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Jim Bell

Jim Bell Performance Manager

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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? 

With so many great tools in our tool boxes, we all have to find a way to stand out.  One of the speakers said this week that a lot of dealers are just like “Where’s Waldo?”  So many dealers will respond the same way, keep on emailing and leaving the same messages, etc.  What are you going to do to stand out when a lot of the dealers are using similar, if not, the same tools as yourself? 


I know that our budgets have been under a microscope over the last month or so.  So what makes a lead source a ‘good’ lead source?  I know that when we are doing our ROI tracking, we are using a five times our spend rule.  If the source isn’t generating the five times the spend, you may want to consider eliminating them.  I know that the vendors that we use will ask how they are doing with the ROI for our store since they know that we are using that rule. 

When looking at the third party sites, look at the cost per vehicle detail page (VDP).  We look at trying to be at somewhere around a dollar per VDP.  We all have heard that more and more customers are just showing up at our doorsteps to see a particular vehicle as dealers become more transparent.  Not only look at the VDPs, but also look at the map views and other actions on each provider on a per vehicle basis.   

I can’t say what is the best or worst lead source.  It is different in every market and I don’t think that there is one silver bullet.  I know that one lead source isn’t working well for me in my area, but it is working great on the other side of the country.  It could be due to marketing efforts on the providers, or it just could be where those leads are being pulled from.  I would recommend checking out the vendor reviews here on Driving Sales to see what others have to say about them.   

Social Media

Obviously, social media has been a hot topic this year and will only get bigger in the years to come.  Todd Smith referred to social media as the new “new neon lights” in the automotive industry.  It is so true since neon back in the ‘60s, ’70, and ‘80s was huge.  The bigger and brighter the neon, the better.  That is where social is. 

So many dealers jumped into social media this year with the Facebook pages with iPad give aways and twitter with inventory posts.  I will say one thing.  It all comes down to content and interaction within these mediums.  Also, remember that social media isn’t just Facebook and Twitter.  There is a lot more to it than just that.  Look at blogs, YouTube, and other avenues to take advantage of.  But before just jumping in feet first, make a plan.  Take baby steps in what you do on the social front.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Just take your time, make a plan, and take baby steps. 

Online Reviews

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago about putting all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to reviews.  Spread them out among the different websites since your potential customers are on upwards of an average of 18 different website in researching vehicles.  According to, they say that a consumer is four times more likely to submit a lead or request for more information when a dealer does have reviews.  Come up with a plan and execute it.

Your steps to success

Make a plan for 2012.  We all know that success is a result of people, process, and execute.  Without a plan, it probably won’t happen.  You need a map to go where you are going, right?  I heard last week during a football game that you can have all of the talent in the world, but if the coach isn’t getting full buy-in from the team from the top down, your result may be failure. 

I said this at the Kain workshop this week.  Surround yourself with great people in the industry.  Get involved in the online communities like Driving Sales.  Get involved on twitter if you aren't.  There are a lot of awesome people to help out and lend an ear or give advise on there.  Engage, learn from others, and don't be afraid to reach out to those that post online.  We are all here to learn something and find something to apply to your dealership.    

What areas are you going to focus on next year? 



Bryan Armstrong
Jim, Great as always! It's funny that so many of the things you mentioned as "Hot Topics" from the past year were things that had been discussed the PRIOR year and before on DrivingSales and other progressive forums. Makes me a little sad, quite frankly, that so many of my peers in this great industry are put in a reactive position by failing to plan or lack of empowerment to implement the very remedies that are needed. Planning for the year ahead WILL result in a better budget and effectiveness on all mediums. Maybe someday we'll get past the "$18k a Month for newspaper makes sense but $5k a Month for Social is ludicrous" mentality.
Russ Chandler
Great Article! We are focusing on creating a BDC department, raising our conversion and closing rates from the website/3rd parties. Chat is also a huge focus as well. Last but not least we definitely need some help collecting online reviews. We are a independent used only, 5 location dealership. Bring in 8600uv's average a month for this year. We have a new website launching on at the end of this month. I would love for any advice or resources for any of these topics if anyone has any. Thank you
Chris Costner
Well said Jim. Can always count on you to get the wheels turning upstairs. I do know I am constantly learning and looking to others for advice, ideas and suggestions. You are right with DrivingSales and Twitter you can capture so much. This year did move fast in not only time but everything around it including "social media." Many jumped it without a plan and you are right to get one in place now to continue into next year. I think the same can be said with ROI / Internet budgets. How many are really tracking it the right way? It is easy to not see sales from a certain provider and cross them off the list without looking at our own processes and performance. Great post.
Jim Bell
Russ....I am a firm believer of chat. We have been using chat for a little over a year now and it has returned my investment over 10x. I do have all of my chats outsourced as I feel it is difficult to do them correctly and effectively within the store. Sounds like you have great website traffic. Make sure that you are watching your conversion rates (trackable phone calls/forms submitted). Should be in that 3-5% range for sales.

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