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Remember the time when someone told you that the Internet was the way of the future and that you needed a website? How many of us did not believe them? Well we have all heard the stats that 80% or more of your customers are searching the Internet for their next vehicle and one thing is for sure we are all believers now.

Well now it is time for someone to tell you those customers are “mobile shopping” on a MOBILE device and the percentage is rising daily! How extreme are things moving mobile? I was recently traveling and as most of us do I usually check-in and print my boarding pass on a computer. Well I forgot and my ride asked if my flight was on time. I jumped on my Android, went to AA.com and in a flash I could see I was on time but WAIT, what is this Mobile Online Check-In. I click the button and a few seconds later I get an email with my Mobile Boarding Pass. Hey this is pretty slick, I walked up to security showed them my phone they scan my phone screen and let me through! Fast, no paper and most importantly exceeded my expectations for speed and convenience.

Think about that for a second, if people are using phones to check-in for flights then how many are shopping for cars? eMarketer published some holiday shopping activities based on mobile phone usage this holiday season:

52% – found a store location
48% – did research on specific products
45% – browsed for products
41% – did comparison shopping
33% – emailed or text someone about their shopping experience
15% – scanned a bar code to get more information about a product

Industry experts all agree that portability is transforming the way people shop. eBay reported that mobile purchases grew 134% in 2010 over the same period in 2009. Shopping related searches on Google.com with a mobile device was up over 230% by mid December. To top it all off Experian says 87% of all adults have a mobile phone!

It’s a GOLD RUSH what are we all waiting for! LOL, but seriously I hope by now I have your attention and you are already thinking what do I need to do for my mobile customers. The first thing you must come to grips with is not all mobile sites are created equal. If you are on you primary website with a mobile device chances are you can’t see the text, click the right button or even call the dealership with a simple click. This type of user experience is not going to increase your traffic, sales or exceed customer expectations like American Airlines did with me.

If you are reading this blog and work at a dealership chances are you don’t have a true mobile site. With only 15% of dealerships today having a mobile site you are in a position to impact your market dramatically and quickly.

Here is an example of Ira Mazda of Danvers primary site compared to their mobile site.

mobile website

Now here is their mobile site:

Don’t just look at the difference on this blog screen go on their site with your smartphone www.mazdaofdanvers.com and then go on your computer.

I would like to close with a tip for your dealership and your mobile site. If you are a dealership who displays a “featured” car or truck on a ramp on the corner of your lot, make sure it is featured on your mobile website. That is right; customers driving down the road will see that vehicle and the, “Hey that is a cool looking lifted 4×4, I wonder how big that lift is” and out comes the phone. This type of activity is easily tracked with your website analytics so monitor which vehicles draw the most mobile traffic!

If you would like a demonstration or more information regarding Liquid Motors OpitSite Mobile website solutions please contact us at 877-573-6877.

Who does not like a good funny commercial? I personally appreciate humor in advertising. How about those Geico commercials asking, “Did the little Piggy cry wee wee wee all the way home” (my personal favorite). “Does a former drill sergeant make a terrible therapist?” and “Do woodchucks chuck wood?” I really love those commercials, and guess what, I remember them. Many auto dealerships do not realize that they have a real opportunity to show some personality and not only entertain, but make someone like them with their ad copy on their website and all sites where they market. Why not use a little humor and tell someone why your vehicle is the one to buy. I was reviewing one of my accounts today and saw some really great notes. The dealer was advertising a jacked up 2007 GMC Sierra truck. That thing looked like it could drive over a regular size truck without his tires leaving the ground. This guy’s notes were entertaining. He talked about the truck being on steroids. Oh heck, why tell you what he said, I’ll just show you.

STEROID WARNING: STEROID USE BY HUMAN CONSUMPTION CAN CAUSE NUMEROUS HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH SEVERAL DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS…STEROID USE ON A GMC 2500 SIERRA CAUSES A “ROID RAGE” THAT MAKES A NORMAL EVERYDAY 4X4 ONE OF THE STRONGEST…COOLEST PICK UP TRUCKS ON THE PLANET!!!
THIS IS A GMC SIERRA ON STEROIDS!!!
CHECK OUT THE PHOTOS…IT HAS ALL THE EXPECTED EQUIPMENT. PLUS: CUSTOM COIL OVER 10-12″ LIFT, STRAIGHT AXLE CONVERSION KIT, AWESOME TIRE & WHEEL PACKAGE FEATURING 20 INCH XD ROCK STARS AND 40 INCH TOYO’S, KILLER BOSE AUDIO WITH 10 INCH JL SUB WOOFERS AND AMP!!!
WE FINANCE, WE SHIP, AND WE WOULD LOVE TO LOOK AT YOUR TRADE IN.
WE HAVE DELIGHTED CUSTOMERS ACROSS THE NATION FOR DECADES. IN ADDITION TO OUR FEEDBACK RATINGS, CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE TO SEE WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE SAYING.

