Archive for the “automotive advertising” Category

Most dealers recognize the value of their data base of past and present customers.  Many even invest in automated marketing programs that rely on algorithms to target qualified customers and deliver equity alerts for vehicle exchange programs and properly timed service alerts based on factory recommended maintenance to improve customer retention and loyalty after the sale.

The following potentially missed opportunities to maximize the R.O.I. realized by managing your most valued asset – your customers – includes many that I have overcome and a few that hopefully my friends will add in their comments:

1) Cross promotions between sales and service and service to sales:  Most dealers have a process in place to introduce new customers to a service writer to schedule their first service appointment and anchor future maintenance to preserve their warranty.  (If you don’t, make this a two for one missed opportunity and set up a process to insure a T.O. to service that extends beyond your service hours.)

However, few dealers have a similar structure in place to monitor and manage sales processes in the service lane that remind customers when they qualify to trade-up their vehicle to a new or newer one.  Typically, this is due to a lack of data, resources or staff that can research and notify customers when they have enough equity to qualify to trade-in their vehicle with little or no money down for a new or newer vehicle for similar payments.

As mentioned in my introduction, vendor solutions like Driving Loyalty can automate this discovery and notice to the customer.  However, to take maximum advantage of their marketing platform, they suggest a proven process that includes a dedicated individual in the service lane to assist the customer with their decision to exchange their vehicle vs. paying for the scheduled service that brought them to your dealership.

Driving Loyalty reminds their dealer clients that when quantifying their R.O.I. from this process they should consider not only the front and back end profit from the new or pre-owned vehicle sale but also the value of acquiring a potentially qualified Certified Pre-Owned vehicle and the increased customer loyalty and retention realized by your efforts.

2) Social Media – Marketing – Networking: Many dealers have become frustrated with using social media/marketing to communicate with their customers primarily due, in my opinion, to unrealistic expectations.  Sourcing vehicle sales and service appointments from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinetrest, Instagram, Linked-In and a number of yet to be discovered consumer centric social networking communities is not be as easy as through conventional and digital media.  However, once again, technology driven vendor solutions can provide a realistic R.O.I. from your social marketing initiatives.

Next generation apps like HELIOS developed by xChange Automotive reside entirely within the Facebook environment and provide relevant/transparent information to a customer without distracting them from their more socially driven conversations.  HELIOS provides everything from contests for cash to integrated processes that host one on one discussions with their “friend in the car business” about a considered vehicle purchase or pending service need that can be shared with their online friends and family in a non-confrontational manner.  More uniquely, the customers never have to leave their comfort zone within their Facebook page and the dealer is able to deliver/receive the information directly through their CRM/DMS and established sales/service processes.

3) Dealer Reputation/Referral Platforms: Soliciting positive feedback and referrals from customers before. during and after the sale is an old school technique that has survived into today’s technology driven marketplace.  Word of mouth advertising, bird dogs and simply asking for a referral is common place, however, third party marketing platforms that profess to be consumer centric and dealer focused have often left consumers out of the formula.

Carfolks.Com is a site that has existed for some time that adds an additional feature/benefit for consumers as well as dealers on several levels.  As expected, they notify a dealer of a poor review to offer them an opportunity to address and resolve it, however, to preserve credibility for consumers they do not allow the dealer to eliminate the bad reviews.  Instead, they insure that the dealer has the last word vs. posting a string of unwarranted attacks with the expectation that the dealer will either resolve the problem or support their position in a positive manner.

More uniquely, they offer sales consultants and service writers a “free” page on their site so customers can post their comments directly with/about the people that they actually did business with. As a result, the dealer can identify where/who the problem/opportunity originated with so they can address the individual and either critique or compliment them.  In addition, the sales consultant or service writer can learn from their replies and hopefully develop a customer base that will allow them to improve their sales techniques and increase their income.  The resulting increase in customer satisfaction/retention is coupled with an increased employee satisfaction/retention which directly benefits all parties; the customer. the employee and the dealer!

I can continue listing other examples of how/why a dealer can/should focus on their past and present customers vs. constantly investing new advertising dollars to attract new ones.  However, now would be a good time to ask you for your thoughts on the subject and suggested examples of how we can all maximize the R.O.I. from our DMS and our collected list of customers.

After all, what are friends and Ad Agency Online for!

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The Auto Industry Insiders Show, hosted by Philip Zelinger the President of Ad Agency Online, LLC, scheduled to air on June 12th. 2014 at 12 Noon EST includes an interview with Kurtis Smith discussing his training programs that teaches & equips managers to intentionally improve employee performance, revenue & the customer experience.

