Dealer Authority: A New Venture in Automotive Internet Marketing

Dealer Authority

Change is good, sometimes. We all have those moments in our lives when we just want to branch out on our own. This is my moment.

I’ve been working for TK/KPA for the last seven years. I have absolutely nothing but positive to say about the company. They’ve treated me better than I probably deserved and I believe we’ve had a mutually beneficial relationship – both parties have grown as a result. I plan on referring KPA for many of the services that I do not offer because looking at it from the inside and seeing what else is out there, I know that they have what it takes to help their dealer clients find amazing success.

With that said, the company is still a growing corporation and I have wanted to operate in more of boutique situation for a little while. As a result, I am launching my own automotive internet marketing firm that will focus on premium social, search, and content marketing services. Dealer Authority is not for every dealership. The expectations are high and the costs will match. For the vast majority of dealers, the power I’ll be bringing to the table would be overkill. For truly aggressive dealers wanting to make a huge impact on their marketing efforts, I’m here to help.

Check out the website, get a feel for the direction that I’m heading, and make a choice: are you ready to get aggressive?

5 Practical Social Media Tips You Can Use for Your Business

Silver Bullet

Now that we’ve inhabited the Web 2.0 world for a while, social media marketing has earned its rightful place in company marketing plans. Since the proliferation of social networking sites in the early 2000s, social media marketing has catapulted from a mere option to a key factor for businesses of all sizes.

Today, more and more small businesses and large brands are taking advantage of various platforms’ power and influence, with stats and case studies to justify their usage.

Here are five tips for business owners and entrepreneurs who are willing to tap into the marketing heft of social media marketing.

1. There’s no silver bullet

Just because the term “social media marketing” has huge buzz, doesn’t mean it’s a cure-all. As with other essential components of effective marketing plans, you need to invest time and energy not only from a strategic perspective, but also on a day-by-day tactical level.

It’s not enough to say you’ve hired someone to handle social media marketing. As a business owner, you need to equip that individual with the tools to do the job properly, and not become frustrated if you don’t see results overnight. The process is labor-intensive and requires motivation and guidance from the senior level of a company, on an ongoing basis.

2. Build your social network traffic

Businesses nearly double their online traffic after they pass 1,000 Facebook likes; and they generate more than 100 percent more web traffic if they have a minimum of 51 to 100 followers on Twitter versus those with 25 or fewer.

With regard to consumer purchases, most online users rely on social media to guide their buying decisions, or purchase a product or service on a recommendation. Most social media users are also more likely to buy a product or pay for a service with a firm that’s connected with all the major social networks.

In addition, LinkedIn business pages have the most number of generated customers, ahead of Twitter and Facebook.

3. Build trust via online reputation

Having a visible online reputation creates an instant transparency and credibility. In many instances, when a company pitches clients or another company to obtain their business, the latter will first check out that company’s and their executives’ profiles on social networks, including Klout (which ranks one’s social influence across all networks).

This due diligence supports a level of trust because they can review not only how active you are but also who has recommended and worked successfully with your firm in the past.

4. Engage with your followers

Because your followers voluntarily opt to receive your marketing messages on major social networks, don’t waste that opportunity: engage with them on a regular basis.

If you’re to be successful on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, you must constantly engage with your followers through conversation, unique offers, and question-and-answer sessions.

Showing your followers you truly are interested in their feedback is using these user-generated platforms for the purpose they were intended.

5. Printing and social media

No longer purchasing from third-party print shops, companies have assumed much of the responsibility for printing their own content — in the form of brochures, flyers, and promos. Owners are much more in control of the content they present to the world.

Hard copies are being generated out of the feedback from the firm’s social network engagements. It’s a smart move to follow up on your social media marketing successes by referencing them in your print media as well.

Recommendations for in-house printing

For your company’s printing needs, a great resource for any small or large business is XPDrivers.com. Lexmark’s current printer drivers can resolve driver conflicts, improve a computer’s stability, and restore communication within your company’s network of printers.

Using this website’s service will save your company money and prove an effective use of your time, so you can refocus on the larger responsibilities of social media marketing.

