Posts Tagged “social networking”

Most discussions about Social Media between automotive advertising agencies and their auto dealer clients center around R.O.I.; or their perceived lack thereof. I accept responsibility for providing proof of my performance. However, I question short term quantitative evaluations that don’t consider the qualitative long term benefits of customer loyalty, satisfaction, retention and residual income derived from a comprehensive marketing plan that includes social media.

A real world example of a vendor that uses conventional and digital media enhanced by an integrated message delivered through social media is Driving Loyalty. Their data base marketing platform relies on a proprietary algorithm that delivers relevant transparent messages on a regular basis. They use emails, direct mail, personalized websites and most recently consulting services that advise their dealer clients to leverage customer generated content on social networks to reinforce the dealer’s online reputation and relationships with their past, present and pending customers.

Relationship based selling is a proven process that has been made more efficient and scalable through the use of social media and the viral nature of social networking. Forward thinking vendors, like Driving Loyalty, embrace the extended reach and frequency provided by customer generated content. They recognize that word of mouth advertising and referrals must originate from like minded customers vs. the dealer with their presumed self serving agenda.

Fortunately, the R.O.I. from social media can be proven when it is properly defined. Increased traffic to websites sourced from social marketing messages, posts by customers on the dealer’s Facebook pages that evidence positive experiences and improve the dealer’s online reputation and even sales and service appointments sourced from social media tracked by analytic tools built into most technology driven sales and service platforms are all verifiable returns on investment.

Next generation social marketing applications, such as Helios being introduced by xChangeAuto, are even providing conversion platforms that reside on Facebook with integrated real time communications to the dealer’s CRM and DMS. This seamless integration between the customer’s social networking habits and the dealer’s sales and service processes provides the first tool with a verifiable R.O.I..

Simply put, social media matters because in today’s internet driven marketplace the customers are in charge. Auto dealers that prioritize their customer’s experience before, during and after their sale or service at their facility will attract and retain more customers. Social media has the unique ability to insert the auto dealer into the conversation that is the market without having to time their message.

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Automotive advertising agencies have adjusted to accommodate consumer preferences that have shifted from shopping at their local auto row in favor of a growing number of online options. 

The shift from conventional radio, T.V. and print media to digital advertising including websites, banner ads, S.E.O./S.E.M strategies and even email vs. direct mail has matured into even more consumer centric social media.  Forward thinking auto dealers are joining other retail businesses that recognize that the shift from the real world to the virtual one online has just begun.

Store closures by large iconic retailers including Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Circuit City, Linens and Things, Borders and Blockbuster are just the tip of the iceberg as consumers shop online for everything from electronics and books to large ticket items like homes, furniture and even automobiles.  Profit challenged auto dealers have demanded more for less from their advertising agencies and retail operations as margins are reduced by today’s educated consumer with internet access to information that auto dealers no longer control.

In response, automotive advertising agencies have started to leverage social media though the use of technology driven applications that monitor and manage their auto dealer’s online reputations.  Auto dealer marketing messages are being crafted to blend into online discussions that now drive the market on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +.

Solutions like Helios being introduced by xChangeAuto deliver a Facebook hosted information portal that provides relevant and transparent information to an auto dealer’s customers before, during and after their car shopping and buying experience.  As the auto dealer’s online “friends” enter the market they are able to access information directly from the dealer provided Facebook page without having to contact the dealer directly.

These hand raisers are delivered to the dealer through their sales and service tools including their CRM and DMS allowing a seamless transition into established sales processes.  The result is a real time exchange of information that is both consumer friendly and dealer centric; win – win!

Other technology driven solutions are being applied by dealers to accommodate online shoppers that match relationship building messages being delivered through social marketing initiatives.  Data base marketing platforms like Driving Loyalty invite past, present and pending customers to follow auto dealers onto their social marketing sites.

Driving Loyalty blends old school media like direct mail and outbound call centers with current digital marketing methods including emails and personalized websites and next generation social marketing messages.  The proprietary algorithms that power their monthly consumer centric messages deliver relevant information that is unique to each customer.

Equity alerts are delivered only to qualified customers with an offer to exchange their vehicle for a new or newer one for a similar payment with little or no money down.  These out the door quotes include tax, tag, title, related dealer fees and even take into consideration all applicable rebates, interest rates and trade-in values.

Similarly relevant alerts regarding factory recommended service and seasonal specials in parts and service insure that customers are kept up to date on their investment in their vehicle.  At the same time the dealer is assured that their relationship with their customers will exist after the sale in synch with their ongoing social marketing efforts.

Next generation conversion tools will eventually accommodate vehicle sales without customers having to visit the dealership.  However, until these complete transactions on an auto dealer’s website are more widely accepted telephone processes must be updated to preserve these more fragile online customer relationships.