CALL OR COME BY TODAY!
WE’LL SEE YOU SOON!

REMEMBER: STEROIDS ARE FOR ANIMALS…AND SIERRAS!

Why go with the norm and give the old “expected” notes. It’s time to set yourself apart, and make your vehicles memorable. The example above is a dealer excited about his truck and it shows. Someone looking at his listing will be too.

One of the most basic yet vital aspects of successfully marketing vehicles online is photos. We hammer this area harder and more often than any other. Quite simply, if you cannot get the basics of good photos, there is no need to be concentrating on more advanced areas. Customers want to see what you are selling. A picture truly is worth a thousand words in online marketing.
But how do you get these photos? Some dealerships choose to outsource this task to a lot service company; and this can be an effective solution. For those who choose to keep the task in-house, you need to have the proper equipment starting with a digital camera. And that is what I wanted to take a minute to cover. For those who use a lot service company or those who have a well-established process of photographing your vehicles, this will be way below your level but there are still many who are just starting to do their own photos and may not know where to start.
What’s the number one thing you always see marketed when looking at a digital camera? The number of Megapixels. A Megapixel (MP) is a million pixels. A 1MP camera uses 1 million pixels while a 3MP camera uses 3 million pixels. So the greater the MP rating of the camera, the larger the photo it can take. For taking photos to be used on the Internet, you don’t need to break the bank. Honestly, the number of Megapixels is one of the least important factors in your camera choice. Your final photo presentation is going to be of a size that is a fraction of what most cameras are capable of taking. You don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to get the best camera in the market just to use an even tinier fraction of its capability.
Probably the most important qualifier for selecting a digital camera to photo your vehicles is the available aspect ratios it can take. The aspect ratio is the relation between how wide a photo is versus how tall. A majority of higher cost digital cameras will use 3:2 aspect ratio. Computers and websites generally use a 4:3 aspect ratio however and that is what you want to take your photos in. If a camera cannot take photos in 4:3, you will run into problems.
Image resolution is the next factor to consider. Frankly, if you have chosen more than a 1MP camera that can take photos in 4:3 aspect ratio, image resolution is already taken care of. Most websites will not display photos any larger than 1280 x 960 pixels and anything below 640 x 480 won’t show the detail you desire. So your main choices to shoot in are 640×480, 800×600, and 1280×960. All of these should be available on the camera mentioned above. Higher resolution images will be reduced on most sites. Any time you change the original photo resolution, you run the risk of losing quality so taking huge photos just to have them reduced is counterproductive.
(If you really want to prove you don’t need an 11.1MP camera, you can calculate the actual photo pixels by multiplying your photo pixel width times pixel height. So a 1280×960 photo will use 1,228,800 pixels = 1.23Megapixels. So a 3MP camera more than handles this while the 11.1MP camera would only be utilized at 11%)
There are many external devices that can improve the final quality of your images. Items like a polarized lens or filter and an external flash can improve lighting quality and make your images more uniform. But at its most basic, a camera that can take images in a 4:3 ratio and is comfortable and convenient to use is what you need to get started on your way to good photos of your vehicles.

“To err is human” and since dealerships are run by humans, a slip-up here and there is to be expected. At some point, mistakes will be made in every process at the dealership and in every department – sales, finance, service and parts. It is how the dealer handles these mistakes, regardless of how small, that is so critical.

A well-timed, well-placed apology can restore customer confidence and support in your dealership and re-ignite consumer sales. Although apologizing can be difficult, it is honest and people can see your actions to resolve things and make amends.

When in the position of apologizing, bear in mind it’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it. A perfect example of this was during the Tiger Wood’s scandal a year ago, the pitiful public apology Tiger issued for his deviant behavior. As I am sure you recall, the dry, unemotional apology lasted for 14 minutes and was a ridiculously weak attempt at a heartfelt acknowledgement of guilt. We are, by nature, a forgiving people, however, Tiger, if we don’t believe you then not only have you wasted 14 minutes of our time, but you will not be forgiven!

