Laurie Halter

Founder | Charisma! Communications

Laurie Halter is the Founder of Charisma! Communications, a successful automotive PR firm, and host of the Carearing podcast where she explores work/life balance issues for leading females. She has a passion for business and entrepreneurship, but what really gets her jumping out of bed in the morning is sharing her experience balancing life, work, and motherhood.
Third Party Digital Retailers are Driving Leads in the 2022 Auto Industry Climate

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In early 2020, no one could have imagined what the next two years would hold for the world- or the automobile industry. Through the shut downs of the early pandemic to vehicle shortages, a tightening economy and higher prices, to the in-dealership challenges of retention and growth, so much has taken place during this transitional time.  At DealerPeak , we acknowledge and have tracked these changes. Our research team used a first-touch attribution model to analyze data collected from hundreds of rooftops across the U.S. in Q1 2022. The data shows that there is a significant shift in how leads are generated in favor of third party digital retailers, along with an overall increase in online marketplace conversions. It is predicted that continued uncertainty will hover in the market for at least another year or more. With this understanding, DealerPeak expects dealer groups to become even more reliant on third-party organizations for inbound lead support. The Industry Continues to be Tested Q1 of 2022 has shown that issues like dealership inventory, manufacturing stagnancy and inflated prices are continuing to affect conversions and the way in which consumers shop for vehicles. One of the largest obstacles for both manufacturers and dealer groups is the semiconductor chip shortage, a situation that is forecasted to plague the industry through 2024. Lacking inventory plus an impending potential recession means that retailers must get creative and stay optimistic. Smaller brands with smaller market share are having an easier time keeping up with it all. Mazda and Maserati, for example, are able to achieve a much higher conversion rate compared to other manufacturers as they offer greater vehicle availability.  One Emerging Trend to Avoid Dealers are looking to cut costs. It’s inevitable during a challenging time, however DealerPeak has identified a major trend to avoid. In Q1 2022, website provider conversion rates dropped across the board. This is attributed to the fact there has been less incentive for dealer groups to maintain their websites based on the current market conditions, coupled with less need to generate dealership foot traffic. We believe maintaining a strong website is vital for long-term success. The best performing website providers offer buyer-focused features such as chatbots, digital engagement, and embedded digital retailing tools. What the Future Holds for Automotive Resilience and adaptability are common themes among dealer leadership in 2022. Seeking opportunities wherever they arise is now essential to annual planning, and that may mean expanding partnerships with third party groups. As mentioned, third-party leads dominate as a primary lead source because these platforms have a large variety of vehicle inventory to share with buyers. Organizations and groups that can evolve from “me” to “we” will go far in this new chapter of automotive innovation. There was also an increase in overall conversion rates for marketplaces like Autotrader compared to recent quarters. Online marketplaces allow consumers to shop and compare across all available inventory in the market - an asset in an economy where on-location dealership selection is low. This gives the buyer a sense of opportunity and control, keeping shopping frustrations to a minimum. Autotrader performs better than other marketplaces due to a large, high-converting database of vehicles. Thanks to high-ranking SEO and brand recognition, they attract abundant amounts of consumer traffic.  Support is Available Now DealerPeak is an exclusive auto dealer CRM specializing in centralized data for multi-franchise dealer groups that provides real-time insights. It's our duty to help dealerships and vendor partners succeed - and this is more important than ever in times of uncertainty. We hope you found the information to be helpful in your late-quarter 2022 and early 2023 planning. Please reach out with questions or to learn more about our CRM, Desking, Equity Awareness, or Open API programs. This article was contributed by Zach Ferres , Board Chairman of Dealerpeak, in partnership with Laurie Halter, Dealer Marketing Magazine Expert Panelist and Owner of Charisma! Communications.
Is it Time to Make the Entrepreneurial Leap?