Rumor has it… Answering on Social Media 101

Rumor

There is a lot of advice online why your company, your brand or even you should have a social media presence. With new platforms popping up every day the profiles you can have to get your name out there are near endless. Any Social Media Marketing Company will advise you to have profiles on at least facebook and Google+ and rightfully so. Done right, social media can be your best friend, helping you to get your name recognized, attract and convert new customers.

Done wrong, well, there have been a few social media disasters in the past. Even by big companies with full-fledged social media teams.  While this may seem like basic advice, it is valuable and you can thank me later. With the advancement of technology and the onslaught of immediate online feedback, it may seem like common sense, but if it were, then there wouldn’t be a need to address it.

There are new people and businesses that enter the world of social media marketing every day. People who don’t understand that online reputation is a real thing, that people take online recommendations into serious account. Brightlocal conducted a survey that found that “85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses” and “73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more” With the rise of mobile, I predict this number will continue to grow.

That being said, you need to have a solid strategy in place with a timeline to answer questions, comments and concerns about your company. Why? Because “word of online” travels a lot faster than “word of mouth” and rumor has it that your company….

Did that make you cringe? It made me cringe as I wrote it; rightfully so. We all want to be the shining star online but sometimes even the best can’t keep everyone happy. So what do you do when rumor has it on social networks that your company isn’t as great as you know it should be?

  • Take a breath
    Sounds simple but isn’t. Sometimes we get feedback from customers and it may or may not be justified. They may be upset, demanding, rude and downright degrading. They try to rally the masses by pointing out the injustice that happened to them. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Take a step back and look at what happened. Think of positive ways to approach the comment.
  • Smile
    I know it’s harder but put yourself in a good mood to help yourself craft a positive response. If there is a problem, you are more than happy to fix it, because that is the motto of good customer service.
  • Type your response in Word first
    Or use a notepad if you want. The answer you craft now will be visible to everyone. This message will show your clients and potential clients how you handle negative feedback. Re-write it until it is something that you would be happy with as a disgruntled customer. Don’t use generic template responses. Customers want to be heard, understood and helped. Their situation is unique; treat it as such while staying fair and in the realm of reason.
  • Take the complaint(s) serious
    If you repeatedly receive complaints about your customer service for example, take it serious! This truly can impact whether or not you retain and attract new customers. If it is a consistent problem, look into it. Hire a consultant / trainer to teach your employees how to address and handle customers appropriately. Show that you are aware of the issue and that you are resolving it. Nothing screams “we don’t care” more than saying “we apologize for the bad experience” for 6+ months.
  • Don’t delete negative feedback
    As much as I wanted to link to an example of what not to do, how deleting comments will make you go viral in a bad way, I feel that they have suffered enough and that I can make my point without pointing fingers.
    Yes, it is absolutely tempting to hide or delete that comment that you felt was unjustified. But that’s how they felt and you are the reason why. Owning up to it may be hard but with a great response it goes a LONG way with customers.
  • Respond to Good and Bad feedback
    It’s tempting to respond to just good or just bad, but ideally you want to interact with your customers period. Let them know you hear them and care about their opinion. Build relationships with them that both sides value. Even if it is just a “Thank you” answer it has an impact.
  • Answer
    I’ve been pushing the positive response issue but that only works if you actually respond. While firing back a bad comment isn’t smart, neither is silence. Nothing is worse than silence online. Think of it this way. If you go to a restaurant and the food was cold, the server rude and you ask for the manager. He or she comes, you state your complaint and they just stare at you in silence. You complain again, they say NOTHING. Then they slowly disappear.. How would you feel? That’s exactly how your customer online feels. They are still a person behind the screen. It’s easy to forget, but that’s a topic for a different day.
  • Do NOT create FAKE reviews.
    This is really one of the worst things you can do. If you had some bad reviews and all of a sudden a lot of 5 star reviews start popping up everywhere, singing your praises.. then you don’t know how smart your customers are. They can smell a fake a mile away, they conduct research and they will call you out for it. And do NOT hire a company to write you reviews either. What happened in NY may happen to you one day. You can read more about the “Fake Review Crackdown” by Matt McGee if you think it’s a joke.
  • Deal with the Trolls
    It may be tough and unfair, but there will always be people who are out to stir the pot. They thrive on negative energy and to them it’s fun to post things to and about a business that are just not true. Best advice here, deal with it, don’t feed into it and take it with a sense of humor. Don’t let it get the best of you.
  • Learn
    There is an incredible amount of knowledge in reviews and comments online. If you learn the art of listening, you will hear what your customers want, need and even what they hate. It can be a tremendous resource to you if you take the time to talk to them and listen. Ask their advice even, they will tell you what they think the problem is. I am not saying you should take everything they say at face value, but learn with and from your customers, then adjust accordingly and within the limits of what is possible for you to do.