CallRevu is an example of a technology based platform that allows an auto dealer to monitor and manage their in-bound telephone processes to insure that they preserve customer relationships earned through their social marketing initiatives.  The dealership’s telephone processes are first evaluated to insure that all calls are distributed timely and to the correct parties.

Once best practices are established CallRevu delivers real time alerts to key personnel at the dealership advising them of any dropped calls or those that may have been misdirected or otherwise mishandled.  The result is better customer satisfaction, retention and improved profits through delivery of a more consistent customer friendly sales process that converts online friends into real world customers.

Until brick and mortar dealerships are completely irrelevant, and that time may come sooner that many auto dealers might expect, auto dealers must protect relationships that are initiated online as they mature into guests at their real world facility.   IntellaCar is a next generation sales and marketing platform that resides on an iPad that is uniquely qualified to blur the line between the virtual and the real world.

Today’s consumers visit an auto dealership armed with more information than most of the sales consultants that greet them.  IntellaCar empowers sales consultants to compete with these more educated customers by providing them with the same credible third party information that their customers have discovered during their online shopping spree.

Sales consultants are able to access IntellaCar throughout their sales process.  After completing a brief customer profile information is sorted by order of relevancy to fit the customer’s needs.  Vehicle selection, inventory walks, test drives, appraisals and even final negotiations are similarly supported by the IntellaCar platform insuring a consistent customer friendly process.

The result is an easy transition from the online virtual world powered by consumer centric social marketing messaging to an equally customer friendly experience on the showroom floor.  Brick and mortar dealerships aren’t dead yet, and they will always have a place in the sales and service process for customers and dealers alike, which reinforces the value and need for IntellaCar and technology driven sales and marketing platforms like them.

Mobile applications also support online shopping and service experiences that connect real world showrooms with their online counterparts. DealerAppvantage is a dealer branded mobile application that protects and preserves customer satisfaction and retention at the time of delivery.

Customers are able to download DealerAppVantage onto their smart phone to stay in touch with the dealership after their purchase.  Alerts are delivered through the app to remind customers of their factory recommended service at the dealership.  More uniquely, consumer centric content such as local gasoline prices and other information designed to improve their ownership experience is always available.

The hosting auto dealer also benefits from this ongoing connection to their customers when the time comes for them to consider exchanging their vehicle for a new or newer one.  The ability to preserve relationships with customers without trying to time the market with a sales message is yet another example of how auto dealers are preparing to support these online relationships even after they visit their dealerships and take delivery of a vehicle.

Auto dealers are shifting their focus from brick & mortar dealerships to online showrooms powered by social marketing.  However, the transition requires links between proven old world processes and next generation technology driven solutions that prioritize customer relationships over short term sales and profit objectives.

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Automotive advertising agencies must constantly reinvent themselves to keep up with consumer preferences. When customers discovered the internet automotive advertising agencies were forced to follow them online.  New tools like web sites, conversion applications to capture customer information, banner ads and S.E.O./S.E.M. strategies were developed to replace radio, T.V., and print production services. 

The result was reduced profit margins for advertising agencies who sacrificed these lucrative products and services in favor of more cost effective online marketing tools to improve the R.O.I. for their auto dealer clients.  More importantly, they improved the customer experience for the ultimate boss – the consumer.  Customers enjoyed their newfound power to find relevant information in this more transparent media and social media was the next logical progression. 

Automotive advertising agencies are once again being forced to adjust the products and services they provide to their auto dealer clients as consumers find friends on social networks that they trust more than the auto dealers that followed them online.  Forward thinking agencies recognize that social marketing provides efficiencies in production and distribution to deliver more relevant and transparent messages for their dealer clients and they are embracing this new media.  Unfortunately, more conventional agencies are having a hard time accepting their loss of control of the message and they risk becoming irrelevant in an increasingly consumer controlled market. Read the rest of this entry »

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Automotive advertising agencies and marketing consultants often leverage their resources to maximize the R.O.I. from their auto dealer client’s advertising investments.  Since social marketing is powered by customers sharing their experiences online throughout their shopping, buying and ownership cycle it is logical that advertising agencies should rely on this viral media.

Of equal value is that conventional advertising media only speaks to a small percentage of the market that is looking to purchase or service a vehicle at any given moment making their messages irrelevant to the majority of their audience.  To make matters worse, conventional marketing messages targeting in-market customers typically rely on urgent calls to action from a source that consumers don’t trust which further limits the response.

Social media eliminates these flaws in radio, TV, print and even digital media such as email and online marketing.  Auto dealers are able to participate in the ongoing discussion that is the market without having to time their message and since the primary source for the message is a trusted friend it will be better received and believed.

