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Best Practices

How to Set Up Google My Business (GMB) Nested Department Listings for Car Dealerships

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Leveraging the power of Google My Business can place your store before the right customers, increase your sales potential and grow your dealership revenues. Most dealerships structures are broken down into departments, and it might be beneficial to increase the visibility of the service, parts, etc. departments of the dealership. That is where Google My Business Departmental listing can help in nesting them. To create nested departments for your dealership, you first need an optimized main Google My Business profile page for your parent store. Before we dig deeper, let’s first have an overview of Google My Business for those that are not familiar. Google My Business Overview: What is it and what are its benefits? It’s a Google service, which allows dealerships and other businesses to manage their online presence.   With My Business, you can: Manage your dealership contact information on Google Maps. Get directions to your store and share it with others. Share updates about your business and connect with customers via social media. See insights such as when you receive calls and when the store is busy.  Before you set up nested departments for your business, you should ensure you have optimized the appearance of your main Google My Business profile page for your business. Besides the obvious of having name and address correctly completed, here are some tips:  1. Complete the description field of your profile The description field is often overlooked but it is where you can describe your store offerings and what makes you different. This is also an area that you can use to highlight the brands that you sell. 2. Upload photos of your dealership’s exterior and interior in the "Photos" section of profile Posting photos of the store in the Places section will help prospective customers to see what the store looks like prior to visiting. It helps them feel more comfortable when they arrive. Customers like images of people smiling and dealership personnel. It humanizes the store and also puts customers more at ease prior to their visit. However, be aware that Google users can also upload images to the page, so you need to closely monitor the page.  If the store fails to add photos, Google places a Google Maps image that is not very attractive. Adding photos also help customers see how popular your dealership is by viewing the number of reviews and photos other users have uploaded. 3. Add a Virtual Tour if you have one. Upload a 3D virtual tour of your dealership to showcase vehicles and the customer experience 3D virtual tours are becoming more and more popular with dealers and are a great way to showcase your business, employees, products, and services in an innovative way. 4. Ensure all contact information is correct and up-to-date, including phone number  Google has now become the phone book of the world. It is critical that the phone number you use for the store is local and that it is the same phone number listed throughout the main other online directories. Do not use different phone numbers for Bing, Facebook or other sites for tracking purposes as it will reduce the Google rank for the store. If you want to check how your listings look across the website I suggest the use of Moz.com or BrightLocal citation checkers.  Once you have the Google My Business listing up to date here is how to create the nested departmental listings: Step 1: Create a new Google My Business listing and assign it a different number and category other than that of your dealership. For instance, “Mercedes-Benz Beaverton Parts Center”. It will require you to verify the listing which can take some time if you have to complete it by mail. If you already have department listings you can skip this step.  Step 2: Once verified, as a Google User, search in Google Maps for the newly created Google My Business page created in step 1 above and click “Suggest and Edit”. This cannot currently be done by the GMB Owner of the dealership page. It must be done in Google Maps as a Google User. Step 3: Select or choose “Change name or other details”, once on the change page, navigate to “Located within” and type in the name of your primary business where you would like to nest the department. Step 5: Your department page should now display on the primary dealership’s GMB page as “Located In”. Although your department page displays “Located In” Google will take a few days to review your submission then it will be live on Google under the main business Google My Business page profile. So, be patient. That’s how simple it is to create Google My Business department listings for your dealership. Feel free to reach out to me if you get stuck and need a hand. 
red car protected

