Matt Childers

Dynamo Performance Manager | DealersLink

Matt's passion is to provide dealership professionals direction on how to increase unit sales through the use of better marketing and sales tools. Matt's dealership knowledge stems from working inside a thirteen-store dealer group for ten years and knowing what works first hand. He has worked all the variable operations positions at a dealership and ultimately ran multiple stores as the General Manager over the course of 10 years. Matt is well versed in tools of the digital marketing trade including Google Analytics, Google Adwords, SEM, SEO, website optimization, lead generation add-on tools and has relationships with many vendors in the automotive space.
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. 
Scarcity is The Best Thing to Happen

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Right now vehicles are selling at all-time record profits, salespeople are able to make a good living, and store net profitability is more than most ever thought possible. So much money is being made that the days of having to give away units seem like a thing of the past. It has been a great twelve months for most dealerships across the US. The current situation feels like a musical chair game, it is fun while the music is playing, but dealerships need to face the reality that the music is going to stop soon and there will be fewer cars to sell. Higher gross is making up for some of the issues that lack of inventory has created, but the time is approaching when the stores will have zero new vehicles to sell and nothing in the pipeline. The situation leaves dealers asking, “What do we do now?”  Here are some practical things that I believe dealers need to be focusing on over the next few months and areas that they can have a positive impact on their store to keep the money flowing. It will be a tough couple of months for stores on the variable operations side but things will get better.   First, every store needs to evaluate new car marketing spends. Stores that are spending thousands of dollars on search engine marketing (SEM), pre-roll and display advertising need to determine if the current budget lines up with current inventory levels. In fact, most of the dealers that I am speaking with are talking about some model lines being pre-sold prior to hitting the ground. In this case, it is wasteful to allocate portions of the budget to those pre-sold model lines. For SEM I suggest looking at reducing the SEM budgets and instruct them to focus the new car budget on high converting keywords like “Chevrolet Dealer” and move away or stop all model searches that the store does not have adequate inventory for. I would also suggest that dealers use this time as an opportunity to negotiate a discount with third-party lead providers, TV and radio stations based on the fact that inventory is significantly reduced.   Secondly, the acquisition of more used vehicles has to become a top priority for dealership sales departments. Dealers that lived off trade-ins are really going to feel the pressure.  Some of the most successful stores prior to the pandemic already had a strong used car purchasing division. They implemented vehicle buying teams that purchased vehicles all over the county from the various auctions. However, even these stores are struggling to acquire inventory at prices that make sense to resell.  Today’s auctions are overinflated with numerous dealers all over the country bidding for a small pot of units. In some factory sales across the country, more than 2000 bidders are online for just 50 units. It doesn’t take long for a dealer to get frustrated and realize that buying units this way is not going to be easy.  Here are some areas that dealers can use outside of typical auction lanes to land more used cars: Online Auctions – DealersLink, OVE, SmartAuction, ACV, BackloCars OEM Lease Returns Websites Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Local Classifieds Private Party – Drive by Units Dealership Database Mining – Email and Phone Campaigns Dealership Service Lane Automotive Classified Websites – Private Party Listings – Cars.com, AutoTrader, CarGurus.com AutoTrader/ Kelly Blue Book Instant Trade-In-Offer eBay Listings Lastly, the entire sales process should be re-imagined around acquiring the customer trade-in. Asking questions to new customers to find out what they are doing with their current vehicle. If they are selling it privately, are they open to getting a bid from the dealership as well? The average customer does not fully understand the complexity of the used car market right now, and they might have underpriced their vehicle. Customers will appreciate the dealer paying them additional money for their trade and in most states, customers can receive a tax discount from trading a vehicle in on the same transaction. In addition, consider offering additional dealer discounts on the vehicle that the customer is purchasing if they are trading a vehicle. Dealers can go as far as adding additional line item discounts on the dealer website that shows the trade-in discount. The effort that a store puts into getting both the customer's trade and financing in the next couple of months, will pay off big dividends as inventory draws down.  The first part of 2021 has been a wonderful ride for most dealers, now is the time to start making adjustments to stay profitable as the inventory continues to dwindle. Hopefully by October dealers will start seeing an increase of allocations and products but even that will take time to hit the dealer lots with the current backlog of customer orders. It is a crazy time in the business, but remember that every dealer is facing the same issues and this too shall pass. 
Dealerships, do you even CPO? A Simple & Beneficial Approach

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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.  
Separating the Real Shoppers From the Window Shoppers on Your Dealer Website