Rumor has it.. that you just understood the importance of good customer service in the world of social media. I also want you to really understand how fast “bad” news travels online. It’s instant. It spreads like wildfire. It becomes distorted as it gets passed on kind of like the whisper game I played as a kid. Be prepared, know how to respond, know what is going on in your business and make sure you communicate with your customers. Keep the line of communication open, so  ”Rumor has it” only stays a song.

Have you ever been at the receiving end of “rumor has it”? Share your stories and connect with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Good and Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Automotive Social Media Image Marketing

If you’re reading this, you’re probably failing at social media image marketing. That’s not me being cynical. By examining dozens of business social media presences every week, I get to see what so many are doing and the unfortunate fact is that 9 out of 10 are doing it wrong or not doing it at all. I’m being conservative with that estimate.

The “unfortunate” fact really isn’t that unfortunate, especially for those who are reading this. You see, you can actually do it right, which means that you’re going to have a leg-up on the competition. When things are too easy or too well known, they have a tendency to become universally good. When they’re universally good, that means that everyone is average.

Image marketing on social media is not about taking advertisements and posting them as images. It’s not about talking about your big sale next week in the form of a banner that you post to Twitter or Instagram (though there’s a way to do that which I’ll demonstrate below). It’s not even about taking pictures of happy customers in front of their latest purchase jumping in the air with the caption, “Oh what a feeling!”

Proper image marketing should accomplish some of the following goals listed in no particular order:

  1. Improve branding
  2. Promote an upcoming event
  3. Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product
  4. Connect with the community
  5. Make a statement
  6. Drive traffic to a landing page

It doesn’t have to do all of these. It can do one of them really well, a couple of them very well, or knock out three or four of them with a single post. To highlight this, I’ll use examples that I found in my Twitter feed just in the last couple of hours. This does not only apply to Twitter; Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook can all work nicely here.

It should be noted that size and aspect ratio are extremely important and arguably the biggest miss by most. Twitter has an aspect ratio of 2:1 while Instagram is 1:1. Small images don’t do as well. on any of the platforms. Pinterest is the only platform that does vertical images well. Appearance on mobile is more important than appearance on desktop. These and other technical aspects of image marketing will be covered in a future post. For now, let’s just look at the content…

 

Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These ones are bad. Don’t do these. I blocked out the business that posted one but I kept the one posted by Ram only because as a manufacturer, they should know better by now…

Bad Twitter Image Marketing

The image quality is poor. The car is cut off. There’s no visible branding for the dealership in the image. Overall, it’s extremely boring. This is not going to get anyone’s attention and nobody who sees it in their feed will care.

* * *

Bad Twitter Image Marketing 3

It’s a nice image of a mountain. Wait. Is that a truck at the bottom peeking up over the edge? It’s good that they are getting their fans involved, but the picture should have been edited to appear properly on Twitter before posting it. This is the lazy way out and accomplishes none of the goals.

 

Decent Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These aren’t bad. They aren’t good, either. They’re good enough to get listed here just to show the differences between them and the ones further below so you’ll know what mistakes to avoid.

Decent Twitter Image Marketing

The attempt by Nissan is pretty strong. They’re trying to do well on Twitter and they’re doing an above-average job at it. This particular piece is missing something: impact. The message in the image means nothing other than stating a minor incentive. It gives no reason for people to actually click through to the landing page other than the boring message itself. With image marketing, you need to make a statement in order to get clicks. They should have put more creativity into the messaging rather than state the offer plainly.