Commentary & Insights

Bubble Wrap: Follow the Logic Filled Road

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We have all ordered a product that was shipped to us most likely in a cardboard box. Inside that box, the product we ordered, was probably covered in bubble wrap. You’re familiar with it, right? The transparent, pliable plastic material with the regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres whose sole purpose is to protect the fragile contents of the box. Bubble wrap provides exactly the right level of cushioning protection needed to make sure your products arrive safely after being shipped. Most of us own a smartphone these days. It’s probably fair to assume, many of us purchased a protective case when we bought the phone. We can’t keep our phone in the box it came in wrapped in bubble wrap if we want to use it. So, we bought the case, which is the functional mobile version of bubble wrap for our phones. Did we buy the case because we thought the product was bad or would break? No! That’s why we shelled out the $1100 for the latest greatest gadget.  The phone was expensive and we know that at some point, we are bound to have a clumsy moment, where we drop the phone, or worse yet, it falls out of a backpack or pocket. The thought of the phone striking down on the ground and cracking the screen is horrifying. This is especially true if you don’t have AppleCare. Therefore, we spend a small amount of money to protect our investment and keep it safe. The bubble wrap and phone case are to the phone, what a service contract is to a vehicle today.  Costly repairs have skyrocketed due to onboard computers, high-tech electrical equipment, sensors, switches, diodes, radar, cameras, and touch screens – all of the non-maintainable components. Vehicle service contracts not only protect the vehicle, but they protect the consumer by creating AND forcing a budgeted monthly plan. It is because of this agreement to pay for the covered repairs that a consumer can have a fully managed payment option, thus increasing the probability of a pleasant ownership experience. The Necessity for a Vehicle Service Contract The more ways you can explain how consumers protect themselves and their investments, the more buy-in you will have because they will identify with these logical behaviors. You are simply leading them down the logic-filled road. The more things you can get them to agree with you on, in terms of protection, the more likely you will demonstrate the necessity for a vehicle service contract.  You wouldn’t ship valuable fragile items without packing peanuts or bubble wrap, would you? Is anyone walking around without a case on a cell phone? These are just two small, everyday examples most of us overlook as an avenue down the logic-filled road to commonality and “agreement in principle”. When we arrive at “common Grandville”, we connect, and the transference of enthusiasm and excitement happens. The next part is simply using logical mathematics to illustrate how much better the protected payment is, especially because of the increasing costs of breakdowns due to the replacement factor instead of just repair. There are many different ways you can try to convince a consumer that they need a vehicle service contract. There are so many closes, and honestly, they all have their own validity and effectiveness in their own way. The problem is getting comfortable with how you explain it. If you don’t understand the comparison, you are making or can’t effectively communicate it in a way where you break it down to something so basic and common, the consumer will feel like you are trying to mislead them or they will altogether not follow along and will likely decline because they are afraid of making a bad decision, not because they don’t see value in it.   By scanning the above QR code with your smartphone, or following this link you can watch THE BUBBLE WRAP CLOSE! Practice it and customize it to your liking. I think it is just one more tool in your belt when pushing to improve your effectiveness in the business office. Go forth and profit! #bing #morewinning
user experience

Commentary & Insights

The Automotive Website Tragedy Still Exists and Frankly, I’m Shocked

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We’re halfway through 2021 and we’re still seeing website tragedies in automotive. And yes, it really is a tragedy. When a dealership spends that much money for a solid website, competitive traffic, and SEO maintenance, you’d expect the website to be optimized for conversions and leads. If you want your website to attract most modern-day shoppers, there is some work to be done in the industry because, without this gem, dealerships can’t showcase their inventory, incentives, and dealership culture to the avid online shopper.  So let’s dissect some of the common mistakes that we are still seeing today and how you can fix them.  Overlapping CTAs One of the most common website tragedies is when CTAs (call-to-actions/buttons) overlap with each other. CTAs are your moment to shine, dealers! So if you’re crowding the button with bad UX (user experience), your expensive traffic is never going to convert into a lead-- and not just because of the aesthetic, but because it’s actually impossible to click the CTA underneath when something is blocking it.  This is a must clean-up situation so you can optimize for the most leads. Where can you start? Probably with consolidating on-site vendors so you can avoid these CSS mistakes, but if you insist on keeping separate vendors, I’d certainly recommend connecting the vendors to coordinate online real estate.  Stuck/Cutoff Overlays Dealership websites often have multiple pop-up overlays, including chat, that simultaneously interrupt a shopper's browsing experience. But what’s worse is that often the overlay is cut off, usually because it’s not optimized for every screen and every device. As you can imagine, not seeing the full engagement can lead to some frustrated online buyers.   To avoid this, dealers need to work with quality (not quantity) website optimization partners and ensure proper QA on every device. With our screen-obsessed generation, you never know if your next buyer will be searching for their vehicle on a tablet, iphone, or computer, but rest assured, they’ll expect the perfect user experience wherever they are.  Dead Specials Pages When consumers click on your specials page, they’re expecting gold-- how can they get the best deal and are you the store that’s going to give it to them? If your specials page doesn’t display any incentives, you’re losing an opportunity. Your dealership should be investing in technology that scans multiple data sources, in real-time, so you can pull any incentive opportunity for your dealership at any time. This way, your dealership doesn’t just rely on OEM incentives resulting in some dead days in the beginning of the month.  Lack of Transparency  Even if your store is not a one-price store, you can still show basic price transparency on your website and leave room for negotiation later. In this example, the sale price isn’t even listed which pushes away the modern shopper looking to understand ballpark prices before committing to a conversion online. Use transparency to attract all kinds of shoppers, but especially the experienced online shoppers.  While it’s important to look into all the new digital marketing solutions out there to build healthy streams of traffic, this is a reminder not to leave your website behind. Your website is your home base-- your lead magnet-- to represent your dealership and bring in more business in a world where 92% of shoppers will start their journey online. Let’s make it easy for them! 
right to repair act

