MarketingBest Practices

Marketing
Four Ways to Create a Fire Hose of Branded Content

By

I've been working with tech companies in automotive public relations for more than two decades and in that time have watched communication styles change from the importance of your website to the importance of your blog, to now, the importance of social media.  While traditional articles and speaking applications will always carry an air of credibility, some exciting new messaging opportunities are currently in the mix and, if carried out correctly, can bring a lot of visibility to your brand.  Below I detail four ways you can use new communication methods to take a fire hose approach to your brand content:  Podcasts  I am a huge believer in podcasts, both as a guest on dozens and as a creator of one myself. I began my podcast, Carearing, a little over a year ago now and have seen it explode in engagement. When I began, I was looking at it as a way to connect with other working women who loved their careers. But it has done so much more. It's allowed me to champion female leadership, hold women up to be celebrated, and has led to some pretty spectacular guest spots, articles, and speaking engagements for me around female leaders in automotive.  Making it work for you:  You don't have to create a podcast to get this right. Just look for podcast hosts who already have shows focused on your expertise. Follow hashtags for #podcast on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, look into Mastermind groups focused on your expertise area, or there are even podcast booking services now that match guests with hosts.   Clubhouse  Clubhouse jumped on the scene late last year and in my opinion had one of the best roll-outs ever. You had to be invited to join and in early January of this year, an invite to Clubhouse was like a ticket to the cool kid's lunch table. While the hype on this has died down considerably, it is still solid gold when it comes to creating interest around hot topics.   Making it work for you:  While you can create a room, in my experience, the best way to currently use this channel is to guest spot in already established rooms. And while the overall PR benefits of Clubhouse remain to be seen, the opportunity to put the rooms you are a guest in on LinkedIn drives huge engagement on that platform. The best way to get invited as a contributor is to attend some rooms that seem interesting and when you're ready, raise your hand and contribute to the main stage. (Just a note, at the time of this writing, Clubhouse is open to users of Apple products only.) Influencer Threads  Influencer threads are an easy way to widen your influence and strengthen relationships. Jump on any of your favorite platforms, mine is LinkedIn, and find people you admire who are raising interesting questions, addressing topics you relate to, and generally posting things you care about and begin to engage with them. A note here, you need to truly want to add value to the discussion. Influencers can smell false engagement a mile away.  Making it work for you:  Curate a list of people you admire on the major social media threads, follow their content, and begin to reply. DO NOT post information about your product or service. People want to interact with people, not be sold something. If you take the time to establish relationships with these influencers and regularly engage on their posts, they will be willing to find out more about you and your company on their own.  LinkedIn  Here's where the rubber meets the road. Take all of the above content, guest spots, Clubhouse rooms and internet discussions and post, post, post it on LinkedIn or Facebook. Social media feeds are today's form of traditional publications and just like a press release, you should be using them to distribute information about your brand.  Making it work for you : Were you a guest in a Clubhouse room? Promote it on LinkedIn. Have a guest podcast clip to share? LinkedIn. Invited to speak at a conference? Post and tag that puppy. LinkedIn and other social media platforms are the conveyer belt for all of the content you are creating – use them accordingly! Today public relations is all about creating and distributing content across channels where it will have the best chance of engaging an audience. By following the four methods above, you'll create a groundswell of content that can be used in multiple ways to increase your brand value online. You've got this! 
Dealerships, do you even CPO? A Simple & Beneficial Approach