Auto Industry Insiders Interview Kutis Smith

Auto Industry Insiders Interview Kutis Smith


K-Method Academy Launches the automotive industry’s first training resource center to equip dealers to impact the customer experience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kurtis Smith,

Chicago, IL – The K-Method Training Group announces the launch of the K-Method Academy, a robust & comprehensive training solution created especially for dealerships and their professionals. Kurtis Smith, Director of Training & Content Development explains that the goal of the academy is to become a tool and resource for dealerships everywhere to equip their managers with the training content, resources and support to develop millennials, the next generation of dealership professionals.

K-Method’s executives believe that today’s dealership professionals must have access to a more modern and focused training curriculum based on the principle of the continuous improvement movement and centered around strategies to improve the customer experience. They believe that this curriculum should include skills, systems and process based material, available on-demand, to address specific performance issues in real time when the training can be most useful and relevant. Additionally, they believe that this approach lends itself to addressing some of the concerns of today’s consumers regarding the competency and professionalism of many of the dealership employees they encounter.

As more manufacturers implement their version of the continuous improvement program, Mr. Smith believes dealership managers will need access to this type of training methodology to aid in intentionally promoting employee “course correction” and performance improvement.

What makes this approach so unique is that it empowers managers to take control of their workforce training. They are able to choose from a single course, or a pre-built learning plan, or a full blown certification training program without committing to long term contracts or costly training initiative with low ROI.

Mr. Smith states that the K-Method Academy is positioning itself to be the resource that dealerships can depend on to train new hires, have access to learn new skills, systems and processes to continually develop and educate their workforce regardless of the skill level and experience of its personnel. He states that we should think of K-Method as the Kahn Academy for the Automotive Industry.

To learn more, visit or to take a tour of the learning center visit .

Contact To learn more about the K-Method Group & the K-Method Academy, please contact Kurtis Smith The K-Method Group, Inc. O (866) 277-7681 ext. 703 F (877) 698-8891

About The K-Method Training Group, Inc

The K-Method Group is a training organization specializing in the development of performance improvement training courses to be used by dealerships as a resource for the continuing education and development of their workforce. Our processes and strategies were born out of the Kaizen philosophy, which literally means; change (kai) – to become good (zen). The company operates its own online training platform known as the K-Method Success Academy, designed to deliver training based on the unique developmental needs of each member on the team.

The K-Method Value Proposition

Every day in Every Dealership, Without Exception, there are employee performance related issues that continually surface that negatively impact the customer experience and rob the dealership of revenue.

Managers are on the frontline and are uniquely positioned to impact the KPI’s affecting profits and the customer experience. They are able to observe the employee’s behavior affecting the KPI’s, and impact performance in real time by seizing them as teachable moments where targeted training courses can be leveraged to improve the employee’s performance leading to skill mastery.

Our training solution is that resource that has been designed to elevate the performance level of dealership professionals by introducing a comprehensive training resource consisting of courses that address core skills, frameworks and strategies that the individual will need to know in order to be effective in their various roles.

About Kurtis Smith

Kurtis Smith is the Director of Training & Content Development for the K-Method Group. With a background as a United States Marine, Author, Sales, Management and consulting professional, Mr. Smith brings with him over two decades of experience and know-how to the table. He is the creator of Professional Standards for Sales Excellence (PSSE) training program, a comprehensive library of training courses designed to elevate the performance of dealership professionals. The program consists of courses that teach the core skills, processes and frameworks that dealership professionals will need to know to develop multiple lead sources, maintain client relationships and other activities that impact revenue and the customer experience. Mr. Smith is also the author of two books. The first, Lessons from the Concrete Garden reads like a white paper, in which he builds a case for redefining the sales process & training methods used to develop dealership personnel in the aftermath of the Internet and its impact on revenue and the customer experience. His second book, The Sales Professional’s Blueprint serves as the action plan, where he takes the reader on a step-by-step personal development journey and teaches, in story format, exactly what they need to know to excel in this new process driven selling model. It goes one step further by inviting the reader, at the end of each chapter, to access the online training courses outlined in the book.

Mr. Smith’s guiding principle when it comes to solving problems or developing solutions for his clients is summed up as follows: “What you cannot define you cannot reproduce, what you cannot reproduce you cannot measure, what you cannot measure you cannot control or manage“.

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Consumers always have and always will seek the path of least resistance to get the best deal they can when they purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle; and you can’t blame them.  Similarly, it is understandable that auto dealers always have and always will try to define what the best deal is for their customers; and it typically includes preserving a fair profit.  Unfortunately, their objectives aren’t always weighted the same; even though they should be.

