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Jim's 2 Cents

Are You on the Bleeding Edge?

Do you want to be on the cutting edge or the bleeding edge? There is a fine line here and it all depends on how aggressive you want to be.  There have been a lot of new products out there in the automotive world that seem to be taking shape and showing success with the results. The reason this is being brought up is a friend of mine outside of the automotive industry has opened a hair boutique.  She has sculpted her business different than any others and has taken a huge risk and it is paying off and she is seeing great success.  She is now frustrated that a previous employee is taking the same business model that she has and is starting to see results.  I let her know that she is a leader and an innovator and not to let that get her down.  She just has to keep on going and doing her thing and worry about her own success.  When you see others copy what you are doing, you know that you are doing the right things and having success.    Now we are seeing companies copy off each ... Read Post

Social Alert!!!

We all know that we have to have a handle on Social Media these days to watch what people are saying online about us as a business.  Yesterday, I did my 4square check in at a local establishment and pushed to twitter mentioning Ed, as he likes to frequent McDonalds on occasion on 4square.  Ed had responded where he was eating through twitter.  Within minutes, Chili's responded to Ed and myself. The one thing that took me back was that Ed didn't mention @Chili's; He just said that he was there.  Chili's engaged immediately with "Thanks for coming in! Hope you enjoy your lunch!"   One thing that we all as dealers can learn from this that we have to make sure that we all have alerts set up when 'your dealership' is mentioned.  There are several tools out there to do this.  When someone wants to rant about a bad, or good experience, we can engage sooner than later. We all have to remember that being involved in socia... Read Post

When is it Right to Hire a Third Party for Social Media?

We all know there is a big push for getting social in the automotive industry, but when is it the right time to hire a company to oversee you social engagement? There are a few companies out there that will oversee your social marketing, but you have to be careful who you choose and how they spend money to gain likes, followers, etc.  What prompted this post is a post from one of the more well known companies out in the industry. They posted a link that was obviously promoted within Facebook and it looks like a disaster when you dig into it a little bit. On the surface it looks great! They have over 1100 likes on the post and 5 shares, but when you look at the comments and who liked the post, it's a mess. All of the comments are in a foreign language. When you click on who liked the post, it is a ton of people, but a good portion of them are from overseas and have 25 character plus names.  So how do dealers get true likes to their Facebook pages that will actually eng... Read Post

2013 Is Almost Here!

Can you believe it?  2013 is almost here.  I am reflecting on the last year and how the business has changed and how it will change in the year to come, that is, if we make it through December 21, 2012.  I am going through goals for next year and thought this would be something to pass along to the community.  How do you come up with your goals?  Are you looking at the last year or two and the different trends that are taking place?  That is one thing that I look at and focus on for our business at our dealership.   So how do you come up with the smart goals?  What is important to you and the dealership.  When making your goals, this is something to take into account. S - Be specific in your goals.  Don't be generic and say 'I want to increase sales through more website traffic' or something to that affect.  Be SPECIFIC and how you want to get to that next level. M - Make sure that they are mea... Read Post

CRM - Is it Your Best Friend?

  We have so many tools in the automotive business that we have to make sure that we are using them to our fullest potential.   When I got into the car business 16 years ago, I remember the days of the note card file boxes that I would keep on my desk.  Then in about 2001, I got my hands on a daily planner that I thought was the best thing since sliced bread.  I lived by that book for a long time.  Then that thing called a CRM came along.  I got my first look at one in 2003 and thought it was something that could revolutionize the auto sales industry.     Fast forward to 2012, and we are still using that CRM, but obviously has changed over the years with more and more features.  The problem I see is that I don’t see salespeople using it 100% of the time to their fullest potential.  This should be their best friend that they confide in and tell all of their stories to about customers.   A few months ago, a c... Read Post

Google Plus Local - Changes are Happening

  Last month, I had wrote about some changes that were possibly coming to Google Plus Local. (If you missed it, you can read it here.)  I just logged into our Google Plus Local page to check on our reviews and if anything needed to be addressed.  To my surprise, the ratings of 1-3 were gone.  They are now from Poor to Fair up to Excellent.   Google has listened to the retail environment and they are making those changes that I spoke of last month.  I did log out to see if it was possible to write a review as an anonymous writer, but that option isn't there....yet.  The gal that I sat next to on the plane did insinuate that it was coming that a customer would be able to write an anonymous review of a business.   I did notice the Zagit 30 point rating system was still in place, but in the review itself, it is in plain English.  Now having words that a potential customer will see and understand will he... Read Post

2013 is Around the Corner!

