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I recently spoke with Nathan Scripps, winner of the DrivingSales inaugural Strategies contest. Nathan’s strategy, “The Long Spiff,” was rated the highest by our members. Last week, I had the pleasure of personally delivering Nathan’s prize, a new MacBook Air, to him at Jumpstart’s very cool offices in San Francisco’s “Media Gulch.” In addition to being the director of digital advertising for Jumpstart Automotive Media, Nathan’s an active member in the DrivingSales community and well-versed in how dealerships can tap the Internet to be more efficient and successful. Not to mention, Nathan’s a very sharp guy. Here’s a write up from our conversation.
JH: Thanks again for your contributions in the first Strategies contest, Nathan. You submitted not one, but two great strategies that were highly rated by our members. Tell us a little about your background.
NS: I grew up in the south, in the Birmingham, Alabama area. My father has been selling cars for over 20 years, so I grew up in and around a dealership. Trying to escape both Alabama and the auto industry, I studied mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. That led to working for General Electric as an engineer in manufacturing power generation equipment. As my duties expanded, I realized that I liked the relationship building aspects of business better than engineering, so I began to look for ways to get into sales and business development. This was all about four years ago, and at that time I was lucky to find an opportunity with Jumpstart; it seemed natural to come back into the automotive world. I changed coasts and changed careers and I haven't looked back since.
JH: Tell us a little bit about what you do at Jumpstart and how long you’ve been with them.
NS: Currently, I’m a director of sales and have been with the company for over three and a half years. I started as an inside sales rep in San Francisco, then did outside sales, managing all of Florida from my home in Tampa, then back to the SF headquarters to head a small sales team with a national territory of our largest dealer clients. After a few years of almost non-stop travel, I am happy my new role keeps me home a bit more. I'm now transitioning into working with partnership and business development in the local area.
JH: What interested you in what we’re doing on DrivingSales.com and how long have you been a member?
NS: I’ve been a member for several months now. Really, I joined after we talked about DrivingSales at a convention earlier this year, I believe it was Digital Dealer. Back then, you still had a small user base, and I was just one of a few members. In the past couple months, since you’ve opened the community, it’s really taken off.
JH: Yeah, we’ve been real pleased with the traction we’re getting. We’re now well past a thousand members. What are your favorite features?
NS: The strategies, blogs, comments – it’s all great. I think you are spot on to gather all that intel. in one place. And I think the strategy competitions are a great way to build the membership and the content – your members are the ones with the experience – the stories to be told. I can see the site is really growing, and it's cool to be a part of it. Winning a new Mac for contributing popular content isn't a bad deal, either!
JH: What are some of the benefits you’ve seen, and how do you think the network is benefiting others in our industry?
NS: I'm just really happy to see the content grow organically; it's really grassroots. Dealers, vendors and other members are really coming together to make the industry better. I think it’s unfortunate that dealers, dentists, and lawyers are in the same group… people to avoid. My dad never fit that mold and I never saw the industry that way. I am happy to work with car dealers; they are often the best businessmen in town. This site, the Driving Sales community, can help turn that perception around. Everyone can help to make each other better.
JH: You took the words right out of my mouth. What do you think is most important to help dealerships in the current economic environment?
NS: I really feel passionately about the value of long-term strategy. Dealers (or any business) will be more successful if they align employee incentives with long-term goals. You can't fix the 30th on the 15th, but a lot of dealers and GMs keep trying. The dealers I work with who plan and implement long-term strategies have a huge competitive advantage. They simply do better than dealers who focus only on the week or the month.
Also, really take a hard look at what you're doing with your marketing. If you're still focused on doing the old stuff (newspaper, TV, and radio), and Internet is an afterthought, then you can bet you're losing sales opportunities and not getting the best return on your marketing investment. I know that there are dealers out there who severely limit their online marketing budget, or just use what's left over after they spend on traditional media. That's not what works today. Vehicle shoppers are online every day; you can target them very specifically and in most cases only pay for people who see or use your ads and keywords. You can't really do that with traditional media. With online marketing you can decrease your overall marketing spend and maintain or grow sales volume.
Unfortunately, during tough times, what I've seen many dealerships do is cut to a profit, killing the newest line items first. That is often online spending, simply because they're new and either not fully understood or haven’t been in play long enough to make an impact. I really question why the first thing to go when cars stop moving is the marketing budget. It doesn’t make sense to me that when nobody is walking in your doors, you stop inviting them in. It’s the lean times, like we are in now, that I would lean most heavily on direct response, super targeted marketing. Make every dollar work on getting a shopper in your door, save building brand for later. That was pretty much my second strategy on your site, but I guess “The Long Spiff” just had a catchier title.
JH: What do you think are the most important benefits of social networking, and what are your thoughts about social media in general?
NS: Most dealers realize the precious value of friends and family referrals. Now they need to realize that these referrals take place both online and off. Now, for example, if I'm looking for a product, I can go to Amazon.com and see reviews from hundreds or thousands of "friends" I don't know, but whom I trust, often because of the sheer volume of reviews. As expanded online networks grow, they are going to affect dealers more and more. Consumers have access to more user reviews and comments, both for specific vehicles and for specific dealerships. Think of it like an expanded friends and family network, and remember they can say whatever they want after they walk out of the dealership. Only now, they can tell a whole lot more people about their experience with you.
JH: Why don’t you tell us a bit about what Jumpstart offers to dealers?
NS: We provide automotive marketers access to the best automotive audience available today. Specifically, for dealers, we offer customized display advertising, search engine marketing (SEM) and new car leads. The true strategic advantage we offer is the automotive audience within our family of publishers. Our partner publishers include NADAguides.com, Vehix, Consumer Guide Automotive, JD Power Autos, Shopping.com, CarandDriver.com, RoadandTrack.com, CarSoup.com, U.S.News.com, HybridCars, and CarGurus. An average of thirteen million automotive shoppers visit these websites each month, giving our marketers access to vast majority of consumers in the market for vehicle purchases. Our partnerships and consumer access give our dealers a tremendous reach and provide Jumpstart a unique knowledge of the way consumers research and shop for vehicles online.
In addition, we have an in-house team of SEM professionals and an in-house creative group called Jumpstart Labs, giving our clients access to leading-edge talent that works closely with each client. We customize the placement and design for each of our dealers, based on their unique needs. We don't just offer packages or templates. We take the time to understand our clients and analyze their individual needs. We're very involved with the dealerships and their campaigns. Since we serve all three tiers of automotive, we have a unique position to gain insight and provide better services.
JH: Excellent. Well, with that being said, we’re very lucky to have you as part of the DrivingSales community!
Nathan can be reached at Jumpstart Automotive Media. On the web at www.jumpstartautomotivemedia.com; by phone at (415) 738-3434 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.