Today’s internet educated customers have fewer reasons to rely on an auto dealer for the information they need to purchase a vehicle.  Online resources by third party providers and social networks of likeminded consumers offer easier access to relevant transparent information and they have more credibility with shoppers than auto dealers.

Competitive product comparisons and even price negotiations are more convenient in virtual showrooms than in real ones.  Next generation technology driven applications have automated the process for online customers who can now select a vehicle, compare it to other dealer offers, appraise their trade, apply and get approved for credit, compute an out the door payment and solicit the advice and support of their family and friends without ever having to involve a sales person.

Frankly, the only control still held by dealers is the fact that most people like to test drive a vehicle before they buy it, they prefer the human touch when making a decision and they will always need to have it serviced at a facility that is conveniently located.  Unfortunately old school auto dealers need to accept that even that control is being eroded.

Video chat programs and video FAQ’s on websites can now answer most questions in real time better than most sales consultants.  Pending changes in legislation will soon allow dealers to deliver a vehicle to a customer’s home or office with a financial agreement that will protect the dealer while allowing the consumer time to return the vehicle for virtually any reason.  Finally, many OEM’s are experimenting with remote service facilities that are not linked to a sales showroom.

All of these evolutionary changes benefit the consumer and even the OEMs who has always had their eye on reducing the costs of their distribution channels. Franchised auto dealers will still play a role in the technology and consumer driven market of the future; as will their sales staff.  However, auto dealers must reduce their expenses and increase the value added services they contribute to the process or they will be designing their own obsolescence.

Auto dealers that want to survive into tomorrow must start making the necessary changes to their business model today.  They must increase their use of technology driven marketing and sales processes in their real and virtual showrooms to improve their margins and remain competitive.  They need to leverage their most valuable asset, their customer base, through the use of social media and automated data base marketing to improve customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.  They need to provide training for their staff and information for their customers that helps them make a buying decision vs. trying to “sell” them something.

Simply put, auto dealers must accept the fact that change and human nature are two constants in the auto industry that must be recognized and addressed.  More specifically, online transactions powered by consumer demand and acceptance of technology driven solutions is a reality for tomorrow that is already being constructed today!

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HELIOS Blog Talk Radio

WAAOL – Auto Industry Insiders

Auto Industry Insiders is a blog talk radio show that reviews next generation technology based vendor solutions.  The show airing on Thursday, 04/24/14 at 12 Noon EST features an interview with Charles Chamblee III, the founder of xChange, discussing their new social marketing customer engagement/conversion platform – HELIOS.

xChange provides social and mobile marketing services and applications for existing automotive retail market service providers and OEMs.  They develop marketing programs that create lifecycle relationships with online, mobile and social media members, application users and shoppers by establishing a “cradle-to-grave” relationship with them and their vehicle.

HELIOS uses incentive gamification and predictive analytical marketing communications to encourage vehicle services and sales via patent-pending social engagement and conversion processes.  HELIOS, creates a virtual dealership within the Facebook community, equipping the dealer with automated social-mobile customer relationship management, customer vehicle maintenance schedules, maintenance appointment services, vehicle search and shopping, real lease and loan information and instant customer credit checking into a seamless customer engagement and conversion program.  The principal expectation of the program is customer retention, recapture and new customer acquisition by making social members application users, and then convert them through pull-activities that result in recurring lifecycle vehicle services and sales engagements through proactive and reactive data mining algorithms and social communications.

What is the pain point solved by HELIOS?

HELIOS converts social marketing to social engagement, customer conversion to continuous lifecycle management to include the continuation of business and product awareness, all within the social-mobile community.

How does HELIOS solve that pain in a differentiated way?

It sponsors continuous customer engagement through proactive and reactive social communications… software algorithms that learn customer service requirements and sales wishes based on customer interactive behavior within the program application through smart data mining.

Who does HELIOS solve it for?

Their program provides both the social customer and the dealer the opportunity to engage and build lasting relationships through a customer-driven engagement-to-sales conversion process. 

About Charles Shamblee III

Chief Executive, xChange Automotive

April 2010 – Present (4 years 1 month) Charlotte, North Carolina

Chief Executive, ImpactWare

February 2012 – Present (2 years 3 months) Charlotte, North Carolina

ImpactWare is developing the next generation social media integrated ecommerce applications as an online software service (SaaS). Small businesses require management, sales and service applications with real-time integration to 3rd party systems. ImpactWare will provide small businesses with a holistic software solution for fixed and variable sales processing; inventory management; customer finance and payment services; product service scheduling, including maintenance and repairs; parts inventory management; accounting integration and smart data analysis capabilities.