  As I look at the calendar, I can’t believe that October is right around the corner.  Where has this year gone?  It has been the year of mobile, social, and Google Plus and Local.  Now that we are going into the 4th quarter already, are you getting your strategies together for 2013?  Yes, I said 2013.  It is right around the corner.  Have you seen the growth that you wanted to see this year?  Are your profits down or up?  Where are you at and where do you want to be?  Now is the time to start strategizing for 2013 and an incredible year. On big thing that I see is salespeople need to get more social.  There are several in the industry that are doing it right, but so many do it wrong.  We all know what the social impact has been in the automotive industry has been. We see dealerships having their "like" pages on Facebook, YouTube channels, twitter accounts, blogs, and the list goes on and on.  Now... Read Post

Google Plus! There is Hope!!!

  Wednesday night, I had the honor of taking a red eye from Silicon Valley to the east coast.  I got to talking to a couple that was sitting next to me while we were ready to back away from the gate. She just happen to work for Google in the G+ Local project.  My eyes kind of lit up.  I was sitting next to someone that is one of the leads at Google for 5 hours on G+ Local.  With all of the changes over the last few months, I knew I had my chance to really try to get some behind the scenes thinking on the change.   I expressed my concerns that we all as dealers have with G+ Local, missing reviews, the requiring of having a G+ account to write a review, and the whole Zaget platform.  As I mentioned all of the above items, she shook her head in agreement and just said we know and there are some changes coming.   Google wants this to really succeed across the board. They are taking the feedback and trying to make the issues that we are... Read Post

Social Media - Are You Doing it Right?

  I love Social Media!  There are times when you throw a tweet or review out there and you wonder if anyone is listening.  Here's my story.  Last month, I was in Indianapolis for a swim meet for my daughter.  I use Priceline a lot when we go out of town for our swim meets just due to the savings that I can get through them.  I have never really had a 'bad' experience until then.  I had booked a room at the Hilton downtown Indy at a heavily discounted rate.  I ended up paying $79/night on one of the busiest weekends of the year in Indy with the Brickyard 400 going on.  I was a little surprised I got a room downtown at that price.  Whenever I book my rooms, I will call the hotel after I get my confirmation to request 2 beds since I am traveling with my family and have never had any problem.  They made a note in the computer system for my request.   We had gotten done with my daughter's morning session at... Read Post

Take Some P.R.I.D.E.

    Yesterday was my daughter's first day of school.  The school has taken a stance and pledge for the students to maintain a standard in our school system.  All of the students had to sign a P.R.I.D.E. contract.  While I was reading through it, I thought to myself this can be applied in everyday life and business and also looked at when we are interviewing a prospective employee. Professionalism: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person We all want our employees to be professionals in what we do.  If you look at the athletes at the Olympics, they don't just show up for practice and see what happens.  They are always working toward their goal of getting a medal for their country.  Our employees are the same way.  They have to show up to work.  Not just show up, but actually work a system and prospect and actually get on the phones with customers and prospective ... Read Post

Sneak Peek at Some Possible Autotrader Products

  I had the opportunity to take part in a Focus Group for Autotrader that was facilitated by Morepace.  It consisted of 7 dealers from across the country and the topic was some new products that Autotrader is considering bringing to the marketplace.  The session lasted about an hour and a half and was interesting at best. The first of the products introduced to us was called Deal Builder.  Deal Builder was a two part product that Autotrader is considering.  The first part consists of payments within the SRP and the VDP.  With their partnership with DealerTrack, they are able to pull rates and residuals through the banks that you as the dealer use.  There were a lot of mixed emotions with this product within the group.  With the product, you can select what vehicles you want to have payments and you set the backend reserve for the Finance office.  One of the big concerns was that we are so focused on inventory turn and pricing vehicl... Read Post

3 C's to Success - Character, Commitment, and Capacity

  There are three things that will make assure success not only in the automotive business, but in everything that you do in life. They are the three C's; character, commitment, and capacity.   Character: the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. The automotive business has been brutal on reputations just due to several experiences over the years that has left a bad taste in people's mouths and makes them hate dealing with us as automotive professionals. We can be seen as untrusted, deceitful, pushy, shifty, etc.; but how do we overcome that?  We have to be strong in our beliefs and what we stand for in the business.  We never try to be untrustworthy or deceitful, but we have that preconceived stereotype that hangs over our heads.  We have to be able to build trust with that prospect that we are dealing with and tear down those walls and perception of ... Read Post

What's Your Brand?