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Walking around my local shopping mall in 1998 was an experience that I enjoyed. In fact, most of us in the car business can remember the entertainment of walking up and down the storefront shops looking in the windows at the new merchandise. I was the quintessential 'window shopper' every time I walked by the now defunct Circuit City electronics store. I stared into their store window at the new digital cameras for sale. I can recall pressing my face up against the glass to get the best look. I am sure that I left a streak mark or two behind on the glass. I never went inside the store because I didn't have enough money, and while I wanted the camera really bad, I knew I couldn't buy it.   In the summer of 1998, I also had a lawn mowing business and made it my goal to buy a digital camera with my earnings. I spent hours mowing lawns and daydreaming about the day I could actually go buy the camera. After mowing what seemed to be a hundred lawns, I finally had saved up enough money to purchase a camera.   I watched the new cameras hit the window for weeks, and I was finally ready to make a purchase. As I entered the camera section, the excitement of the moment hit me. Today was the day that I finally was no longer just a 'window shopper' and could finally experience all of the cameras. I could touch them, take sample photos, and really decide what camera would be the best one for me. I liked the look of the new Canon, the Sony fit just right in my hands, but right before I was going to make a decision, the salesperson suggested that I took a closer look at the new Fuji FinePix. The Fuji was not on my shopping list, but the camera had higher resolution, better zoom, and just looked really cool. I was sold. As I was paying, the salesperson said he could predict that I would purchase the Fuji only by how I interacted with the camera and because it had been a top seller at the store for the last month.  I write about this experience because the way inventory managers and marketers today have to figure out how to spend their budget is still missing a lot of information on how a customer is actually interacting with our vehicles online. The traditional system is viewing every 'window shopper' as a would-be buyer. For at least the last ten years, automotive shopping websites have been attempting to predict shopper behavior and what vehicles would sell by tracking Search Results Page Appearances (SRP), or the activity of a vehicle populating in a list of available vehicles in search results. Sites also use Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) views as another indication that a vehicle is going to sell. The common thought is that the more times a vehicle is looked at online, the more likely it is to sell. The only issue is that SRP / VDP views are simply 'window shoppers' walking by the front window.   While both VDP and SRP metrics are helpful, there is a more precise way to determine when a vehicle is likely to sell and what actions to take to increase inventory turns and vehicle gross. Analytic data companies now have AI tools for car dealership sites that more precisely predict the chance of a car being sold than the traditional SRP and VDP metrics. By placing a tracking pixel on a dealership website, dealers can get much more information about the activity that shoppers are doing on their dealership website.   Take for instance, a fresh new Toyota Tundra trade-in that may have only been viewed two times by visitors on the website after fourteen days of having the vehicle. Most dealers tracking VDP clicks would likely start the process of marking down the vehicle so that it would be priced more aggressively and get more views. However, dealers with advanced AI know that one of the Tundra shoppers spent fifteen minutes interacting with the page, clicked on all the vehicle photos multiple times, scrolled the entire page, opened, and then closed the lead form. Best of all, they know that they have a shopper that is very interested in the vehicle and can actually raise the price — inferring that the customer may have been more than just a 'window shopper.' Noah John, founder of Autoscores.com, states: Instead of waiting a certain time period before adjusting vehicle prices, dealers can get daily advice on what they need to do. Stores have to pinpoint recommendations on what action to take next, such as raising or lowering the price, reviewing VDP/Listing, and inspecting the vehicle. Dealers can easily react to online signals and demand in near real-time.   When is the last time you can remember your vendor or software telling to increase a unit's price? By using more data points, stores can raise the car's price before the customer even shows up at the store. By increasing the price, you have a better chance to get shoppers that viewed the car to submit a lead, call, or visit the dealership. By acting instead of waiting, you can sell vehicles faster and at more profitable prices. Before the implementation of AI, this was nearly impossible to do. Noah went on to explain that the studies his company has completed indicate that, "Aggregated customer click behavior analysis on a Vehicle Listings was at least five times more accurate than looking at VDPs / SRPs when trying to predict the sale of a vehicle in the next seven days."   Today's smart dealers are utilizing every piece of information; their website can increase both gross and turn. It is much more fun to work with the customers that are hot on a unit versus relying on the activity of the 'window shoppers.' For more information on how your dealership can take advantage of some of the new AI technology, feel free to contact me at matt@dealerslink.com.   
Are You Fishing in a Crowd?