Chief Executive, NeoSynergy

August 2002 – November 2007 (5 years 4 months) Cincinnati, Ohio – Detroit, Michigan

As the Founder and CEO of NeoSynergy the limited liability software development and services company, we built the first complete web-based automobile dealership management system for new franchise dealers. The product DarwinXE, was licensed to and implemented by Assurant Solutions for their US based recreational vehicle dealer market and to Auto-Mate of South Africa for their South African franchise dealer market. NeoSynergy was merged with MotorAlley in 2007 to create NeoSynergy, Inc under a new venture capital oriented management team in cooperation with Gunn Allan Financial at a market value of over $30MM.

Vice President, Car Company Solutions Group, The Reynolds and Reynolds Company

January 2001 – April 2002 (1 year 4 months) Dayton, Ohio

At Reynolds and Reynolds, I was hired by the CEO to consolidate and grow their direct global car company solutions business. I was responsible for continued business development, product positioning and marketing into all car companies globally to include overall customer satisfaction for product implementation and customer support services. During my term the group reached 140MM of annual recurring revenue.

Chief Executive, Baerli Five – DealerKid

January 1991 – November 2000 (9 years 11 months) Cincinnati, Ohio – Detroit, Michigan

As the Founder and CEO of Baerli Five – DealerKid, I lead the company as Baerli Five from its inception as we built and delivered client server network platforms for automobile dealership operations in our early years from 1991 – 1996.  We subsequently merged our platform services into a greenfield software development operation under the new brand, DealerKid in 1996 and created the first comprehensive automotive retail customer relationship management (CRM) solution “DealerKid” for the demand side of the automotive industry.  I was responsible for the vision and leadership that developed and managed Ford Motors and Nissan Motors – Infiniti’s use of the DealerKid software as a part of their enterprise dealer CRM initiatives until DealerKid was sold to Reynolds and Reynolds in the fall of 2000.  The sale of DealerKid brought an investor return of 10-25X depending on entry point.

Chief Executive, ComputerLand Franchise

November 1988 – October 1990 (2 years) Detroit Michigan

After leaving the military, I purchased an existing ComputerLand franchise in downtown Detroit with the financial assist of a non-institutional private equity investor. The business was expanded from a retail only operation to a retail and corporate product and service provider of IBM, Apple, Compaq and Zenith computer systems including network service products from Novell and Microsoft.  The ComputerLand serviced the major Detroit metro counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.  I worked as chief executive of the ComputerLand franchise until it was sold to Inacomp Corporation in 1990.  The sale of the ComputerLand brought an investor return of 4X.

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LWP Driving Loyalty Data Base Social Marketing

WAAOL- All Automotive Advertising All The Time

Automotive advertising agencies have learned to manipulate the changing algorithms that search engines like Google and Bing use to drive organic search.  SEO is a fluid science that must now include social media. 

Automotive advertising agencies are dealing with recent changes on Facebook that limit organic search to power messages posted in their social networking community.  In today’s Lunch With Phil show I discussed old school best practices that delivered consistent creative across multiple media and channels to increase the reach, frequency and most importantly retention of message.  This practice can be applied to social media to compensate for now limited organic search and expensive paid advertisements.

I used Driving Loyalty’s data base marketing platform as an example of how consistent relevant and transparent messages delivered via email, direct mail, PURL’s and outbound call centers can extend the reach of social media.  Driving Loyalty has recently introduced their Social Marketing Initiative to educate dealers on how to link their conventional and digital messages to social media to leverage consumer content on social networks.

New “friends” sourced from the auto dealer’s DMS are invited through Driving Loyalty’s algorithms that deliver equity and service alerts to target the specific needs of the customer.  In addition, select vendors have been invited to join Driving Loyalty’s Social Marketing Initiative as networking partners to enhance the customer experience through improved sales and service processes at the dealership as well to develop shared B2B opportunities.

CallRevu is a telephone management/monitoring system that monitors inbound calls to the dealership and delivers real time alerts advising the dealer of missed opportunities.  IntellaCar is a sales/marketing platform that resides on an iPad controlled by the sales consultant that delivers credible third party information throughout the sales process. DealerAppVantage is a dealer branded mobile application offered to the customer at delivery that maintains communication between the dealer and the customer after the sale with service alerts and information to enhance their ownership experience.

The sales and service processes powered by these vendor partners insure that the customers’ experiences at the dealership will meet or beat the expectations delivered in the dealer’s marketing messages.  These positive reinforcements power the viral nature of social networks more than any manipulation of their organic search.

Simply put, the best way to replace organic search on social networks is to insure that the every contact becomes a friend and then a customer; in that order.  The best way to make a friend is to under promise and over deliver in the way that you conduct your business,

After all, what are friends for!

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