Commentary & Insights

Are Dealers Ready for “Telematics Right to Repair?”

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"Right to Repair" Significantly Expanded In the November, 2020 election, voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a ballot initiative, Question 1 , by an overwhelming margin (75% approved). Question 1 requires that OEM's make diagnostic data collected remotely -- through OEM telematics systems -- available to individual vehicle owners and to independent repair shops. The 2020 initiative expands on a "Right to Repair" initiative passed in 2013. The original initiative required OEM's to make diagnostic and repair data available to individual owners or independent repair shops. In 2013, this meant that OEM's had to provide data access to diagnostic repair tools.  In 2020, this requirement was expanded to include data collected remotely through telematics systems from vehicles that are on the road. The original "Right to Repair" was also first passed in Massachusetts, but in 2014, the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers signed a memorandum of understanding to support implementation in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. This move pre-empted "Right to Repair" initiatives in several other States that were similar to the one in Massachusetts. With the "Telematics Right to Repair" initiative of 2020, however, the Alliance is challenging the expansion of Right to Repair into data collected through telematics systems. The trial began on June 15 and is ongoing. If the Telematics expansion is allowed to proceed, however, dealers should be thinking about the implications to their service business, because this expansion might be much more significant than it at first appears. "Right to Repair" and the Connected Car On the surface, expansion of “Right to Repair” to include telematics may not seem like a big difference. But the difference has the potential to be enormous for service retention, which is why independent repair shops and service chains fought so hard for the Massachusetts initiative. With this change, customers will be enticed to set up an ongoing remote connection to their service provider of choice, putting that provider in the best position to capture and retain that customer.   Once this system is in place, a visit to the local quick lube shop, tire store, or parts store will change. As the customer wraps up an oil change, for example, the attendant will ask the customer to authorize the shop to monitor the vehicle’s diagnostics. This will allow the shop to see when the vehicle is in need of its next service and send out a text or email with a perfectly timed service reminder. Well-run shops will eventually analyze their base of connected customers to determine the optimal time to bring them in – both when the vehicle needs service and when the shop has available capacity. Service shops and chains that do this well will cement a closer relationship with their customers and increase repeat service loyalty.   Alternatively, customers may choose to authorize an intermediate service “broker” to monitor their diagnostics and manage their vehicle’s maintenance. The broker will then be in a position to act as the customer’s trusted advisor, and will route service jobs to the most competitive service provider. Dealers Should Prepare Now The Independent shops and service chains in Massachusetts clearly hope to use this new initiative to gain business from franchised dealers (or prevent current business from being lost to Dealers). In order to maintain and grow the dealers' share of the non-warranty repair and maintenance business, dealers will have to make excellent use of the telematics systems installed by their manufacturers.  Dealers start with a key advantage, which is the opportunity to start a connected service relationship with the customer from the moment the new or used vehicle is delivered. But not all dealers today do a great job activating these systems, and activation for some OEMs is very inconsistent. Dealers must be sure to activate OEM-provided systems and secure customer consent to share service and maintenance data. Dealers then have to do a great job of managing data notifications to quickly schedule customers for any needed service work. Dealers may also want to take advantage of aftermarket systems for their older inventory that lacks OEM-provided telematics. A service like Spireon’s Lojack is a good example of an effective aftermarket system. Dealers will have a very brief head start to fine-tune their use of connected car service notifications, and they will need to take full advantage. If you are a dealer considering connected service and service retention opportunities, please reach out to motormindz to hear more about how to “get” Connected.  

