MarketingCommentary & Insights

Marketing
Building Summits: Creating value through Networks

By

We sat down with Pam Walter, the VP of Business Development for Thought Leadership Summits, the producer of CXAUTO Summit Series and Founder of MAPconnected Membership Forum and the VEHICLE SERVICE & WARRANTY LIFECYCLE Summit. Pam is remarkable in the way in which she engages with people and has helped build a brand and community that is changing the way that the automotive industry comes together. How has the last couple of years affected the CXAUTO Summits? At the start of 2020, we had already begun planning for the CXAUTO summits in June. I never thought that we would need to go virtual. We kept moving the date out until we realized that things were not changing, in fact, the restrictions were becoming more severe as the year progressed. We had to adapt our strategy to support our brand and our community. It took a lot of work, coordination and relationship management; we were just not set up for virtual conferencing and it required a lot of effort and understanding to make it successful. After CXAUTO2020, I had considered what we had achieved and was grateful that we had been able to adapt our model and make it work. That said, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that we would need to do it all over again, virtually, the following year. When CXAUTO2022 was in its planning phase, we decided to focus on in-person fully and decided not to adopt a hybrid model and include digital. It may have been more accommodating to those who are still not traveling but based on our brand, our audience and our business platform, it made more sense to create an exclusive and closed environment in which to share and meet people. What was different about this years’ summits in comparison to those held, in-person, in previous years? There was a distinct sense of appreciation for creating an environment for people to connect in-person, to shake hands, to step out from behind their computer screens and connect once again with people. Attending an event in-person, forces you to be fully present without the distractions that come with digital technology being the sole environment to connect. It really created the opportunity to share, engage and network. What makes CXAUTO different? There are many conferences that take place in our industry, there is a huge market and an incredibly diverse ecosystem within automotive. As a smaller and select group, our events allow for everyone to experience direct access. Anyone they want to speak to is available and so you are able to create relationships with people easily and the quality of the engagement is beyond that which can be experienced at large events or in a different environment. We have found that based on the exclusive environment that we create, everyone in attendance, as well as our sponsors, come prepared to share and receive thought leadership and experience something very personal and unique. How did CXAUTO come to be, how did you come to build this brand and create these experiences? I specialize in automotive and have been running CXAUTO within the Thought Leadership Summit brand for the last 6 years. I think that traditionally, my role represents a very transactional function. However, I am fully invested in each person who forms part of our ecosystem, I truly want everyone to benefit from participating and attending. I truly care about people, their brands and their business. My distinct specialty is relationship marketing and having built my foundation in the hospitality industry, I am able to bring something different to the table. I stay in touch with our network and really focus on sharing the experience with everyone in it. For the most part, we have an exceptionally high retention rate based on the experience we create and the relationships that we build. In terms of my own story, I spent the late 1990’s and early 2000s in Chicago working for Hyatt Hotels. I was selected for the Executive Committee, Director of Catering role to re-open the flagship Park Hyatt on Water Tower Square and was really on top of my game. My husband was approached by his company to launch a program which he had started in the US, over in Europe. What was meant to be a 2-year sabbatical had turned into a 15-year European Adventure and it forced me to look at other career opportunities. It was at that time, living in Amsterdam, that I got my first taste of being a hotel customer while creating and hosting pan-European business to business conferences in key cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Berlin and Paris. Living abroad and working extensively while immersed in different cultures changed our lives. It was such an incredible opportunity and experience. When we returned to the US, I knew that I wanted to continue to focus on automotive conferencing and that I wanted to do it through building real human relationships. What is up next in the calendar? Well the dates for CXAUTO2023 have been confirmed and we will be back at the Ritz-Carlton Marina DelRey next year June 20-22 but until then, I am really focused on MAPconnected Members Forum which I started in 2021. It is a network of executives responsible for the warranty lifecycle: warranty, aftersales, aftercare, technical services; all the way from the manufacturer’s warranty through to additional extended warranty and financial services products. There are a lot of events focused on marketing and new and used car sales which get a lot of attention in the industry but very limited attention and forums for warranty and technical services peer networking and benchmarking: which is a huge expense for manufacturers besides raw materials.   MAPconnected was created for this reason and offers different levels of membership and varying packages which allow for single or multi user executives who are interested in connecting with like-minded people. The MAPconnected model provides monthly small virtual benchmarking and sponsored webinars, and our messaging forum allows you to further communicate as well through private and group threads throughout the entire year.  And, the annual summit, VEHICLE SERVICE & WARRANTY LIFECYCLE Summit will be taking place October 25th and 26th at The Southfield Westin in Detroit, open to leading automotive, powersport, bus, truck, construction and agricultural equipment OEMs, Parts & Equipment Suppliers, their Retailers, Dealers, Distributors, Logistics & Services Providers.  We have a really exciting lineup of 35+ speakers who will be sharing case studies on Strengthening Your Warranty Roadmap in a Customer-First-Connected-World focused on 7 core topic pillars including: Warranty & Quality Strategy – Connected Customer & Recall Strategy – Financial Services & Extended Warranty – Service Operations & Parts – Legal & Regulatory Compliance – EV Warranties & New Services – Technical & Field Service Ops Take advantage of the July early bird special and receive 2 tickets for the price of 1 through July 15th.   Reserve & Read more here: www.mapconnected.com Pam Walter LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pam-walter-4aa9143/
A Career of Disruption