More importantly, the offer itself is designed specifically for those who already plan on buying a Rogue, so the incentive is in the reservation itself. At first (and second, and third) glance, this appears to be another rebate offer because it looks like another rebate offer. There are brighter minds than mine that could have fashioned a better message, but it should have been less statement of the facts and a bit more mystery and uniqueness to draw people to click.

  • This Rogue wants to be reserved (and it will pay you to reserve it)
  • What do reservations and $250 have in common? The 2014 Nissan Rogue.
  • Early Bird gets the cash on their Rogue
  • No Reservations Necessary (unless you want an extra $250)

* * *

Decent Twitter Image Marketing 2

This isn’t bad because it does accomplish one goal – making a statement. The only thing keeping this at decent rather than good is that the message is a personal one and should have been delivered in a personal manner. While the picture is cool and the message in the text is strong, it would have been better to have a member or former member of the military (there’s probably some working at the dealership right now) by a car or the dealership’s sign with an American flag in hand. This is a bit generic but a good attempt – still better than 9 out of 10.

 

Good Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

Here are some good ones. These are nearly great but are missing a couple of minor components. If you did your marketing like this, you’d be ahead of 99/100 others.

Good Twitter Image Marketing

Great aspect ratio. Hot car. Good message and most importantly there’s a link to the inventory search for the vehicle itself!

* * *

Good Twitter Image Marketing 2

This one is much like the previous except a different variation for two reasons. First, it uses a stock image, which is only good if the image is as good as this one. The thing that brings it up from “decent” is that the link takes you to a vehicle specific landing page which is more appropriate on Twitter than a straight vehicle search. Remember, if they want to search, they will. Putting them on a page with information about the vehicle is better for higher-funnel customers that you’ll get through social media.

 

Great Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

These are the best that I’ve seen so far… after searching four hours back in my Twitter feed. There are better ones. There are plenty of worse ones. They aren’t perfect but they’re pretty darn close.

Great Twitter Image Marketing

This one hits goals 1, 5, and 6 nicely but it really nails home #3: Demonstrate a lifestyle advantage associated with your product. It doesn’t need to show the whole car. It doesn’t need a beautiful background. It has a simple, elegant four word message that can reach the target audience where it hurts.

* * *

Great Twitter Image Marketing 2

Remember, it doesn’t have to nail several goals to be effective. This time, it does a wonderful job of branding but keeps it touching the community with the localized weather factor. This is exceptional and if the following is engaged, it’ll resonate.

* * *

Great Twitter Image Marketing 3

Simple and powerful. This is what Nissan missed when they promoted their message. Well done, Mr Potratz and Mr Ziegler.

* * *

You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a creative genius to get it right with social media image marketing. You just need to have a good strategy, solid execution, and a willingness to know the “rules” well enough to break them ever so slightly.

The Folks from @Charmin Understand Social Media

Charmin Social Media

Don’t squeeze the social… unless you’re Charmin, in which case your actions on social media are probably brilliant. That has been the case for a little while as the team handling Charmin’s social media presence keep rolling out the hits and victories.

Brands both small and large can learn a lot from the company whose mascot is a bear with a pink bow on its head. The example below isn’t even close to their best stuff (for that, click through to Social Media Explorer below) but it’s just one of many recent ones that stands out much better than what others are posting on their social media.

 

Here’s everything you need to know about their campaigns from Social Media Explorer:

How many of you are passionate about your toilet paper? I ask that when I speak about content marketing and very few hands fly up in the air. It’s a nice lead-in to talk about Charmin and how it engages consumers on social media channels.

Read More: Social Media Explorer

5 Quick Social Media Stats

5 Quick Social Media Stats Infographic

I’m really not crazy about mini-infographics that are intended to drive some quick links to the source and this is definitely one of those. They even focus on their own branding rather in the center of the graphic rather than at the bottom as is normally the custom. However, the stats are good and so is my mood.

We learn two things from these five facts. First, we learn that social is important to marketers, something that we’ve known for a while but that could always use some reiteration. The second thing we learn is that half of the marketers out there using social media don’t really know how to track it. This is a problem as we recently discussed.

Hat tip to Nuance.