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digital disruption

Commentary & Insights

A Guide to Getting More From Your Digital Retailing Tools

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When I joined the automotive industry, the Chevrolet Celebrity was the top-selling car in the U.S. A lot has changed in the intervening 35 years. Just as models are tweaked to address changing taste in design, so too do dealers need to address changing preferences for how customers buy and sell cars. I’ve been in many conversations with dealers about providing customer-centric environments. But setting an appointment and hoping a customer is willing to spend four hours on the showroom floor to close a deal no longer qualifies as customer centric. The standards for efficiency in customer acquisition are changing as consumers move beyond the traditional purchasing experience. Dealers who seamlessly integrate their customers’ online shopping experience with the in-store one can improve deal throughput and profitability. The capabilities are probably available in your existing digital retailing platform — you just need to take advantage of them. As a father, I watch how my kids interact with online tools to satisfy their needs — all in the moment, starting and stopping and picking up again at their convenience. A McKinsey report suggests that by 2025, millennials will represent as much as 45% of the new-car purchasing demographic. Smart dealers are already integrating their services to cater to the taste of these digital natives for a contactless experience, which will only grow as more consumers enter the market with no recollection of the slower, in-person ways.  It’s time to rethink the customer experience to address the changing attitudes of a new generation of shoppers, where dealers will be challenged to get consumers to the showroom. You can do this by: Taking advantage of digital tools to improve both marketing and operational efficiencies Ensuring seamless transitions from online to in-store experiences Facing forward Many dealers tap only limited functions of their digital retailing platform. They view the tools through a marketing lens, to send emails to attract the customer to the dealership, without thinking of how the technology can improve their operational processes already in place.  It’s easy to become so mired in your usual checklists that you overlook opportunities to improve efficiencies. Efficiency isn’t only about putting a trade or purchase value on the car, getting signatures, and determining the “we owe” to the customer. It’s more than simply revising an in-store process. If you only view your digital retailing platform as an extension of your marketing department, you’re not leveraging its capabilities. The platform integrates physical dealerships with the virtual world, allowing your customers to shop for cars on your website just as they’d shop for products on Amazon. After finding a vehicle on your website, potential buyers build their customized offer and explore credit position and financing options — all from their laptops or smartphones, whenever and wherever they desire. Robust platforms are able to track what the customer has done prior to coming to the showroom. This preliminary research will save time once they’re in the dealership. They’ll have a more informed idea of what they want and arrive more inclined to buy. It becomes a streamlined experience for the customer and results in improved throughput for the dealer. But this only happens if the transition from online to in-store is seamless, with the customer able to pick up the buying trail in-person where it left off online, rather than re-starting in the store from scratch. There are three key questions to ask about your digital retailing capabilities: Does your marketing messaging match the in-store experience you intend to give your customers? Is your team able to execute on your marketing promise to deliver a seamless online to in-store experience? Where do your inefficiencies lie and where can you become more efficient? It might sound trite, but words matter. Your messaging defines the customer experience, which itself is defined by the dealer's execution. If your website promises an expedited, always-on purchasing experience, you need to deliver that. And just as you maximize the efficiencies of your technicians on a day-to-day basis, so too should you maximize your digital retailing process. Ready for a change What’s at stake here is retailer throughput and ultimate profitability. Empowered, trained sales departments leveraging the capabilities of robust digital platforms can move more customers effortlessly through the buying funnel, with less manpower, adding to gross profit. If changing your process allows you to serve even three additional customers every busy Saturday through the course of a year, it can make a dramatic difference to your bottom line. And you can do that simply by using the features that are already available in your digital retailing platform. While not every dealer is seeking to offer a fully digital one-touch experience, every dealer should be seeking to maximize operational efficiencies.  Moreover, a robust digital retail platform can be used to solicit inventory in addition to outbound sales. Dealerships hungry to supplement stock in today’s tight market can reach out to customers to gauge interest in selling or trading in vehicles. The ability to get an accurate trade valuation without having to visit the physical dealership, and in a way that is transparent and easy to understand, might turn a disinterested customer into an enthusiastic buyer.  As inventory levels return to normal later in the year, customer throughput and wait time as vehicles arrive will become more challenging. It’s up to the dealer to turn that challenge into an opportunity. So now is the time that you should be analyzing your procedures to see if you're able to deliver the most efficient experience from online to in-store. However you adjust your operational processes, your customers will benefit as well as your bottom line.
cookieless future