By

“True disruption means threatening your existing product line and your past investments. Breakthrough products disrupt current lines of businesses.”  – Peter Diamandis  Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Owen Moon, CEO of FIXED OPS DIGITAL and a new Expert Panel Contributor for Dealer Marketing Magazine. For most of my 22-year career in the automotive industry I have considered myself to be a disruptor. My career started in early 2000 when I was hired to help an automotive focused advertising agency create and sell a comprehensive sub-prime program. For the next few years, hundreds of dealerships across the country utilized our program to break into what was at the time a relatively new, but lucrative market. This program included everything from Marketing, F&I, Inventory Management, Software, Leads Handling, and even BDC Training. I would spend the first few years of my career travelling around the country helping our dealer partners implement this program into their dealership culture. Looking back, I considered this experience to be the best education anyone could’ve gotten to learn the auto industry from the inside out. A few years later I once again found myself in a unique situation as one of the early adopters of personalized database mailers. At the time using variable data fields to personalize the information for each customer was a relatively new concept. I remember when we ran our 1st “buyback” direct mail campaign and helped a dealership sell 35 new KIA’s in a weekend utilizing a target list of 2,000 previous customers. In a weekend we helped sell as many new KIA’s as they usually sold in a month! Over the next few years, we would develop and execute multiple personalized database mailer strategies for dealerships across the country!  As technology began to evolve the “next thing” again presented itself. I was introduced to a new strategy called GeoFencing. Geofencing is a real-time location-based marketing tactic that uses geolocation data to target users within an established geographic area. Then delivering ads based on where they are or in what locations they have previously visited. I moved my focus to helping dealerships execute targeted geofencing campaigns. I also spent a lot of this time speaking at conferences and 20 groups showing dealerships the power of this new type of mobile marketing. Then came 2018. The auto industry was booming! Dealerships were spending most of their marketing budgets utilizing digital strategies and the industry was full of vendors and agencies who were more than willing to help! In such a crowded vendor environment I again found myself in a situation focusing on a new concept. This time in the service department. FIXED OPS DIGITAL was born and for the first 12-18 months there was just as much educating going on as there was executing. As FIXED OPS DIGITAL started to grow, we took pride as being the industry leaders in online service marketing. As 2020 rolled around we knew that service marketing was going to continue to get more attention. We had no idea that both Covid and the new vehicle inventory shortage would only magnify this! Today FIXED OPS DIGITAL is the Premier Service Marketing & Technology Company servicing over 650 dealerships in the United States and Canada.  Are you a disruptor?! Then I applaud you. Disruptors are risk takers. Disruptors are educators. The challenge with being a disruptor is that the first couple years are usually the hardest. Trying to educate and gain dealership adoption can be tough. As a new Expert Panel Contributor for Dealer Marketing Magazine, with the opportunities and challenges today’s automotive market is facing, I look forward to bringing my years of experience being a disruptor to provide valuable insight.      
Inhouse vs Outsourced marketing
How Marketing and Accounting Play Powerfully as a Team