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Growing up in Wyoming, I learned many lessons about the value of being in a secluded place and not being surrounded by a crowd. One memory that standouts in my mind, was when I was in Yellowstone National Park. There is a really terrific tourist bridge on the north end of Yellowstone Lake that funnels countless cutthroat trout into the Yellowstone River. From the bridge, the river winds hundreds of miles before dumping into the Missouri River. Fishing Bridge as it is called, was made from old timber in 1937 and still remains standing open to passenger and vehicle traffic today.  If you have ever been to the bridge; you know how busy it can get. While you can no longer fish from the bridge due to the decline of the fish population, at one time you could place your pole in the water and without a doubt catch a fish. I remember being told that during the fall months finding a fish from the bridge could be much more difficult because the fish went to deeper waters of the lake. However, because Fishing Bridge had a reputation for being the best fishing hole in the West, anglers continued to fish from the bridge even though they knew that it was the wrong time of year. Most fishermen during the fall months left the bridge with looks of disappointment and little fish to show for their days' work.  In a lot of ways, that old fishing bridge reminds me of auction houses in today’s competitive car market. In general, when there are a lot of fisherman, usually the good fish are gone fast and at a premium price. However, few dealerships buyers will change what they have always done to get the bigger fish. Outside of the auction house, the used car market has many options for the dealership to acquire more units. Most dealers continue to believe that the only place to fish is the auction. Some dealers unfortunately look at other sourcing places for used cars as inefficient, taking too much time or money to make it worth their effort. When looking for places to source cars dealers need to be able to think outside the box.  Here are a few locations where dealers can source inventory outside of trades and the in-person auction houses. Online Auctions -  DealersLink , OVE, SmartAuction, ACV, BackloCars OEM Lease Returns Websites Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Local Classifieds Private Party - Drive by Units Dealership Database Mining - Email and Phone Campaigns Dealership Service Lane Automotive Classified Websites - Private Party Listings -  Cars.com ,  AutoTrader ,  CarGurus.com AutoTrader/ Kelly Blue Book Instant Trade-In-Offer eBay Listings Would you go fishing with everyone on one bridge or would you rather row out in a boat and get the best fish? Sourcing used cars is very similar. Don’t get me wrong, auction houses all have their place in today’s used car market. They do serve a valuable function to dealers as a way for them to buy and source vehicles. However, living off trades and auction purchase is not the only way to find great vehicles to stock for your lot. Start thinking outside the box and you will be surprised what you come across.    
8 Tips to Consider Before You Drop the Price...

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Have we forgotten, or worse, have we failed to teach new sales managers some of the methods in selling aged inventory outside of having to discount the price? The perspective in our industry over the past ten years is that the only way to sell an aged used car is to drop the price until it sells. While it can be an effective strategy; it costs the store gross profit, and is not the only strategy that a sales or inventory manager can use to help sell aged inventory. Situations like this require managers to step back in time–before the power of the mighty internet–and remember the methods used to move aged inventory without dropping the price. Here are a couple of offline and online tips that I use when trying to move an aged piece of inventory other than dropping the price. Drive the car. While a simple tip; it is often overlooked or not executed due to all the tasks and stressors Sales Managers encounter during the business day. With all those daily tasks and management duties rarely does the aged inventory get driven to see if something is wrong with the unit. Does the vehicle need tires? Is it dirty from sitting on the lot for over 60 days? Did the reconditioning team miss something? Whatever the issue may be, take personal responsibility for getting it fixed. Put the aged inventory piece on one of your lot's "hot spots." A good sales manager should know the best drive-by spots on the physical lot. Make sure to park aged inventory pieces on the "hot spots" to ensure drive-by traffic gets a good look at the unit. Merchandise the unit with stickers and signs to help increase interest from drive-by customers. Make sure to use bright colors. Also, it is a good time to reprint the vehicle window stickers and buyer's guides to make sure they are clean and professional. Pay salespeople spiff on aged inventory units. It is pathetic that some stores pay a measly $50 mini to a salesperson who spends hours with a customer to move an aged piece of inventory. More likely than not, commission -based salespeople are going to attempt to move a customer off an aged inventory vehicle to increase their gross. Salespeople might also conclude that aged inventory might have something potentially wrong with the vehicle. Therefore, why would they want to spend hours of their time for a mini and know that the inventory has the potential for a dissatisfied customer in the future? One way to combat this inherent problem is to reward salespeople with a rolling top 5 aged inventory list. If the unit is aged, allow a 50% paid commission or, if the vehicle is being sold below cost, reward the salesperson with a large minimum commission of $500 for each aged sold inventory piece. Make it worth the salespeople's time to sell aged inventory and it will help. Use banners and photo overlays to make the unit stand out online. A simple highlighting of a special feature that isn't always easily seen from the first picture; this simple method can go a long way to increase clicks on a car. Re-photo the vehicle. So many times, the vehicle images are taken while it was snowing, or the leaves on the trees are changing. After 60-90 days the season has changed. Take time to go out and retake the photos and update the vehicle's images. Change the first image of the vehicle online from the exterior image to an interior image. The interior shot has been shown to get more clicks as it sparks curiosity. Previous online viewers of the vehicles may see it with a fresh set of eyes. Re-write the vehicle description. Highlight the vehicle features, pricing, and also the work that was completed to make your unit stand out above the rest. Margin compression is a reality in the market today; however, as a dealer, you can take additional steps to market your vehicle inventory better and maintain more gross. It takes time and effort; nonetheless, in the long run, the gross profits are worth it.