Best Practices

Combat Your Cookieless Future by Creating Your Own First-Party

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You’ve seen it and have read the headlines circulating your feeds and emails. The topic about a cookieless future. And while yes this can be jarring and you may be wondering, where do I go from here, it’s important to understand a few things. There currently are 7 types of cookies that are trackable on your website, depending on your website’s makeup and functionality. Out of those 7, your first-party cookies and third-party cookies are going to be the most beneficial to you as a marketer. However, Google announced at the beginning of this year that third-party cookies would be going away. This diminishes your ability to have your products shown to consumers across different websites and platforms after they leave yours. Without looking at this change as a huge negative impact on your marketing efforts, the time has come to rethink and reengage. Rethink What does your consumer mean to you? This should be displayed in your marketing to them. Not all your shoppers are low funnel shoppers, therefore not all your consumers should see the same type of campaign. Facebook Advertising has a unique approach in which you can create more of an intent to “shop” with you. Because remember, the folks seeing your ads across Facebook and Instagram can be those who don’t know who you are, have already begun their shoppers’ journey with you, and/or have already converted. You need to be precise in the messages you’re sending to the proper audiences so that you can reengage. Reengage Within the Facebook business suite, you can create audiences out of those who are engaging with your name. You have a pixel code unique to your business manager that when implemented properly on your website can track events or actions that shoppers are taking on your website. These shoppers would be considered more into the low funnel category with the way they’re engaging with you. Within the audience building in Facebook, you can create new shoppers to take more in-depth actionable steps on your website. What I’m saying is, is that yes you indeed can create your own first-party within Facebook Business Manager.  My Top 3 Audience Builders in Facebook Business Manager 1. Lead Form Audiences Lead Forms and I have had a back-and-forth relationship on Facebook. There have been times where I’ve found that the leads generating through these campaigns were not of the most quality. Where I got the best quality leads was from creating campaigns that were geared toward more high funnel shoppers, that created an intent to do business with the dealership. Lead Forms on Facebook should not just be used for sales. You have a unique opportunity to create campaigns and use the lead form for contests, new subscribers, and shoppers that would be interested in new model releases to re-engage audiences. Once you start operating in this way and run a campaign you then can create audiences out of people who’ve engaged with your lead form. As you can see in the image, you have three options of audiences.  2. Facebook Engagement A fully optimized and active Facebook page can lead to a world of audience creation. You should start to see your businesses’ Facebook page as a micro-website and a hub of information about you. Just as Google My Business is your #1 source of free organic traffic, your business's Facebook page can serve the same purpose. Are your hours of operation up to date? Is your recent post most relevant to who you are as a company? Do you have inventory listed in the proper section on the page? And of course, please check that your CTA is UTM tagged so you can track who’s coming from your Facebook page. All these steps will help you attract shoppers to your Facebook page, and in return, you can create audiences.  3. Video Views A Video Marketing strategy is so important to the success of your brand. Video is engaging, it’s fun, and you can display a good amount of information and your creative side all in a matter of 15 seconds. Your goal with any video you’re creating and displaying is to catch the consumers' attention within the first 3 seconds so that they stop scrolling and watch/engage with your video. Facebook audience builder gives you a lot of options with how to create audiences out of those who’ve watched your video, and in return, you can create audiences to either reengage or serve up the proper campaign as to where this audience is in their buyer’s journey.  There are more audiences that can be created within Facebook Business Manager, and I suggest you go in and peek at all your options. Your goal? To create a bank within Facebook of all your own first-party data to combat a cookieless future. 