Social Media Fears, Tips, and Strategies for Small Businesses

Social Media Anxiety

I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the Huffington Post. It’s not that I don’t like some of the content. I don’t like what they’ve done to content as a whole and how they’ve really dismantled the concept of fair search and social marketing for blogs. Then again, you have to admire the results.

With that said, the infographic that they had built below is rather exceptional. It’s not the most visually stunning piece of work ever, but the information is top notch. The anxiety-causing issues surround social media for small businesses are spot on. The tips that they offer are pretty darn good. Their strategies aren’t bad for those new to the game. In a world where poor social media infographics get posted around the internet on a daily basis, it’s a breath of fresh air to find one that actually works.

And yes, it’s from HuffPo. Still posting it. Quality over source. Information over bias. Begrudgingly, here it is:

Social Media Anxiety Infographic

Why Presenting About Social Media is Better When Your Powerpoint Breaks

Speaking in Public

It was one of those moments that many public speakers fear. I was on stage in front of a couple hundred business owners wanting to understand how to improve their social media marketing. About 10 minutes into the presentation, my computer shut down. The screen was blank. I was speaking without notes or a Powerpoint.

The trip to Michigan had included a major omission in my packing regiment. While I have a mental checklist of things that I need to bring on every trip that usually works like a charm, this time I forgot something very important: my computer charger. An hour before my presentation, we ran to Staples to get a new one and all was right in the world.

Unfortunately, I checked to see if the plug fit. I didn’t check to see if any juice was going into it. There was none. The computer was dead and failed at the best possible moment.

It was the best thing that could have happened. I learned a valuable lesson, one that will guide future presentations. I interacted with the crowd, allowed them to guide the direction of the presentation rather than a Powerpoint, and the results were quite valuable both for me and (hopefully) the audience. Rather than go slide to slide, I went person to person. Rather than random examples that I had pre-selected, I asked the crowd to shoot questions at me about their current social media situation.

Working on the spot and off the cuff worked out very nicely. The audience was a diverse one with many different types of businesses. I posed the premise that, despite common perceptions, most businesses are able to take advantage of social media in some way or another. The first example was an easy one – a car wash. I thought for a moment and determined that pictures of cool cars, filthy cars, and unique cars with the stories behind them would make for an interesting Facebook page. When a car comes in that has mud all the way to the roof, there’s probably an interesting story behind it.

The second business was a bit harder: a funeral home. Despite the morbid topic, we determined that a thoughtful album dedicated to the deceased and honoring their memory would be a great way to have an “enhanced” version of an obituary. As odd as it might sound, if those albums were promoted to the local community, it could be a real differentiator for their service. More importantly, it could be a great way for the loved ones of the deceased to see and discuss them.

A few examples later, we got to the winner of the day: a septic tank cleaning company. After the initial chuckles and expectations that I would be stumped, I said, “Well this is crappy.” It was inappropriate but bought me enough time to think about what it would really take.

On social media, a company like that could focus on messes. The great spills of the world. The risks they pose in the community. The costs of handling it before rather than later. It would work. It wasn’t ideal, but it would work.

Just about every business can gain from social media. It’s just a matter of finding the right angle.

To the public speakers of the world, always be ready to go without slides. Even better, try doing your presentations without them altogether. I’ve seen presentations that were basically a person who was reading what was on the screen. That’s not what presentations are about. Get the audience involved. If you have to use a Powerpoint, use it as a guide rather than the whole presentation itself. It works!

How to Tell if Your Social Media Presence Stinks

ReGenerate Technology Conference

Social media is, by most accounts, a game of numbers. This is somewhat contradictory to the stated purpose because it’s about connecting with people, delivering a message, and communicating back and forth in ways that have never been achievable through traditional media. By its very definition, social media is social. The fact that numbers play such an important role is hard for some to grasp.

Nevertheless, the ends and the means are where the differences in strategy find conflict. On one hand, it’s about delivering the best returns by putting the messages in front of as many people as possible and hoping that they will resonate enough to get them to like, comment, share, favorite, retweet, +1, repin, and otherwise interact with the content in a positive manner. This is the math. These are the ends. On the other other hand, you have to touch people in ways that are meaningful to them and relevant to your business, often having to demonstrate real creativity in order to get the required numbers. This the touchy-feely part of it. These are the means.

