A recent announcement from Google has many dealerships worried.

“If a user provides new information about a business they know — or if our system identifies information from another source on the web that may be more recent than the data the business owner provided via Google Places — the organic listing will automatically be updated and the business owner will be sent an email notification about the change.”

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This program has existed in the past at Google Places with a 60 day window, but now the frequency of updates will change. The question some dealers are asking is how much is Google going to trust in these third-party edits? The end-goal may be to keep their databases more accurate, but potential human error is much greater coming from outside sources than from the businesses placing themselves on Google Places to begin with.

There is some benefit in the program, as it also encourages users to keep their own pages accurate, which can only be a good thing for dealerships when so many consumers look for information and reviews on Google first.

These changes sparked some debate on the DrivingSales automotive community. One pro of Google’s changes is that dealers need to keep their pages more accurate, which they should be doing already, but the con comes from questioning just how accurate these outside updates are going to be.

An indisputable point made in the discussion is that dealers should not be using Google Places exclusively for their reputation management. Google Places is useful for dealers, partially to send customers there to add reviews that will help elevate their reputation, but also in monitoring what is being said. This does not mean, however, that a dealership should consider Google Places the only location they can accomplish this, especially after Google dropped third-party integration from other review sites this past summer.

Are you concerned about this and other changes with Google Places, or are you remaining calm in the interim as suggested by this recent article on DealerRefresh? Regardless, don’t put all of your reputation management eggs in the one Google basket. Keep an eye on as many review sites as you can to best monitor what consumers are saying about you.

 

Image by: Chris Hamilton

Outsell Wins Marketing Effectiveness Award, Is Recognized By Inc’s Fast 500|5000

Minneapolis, MN, October 18, 2011 – www.outsell.com – Outsell today announced a strong financial performance in Q3, 2011, with year-to-date revenues up 55% over 2010. Outsell also won a Platinum Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award for the “Mobile Service Club” Campaign, as well as being recognized on the Inc. 500|5000 list as one of the fastest growing private companies in America in 2011.

“Winning a Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award and being named an Inc. 500|5000 company in the same quarter is a major distinction for Outsell. It demonstrates that our Digital Engagement Platform is unique, and is bringing a substantial value to our clients,” said Outsell CEO Mike Wethington. “We’re weeks away from releasing version 3.0 of the platform that really takes it to the next level. It’s going to be the simplest, most intuitive way for automotive brands and their dealerships to interact with consumers across the spectrum of digital channels.”

In major highlights for Q3, 2011:

— Outsell won a 2011 Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award. Outsell’s “Mobile Service Club” campaign won a Platinum Award beating out over 600 other entries in its category. The awards competition included entries from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and the Netherlands. The Mobile Service Club is a unique campaign within the Outsell Digital Engagement Platform that uses monthly SMS text to send service offers to customers. Once a consumer opts in to the dealer’s mobile service club, they receive one text message interaction per month and can choose which offer they prefer- two way interactions between the consumer and the dealer follows the Digital Engagement Platform’s philosophy that one size does not fit everyone. After they select their offer, the customer can bring their phone into the dealership to redeem their coupon.

— Outsell was recognized by Inc. Magazine’s “Fast 500|5000” in 2011 as one of the fastest growing companies in America, as well as one of the 50 fastest growing companies in Minneapolis. Inc. Magazine’s annual 500|5000 is an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a comprehensive look at America’s independent entrepreneurs.

— Outsell’s Campaign Operations sent over 31.4 million messages to automotive consumers in the Q3 of 2011, while the Outsell Live Chat service engaged over 45 thousand unique customers and continued to maintain a lead capture rate in excess of 50%. Outsell also executed SMS campaigns to over 17 thousand consumers for a select group of client dealers, and generated over 9 thousand interactions with opt-in SMS subscribers.