Commentary & Insights

Building Customer Relationships with Tactile Action-Based Marketing

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If you’re like most dealers, you invest thousands of dollars each month into various marketing channels. Some of which you may be deploying right now: TV, radio, digital, email, direct mail, social. If you’re not active in your community while building positive connections to your dealership name, and your team, you’re missing out.  I call it tactile action-based marketing, it’s people building relationships in your local community. Your store doesn’t have to be in a small town to make it work or to make a significant impact. I advocate for this type of outreach because it’s hands-on, cause and effect marketing, which builds relationships with both community members and local businesses. It begins with an action on your part, social media is a great launching point, and turns into word of mouth in your community. Done properly, it turns observers into engaged fans. It is also simple, cost-effective, and you can start right now. How does it work? Instead of focusing on the dealership, put the emphasis on your customers and the community, two subjects that hold people’s interest. Consider how many people pass by your dealership on any given day, does seeing your sign or building spark a positive response in them? Imagine building great relationships with people who aren’t even your customers...yet. How do you know if you need to implement tactile action-based marketing? A quick scroll through your Facebook or Instagram will give you the answer. It’s time if your pictures primarily show your staff, vehicles, or vehicle deliveries. If in your advertising, all you talk about is money, it’s time. If your posts are dominated with phrases like: “Here at ABC Dealer” “We want to buy your car” “The 2021 Make Model…” “Our goal is to…” It’s time, right? Your followers will stop paying attention if it’s "the all about you" show. Start by sharing customers’ wins Share about their businesses. How about posting what their children accomplish? Don’t forget to recognize community member’s accomplishments, sports team’s wins, and academic accomplishments. You can be a positive light in your community. Show gratitude Engage your social media followers with #thankfulthursday, each week on social media give away a gift card to a locally owned restaurant or small business. You just made a potential customer happy while supporting and promoting a local small business. Win/Win! Support your schools and teachers whenever possible Not only are you showing the teachers what they do is important, but also, you’re showing the parents you value their children. Parents are especially responsive when someone tries for the benefit of their children. When you say, “We care about providing you an excellent experience at ABC dealership” the community knows this to be true because they have seen your actions in the community. When you say, “We go to bat for you to get you the best interest rate,” this carries weight because you have been going to bat for them in their businesses and their schools. One hand washes the other, see how it works? Let’s start creating an amazing experience all the time though changing your social media approach and building relationships using tactile action-based marketing, you won’t regret it.
storage boxes

Commentary & Insights

The Saga of the Hdx 27 Gallon Containers and Your Dealership

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You Can Always Do Better... So, I sold my RV, (please hold your applause) and needed to buy HDX 27 gallon storage containers to keep “my stuff,” which had previously lived in the RV basement. I did what I always do, which is go to Home Depot to buy my favorite black and yellow containers. Upon entering a post-COVID-ish Home Depot, I noticed how few people were actually in the store. It was quite empty, actually. I proceeded to the usual place where my favorite storage containers were kept. (Yes, I have favorite containers – HDX 27 gallons with spiffy, stackable tops.) Lo and behold they were absent. I found a not-so-friendly man, in the requisite orange apron, and asked him where my favorite containers were. He gestured to the “end cap” and said, “they’re over there.” (Glad he didn’t strain himself with that one!) I walked over and (of course) they were not there. I came back and he was still standing in the same place. I explained (again) that those were the lowly 17 gallon containers and I needed the superior 27-gallon ones, please. He pointed to the floor where I was standing and said “Have you looked there?” (As if I had missed them the first time I brought him over to that aisle to explain I couldn’t find them?) I pointed out that those were the 17-gallon storage containers, not the 27 gallons that I have come to know and love. (You see in my garage I have approximately 40 of these beloved containers and they are stacked nicely and neatly and in a proper OCD fashion along the wall.)  He then proceeded to the computer where he looked up the SKU number so that he could find out if the containers were on the tippy-top shelves where I had looked for them before I asked him to locate them.  He announced the SKU number out loud, so we could both look together, to determine if we could physically see the location of my beloved containers. Now, to put this in perspective, a 27-gallon container is about the size of a grown Labrador retriever. They are hard to miss, but I continued looking and played along.  He left and then drove back to the aisle with the forklift-thingie which acts like a one-person elevator. (Meanwhile about 20 minutes have elapsed and I’m still looking for my containers.) He closed the aisle by stretching out two gates on either end of the each side, so no one could walk under the forklift-thingie. I think he was actually walking in slow motion.   Then, up he went. (Insert annoying noise here.) After 10 minutes aloft, he sadly announced he could not find the containers. (Immediately after he gave me the SKU, I had told him I did not see any boxes showing that SKU number, based on the old method of “looking up” from the floor where I was standing. He proceeded to look there anyway.)    After he came back down to terra firma on the forklift-elevator-thingie, (don’t forget to insert the annoying noise), I asked if he had looked at the quantity in stock when he initially looked at the computer. He responded “no.” So, he ambled back over to the computer. If this is agonizing to read, imagine how it was to be there.  Now, I’ve been in the Home Depot for almost 45 minutes. Mr. Orange Apron looked back at the computer and announced (quietly) “We have one hundred eight (108) of them. I’m really sorry, I don’t know where they are.” And they have 108 of them they cannot find. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? 108!  108 Labrador Retrievers you cannot find? Just to be sure, I walked up and down a few of the aisles to see what I could see. It was painful and fruitless. I left in a huff. (Usually, I don’t get worked up over these issues. This saga was particularly painful and dreadful.) I trudged next door (literally) to Lowes. They had 27-gallon containers made from another manufacturer. I was desperate, so I bought four (4)…from another manufacturer. They are shaped differently than the forty (40) in my garage but I was desperate.    Now, Home Depot’s ruined my OCD-themed garage because I have about forty (40) of my beloved 27-gallon container and four (4) of the runner-up, “The Commander” – the brand name – of another. (Isn’t that ironic as they are not “commanding anything in my garage?”) Every time I walk into my garage, I cringe. OK, while this was a long and now-amusing story, (not so much at the time), why am I telling you this, and how does this relate to running a dealership? Home Depot could have done better. So can your dealership. You can always do better than this. If I had seen a manager, I would have discussed it with him. I was so irritated, I didn’t go looking for a manager. It likely would have taken another 30 or more minutes. And when I left, I thought I should post a review online.  Or at least, I should post on Twitter where I would likely get a response.   I didn’t.  I just wanted to move on with my life.  After all, I’m dyin’ over here. I carried on.  I was irritated about aggravation over $60 worth of containers. Imagine how hot a customer gets when they are spending tens of thousands of dollars. How can you capture this feedback and mitigate the problem before the customer explodes online?  You could prominently post signage in your dealership asking for feedback. You could post a cell phone number for someone who could fix the problem. You could make sure the floor manager knows when there is an upset customer in the building so your managers can be prepared to act. Do you know the nature of the issues your customers face? Are you certain? How can you stop the problems before they happen? More training? New policies? You have to capture this feedback to attempt to prevent the problems before they start. (Risk mitigation!)  And what about aggravated employees? Ever considered an employee poll or human resources consultant? How can you capture their attention? (Remember, problems at a dealership are like rotten fish. They don’t smell better as time moves on…) And as for me, I’ll be standing in my garage staring at the odd-sized containers. (See attached photo.) If you are reading this #HomeDepot, please send me four (4) HDX 27-gallon containers quickly (and for free), and both me and my OCD, will feel much better. PM me on LinkedIn and I will give you my address!
auto inventory in lot