By

One of my favorite calls receive are from former customers or friends who know I am in the car business. They call asking me how they should buy their next vehicle. I no longer work at the dealership, but it is so much fun for me to help my family, friends, and former customers to purchase a vehicle as an independent third-party voice.   Recently, a friend of mind that was looking for a new truck called and asked if I could help. As we talked about some of the features he wanted, I started thinking that taking advantage of a manufacture or dealer certified pre-owned vehicle might be a great way for him to buy his next truck. The certified pre-owned programs that he could take advantage of would allow him to get a better interest rate, more vehicle warranty, and an overall lower payment than buying a new truck.   After discussing his options, I started researching the best truck to meet his needs. However, I was 400 miles away and could not physically be there in person. Therefore, all of the leg work had to be done on the computer. This created a major hurdle for us finding a certified pre-owned vehicle that was a good fit for my friend. If I had been closer, I could have gone in person to dealerships and looked at trucks. I would have been able to see the point of purchase materials that are often displayed by the dealer to show off the certified pre-owned vehicle on the lot. In fact, most OEMs have stringent requirements for signs, stickers and decals that must be placed on a vehicle on the lot if it is certified.   My first couple of searches on third-party sites was very frustrating. I was able to enable the certified pre-owned search filter; however, I noticed that some dealers were not even correctly classifying their certified vehicles. I could find a truck that would likely work for my friend, but I could not tell if the unit had any OEM or Dealer certified programs attached to it.   I began to think how unfortunate the situation was for the dealership. Dealerships are spending thousands of dollars in additional money for the certified program on their vehicle and no one can see it online. Dealer expenses that include: more reconditioning of the unit, additional time with paperwork and merchandising, and additional cost of the warranty coverage.    Luxury vehicle lines like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lincoln all have certified pre-owned programs, which can cost the store over $1,000 just for the certified warranty. This does not include all the additional money that has to be spent to bring all maintenance up to date and additional higher level recondition requirement costs. In some instances, the vehicle could have incurred the dealership an additional $3,000 or more to certified than a non-certified competing unit.  After a long exhausting search that spanned over the course of two weeks, I was finally able to find a dealer that had the right truck for my friend. How did I find it? Firstly, the vehicle had an image overlay on the truck with the dealer information, and most importantly, the certified pre-owned logo. Secondly, the vehicle was correctly listed in the certified pre-owned listings category of the third-party listing site. Lastly, the description of the vehicle clearly identified the unit as a certified pre-owned vehicle with the benefits of the program.  If you are reading this thinking that your certified pre-owned cars could use a facelift, the good news is that most of the merchandising can be automated through your vehicle export providers. It just takes a little bit of work and time to get it going. Here are the items that I recommend every dealer do to help bring their offline message to their online shoppers.  Properly classify your units as certified in your vehicle inventory tool. This helps to identify the units on the dealer website as well as third-party listing sites.  Get a professionally designed image overlay with the dealer logo and certified pre-owned logos. Do not try to make one yourself unless you are graphic artists. Too many times I see terrible overlays that were designed with a pour image editor and the dealership's credibility immediacy is negatively affected. Add a placeholder image in the vehicle picture set that clearly outlines the advantages of the certified pre-owned program for the consumer. This slide is imperative as consumers often cross shop your certified unit versus a non-certified unit.   Lastly, Add the certified pre-owned benefits to the top of the vehicle description. It is crucial that this information goes right on the top as most consumers will spend little time viewing all the descriptions. This should be automated or templated in your export tool to make sure that it is attached to every certified unit every time. Here are some examples of good certified pre-owned merchandising: Vehicle Overlay Vehicle Placeholder A little bit of effort can go a long way in bringing the same offline experience to your online shopper. The great news is that most of this is easy to setup and automate.  
Social Media Strategy: Top Performing Storytelling Posts

By

"Storytelling" is all the rage on social media right now amongst professional marketers. The truth is, this is nothing new. Before "storytelling" conversations dominated social networks like LinkedIn and Clubhouse, marketers and individuals, businesses alike, were already applying this technique on Instagram and Facebook or through their advertising messaging. As a marketer working in the auto field, I set out with a big goal in mind at the beginning of 2020: to create more visibility for myself in my industry through social media. I sought to do this in part through storytelling and thought leadership, as well as branding myself as an individual within the company I work for.  However, there was a challenge since I wasn't on any of the social sites as an individual. I took the first step of my own social journey with LinkedIn, as I recognized this medium's growth. As of January 2021,  Professionals are joining LinkedIn at a rate of nearly 3 new members per second.    According to Knista  Only 3 million users (out of the more than 700 million) share content on a weekly basis. This means that only about 1% of LinkedIn's 260 million monthly users share posts.   There is thus plenty of opportunity. Flash forward to the present. After having numerous of my own personal storytelling posts go viral, I have found that there are specific types of posts that perform the best. These include: Static image posts   A post made of up of text copy and a photo. LinkedIn posts with images get  2x higher engagement  than other types of posts. I like to use relevant hashtags at the end of my posts for added visibility.  Video Posts A post that is made up of text copy and a video. Video is great because it is not just visual, but audio as well.  Because only 1% of people use LinkedIn as a actual social network with posts , there is a real growth opportunity. Just like the static post, I like to end my post with hashtags relevant to the topic. The great news for every person on any social platform is that they all have a unique story to tell even if they haven't started yet. I like to say that the fun part of social storytelling is pinpointing your story in a post, interweaving it with your dealership or business's culture, and then tie it back into a relevant social site like LinkedIn!  Most importantly, have a strategy for how you will market for yourself on social. You will maximize the power of your posts and increase your odds to generate positive connections and opportunities! 
3 Easy Tips to Rev Up Your Personal LinkedIn Strategy