  So what is your brand?  I'm not talking about what brand you sell, but how are you branding yourself?  We all know Jared as "Superman."  Ricky Walters as UCR a.k.a., Used Car Ricky. Kathi Kruse as Kathi Kruse sitting in the convertible.  Tracy Myers is always in the Uncle Sam hat.  Jeff Kershner has the same picture on every site as his profile picture.  When we see "Think Tank Tuesday", we think of Paul Protratz.  The 'Everyday I'm Hustlin'" of course is Craig Belowski.  When we see that crazy girl behind the wheel, we think of Renee Stuart.  You see the PCG in red and you think of Brian Pasche and his crew.  So what is your brand? A report was just released recently that an average Facebook user has over 600 social connections.  That is HUGE!  I also heard that 1 in 8 people on Facebook are looking for or are in the market for a new or used car.  That would mean that... Read Post

Are You All E.A.R.S.?

  It happens in no matter what industry you are in. It is bound to happen that you may just have a customer come in the showroom today that isn't 100% happy about something. It could be that a car wasn't there when they got there that they saw online down to a clean for delivery that wasn't satisfactory. It happens everyday whether we know it or not. Some may be just more vocal than others about their dissatisfactions.   The other day I was at AT&T taking care of an issue with one of our phones. A customer walks in and starts dropping language like he just came out of the service and off the ship. (I wanted to say "earmuffs" to my kids.) I watched everything transpire and the manager stepped in and asked the customer to leave immediately due to his language. He didn't bother asking what the issue was, but just dismissed him from the store. The manager could have tried to slow the customer down a little and try to get to the bottom of the ... Read Post

The Backbone to the Dealership - Are You Using it?

We all have great tools to use in the automotive business, but the question is do we use them to their fullest potential?  The products that we use on a daily basis is only as good as we use them.  The one that I know that I am in about 24/7 is the CRM.  Yes, there are a lot of them to choose from in the marketplace, but bottom line comes down to the user and actually using it.  I thought of this while I was watching Joe Webb's new video on a Long Day at the Car Dealership (see below). When I saw Arnold clicking left message and lost, and dead, I wonder to myself how many times this happens in the dealership? I want to specifically hit on the "left message", "lost sale", and "dead deal".  I have no idea what percentage of customers that leave the dealership without buying don't get any follow up at all.  I am going to venture to say that it is a very high percentage.  I know that we are all guilty of i... Read Post

Takeaways From the GooglePlex

  Last week, I had the opportunity with about 100 other dealers to attend the Digital Summit at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA.  It was an experience in itself just to be at the Googleplex.  There was great info at this conference shared by Googlers (employees of Google) and some industry leaders. The week kicked off with Todd Rowe and how are you defining your market.  Are you defining it by the company down the street, the local market, or something else?  The big thing is that there is so much 'stuff' that we are competing against when coming to online marketing.  It isn't just dealers, but also some of the big hitters like Autotrader and cars.com.  We all have to get smart, get involved, and get excited. Next up was Guy Kawaski talking about being "Enchanting."  Guy was a dynamic speaker and I loved everything that he had to offer in being enchanting.  Big takeaway from Guy was achieving ... Read Post

What's Your in-spuh-rey-shuhn?

We all have an inspiration to be the best that we can be.  I hope that you all read for that inspiration.  We all have a different inspiration and drive to make us the best in the industry.  One thing that I have noticed over the years are how coaches are.  They for some reason give the best inspirational speeches ever.  As managers within the marketplace, we have to be like those coaches.  Take a look in the mirror and think about your sales meetings with your teams.  Here are a few tips that I like to take into account when having meetings with our team.   We have to give your team that inspiration to do better.   Have a plan when you go into your sales meetings. Remember, the goal for sales meetings is to pump your team up, not brow beat them because of what may have or may not have happened the day prior. Give praise to those who deserve it.  When given praise in public, that may just give that extra kick in th... Read Post

Your Diamond in the Rough - Facebook's Instagram

This week, Facebook acquired Instagram for 1 billion dollars.  So what is the significance of this in the automotive industry or any industry for that matter?  Take a look at it in a different way.  Look at a dealership as Facebook in this role and Instagram as a newbie wanting to be successful in a different profession.  Instagram came out of nowhere and is not a money maker by any means.  It has been one of the fastest growing social networks in the last few months.  It has made zero dollars in the 500 days that they have been available on the market and now a billion dollar business.  So what did Mark Zuckerberg see in Instagram?  He obviously saw something that we didn’t since he just paid one billion dollars for it.  We have been actively looking for that diamond in the rough and have found that hiring outside the automotive industry; we have had some success and grooming that person to what we want them to be.  Take a ba... Read Post