They aren’t really contradictions. You can see the results of your creativity in very tangible ways. Then, you can learn what works and what doesn’t work and try to enhance your strategy accordingly. This is the process throughout, but it’s the opening to a discussion about how to tell whether or not your presence stinks.

I will be delivering a keynote speech about this subject at the ReGenerate Technology Conference this week. When it’s done and I have accumulated some feedback, I will then post my extended conclusions here. In the meantime, think about the things that you are doing and consider ways of taking the things that aren’t working and making them work better for you. This is the key to success. More on this when I get back…

Trackable vs Verifiable: The Social Media Conundrum

Return on Investment 2

“ROI” and “KPI” are the longest sustained buzzwords in the world of marketing. They’ve been around forever and while they might fade for a short period of time from the talking points in sales presentations and blog posts, they always bounce back up with a vengeance. We’re on the high-buzz portion of the cycle right now and more people are asking again, “How can I track my social media ROI? What are the KPIs in social media?”

Return on Investment is the amount of benefit received for any investment of money, time, energy, or resources put into a particular marketing endeavor. Key Performance Indicators are the statistics that demonstrate whether or not a marketing action is doing the things that will make it successful or not. In the world of social media, both of these are extremely important when trying to understand whether or not your strategy is working or not.

Let’s throw them out for now. We’ll get back to them some other time, but they’re only confusing the real issue with social media.

Most businesses and agencies using social media are getting locked into the trackability that is required to determine both ROI and tangible KPIs. It’s sad because, much like television, tracking can be done but often to the detriment of the actual results. Today, let’s focus on the verifiable benefits of social media.

A wise old car dealer once told me, “I wasn’t sure whether or not my television advertising was working until I turned it off. Sales dropped. I turned it back on and sales went up. That’s how I know TV works.”

Thankfully, social media doesn’t have to be quite as ambiguous, but it does take more verification than tracking to know whether or not it’s working.

 

Good: “…as a matter of fact…”

Most will call this method anecdotal at best. It is, but unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on social media, it may be all you need to be able to track your social media campaign effectiveness. Consider this scenario:

In the car business, there is one department that talks to everyone no matter what. The finance department has to get the paperwork ready and make a car deal legal regardless of how they’re paying or what they’re buying. This final touchpoint prior to delivery is an ideal time to ask the magic question.

“Are you following us on Facebook?”

90% will reply with one of two answers. The first is, “no.” If they say that, then the response is quick and easy. “Well, we post interesting stuff there every day. You should check it out. Now, let’s talk about GAP Insurance.”

The second likely answer is, “Yes, and as a matter of fact I…”

Some say they found the vehicle they bought or another vehicle that they didn’t buy while surfing social media. Others will say that they have been following for a while and they love the updates. A few might even say that they might be following you but they don’t spend much time on Facebook. These and a couple of other variations are the common ones.

If you’re doing your social media the right way, getting massive exposure in the local area for pennies on the dollar compared to television, then you will find that these types of responses are oddly common. The funny part is that the most common winning response is a different variation of “no.”

 

Best: “No, but…”

“No, but I’ve seen your posts pop up on my Facebook news feed.”

This is the winner. It’s the one that demonstrates that your social media marketing really is reaching people. Just as with any form of advertising in just about every industry, being in front of people is often the subconscious prompt that makes them pull the trigger. This brings up the most important lesson that I’ve taught thousands of people at a dozen speaking events since 2009.

Social media is not about getting likes or followers. It’s about getting your message in front of as many potential customers as possible. It’s not about being part of the community. It’s about being part of their community. On Facebook and Twitter, getting into their community is only loosely associated with them liking or following you. Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ are heading in the same direction.

If you truly want to know if social media is working, you have to be willing to ask. There are definitely key performance indicators that can tell you if you’re effectively getting in front of your audience. There are ways to track and measure ROI that can determine if it’s generating real business. However, you should not let tracking get in the way of results.

Verify that it’s working. If you can track it, great. If not, the verification (or, as those of us in social media marketing like to call it, “vindication”) of its usefulness is much more important.