By

If we have been connected for some time on LinkedIn, you will have observed a big change in my posting activities. I've been a LinkedIn member since 2014. In December 2019, I asked myself what I could do more of to help serve others while bringing value to myself and the company I work for. Since I work in marketing, I decided to focus on marketing, and to "do as I say," which I hadn't yet achieved at the time with social media. I went from posting randomly to posting with intent on a regular basis. For the past year I have been working hard on my personal marketing strategy, which has resulted in the development of a larger audience on LinkedIn, for which I am grateful. I have done this in large part by sharing simple, general marketing knowledge that can benefit anyone, including salespeople, business owners, and individuals in their day-to-day activities.  So why would you focus your personal social media marketing efforts on LinkedIn and not the other social channels?  LinkedIn has an advantage, it is the most undervalued, underutilized, social media platform, but it is growing, giving you a lot of potential to create your own organic audience.  There are over 720 Million users' 6 out of 10 users  actively search for industry insights on LinkedIn.  Only  3 million LinkedIn users (fewer than 1%) share content on a weekly basis.  Here are a few quick go to strategies you can immediately apply to your existing LinkedIn profile: 1. Post weekly Be consistent, post every day and use hashtags! Hashtags help people find your content. You will see that at certain times of the day you get better engagement (likes, comments, etc.) I like to experiment with different times to see what works best. You will also see which performs better, whether video or static images.  2. Create your own LinkedIn business plan Determine what results you want from posting on LinkedIn. Set goals and objectives, create a posting calendar and be diligent to set aside time each week to organize your content, etc. Like Yogi Berra said. "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." What do you want from posting? A new client, a new job, to be a guest speaker, attract potential talent to your company, etc. Just like your monthly financial objectives, create them for yourself on LinkedIn. 3. Engage with your connections One of the many ways you can really make the best use of LinkedIn is to continuously network! Leave thoughtful comments, send professional notes to one another, find ways to help other people without expecting a thing in return. LinkedIn grew tremendously this year, in part as a result of people being stuck at home due to the COVID pandemic. I have made some of the most meaningful professional connections of my career this year from LinkedIn, and I know that is true of many others. Seize the opportunities, they are there. 
Now Is Not the Time to Pause Marketing Spend

By

Reject every instinct in your body that's telling you otherwise. Now is not the time to pause your marketing spend. Yes, we're in a totally new normal and chaotic time in history. COVID-19 is changing the way we shop for groceries, plan weddings, and sell.  But as we assess the investments we're making and cut back to play it safe, stopping marketing efforts all together will put your dealership at a disadvantage.  Here's why: Stay Relevant Q2 2020 put all dealerships to the test: which ones will still sell during an unprecedented government-mandated lockdown and the first wave of the Coronavirus? And as we witnessed, the dealerships that were able to stay above water were the ones that had the marketing machine in place to do so-- the dealers that were set up for digital success to change, update, and optimize messaging across all platforms way before the COVID-19 wake up call.  So ask yourself, how long did it take your dealership to offer home deliveries, solo test drives, and extra hygiene at the showroom? If you answered more than one minute, you're simply not as relevant as dealers that were able to deploy marketing messaging instantly.  "You, as a company, either have world-class digital capabilities or you are falling behind."  says  Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation. And it's never been more true. This is the time for your dealership to stay on the map. It's time for your dealership to show up first to the in-market shopper who is stuck at home with a glass of wine and the power of Google. If you want to stay relevant, you need to continue your marketing efforts, even if you have to reduce or move around the budget in response to the market.  Stay Ahead  But it's not just about what happened and how we responded-- it's about staying ahead of the curve. Pausing your marketing ads and campaigns means losing your audience tracking, falling behind on brand recognition and targeting, and not having the means to bounce back with new messaging as the ever-changing market surprises us once again. Even if your budget is cut to a minimum, keeping your marketing afloat means that your dealership can be more flexible with its messaging to react faster to opportunities. It gives your dealership the ability to accumulate audiences for retargeting and enables you to capture the low hanging fruit that you can "afford" with a lean budget. The moment you pause your marketing spend altogether, you're not only irrelevant as shoppers search and find your competition instead, but you'll be slower to come back once you're ready to turn up the heat.  Turn Gaps in the Market Into Opportunities  Lastly, there is always opportunity in a downturn. If we've learned anything from iconic brands like Airbnb and Netflix, who crushed it during a downturn, it's to leverage gaps in the market as an opportunity for revenue. People still need cars. In fact, private transportation seems to be a hot commodity as a result of the pandemic. Public transportation is "risky," unsanitary, and poses the threat of exposure. It's clear that the automotive industry rebound is stemming from strong emerging markets:  millennials, one-car suburban families, and commuters .  People are still searching, debatably now more than ever. As consumers stayed inside month after month, the  shift to online  buying behavior was catapulted into reality. Social media consumption increased from 20.8% of total app usage (Jan 1) to 24.1% (Apr 12). Combined with a 21% increase in total global usage, social media advertising had become overall more cost-efficient for dealerships. Your dealership needs to capitalize on this opportunity- leverage marketing to target these buyers with the right message at the right time. If you stop your marketing spend, you will not reach these shoppers that are in the market for the very same reason you're thinking of pausing spend.  So while your gut instinct may be to pause spend through 2020, I'd argue that it's actually time to re-evaluate and make sure your spend, while perhaps lean, is accomplishing everything you need to stay ahead and relevant coming out of COVID-19. Because when you're already prepped for any outcome, you win.
Online Reviews: The Golden Key to a Solid SEO Strategy