By

Within my own career journey, I worked at a high-line auto group based out of the New York Market. Originally when I took the role, the group had an advertising agency responsible for all marketing accounting oversight in conjunction with the CFO and Controller of the company. As time went on, the owner decided to eliminate the agency and have myself and my team handle all the marketing in house, including working directly with accounting on all marketing responsibilities that the prior agency held.  My responsibilities varied day to day as Vice President of Marketing but I worked very closely with the entire accounting department on annual and monthly marketing budgets. Reviewing parts statements, contract negotiations, vendor billing management, marketing accruals, co-op submissions, co-op management, and marketing accounting oversight, I had to sign off on every single marketing, advertising, or 3rd party invoice prior to it getting to the check signer for all locations. Depending on the dealership, this area is sometimes not well defined or looked upon as a priority. Having a buttoned up and fully transparent marketing strategy, where all the internal teams are in sync, is not always part of the narrative. Especially when making decisions, not all accounting departments are involved with the marketing strategy.  Flash forward to 2021 when I met Kelly Edgar, who I now know as The Virtual Controller. We clicked instantly over synergies we have as we both work within the accounting department of a dealership; we have very similar philosophies and mindsets on the topic of marketing accounting. I sat down to interview The Virtual Controller about best practices and any advice she has to maximize profitability for your store. M: What is a sustainable marketing accounting process that every dealership across the US needs to have?  VC: For all my dealerships, every month I run an advertising expense report. This is always matched up with the budget and ties to the financial statement, so the partner or the GM can easily see what they agreed to and where the final expense came in at. This is a great tool to use month to month to order to see and understand your expense tracking. This is also good for the GM to compare to their other advertising reports because they have access to reports that we don’t get to see from a traditional accounting standpoint. An example would be the ability to compare their ad expense on Facebook to the number of impressions generated: this is also helpful in terms of the GM’s ability to monitor and understand whether there are expenses that are able to be cut, those not converting to traffic for the store. These reports are important to produce, even if they’re not asked for because there will come a time that the GM must make a split decision and they can refer to these reports easily, building trust within your accounting department and controller. M: Why is reviewing the advertising budget important to do monthly? What are some best practices and tips you can suggest for a new General Manager or Owner? VC: From an accounting standpoint, their Controller should be in consistent contact with the GM/O/MP concerning any out-of-the-ordinary advertising items. I know, for me, most of the time, I don’t get the budget until the month is almost over. This is just because the GM certainly does not have to get my permission on what his ad spend is, but at the same time, I am responsible and required to let him know when I see something that appears too high or too low. This is also something I feel comes with time as well as knowing your GM. There are a lot of times that I advise my GM on items that appear out of the ordinary and don’t receive a response. Regardless, my GM likes to know that I am watching those things, that is what I am there for. Another reason it is important to watch the budget is because the GM can monitor trends, both good and bad. I always give my GM a report of where the actual expense came in; it is in this way that they can compare the impressions they are getting on Google Analytics vs. what they are spending on such. M: Why should a dealership have an accounting department (virtual or in-house) manage the marketing accounting vs an agency? VC: You know, I have worked at dealerships before where we had an in-house marketing professional as well as having worked at a dealership that used an advertising agency. I really do see the benefit of both. In my opinion, the consideration really comes down to who has the most/best relationships. You may be dealing with an advertising agency that has a far reach, for example, having used the same radio station for a long time and can get you the best spots at a discount. And you may find that local professional that also has longtime relationships with different outlets that can provide you the same value. Either way you are paying for their experience, which can be expensive. Ultimately what you want is the exposure for your store. I am a strong believer in allowing your staff to do what it is they thrive in doing. And to me, other than monitoring the expense side, advertising should be left to a pro. It is way too large of a commitment and expense to trust to someone without skin in the game.
The Not-So-Hidden Gold Mine That Could Increase Dealership Revenue Instantly