To better leverage the viral nature of social marketing auto dealers can also contribute to the discussions in various social networks on hosted Facebook and LinkedIn Pages as well as content distributed through Twitter and Google +.  The key difference is that urgent calls to action can be converted to less confrontational offers within relevant content distributed by the dealer in their blogs, posts, tweets and comments on friends’ messages.  Old school relationship based selling techniques to make friends before customers still apply. Read the rest of this entry »

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Automotive advertising agencies are being asked to deliver more for less by a consolidating auto industry in response to reduced sales volume, profit margins and automotive advertising budgets.  The solution, as is often the case, lies in the leveraged use of technology applied to a constant in automotive advertising and the auto industry that it serves — change.  Another constant that can be found in automotive advertising is human nature.  These two constants, change and human nature,  power the explosive growth of the use of social media by automotive advertising agencies.  Unfortunately, the change is happening at warp speed on the Internet Super Highway and automotive advertising agencies don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to new automotive advertising technologies and applications being developed to monetize social media.

Attempts by automotive advertising agencies to provide a presence for automobile dealers on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter fall short for the same reasons that these online communities of friends are so successful with consumers.  People hate car dealers and they often turn to advice from likeminded consumers on social networking sites to get away from them.  Automotive advertising agencies that impose on these personal conversations with self serving sales messages are often ostracized and even virally attacked as an intruder.  The potential damage to the online reputation of their auto dealer clients represents a risk to reward formula that has forced many automotive advertising agencies to abandon social media as a viable channel to deliver a retail sales or service message.

Fortunately, the same social media that teaches consumers how to buy a vehicle can provide automobile dealers with the information and the tools that they need to sell them one.   Social networking portals developed by likeminded automotive advertising agencies, automotive advertising vendors and auto dealers allow their members to share best practices with the common philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats. 

Philip Zelinger, the President of Ad Agency Online, L.L.C. and the host of the automotive advertising resource / networking portal AdAgencyOnline.net, discussed a number of auto industry focused social networking sites on the blog talk radio station WAAOL – All Automotive Advertising News All The Time featured on AdAgencyOnline.Net.  “I host a network of networker in a special section hosted on AdAgencyOnline.Net titled Auto Industry Insiders.  Contributing member sites include Ralph Paglia’s AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.Com, Jared Hamilton’s DrivingSales.Com, Brian Pasch’s InternetSalesmanager.Org, Chris Saraceno’s DealerElite.Net, Jody Devere’s AskPatty.Com, Keith Whann’s Auttr.Com and Scott Monty’s ScottMonty.Com.  Each online community boasts its own personality and rules of the road to keep members in their lane.  The temptation to sell to each other is controlled by the same social pressures that exist on consumer facing social networks for those that forget why they are there — to listen and learn so they can presume to teach their auto dealers how they can sell cars and service to their online friends.”

In addition to sharing best practices, many automotive advertising agencies use social media to discover new automotive advertising technologies and vendor applications that have not yet been discovered by the mainstream automotive advertising industry.  New automotive advertising platforms and vendor clients that Philip Zelinger sourced from his searches on social media include SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot — an automated video production platform that produces scalable interactive videos from pictures using human voice to narrate them that are placed on the auto dealer’s website and pushed through a dedicated API with You Tube onto the WWW.  An equally revolutionary discovery claimed by Philip to have been discovered using social media was ronsmap.com — a consumer centric inventory marketing platform that offers auto dealers free listings and free leads with the ability to purchase real time market analytics and social networking profiles that empower the salesperson to answer the customer’s questions even before they ask them.   

Each of these vendor applications were introduced to the market through automotive advertising social networking communities that enabled them to listen and learn from their members about how they can improve their products and services before they introduced them to the general market.  Philip claimed that his access to these automotive advertising solutions and new vendor clients of Ad Agency Online was only possible as a result of the time he invested on social media looking for them so that he could stay one step ahead of the competition.

Online blog talk radio stations hosted on automotive advertising networking portals — such as AAOL featured on AdAgencyOnline.Net — provide a another social media forum for finding and reviewing new automotive advertising solutions.  Regularly scheduled blog talk radio shows with live interviews of the developers of bleeding edge automotive advertising applications allow their online audience to ask vendors questions in an open forum.  These open exchanges of ideas in a problem solution format help the vendors as much as the automotive advertising decision makers that follow the shows.  A new mobile sales presentation platform with an integrated training component — IntellaCar by Hughes Hunter — was recently discussed on a blog talk radio show hosted by Philip Zelinger to solicit feedback from the audience.  Their insights were used to modify the platform before IntellaCar began their beta test it in the real world saving thousands of wasted dollars and man hours that would normally be required to mature their application.

The opportunity for automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers to listen, learn and contribute to social networking communities allows them to discover what they don’t know while allowing them the opportunity to share what they do know.  Auto dealers are people too!  The same efficiencies and extended resources that attract consumers to social media to research their next vehicle purchase is sourced by automotive advertising agencies who need to stay one step ahead of the competition in a consolidating auto industry that demands more for less.  Automotive advertising agencies don’t know what they don’t know but they can definitely find out on auto industry focused social media.  After all, what are friends for! Read the rest of this entry »

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