By

We seem to finally be getting to a point where I estimate a significant majority of dealers track and care about their review scores. However, the motive for actively managing reviews focuses on a couple of different objectives. One is to comply with OEM standards or excellence programs. For example, both General Motors and FCA require that dealers enroll in a Reputation program as part of their dealer programs (SFE or CFAFE).  The other reason to have an active reputation program is an excellent reason . . .because they believe, correctly, that potential car buyers read reviews and look at dealer review scores to determine which dealership they will purchase a vehicle from. While that is enough justification for focusing on getting new reviews and keeping a high average rating, another benefit of a strong reputation management strategy I do not frequently hear is that review management is a part of your Google advertising or marketing plan. Truly this is a missed opportunity. Investing significant dollars into an SEO program to increase your organic search results on Google can be a primary source of new visits to your website. What often gets missed is that reviews can significantly impact how Google displays your business in organic searches. If you are investing in SEO on Google, ignoring the impact of reviews on your results could cause you to waste your precious marketing dollars. The Impact Reviews Have on Your Google Search Results Google my business is some of the best quality traffic a dealer can get, giving you the bottom of the funnel purchasers that can be reached and converted. This result is true not only for new vehicle sales but even more so for service. An easy example would be to consider any search a consumer would enter on Google, such as "brakes service near me" or "oil change service in (my city)." These are not searches a typical consumer would make because they are curious. With new vehicle sales, we know that car shoppers might be searching 90 days out for their new vehicle, but have you ever heard of consumers shopping 90 days out for an oil change? Consumers are making these searches in the market...right...now!   So it is incredibly important that when the bottom of the funnel shoppers is searching on Google, your business displays, whether that is the search results, the knowledge panel on the right, or in map searches. However, just having a complete Google My Business (GMB) listing won't get you there. What Does Google Look At? We have already established that a dealer needs to have both a complete Sales listing and Service listing on Google. That complete listing gets you "relevance" and means Google could start displaying your listing in relevant searches, but that is only half of the equation. You want more than to show up. You need to be near the top of search results if you expect to get clicks to your website or clicks to call or for directions. The other half, according to Google, is "prominence," and this means reviews. Actually, this means more than just having reviews. Google looks at: 1) The number of reviews 2) Your average rating 3) Recency of reviews 4) Reviews with likes 5) Review responses 6) Review keywords The Consumer Buying Process Back to your SEO strategy. You create Google Sales and Service listings and then pay an agency to manage your SEO for your business to show up more frequently. However, without reviews, you have tied their hands and limited the results they can deliver. Reviews are a basic requirement if you want to optimize your investment in Google. What about your website? Isn't the value of SEO to get more webpages to display? Yes, that is true. However, as Greg Gifford recently shared, you need to think of Google as your new homepage.   The consumer buying process begins with searching on Google. While many websites display in the search results, the Knowledge panel for a GMB page dominates the right side of the screen. On map-based searches, GMB powers those results. The journey for a consumer then is:  Without a steady influx of reviews (with responses), you will be limited in your efforts to get #2 of this process to display, and without that middle step, purchase intenders will find other GMB pages and end up on competitive websites. In your next marketing meeting, when you address website visits, before committing a budget to spend a dime on Google, check the associated GMB page and make sure you have a recent influx of good reviews, with responses. Part 2: "The Importance of Reviews in Your Google AdWords Strategy " Read the full study here .