Best Practices

Dealership Inventory Crisis: Marketing Lessons From the COVID-19 Crisis

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It’s obvious that fluctuations in inventory are going to dominate the automotive narrative for the rest of 2021. And while it seems like we’ve just overcome the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the automotive industry, we’re slapped in the face with another big one: the infamous inventory shortage. So let’s not forget some of the lessons we learned as an industry when it comes to marketing during a crisis so that your dealership can stay resilient during this crisis as well.  Stay flexible  When COVID-19 first hit and the government shutdown orders went into effect, it took time for most dealerships to update their marketing messaging across all channels. For some dealerships, “Come on in for a test drive” was still their main message on their websites and in their ads, making it completely irrelevant to shoppers at the time.  Dealerships that had the infrastructure to be flexible and dynamic in their marketing strategy during the pandemic were not only able to turn around their messaging quickly, but they were successful in seeing results - even during a crisis - since they didn’t rigidly define things like messaging and budget. Dealerships that pre-allocated budget to Facebook and to Google were less resilient during COVID-19 because it took them longer to realize the shift in consumer behavior from search to social while at home. Dealers that had automated marketing budgets-- fluid budgets that self-allocate based on where the best opportunities are in real-time - were seeing much better results since the learning curve was faster and more efficient.  When we think about this as it applies to the inventory shortage, it’s important to understand that the market is unpredictable, but one thing is certain: dealerships need to be where their shoppers are in order to not miss an opportunity. Even during this tumultuous time, shoppers are still looking for their next car, and most likely at a higher gross, so make sure your marketing strategy is flexible to change in real-time and react fast. As soon as inventory turns, or comes in, your dealership’s marketing strategy should be ready to go and in sync with your dealership’s goals.   Reassess marketing (don’t pause)  While our gut instinct may be to pause marketing spend during any crisis, we learned during COVID that there are long-term risks to this . Firstly, you want to keep your brand awareness high. Even during tough times, people need to service their cars and renew their leases, so making sure those shoppers choose your store over a competitor is crucial. Dealers should be focused on gaining and retaining customers for life; cutting all marketing spend will restrict your dealership from doing this successfully.  That being said, difficult times present an opportunity to really assess ROI and productivity. So while pausing may put your dealership at a disadvantage, this is the perfect time to do a deep dive on your data and make sure your marketing ROI is high, so that you can still be the dealership of choice for shoppers during any crisis.  Do whatever it takes to bring shoppers to your dealership  During COVID-19, dealerships scrambled to implement a digital retail solution in order to stay relevant for their customers. Even if most consumers weren’t actually transacting 100% online, the software gave shoppers the opportunity to cut time in store and start the process online. This was a way for dealers to attract customers and stay relevant during the pandemic.  Similarly now, dealerships still need to do whatever it takes to get shoppers into their doors. So even with low inventory levels, dealerships should consider advertising inventory that’s on backorder and not yet in stock. This helps your dealership gain customers for life before they go to competitors. Focusing on trade-in acquisition campaigns or investing in a strategy to move more stuck/aged vehicles can also help your dealership market to customers while aligning with business goals to get more inventory and sell lot rot at the highest potential gross.  Do whatever it takes to bring people to your dealership during this time, no matter what the crisis. And usually, this involves a pretty efficient marketing strategy. 
Donating blood truck