— In early July, Outsell launched a Model Year Wrap Up QR Code Campaign for Chevrolet, involving the creation of 226 unique dealer mobile microsites that engaged, informed, and entertained dealer customers while they were on the lot. Mobile savvy customers could scan the codes to see special offers, watch a video, read about model info, share content on social networks, and submit questions to the dealer after hours.

About Outsell LLC

Outsell (www.outsell.com) is a digital marketing software and services company that is transforming the way that brands engage with consumers. The Outsell Digital Engagement Platform offers clients the ability to consistently engage with consumers across distributed sales networks from the national to local level. The intuitive, easy to use platform leverages advanced and actionable analytics to optimize communications with intelligent campaigns across all channels. Working with leading organizations like ADP, Omnicom and Saatchi & Saatchi, Outsell’s platform has created the fastest path to drive measurable incremental sales for dealers from leading automotive brands.

Chevrolet Sonic

As we are in the midst of the 2012 model year, some all new models are now on the market along with several redesigns, one such new model being the Chevrolet Sonic. It seems this fresh new vehicle is trying to steal some thunder from the Ford Fiesta campaigning method by using social media and appealing to a younger audience.

“Aimed at 18 to 34-year-olds, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic will launch with a three-month exclusive online ad campaign, sharing footage of a sky-diving Sonic filmed earlier this year in Arizona as well as arranging a 10-story Sonic bungee jump later this year. Driven by clicks on its custom-built Chevy Sonic website, the bungee jump will take place later this year in Long-Beach, California.”

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The model is yet another cheaper, fuel-efficient, compact car, which seems to be the going trend for most new models.

Don’t forget the recent Prius commercial which has taken some risks in advertising as well, and, again, is for a similar type of vehicle.

The schedule of 2012 models is detailed on Edmunds.com. Some new models included alongside the Chevrolet Sonic and Toyota Prius V are the Ford Verve and Hyundai Veloster. Along with being smaller and good on gas, all of these vehicles are sleek, rounded compacts, in contrast to previous trends of slightly more angular crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.

If low price and good mileage in a compact car is the trend, like with the Chevrolet Sonic, keeping up with such specific consumer wants and needs might be difficult for brands without similar model availability. How are you addressing apparent consumer concerns over price, mileage, and want of a smaller car?

 

Photo by: Michael Gil

October 3, 2011

2012 Model Year is Here!

Are You Prepared?

The traditional start of the new model year is October 1st, already come and gone, and an exciting time for dealers. CNBC reported on what’s new for 2012, including a list of expected models.

“Revamped versions of some of America’s best-known cars — the Toyota Camry, the Chevrolet Malibu, the Ford Taurus, the Volkswagen Beetle, the BMW 3 Series — are all going on sale in the 2012 model year. The industry hopes that as buyers trickle back after the economic slump, they’ll be delighted by new styling, significantly better fuel economy and, in the Camry’s case, lower prices.”

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There is a clear trend toward being more economical with better mpg and lower model pricing, as well as a trend toward redesigns of consumer favorites.

Toyota’s new Prius family commercial may seem a little creepy, as reported by autoblog.com, but shows off four Prius model options – the regular Prius, the wagon version Prius V out for the 2012 model year, which is expected to get 43 mpg, the Prius C concept, and a Prius Plug-In. Watch the commercial and the making-of video below.

Top safety picks for the new 2012 model year include the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Audi A6, and Volkswagen Passat. You can read more about these top safety picks at Yahoo! AUTOS.

With the new model year upon us, are you prepared?

Photo by: Keith Ramsey

Keep Them Coming Back

 

There are many ways to build trust with a potential customer and gain loyalty, especially when working with that customer for the first time.

One such bold suggestion was recently posed by Jim Kristoff on dealerELITE. Kristoff suggests going through the process of appraising a customer’s trade-in through Kelley Blue Book together, so that there is agreement on vehicle condition, the customer doesn’t miss certain model specifics about their vehicle, and the price is set and agreed upon without hassle.

