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Jared Hamilton
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DSES Speaker Profile: Mike Merrill

Ask Mike Merrill what’s important and he’s likely to tell you that what you do for others -- the service you give and the impression you make -- is what matters most. Indeed, he’s built a career of service and influence, professionally and personally. Like the time he led the effort to raise almost $12,000 in seven days for the Red Cross to support the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. Or the time he launched “Ignite Dallas”, a five minute series of evening speeches by people with an idea and the guts to get onstage and share it.

There’s more, to be sure. For 14 years Mike has gained experience in providing smart marketing and technology insights for large (Fortune 500) to small (venture-backed startups) companies. That expertise is a boon for attendees at this year’s DrivingSales Executive Summit, where Mike will share critical insights about word of mouth marketing and local social media influencers. Recognized by Fortune, interviewed by Dallas-area radio and television news programs and published as a writer for digital publications like MediaPost and iMedia Connection, His passion for social media community building has resulted in a body of work that reads like a best practices handbook.  Currently the Director of Marketing for ReachLocal, he is also the founder and CEO of Bacon Marketing, a consulting firm focused on social media marketing, corporate and personal branding, product marketing and technology sales. At this year’s DSES, Mike will help dealerships identify and leverage local influencers for dealership word of mouth. We can’t wait to learn more!

DSNews: What can #DSES attendees expect to hear from you?
MM: Word of mouth marketing is one of the most trusted sources of online marketing today. Online influencers with targeted local networks can help drive awareness for your dealership, various new car launches and service initiatives through the myriad of rich media social sharing solutions. But how do you identify and enlist the right local influencer to make a splash? How do you provide them with the media materials and content to put your dealership in a positive light? I want dealers to walk away recognizing the importance of using local influencers and how to identify them. Lastly I hope to share a few ideas on how to arm the influencer with the content needed when describing their experience at the dealership or when test driving a car.

DSNews: What do you love about the car business, or digital marketing?
MM: The automotive industry is such an anchor of our economy and for most people represents one of the first large purchases they will make in their adult life. Therefore, consumers remember their purchase experience deeply, whether positive or negative. I’ve always been fascinated by the romanticism surrounding auto advertising and marketing. As the digital marketing industry has grown it provides for a level of measurement and ROI critical to the continued evolution of reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message. More importantly, with digital it breaks down the barriers so that even the smallest dealership can effectively leverage the right content marketing strategy and tools to reach local customers.

DSNews: What’s your passion? What makes you get up early in the morning?
MM: I’ve spent the last 4 years educating and motivating business owners and marketers to recognize the power of online marketing with a specific focus on social media. With consumers spending more and more time online and in front of a mobile device, it’s imperative for businesses to understand how to integrate online in all marketing promotions. Secondly, I see tremendous opportunities for individuals to use social media to differentiate themselves online. Speaking and sharing this message is what stimulates me.

DSNews: What’s your best car memory?
MM: I grew up on a 10,000-unit pig farm in a rural area in southern New Mexico called Chaparral. I vividly remember getting my first Chevy pickup at 15 and the freedom it represented. Not only was it transportation, but also it allowed me to hang out with friends that were miles away. It was 18 miles each way to school so not having to ride the bus was a blessing.

DSNews: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
MM: Professionally, I’d say my biggest accomplishment was the launch of Dell’s Intelligent Classroom initiative when I was leading marketing for Dell’s Higher Education business. I lead a team to not only launch one of our first fully integrated offline and online campaigns, but also assembled the necessary partners and services model to help fulfill for customers. This initiative generated over $170MM in revenue since 2006. More importantly, it was a team effort that was well received by customers and I was able to brief Michael Dell on it before he discussed with the media. Let’s just say it was a very good day.

DSNews: Tell us about a recent dealership pain point that your team was able to solve.
MM: ReachLocal helps auto dealers throughout the US and in 9 other countries. One recent example highlighted the power of managing your online reputation. One of our Audi dealers in Boston was suffering from a negative reputation online and a blogger had written some pretty nasty articles that showed up in Google under the dealer’s business name. We put a plan together to improve the number of online reviews for this dealer by asking their existing customers. While we focused on DealerRater, we were able to help them generate over 240 reviews across the web (all positive).  Today if you search for the dealer’s name, their blog, website and social media accounts dominate the search results.

Often times the key to improving your reputation is making sure at every point of interaction with a customer you are asking them to share their experience. Managing your reputation is key to your online presence.

DSNews: What are the three topics dealers should be focused on as we head into 2013?
1. Content Marketing: Dealer marketers need to see everything through the lens of content. How can they not only showcase new cars and features but also the people and services dealerships provide? How can they best use sales reps to share content on their own personal social media accounts?
2. Mobile Marketing: Given that much of the impulse purchases are made while driving around, dealers should ensure they have mobile enabled advertising in place with mobile websites and inventory.
3. Search and Site Retargeting: As the price of search and site retargeting has become more attainable, look to leverage these two technologies to take advantage of consumers deep in the buying process who are expressing consideration of a purchase.

DSNews: Speaking at #DSES is…
MM: An opportunity to get to know the larger automotive ecosystem and talk about something I’m passionate about. I look forward to learning innovative marketing solutions from others and how dealerships are successfully implementing technology.

To learn more about Mike and his fellow Breakout Speakers, visit the #DSES website. Don’t forget to register!

Follow Mike on Twitter

---Brian Chee

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