The Secret to My Success

  I hope that this caught your attention because I do have a secret.  I was reading this week's issue of Automotive News on Monday and there is an article on page 24.  If you don't get it, or your owner or GM hangs onto it for a few weeks and then passes it around, go find it.  It is about Internet Leads.  It basically comes down to how much dealers are not responding effectively to i-leads. The survey was conducted by Piper of Monterey and shopped 4331 different dealerships and brands.  Here are some of their findings: Nearly 1 in 4 queries went unanswered within the first 24 hours. Only 16% of the leads submitted received an auto-responder.  I know that there is room for argument whether or not to have one, but I was surprised how low that number was. Breaking it down by brand, there were some shocking things brought to the surface.  You would think that Toyota/Scion would be great in responding to leads since it is... Read Post

Let's Accessorize!

I am hearing across the industry from people all over the country that February was an incredible month. We are no different. Not only did we have a great month, the Parts Department had a record month as well. Living in the snow belt, we would expect that to be with a successful Body Shop. This year has been different though since we have had a mild winter. We have only moved cars 2 or 3 times to plow. Body Shop is holding its own, but has a little less business since mother nature decided to get with the global warming this year. So how did the Parts Department have a great month with wholesale to the Body Shop down? Two words...Accessory Sales. When a customer decides on their new or certified vehicle of choice, the salesperson will get all of the paperwork together for the Business Department and then while waiting, ask the customer how they would like to "personalize their new________." I have no idea what the percentage of customers that decided to purchase accessor... Read Post

Are You Selling the Sizzle or the Steak?

The other day I was at Panera Bread.  As I was sitting there eating my lunch during the busy lunch hour, I watched 8 people walk in the door within 45 minutes, and every single one said something to the effect of being too busy and “let’s go somewhere else.”  This was all within an earshot of employees that were helping clean tables.  Not one word was said to any of those customers as they just turned and walked out.  What if those employees were able to offer them a cookie or a pastry to keep that customer there and have a great lunch?  Would that have been enough to keep that customer in the restaurant?   Most managers have gotten a call or an email in their career where the customer states, “I was on the lot for 5 minutes and wasn’t helped.  I left and bought a car down the street that same day.”  So what is that first impression when we don’t help that customer?   Most dealerships wi... Read Post

DealerSocket Hits NADA 2012 with BIG Enhancements

DealerSocket hits the market with 3 new products within their CRM to take them to the next level at NADA in Las Vegas this week.  I was able to get a sneak peek of the 3 new features that they are rolling out last week that should bring their CRM up towards the top of the market.   The first part of the CRM enhancement is SocketTalk.  SocketTalk is a fully integratable texting feature within the CRM that will store everything in the history of the customer file.  When you click on the button to text a customer from within the CRM, it will open up a window and look like a text string like an iPhone.  You can also have instant messaging between employees that will pop up on the desktop.  The other nice feature is that it will integrate with your DMS so that when a customer’s vehicle is done in service, it will also alert them when the RO is closed.  Everything is opt in to cover any state and local laws to make sure that they dealership i... Read Post

Let's Go Farming!

  One thing that some salespeople have a hard time with is trying to stay busy in the slower months. They maybe sitting in your showroom at the window waiting for the next up. Just like a farmer, you have to work on your fields or current customers/prospects. There are so many things that they can do while they are waiting for that 'up' by farming their database. Most dealerships do have a CRM of some sort. The salesperson can go through and see all of their sales for as long as the database has been in place. They can do some of the following: Make anniversary calls - 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 year. Make birthday calls. Call the day before their birthday. So many appreciate that call from their 'car guy or gal.' Make renewal calls with customers that their lease is up within the next 6 months. They have to do something soon so stay in front of them. Make a renewal call when a customer is 12 months from maturity of their purchased vehicle. We need... Read Post

300% and More!

We all have to face it; the internet has changed the way our business has been conducted.  It has affected used cars and now with the whole dare I say it, TrueCar (I won’t open that can of worms) movement; customers want transparency. Are you giving it 300% so far this year?  Yes, I said 300%.  What I mean by that is are you presenting to 100% of the customers that you talk to?  Are you presenting 100% of the options to the customers?  And are you doing this 100% of the time?  With transparency taking over our business models, we have to try to stand apart from the others.  What makes you different from the guy down the street selling the same vehicle? I know that this is a lot of basics, but how many times does a customer walk in the showroom and announce, “Who wants to sell a car today?” and go right to a desk and go to numbers without a presentation?  I know we are all guilty of it at on... Read Post

Do the Underpants Gnomes Know the Car Business?