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The last year and a half has been one of the immense transitions and has left many of us asking if we’re in the right place and if what we’re doing is worthy of our time and energy. For those of you who may be asking yourself if there is more you can do or additional ways you can help, I encourage you to consider whether it’s time to make the leap to consulting. I’ve had the privilege of owning my own agency for more than two decades and have been asked several times how to make the transition from employee to agency owner. Below are a few of the tips I’ve gleaned from my own experience and the successful entrepreneurs from which I’ve been able to work and learn.  How do you begin?  I get this question often. Many people want to know when I knew it was time to go out on my own and how I began. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who helped get me started but will say that there is an inner calling in most consultants I know. Some speak of it as an intense desire to help the industry, some speak of it as outgrowing their current circumstance and needing a challenge, and others say it was born out of a need for the next step. But every single story has one thing in common – successful entrepreneurs have something burning within them – gnawing at them – that won’t go away. Whether it’s an idea, a new way of handling a current situation, or for me, a desire to control your own destiny and be the person in charge of your interactions. Do you have an idea that won’t go away? A feeling that propels you to act, even if it’s scary? If so, it may be time to go out on your own.  Networking is Key Once you decide to make the leap, it is time to network, network, network. Reach out to current and past colleagues, let previous business partners know that you have begun your own company and post as often as possible on LinkedIn. When reaching out on social media, ensure you are giving value through advice and offering to connect people, versus just asking if the people in your network need your services. As Sandy Zannino, Founder of Innovative Auto HR has wisely stated about starting, “I should have started networking sooner. Begin before you’re ready.” Time Box like a Pro  I have long been a huge fan of the idea of time boxing. Time boxing is setting aside chunks of time to accomplish specific goals. When I first began my PR firm, I would literally sit at my desk during the time I had set aside for working, even if I didn’t have the client work. Instead, I would focus on my website or branding. Anything to set me in the mindset that the time I had set aside was for building my business. Today I am fortunate enough to say I no longer have that problem, but I do keep the time boxing methods to ensure I stay productive and don’t lose my momentum to meetings, phone calls and social media.  Keep Going!  Owning your own agency is not for the faint of heart. It takes patience, joy in risk and a strong amount of grit. Many of the most successful firm owners I know have fallen in some way. But more importantly, they’ve gotten themselves up and found a new way to go after what they want and continue their calling.  Is this the year you heed the call and make the leap to owning your own consultancy? Is an idea or concept calling to you at a louder and louder pitch? Do you have the grit to keep it front and center? I’m betting on you and hoping that the answer will be yes! 
Four Ways to Create a Fire Hose of Branded Content

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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! 
Four Steps to Banishing Burn Out

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We're currently in a culture that celebrates working ourselves to exhaustion. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, professionals and business leaders who carry smartphones tend to work more than 70 hours a week. And the pandemic has not helped us with this little problem at all! A recent survey by FlexJobs found that 75% of people have experienced work-related burnout, with 40% saying they have specifically felt these effects since the pandemic began.  With all of this focus on overworking and exhaustion, now is a good time to recognize the signs of burnout, not just for your own well-being but for the health of your employees too. I recently sat down with Rebecca O'Brien, an executive burnout coach, to discover the four steps she suggests in order to step into your own power and banish the blahs!  1. Self Mastery This stage is really all about identifying and observing your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Rebecca suggests when you feel overwhelmed, it's important to look at your stressors, triggers, and emotions, and assess how you're behaving due to these factors. Much in the same way that you'll have a different reaction to a problem when you're well-rested versus when you're tired, self-mastery is what allows us to know ourselves fully and in that moment act in our best interest. The best way to come back to center? Step off of the roller coaster and reconnect with nature, take a walk, call a friend, or even just step away from your laptop for a five-minute reset.  2. Powerful Mind The second step is what Rebecca calls having a powerful mind and this is where mindfulness comes into play. Often it is said that depression is a way of living in the past and anxiety is looking too far into the future. So the idea of a powerful mind is all about knowing what keeps you grounded and connected to the present. Think of it in terms of looking at thoughts that aren't true around the situation (for instance, the idea that you have to work 10-12 hours a day because you'll never get through all of the work) and determining where the pressure is occurring. This step also goes hand in hand with positive thinking and gratitude. Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop and list five things you're grateful for that happened that day. This helps bring you back into the present and gets your mind off of the negative hamster wheel.  3. Strong Habits Habits are the best way to support you and clarify your energy. One easy example of a non-helpful habit is hitting your phone the moment you wake up. Many of the most high-performing executives I know have a rule of not touching their phones for the first half-hour of their day. They use this time to read, be inspired, journal and if nothing else, just enjoy a hot cup of coffee with no distractions. Take time every day with notifications turned off. Set specific times to return emails. Focus on one thing at a time. These are the habits that will help bring order to your chaotic day.  4. Unbreakable Boundaries  Rebecca credits this step with being the most impactful, both for your relationship with yourself and all of the relationships that surround you. While this step is often the most difficult, Rebecca says it is directly tied to creating more freedom so you can then do the work that is most impactful to you. My favorite question for executives is, what sets your soul on fire? And unbreakable boundaries is one of the fastest ways to get to the thing that sets your soul on fire. Think about your week and determine what you're saying yes to; that really should be a no. Is there a way to carve out some time for something you're passionate about? My favorite quote from a guest on my podcast this last year was, "If it's not a Hell yes, then it needs to be a no." How much simpler would our lives become if we all lived by this principle?  We've all experienced a difficult year and by all accounts, the hits seem to be continuing into 2021. By creating healthy ways to cope with stress now, we'll be doing ourselves and our teams a huge favor and will reap the rewards in the months to come. While burnout is real, it doesn't have to be our reality. 
Four Ways to Ramp up Leadership in 2021