By

A customer for life goes a long way in automotive. It’s not just the vehicle purchase, it’s everything that comes with it: maintenance, service, add-ons, renewals, and, of course, referrals.   But it’s hard to scale personalized campaigns to past customers and to leads that ghosted. The messaging is different, the approach is sensitive, and the timing has to be perfect. There are also several factors that come into play like the last website visit, VDP views, and lease/finance renewal.  While no human can physically scale this kind of personalization, this is just another application of machine learning that could turn your CRM into a money-making machine. Think about it: if your CRM has 10,000 non-active leads, and you can reawaken even as little as 10%, you're looking at 1,000 new customers for life. It’s really pure gold waiting to be discovered.  It’s all about the audiences  The first step in making sure you’re investing in the right technology to turn more of your CRM into revenue opportunities is the audience game. You want to make sure your dealership isn’t bucketing opportunities into irrelevant audiences, like lease renewal for someone who has more than a year remaining, or service for someone who just came in. The demanded-- and expected-- hyper-personalization starts with the right segmentation, so you need to be optimizing audiences like people who recently visited VDPs, cash renewals, and cold “non-buyers” (leads that converted over 8 months ago and did not buy a car from you).  Make it dynamic  Once you have the right machines in place to identify and segment appropriate audiences, you need to make sure your email templates and SMS marketing have dynamic templates and merge tags. No one wants to receive an email without their first name or pre-filled forms. If you’re sending the email, you should know who they are!  But it goes even further than this- as you send traffic from an email blast to a specific landing page, your dealership can have dynamic videos and forms already embedded on the landing page to maintain that 1:1 conversation with your prospect. Once someone clicks on a hyperlink from your email, you will know how to identify them and greet them when they land on your website, keeping the transition and user experience extremely smooth. You can also personalize things like vehicles of interest or relevant services with dynamic templates.  Don’t forget connectivity  Even if your dealership invests in the best technology for mining your CRM, real-time machine learning can’t possibly function at its best without connected data. Make sure your dealership’s website data and ad activity is connected and communicating with the CRM so you have a full picture of the prospect’s digital footprint. While CRM information is critical, it has to be coupled with shopper activity in order to make the most of every opportunity and turn more (dead) leads into sales. When data is connected it also provides you with the most updated version of your customer’s story, bringing you one step closer to conversion.   There are a lot of pieces to pull together when thinking about personalized lead nurture at a scale that can convert more of your database into business. And while no human can possibly do this, your dealership should consider AI-powered technologies that can learn your audiences, segment, and target shoppers with just the right message on and off the site. Your data and your customer base could be the gold mine you’ve been looking for, so don’t miss out. 
facebook marketplace
RIP Facebook Marketplace for Dealers?

By

Facebook Marketplace underwent some changes in September and no longer lists vehicles from partner catalog feeds. This includes the entire marketplace experience: homepage, search function, etc.  There is a lot of debate on how this will affect the industry. But before we get into the juice, let’s clarify how dealers can still reach buyers on Facebook, even with this change. Create vehicle listings from the “inventory” tab on your dealership/business page Dealers still have the option to upload their inventory from their personal business pages (instead of having this also aggregated in Marketplace). While this is still a free option, the click rate on the inventory tab on business pages is quite low, so it’s critical to monitor this. It will be interesting to see if click rate and engagement rate will increase as Marketplace becomes more lean with inventory after this change.  Create AIA ( Automotive Inventory Ads )  AIA gives dealers the ability to upload an entire catalog of vehicles to Facebook so that the Facebook pixel can then target the best shoppers with the right inventory at the right time. The upload process is similar to the one disconnected with Marketplace, where you can send a feed automatically to Facebook. While this is not a free option, it’s an efficient way to get your vehicle listings seen by in-market shoppers (including placements on Marketplace among other placements on Facebook).  Manually create listings in Marketplace  This option does allow for dealerships to continue to showcase inventory (certified pre-owned only) on Marketplace, but since it’s manual the dealership would have to upload every/all relevant listings with all associated information. This is extremely time consuming, and for some, probably not worth the hassle.  So, what’s the field predicting with this change?   Some think it really won’t matter since AIA is the same idea, just paid, and will include ads on Facebook Marketplace when relevant. This is probably true for larger dealerships and/or Franchise dealers who have the means to do this through AIA.  Others think this will be a beneficial change for small and independent dealers since they usually entered manually anyway. Now, these smaller dealerships will also increase visibility since the larger franchises won’t have the capacity to upload manually. Cutting the competition and the noise can skyrocket results for these dealerships.  Lastly, some predict it will be similar to Craiglist’s change a few years back where they also eliminated the overwhelming amount of organic posts and in turn, helped shoppers find what they are looking for faster with a cleaner user interface.  What happens next? Like any big change in automotive, it’s going to be critical to watch trends for the next few months-- understand if this change was good or bad for your business. Do you have fewer leads? Do you have more qualified leads? Is your marketing team being more productive on other channels? Did your predictions for the change match reality? These are all important questions to tackle as we go into October and November and learn as an industry.  *This article was inspired by a forum thread in Dealer Refresh . 
user experience
The Automotive Website Tragedy Still Exists and Frankly, I’m Shocked

By

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!