I was talking with another internet manager the other day and this video came up.  There are dealers out there still that are flying by the seat of their pants and don't really have a plan like the Underpants Gnomes. Phase 1. Get Underpants (Go out and acquire cars) Phase 2. ?? Phase 3. Profit (or lack there of) Without a phase 2, there will be no profit in the automotive industry and the dealership maybe on their way out.  With the way that dealerships are getting to be more and more transparent, this will definitely knock those dealers out because they have a plan 2 when it comes to marketing and merchandising their vehicles. So if you are a dealership that doesn't have a phase 2, start one sooner than later.  If you don't, you will feel the hurt.  Get a plan in place.  Get the vehicles online as soon as possible with photos, descriptions, and video.  Make yourself stand out from the others.  Yo... Read Post

What's Going on With the Leads? Could it be ZMOT?

  So how is your 2011 ending up for you?  Did you get to where you want to be in sales objectives?  Did you hit your goals for the different internet sales teams, sales departments, or the BDC? Over the last several months, I have heard from several dealerships from around the country that their internet leads seem to be down.  Sales seem to be up, but not the leads.  I have heard some dealers being somewhere around 10, 20, and upwards of 30% down from where they are "normally" are with their leads.  Yes, leads may be down, but is your floor traffic down? As you are looking at your 2012 advertising budgets, this is something to consider.  I was doing a little research within our back end tools that we have available to us from cars.com and Autotrader.  I came across a report that was intriguing to say the least.  It is the "Sold Inventory Report."  Some of this may connect the dots with your sales.  Here... Read Post

Planning for 2012 and Beyond

  Here we are, it’s already the end of 2011.  Where has the year gone?  We have seen a lot of changes over the year with Google places, how reviews are showing on search results, social media taking the forefront in the automotive business, and much more.  I just got home from the Kain Automotive Workshop in Lexington, KY.  So much information, best practices, and some great ideas were shared over a two and a half day period. One of the big topics was about planning for 2012.  Yes, it is right around the corner.  We as dealers have to evaluate what has and hasn’t worked for us, evaluate our budgets and where to spend our money the most effectively, and we also have to see what areas in the business that we as dealerships have to focus on.  What are those areas?  Is it just some basics like multiple photos, social media, responding to internet leads effectively, online reviews, or any other processes that need tweaked?&nb... Read Post

Dale Pollak Hits with a Tsunami-A Review of Provision

Dale Pollak has made a lot of ripples in the automotive industry over the last few years with vAuto.  He just announced today Provision (the new stocking feature with vAuto) is going to cause not just a ripple, but a tsunami in stocking your inventory to perform at the dealership’s maximum potential.  Last year, vAuto was acquired by Autotrader, which no one really knew why.  Well, today, we know.  He is taking the stocking feature of vAuto to the next level which no one can touch with using data from Autotrader. I was fortunate to see Provision at a 20 group meeting 2 months ago just to get a taste of what was to come.  After the meeting, we contacted Dale to see if there was a way to get on the Beta version of the new stocking tool which he with some hesitation and parameters set forth, he said yes.  We have been able to play in the Beta version for about the last month or so and I will say that it is going to take stocking to the next level fo... Read Post

Dear Mr./Ms. Customer

Dear Mr./Ms. customer:   The market is ever changing in the automotive business and you and the internet has driven that for us auto dealers.  No longer can we be deceitful, lie about previous owners and service history, trade-in values, or pricing of vehicles on our lot.  Almost all of the information is out there for you to find.   The internet has changed everything. You can't offer us thousands of dollars off asking price anymore because we don't have the thousands of dollars of mark-up that we used to.  The internet has changed it so that we have to price vehicles to be competitive in the market place or they won't sell at all or you won't consider coming in to look at our vehicle or even click on it to look closer at it on the Internet.   You and the market are driving the price, not the dealership.   We have to be more and more transparent for you before you even walk in the door. That is why you will see 1... Read Post

Online Reputation Management - Are All Your Eggs in One Basket?

We've all heard the statement "are all your eggs in one basket?"  But are all your eggs in one basket when it comes to online reviews?  A couple of months ago, we all learned that lesson when Google changed the way of the star ratings on the Google Places page and only counting the Google reviews in the star ratings on the search results.  I heard of some dealers go from 400+ reviews to less than 20 Google reviews due to focusing on one review site.  I think we all look at reviews in making a large purchasing decision and we may even hit a few different websites to see what people have to say.  It is no different when it comes to vehicle purchases.  I never really saw the importance of being diversified when it comes to online reviews until this week when I attended a seminar hosted by cars.com. What cars.com found in their tracking within their site was 73% of used car shoppers did consult and read the online reviews of the dealership... Read Post