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Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Laurie Foster , Founder of Foster Strategies Group, and a super connector in our industry. Laurie and I discussed the essential elements that make up leaders and how we can harness more of this power as we head into the New Year. Below are 4 power moves from our discussion and simple ideas to help you map out a powerful blueprint for the coming year.  Power Move #1: Leaders Plug into Power Sources  If the lamp in your living room does not have an outlet to plug into, the chord is useless. The same is true for connection and drive for today's leaders. As you move into this next year, ask yourself where you can plug in your passion to generate the most power? Is your passion your people, your process, the places you find inspiration, or like Laurie, your ability to connect people to make magic happen. Laurie believes that being around the people we are supposed to be around, those that light us up and build that fire within our hearts and minds, represent the best in us.  Put it into practice : Who are the people who bring out the best in you? Write a list if you have to and then figure out how you can connect to your own power source this year to bring about your best talents and abilities. Just like your living room lamp, people will be attracted to the light you generate.  Power Move #2: Leaders Keep a Positive Outlook  Sure, 2020 sucked eggs, but most of the leaders I know saw the challenges as opportunities for growth. They tried to make lessons out of the hardest part of this challenging season so they could make better decisions moving forward. True leaders see hardship as a part of the game of life and they keep moving. Laurie explains it in this way, "There is a thing deep within leaders where they know everything is going to be okay. It doesn't mean they aren't ever left out, it doesn't mean they're the best at everything or they don't experience loss. It represents a positive outlook and a realization that they can affect outcomes. That affecting outcomes part is at the heart of leadership."   Put it into Practice: Do you believe you can affect outcomes? Which ones? Think through the outcomes you can affect: your own career, your staff member's future, the growth path for a person you are mentoring. Whose outcome do you want to affect and how will you go about it in 2021?  Power Move #3: Leaders Naturally Give, and as a Result, Naturally Receive  Jot down the traits of the leaders in your life and a list of adjectives and then once you've done that, think about how they made you feel. The main adjective you will find is respect. Respect means you can turn to someone in your darkest moment and they will be there for you. They help you ask, how did we get here and how can we get out? Don't mistake respect for popularity – they are not the same. Leaders also display kindness and then most importantly, they exude vision. These are all the traits that make up great leaders – respect, kindness, vision, and a willingness to bring us all along for the ride. Laurie best sums this up when she says, "A true leader is someone who people follow because they want to, not because they are forced to." Put it Into Practice: Make a list of the people who you think of as leaders. What adjectives come to mind? Write them down. Can you put more of those adjectives into your own actions on a daily basis? How will you plan to do it?  Power Move #4: Leaders Keep Themselves Accountable  Leaders are accountable. They make promises to themselves and they keep those promises. If they screw up, they admit it, and try again. I like to think of it as failing forward. Nothing is a failure as long as you learned a lesson. Sometimes that lesson is as simple as, "Let's not go down that road again." I'm going to end with my favorite quote from my interview with Laurie. It's all about accountability. She says, "Remind yourself of who you are and who you are not. Remind yourself of who you are supposed to, should, or could be and hold yourself personally accountable to fulfill all of that. Be honest with yourself because that's the way you can get better."  Put it Into Practice: Who are you and who are you not? If someone asked you your core values, would you know the answer? Take a few minutes to sit with your answers and then create an action plan to put your authentic self in play this next year.  As we launch into 2021, I want to leave you with one last thought. I read a post the other day that recommended we lightly tiptoe into 2021, don't scare the year and make too much noise. The post ended with, "And whatever you do, don't say 2021 is your year."  I disagree wholeheartedly. This is going to be OUR year, automotive! Let's get after it. 
Four Trends to Come from the Summer Shutdown and How They’ll Affect 2021