 

“What better way for your management team to build rapport and trust with your customer, than to let the customer be a part of the trade appraisal?”

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Another often overlooked way to build customer loyalty is availability of accessories. The 2011 Automotive Accessory Market Report found that accessory availability was important in selecting a dealer by 23% of all buyers. Consumers can be frustrated if the accessories they want aren’t there, and, as reported by Insignia Group, being able to select accessories can be a large part of instilling ownership in a customer even before financial paperwork is signed.

Insignia Group also suggested offering a complimentary maintenance schedule with the purchase of a vehicle, as customers who regular use the Parts and Service departments at their dealership are more likely to purchase their next vehicle from the same location.

Since service retention is so important for overall customer loyalty, adding any ease of use for a customer’s service needs can be helpful, like mobile SMS text messages to remind them of their upcoming oil change. Mobile messaging can also provide specials, news, and even just simple reminders of why the customer is appreciated by the dealership, and in the mode of communication many consumers prefer.

Finally, a great way to build and maintain customer loyalty is to provide a Customer Loyalty Program. You can offers customers something they want, such as a free oil change after the first three, or a way to earn points toward so much off their next vehicle purchase, which offers incentive to keep the customer going back to the dealership and build on the program.

Read more about Customer Loyalty Program success here.

Why Ban Potential Selling Tools?

The point of restricting access to any website is to ensure your employees are spending their time wisely and getting work done. Why waste the effort of watching each employee’s every move if they aren’t having issues of productivity, especially when the most often restricted sites can be valuable tools?

“Today’s Facebook and Twitter and Youtube, these things are just modern-day smoke breaks. No one cared about letting people take a smoke break for 15 minutes 10 years ago, so why does everyone care about someone going to Facebook here and there, or Twitter here and there, or Youtube here and there? Those aren’t the real problems in the office.” -Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work

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DealerRefresh has a very interesting blog article and following discussion around “Does Your Dealer Block Social Media” and why for most people in the automotive industry blocking social media is not the answer to productivity issues. If employees are going to get work done, they will. If not, they won’t. Moreover, blocking social media sites could be blocking potential avenues for additional sales and connections with consumers.

There is, however, a need for a social media policy, whether those sites are banned or not, because the legal issues coming up in court for employees and employers are in part due to lack of understanding of what is allowed and why. The need for such a policy has come up on several automotive community sites in recent months, including KainAutomotive, and the type of trouble a dealership can get into if social media is not used responsibly. But to ban social media sites altogether is not the answer.

Employees that are not allowed to check their regular social sites will simply turn to their phones, or look for a way around the ban, which often takes more time away from their work than if they were simply allowed their occasional 15 minute social media smoke break.

One way to better utilize employee time on Facebook for business purposes is to include in your social media policy that they make a point of posting to your dealership fan page and keep those conversations going. Paul Potratz mentioned some important social media policy tips at the Automotive Digital Marketing community, and also how interacting with customers on social media enables your employees to better connect with consumers on a personal level.

Dealerships should have a social media policy to address important concerns and legal issues, but don’t go so far as to entirely ban all of those sites. You could be actually lowering productivity, and will most certainly be cutting yourselves off from important leads and ups that you won’t find anywhere else.

Congratulations Outsell!

Outsell has won the 2011 Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award for the Outsell Mobile Service Club. This platinum award from Summit International Awards was earned competing against over 600 other entries in the business to business (B2B) category, including entries from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and the Netherlands.

“The Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award (Summit MEA) allows advertising companies to demonstrate their ability to influence consumer’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. The business of advertising is about creatively and effectively executing an advertiser’s goals, and the Summit MEA gives successful firms an opportunity to highlight their effectiveness.”

The Outsell Mobile Service Club is part of our tested catalog of effective marketing campaigns within the Outsell Digital Marketing Platform. You can learn more about this offering here.

September 12, 2011

Earned Media vs Paid Media

Many dealers are missing out on important tactics for utilizing their marketing spend effectively. HubSpot recently shared a video comparing earned and paid media and how to best combine the two for a profitable outcome.

