something you can do right now, you just have to do it. So, get out there, make some videos of your staff, start including videos of your inventory with your listings, collect testimonials, or maybe you have your own idea about what you can do with video—What are you waiting for?