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Some of the changes brought about by a worldwide pandemic were felt instantly – business and school closures, public mask wearing, social distancing of six feet or more – while others are slowly making themselves known as we ease our way out of the shutdown. Digital retailing is, of course, the biggest story coming out of COVID on the auto side, but other trends like personalization and a run on used cars are just beginning to rear their heads for dealerships across the nation. Below are four trends I see being game-changers as we head into 2021:  Trend 1: Massive Digital Adoption Changed the Buying Process Overnight  While the fact that dealerships had to change to digital retailing overnight should come as no surprise to anyone, the incoming numbers that show dealerships smashed numbers over the summer season should surprise most of the market. A recent  Wall Street Journal  article by Nora Naughton interviewed several New York dealers who crushed it over the last few months – the thing they all had in common? They were ready to go digital before the world turned upside down. It makes sense that the dealerships who had the tech in place pre-COVID came out as the winners after a hard summer. And those who didn’t have tech? They’re still racing to catch up. The pandemic showed the world, and our entire industry, that rapid digital changes can happen overnight with the big winner being the car buyer.  Trend 2: Movement Away from Mass Transit  Another trend I’m seeing more being written about is movement away from mass transit. It makes sense that with the CDC and other public health groups encouraging us to keep our distance, people who have heavily relied on public transportation in the past are wary of being crammed into a commuter train now. CNBC, CNN, and other travel sites have been pointing to an uptick in subscription based car services, rental numbers increasing, and many Gen Z buyers entering dealerships for the first time in their life. In fact, Ilana Shabtay of  AutoLeadStar  told me a story recently where a driver in New York came in to buy his first vehicle at the dealership, learner’s permit in hand. If that doesn’t prove that new buyers are flocking to auto sites or lots for the first time, I don’t know what does.  Trend 3: Personalization across the Board  In an extremely well written article from  Sarwant Singh of Frost and Sullivan in Forbes , he relates the top 20 automotive trends coming post-COVID and the word of the day is personalization. From the way we market and advertise to would-be car buyers, to the options given in the actual vehicle, to the way that buyer will have it delivered, personalization at every single point during the process will be key. Sarwant astutely observes that younger generations now think of extreme one to one personalization as commonplace.  Trend 4: Used Cars are Hot, Hot, Hot  Due to a slowdown in the production of vehicles during COVID, dealerships are now feeling the pinch of low vehicle inventory at a time when the first-time car buyers I talk about above are coming into dealerships in droves. The simple solution? Used cars. A recent  CNBC report  shared that the typically vehicle-adverse city of New York saw a 40% increase in dealership walk-ins in June 2020. This trend is only accelerating as generation Z, and others are enticed to dealerships due to worries over public transportation. These first time buyers typically don’t have the need, or desire, to purchase a brand new vehicle, so used models are fitting the bill nicely for them.  I’m sure we’ll see other trends and market hot spots as we continue toward the holiday season. In fact,  news is coming out  as I write this that we’re seeing a recovery in the third quarter, bolstered by sales of SUVs and trucks supporting the comeback. If dealerships are able to jump on these trends and cater their business to digitization, personalization, and the used car boom, they’ll be in good shape for the holiday buying season and beyond.