Commentary & Insights

B+: Social Responsibility through Heliotropic Leadership

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How do we make a positive impact other than just selling cars? Not just in our attitudes but in our actions. What does it mean to be positive? When you read words like cheerful, active, high-energy, optimistic, or outgoing, does it make you think of positivity?  My personality IS my blood type, B+ (positive). BING is “the opposite of negativity.” B+ is a blood type that is not only rare but also holds tremendous power. It is estimated that only about 7.6% of the population has a blood type of B+.  Mark Twain once wrote, “kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” This ties in with positivity when it comes to genuinely connecting with your community. When this happens, people rally behind you and support your cause and your business! The cause I’m talking about is your corporate social responsibility, specifically - hosting a community blood drive. I recommend doing this twice a year at your dealership. Once in the spring and once in the fall. This is an authentic & genuine way to exhibit heliotropic leadership inside your organization and your community and the payment value is immense. I watched a TEDTalk given by Dr. Harry Cohen recently and discovered the term heliotropic effect/leadership. The heliotropic effect is the tendency for all living systems to move towards energy that is life-sustaining and away from energy that is life-depleting. Heliotropic leaders are positive energizers that can make people feel great. You feel good in their presence. These are leaders who often share qualities like being a good listener. They are compassionate, forgiving, vulnerable, real, and they smile. It is the definition of “us, at our best.” These leaders are the organizers of dealership blood drives! The sobering reality is that the need for donors to donate blood never really goes away. In every community across this country, there is a person who is in need of blood every day. Coming out of a global pandemic, there has also been an increased demand for a diverse blood supply. As automobile dealerships, it is not expected for us to do anything else besides sales and service, or is it? Do we have to take that extra step and do more ? You decide. Either way, it certainly bodes well for your dealership if your organization does more than just have a case of commission breath when dealing with your community. The optics are great & it makes people feel better about doing business with you. Let’s face it, what customer wouldn’t want to support a local business that shares the same values? Hosting a drive really helps the blood supply, but it is also a very selfless way to bring people into your facility, and participate in something selfless themselves. Part of the payment value that comes from hosting a blood drive, beyond saving lives, is bringing people into your store that otherwise might not have considered ever setting foot inside your establishment.  While there, they may look around and test drive a vehicle. They might see how your amenities are set up and want to give your service department a try for an oil change. They may order a set of all-weather floor mats or get an old battery replaced in their car or key fob while at your store. These are just a few ways to introduce them to your capabilities, all stemming from a simple blood drive.  Take a moment to reflect on what you are doing to set yourself apart from the competition not only in terms of your pricing and retail strategy but in terms of your social responsibility strategy. It’s not enough to know what you have to do - you must take action. You can give blood to make a difference in the world. One in three of us will need blood in our lifetime yet only one in 30 of us actually gives blood. If you are looking for an easy way to tap in and make a difference by leading heliotropically, give my idea a try and I don’t think you will be disappointed at the way you are left feeling at the end. I always say give 100% in anything you do. Unless of course, you are donating blood. Then definitely don’t give 100%. A pint will do just fine, and you could save up to 3 lives in the process. Happy organizing!!  Scan QR Code to View: Heliotropic Leadership | Harry Cohen | TEDxElonUniversity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4QUp6tuo-E