By contrast, a stellar example of an apology was the one given by David Neeleman, the founder and CEO of Jet Blue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r_PIg7EAUw, after the blunder that left passengers stranded on the tarmac for over 10 hours. When (notice I said when, not if!) your dealership has reason to acknowledge a mistake, please follow Jet Blue’s lead, and apologize in a similar way.

In a straightforward manner, without the slightest hint of a defensive stance, your dealership should:
-Sincerely apologize and convey your concern
-Acknowledge the problem, explain how it happened and how it will be dealt with
-Promise to initiate steps to avoid the problem in the future
-Humbly ask for forgiveness

Make sure you “man-up” at the dealership and take responsibility for any mistakes made – keep those satisfied customers coming back to your store! And by the way, Tiger Woods, although a gifted golfer, has not restored his reputation. Jet Blue, on the other hand, received the JD Powers and Associates Airline Industry Customer Satisfaction Award for 2007, the very same year of the tarmac incident!

I understand that this whole Social Media thing has got to be difficult for a car salesman to wrap his noggin around. After all, a car salesman, as the title implies…..sells! In fact, they are notoriously skilled at selling. Introduce Social Media, the current buzz in Internet marketing, and the salesman is told to get on board, to engage, to build relationships, to listen, but at all costs, DO NOT SELL!

The fundamental concept of soliciting business is not bad, in fact, we depend on it to fuel our economy. It is when it is done in excess, as a one-sided sales message blared through a megaphone that it becomes annoying. There is a difference between the one-sided, self-promoting aspect of social networking and the successful strategic utilization of social networking platforms to build and market your brand.

It is all about what you bring to the table. Bring value and you and your brand will be followed. You cannot ask consumers to “Follow Me” and to “Like Us” and then throw sales messages and all of your inventory at them. Write insightful, interesting blog posts and helpful, educational auto-related tips. Post humorous, memorable videos and pictures. Include up-to-the-minute auto-industry news and current community activities and events. Offer some incomparable deals and valuable coupons. When anyone comments, respond promptly, and listen, listen, listen to them. The result brings value to your audience, without a hard sell and self-promotion, and brings the consumers to you, which is exactly where you want them.

Make sure you and your dealership are not “that guy”. You all know him, that guy at the ________ (you fill in the blank with office, party, dry cleaners, post office…) that corners you and yammers on and on about everything and nothing having to do with him. You have to hear about his Cheerios and dry toast, his commute, his kids, his car, his haircut, his bunions…the endless commentary about the trivialities of his day from the time his eyes opened that morning up until this very moment when you are standing there with your eyes glazed over, head aching, and mind focused on only one thing, HOW TO ESCAPE the droning on of this frustratingly self-absorbed ______ (again, you fill in the blank)!

“That guy” offers absolutely no value. In fact, not only would no one “follow” him or “like” him, they would run like hell at break-neck speed in the opposite direction at the mere sight of him!

Think about your social networking strategy, and don’t give your potential customers any reason to run!

The other evening I was reading through a few automotive blogs and came across a few post regarding dealership rating sites on the Internet. I could not help but notice the overwhelming fear from a lot of dealers out there about this new trend. With sites like Cars.com getting into the ratings business themselves it seems like everywhere we turn a site is incorporating real time reviews of the car buyer’s experience. We know that human nature tells us that there are always a few bad apples out there that spoil it for the rest of us. You are always going to have at least one customer, that no matter what you do, you simply cannot make them happy. Odds are that this will result in negative feedback on one of the hundreds of sites they can rate your store on.

Do not be afraid to tell people to go out there and rate their experience with your store. Encourage this. It is these real life testimonials that bring a level of comfort to the car buying experience. People want to see that people have done business with your store.

At the end of the day ratings systems serve to help make the marketplace a better place to do business. They help create greater honesty and integrity in companies that truly strive to give their customers the best possible experience. These reviews are worth their weight in gold, and now in the day and age of social media marketing you are going to see just how fast these reviews can spread. For good or bad they will have a major impact on your business so it is important to not take them for granted and always remember that positive reviews are earned.

