CXAUTO2023 Speaker Spotlight: Ali Fawaz, Dealers United
I grew up in the shadows of the Ford World Headquarters.
My family has been entrenched in the automotive industry for many years. My father worked for GM for 27 years, and both uncles worked at Ford Motor Company and Chrysler, respectively; we have motor oil running through our veins.
After graduating, I moved to Chicago and cut my teeth in digital, that was my first experience working for a dotcom, working in the digital space. I realized immediately that I loved digital. I got my first job in automotive shortly after joining Carlson Marketing, which allowed me to understand the Agency side of that space. We were focused on retail education and training materials for Ford Motor Company, and although I had found myself in the automotive industry, something that was always part of who I wanted to be, I missed the digital aspects of my previous work.
I got lucky and was able to transition to Global Team Blue (GTB), the Tier I agency of record for Ford Motor Company. I was fortunate enough to work on Ford.com and Lincoln.com while learning the Tier I business, branding, and how an OEM operates at that high level. It was an incredible experience that led to me joining FordDirect, who were at the start of leveraging digital tools to drive the customer base for retail dealers. Something they are renowned for today.
“I worked on developing their social media and reputation management program; it was the early days.”
Social media was still considered the Wild West when it came to using it for business purposes. Many dealers were wondering whether or not they should engage with their audiences on Facebook. Should they be responding, would responses be seen as confrontational? It was uncharted territory, I came in and helped develop the social media and reputation management program, and when we deployed it, it gave rise to many of the best practices in play today. We toured the country, educating dealers on what they should and shouldn’t do, how to react, how to respond, and what to create. Of course, now we understand that you have to have a social presence. You need to engage with your audience. It’s widely understood that responding to reviews does not have to be confrontational but can instead be used to generate awareness and drive more business into the dealership.
This elevated my knowledge on the Tier III side, the retail dealership side. When I joined FordDirect, I was employee 63, so it was still at the very start of the business. When I left six years later, we had a staff complement of over 450.
I transitioned to a company called Reputation, where I created and led their automotive vertical, which went on to become one of the largest within the organization, in terms of driving revenue. That is what got me into the sales side of the business.
“All of these experiences perfectly positioned me in terms of where I am today at Dealers United, heading up sales and strategic partnerships.”
I work with OEMs, agency partners, and dealers at both a group and dealer level. In addition, I have an excellent team that helps educate dealers and create strategies for social media.
Initially, some of the significant changes we saw was the shift in budget allocation from more traditional spending to digital. Some of the clear benefits of separating your marketing spend is that you are able to track and analyze all of the ROI when it comes to digital. The automotive industry may not always be the first to adapt, but when they do, they grasp it fully. As a result, we have seen a massive change in our industry in terms of marketing spend and tractions, and dealers have become masters in this space in terms of how some of them are leveraging opportunities.
Digital retailing can mean many things, and we have seen it take different forms. Whether it is delivering a vehicle to a customer’s house, getting a quote online, making a trade online, or allowing the option of interacting via the website or the digital space rather than requiring the customer to come in and kick tires; this all lays the foundation for the next generation of customers. A generation that does everything online.
“We know the average user spends about two and a half hours on social media daily.”
CXAUTO2023 is the perfect opportunity for us to engage and understand the power of organized social media. It is not an option to be on social media. It is a necessity. Understanding that a little over 10% of your waking hours are spent looking at your smart device in the palm of your hand means that you need to acknowledge the potential impact and leverage it correctly.
The audience has become fractured. We no longer see Meta as the sole channel but understand that TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, and various others exist and thrive in our space. Facebook inventory ads are no longer enough to be competitive.
There are large audiences not being accessed by single-channel campaigns. We offer multi-channel strategies based on a specialized understanding of the market, and we are running entire strategies, leveraging social media the way it should be used.
Bi-directional communication with your audience leads to engagement. It is so much more than posting display advertising and effectively driving leads, whether upper-funnel, midstream, or low-funnel. It is a whole customer journey campaign that requires targeting your audience with awareness messages crafted with their specific position in mind. This results in conversations with customers and leads being significantly more effective. This is something that distinguishes Dealers United.
Social is our thing.
Catch Ali Fawaz live at CXAUTO2023 in Marina Del Rey, The Ritz-Carlton, California.
June 20th - 21st 2023.
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