This is a common question I am asked. Are your other dealers still selling cars on eBay? The answer is yes. And not only are they selling the cars they are listing, but they are also using eBay as a lead generator and selling cars they did not list. I believe this is where dealers get caught up. They think they should use eBay to sell one car when they have an opportunity to cross-sell their other inventory. eBay is not different than any other site. Someone is looking for a car, so they go there just like Autotrader, Cars.com, your website, etc. With eBay, however, the experience is a little different in that someone will not see all your inventory (unless you are on local market). They will only see the vehicles you have on eBay. So you have to be more aggressive and talk to as many customers as possible. If you would like more information on how to accomplish this, please call your account manager. We would be happy to review your listings with you and offer recommendations on how you can maximize your efforts on eBay from how to list your vehicles to how to talk to the eBay customer.

At Liquid Motors, my role as account manager is to help our dealers be better digital marketers today than they were yesterday. I review their accounts each month and offer recommendations on things I know will help them succeed. I do, from time to time, actually listen to their phone calls to see how they are handling their leads. I am often surprised at some of the things I hear. I realize that an important part of the conversation is getting some contact info so you can reach the customer again, but should that be the first thing you do if someone is calling with a simple question? If I call you and ask what the price of the car is or if it is still available, and before you give me any information, I have to give you my name (and that’s spelled S-A-N (as in Nancy)-D-Y A-D-A-M-S), phone #, alternate phone #, etc., I am not going to be a happy camper. If this is how you are handling your incoming calls, have you ever thought that maybe you have not earned the right to get that info just yet? I bring this point up a lot in my blogs, but you have to think about how you want to be treated and treat others that way. Wouldn’t it seem more appropriate to answer a customer’s question(s), build rapport, and then you have earned the right to get the chance to contact them again?
We would like to hear what you think…leave a comment.

so-cial (soh-shuhl)

-adjective
Seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; interacting with others

net-work (net-wurk)

-noun
An association of individuals having shared, common interests, formed to provide mutual assistance, exchange information and share resources.

As you can see from the Websters definitions I included above, social networks bring together communities of people that share common interests. The purpose of your dealership utilizing social media is to build relationships with customers and prospects through communication exchange. Successfully done, the end result will drive more traffic, increase your sales, build a strong brand image and generate a community for your dealership. So, if it is human nature to want to interact with people, doesn’t facilitating that process just make plain good business sense?

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for your dealership, however, it is not a static tool such as an advertisement. This tool requires regular participation. Now stop your grumbling, this isn’t a difficult task! Fill these social spaces with creative, compelling content, interesting images and informative links – and quickly respond to any posts. You must have patience and perseverance while building a social media presence, it doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to foster meaningful and rewarding relationships and turn casual participants into loyal followers and friends. Remember, like the turtle, slow and steady wins the race!

Thanks to the Internet, we have been given tremendous efficiency, however, this gift has come at a cost. Sadly, the cost is the loss of the human connection. Being a consumer myself, I know that customers want to be dealt with on a personal level. We want to feel that we are special and that we are valued and appreciated by your company. Fortunately, social networks have brought back interpersonal communication, regaining that much needed human connection without losing any of our prized efficiency.

We have all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right”, and it applies in social media too. Relationships are the fuel that drive social media, relationships with those customers that are always right! Engage this audience in honest discussion and then listen to them. Learn from their posts to develop a clearer understanding of what they are interested in, what makes them happy, what is relevant to them, what motivates them to gravitate towards particular products and services. You must not only engage your audience, but actively listen to them to earn trust, achieve credibility and grow a community.

If engagement is the foundation for building relationships, then involvement is the key that opens the door. Get your audience involved! Request that people post a story about their first automobile, their first traffic ticket or their thoughts on cell phone use and texting while driving. Run a contest with questions about “famous cars” from TV or the movies, solicit donations for a community cause, or ask for submission of an online video showcasing the importance of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. You get the idea! Get people involved with your dealership events, causes and products through social media, make them feel like they are a part of something “real”.

Keep in mind, as important as it is to talk about your dealership, it is even more important for others to talk about your dealership. I ask you, would you be more inclined to purchase a product based on an advertisement, or based on a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance? Consumers trust referrals from other consumers, so make certain that your sales, service, parts and finance departments are encouraging happy customers to become your friend on facebook. Suggest that they post something about their recent car buying experience, how quickly their vehicle was serviced or a picture of their shiny new car. As a very satisfied car buyer myself, I recently posted something on my Ford dealership’s facebook page about taking a family vacation in my wonderful F-150!

It really isn’t that difficult to cultivate a social online presence, is it? If you haven’t figured it out yet, refer to the definitions at the top of this blog and you will see that you will be communicating with your community and your peers and sharing your common interests with them – I have a feeling that you might enjoy the process!

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