Earned media is content created by you that can be shared to bring people back to your brand, such as blog posts and videos. Paid media is spending your dollars on using someone else’s media to bring in customers, like banner ads, Google AdWords, or Groupon deals.

In the video available on HubSpot, David Meerman Scott explains that combining earned and paid media is far better than the worst mistake of focusing on paid media alone. For example, press releases are a great way for earned and paid media to work together, using sites like PRWeb that charge to promote your content but it is still your content.

Since earned media should be the main focus, it stands to reason why social media has become so important, because that type of content is often free and easy to utilize.

Ralph Paglia of Automotive Digital Marketing shared an article about the apathetic view many dealers have about social media marketing. Most dealers admit that they do not consider social media a must within their marketing plan, despite saying that word-of-mouth is one of their most important marketing tools, and social media is really just another method of that same idea. Reputation management is also a fundamental reason to pay attention to social and other forms of earned media.

“While offline forms of word-of-mouth remain critical for all automotive franchise brands, and certainly for small or locally based independent car dealers and businesses of all kinds, social media also plays a valuable role by giving customers a wider voice for their dealership experience reviews, product and dealer recommendations and helping to amplify that voice beyond their immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues.”

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The best way to leverage your paid media is to see where you can incorporate earned media into those dollars spent. Use services like PRWeb to spread important news about your brand with press releases. Maintain your usual advertizing and paid media practices. But also make sure you are a part of the conversation happening online, because ignoring this new word of mouth may cost you more of those paid media dollars than you might anticipate.

Congratulations Outsell!

Outsell is proud to have been announced as part of the Inc. 500/5000 list for 2011, compared against many other exciting top companies. Ranked #2881 overall, Outsell came in at #262 for the Advertising & Marketing industry and #46 in Minneapolis. Outsell received its rankings due to a 74% growth rate over 3 years and a near doubling of revenue.

Check out the Outsell listing on the Inc. 500/5000 site here.

Photo by: Joe Loong

Seth Godin, called “America’s Greatest Marketer” by American Way Magazine, wrote on his blog last year about loyalty, not specific to any one type of industry but brand loyalty in general. He stressed in his article that loyalty isn’t about customers choosing a brand because it was the cheapest at the time, but choosing one they might have to spend more on as long as they have reason to feel loyal, often from something as simple as good customer service.

Customer loyalty programs are one way to accomplish this.

Discussion on DrivingSales about what customers perceive as the most valuable reward have been centering around value proposition in sales or service through the earning of points. While the punch-card idea is slowly falling away in retail, many customer loyalty programs are still about earning points, and customers often enjoy the routine of, for example, knowing that an oil change here or tire rotation there will earn them points toward their next vehicle purchase.

Some customer loyalty programs that work, as reported by The Street in their 5 Best, 5 Worst Customer-Loyalty Programs, include National’s Emerald Club. National, who provides vehicle rental, allows their customers to pick any vehicle on the lot, and being a part of their reward program is free, offering 1 credit per rental. After 7 rentals they get a day free. Simple and valuable for the common rental customer.

Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, a site for innovation in business practice, observed how customer rewards are changing, going from cards to digital with mobile apps and email offers. They worry, however, that few companies understand how to best use such programs to their benefit.

“The loss of face-to-face interactions between merchant and shopper has left a lot of customers wandering the desert. Well-run loyalty schemes are a way to bring them back into the fold.”

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In the case note Customer Loyalty Schemes in the Retail Sector, Jose B. Alvarez and Aldo Sesia found that successful retailers connect with their customer loyalty program participants at three levels: the intro with a reward for enrolling, direct contact to offer further rewards that are tailored to the customer, and finally engagement with two-way communication between customer and brand.

“When you combine this with a keen understanding of trends in the marketplace you can pleasantly surprise customers with goods and services that they may not have known existed. A great retailer is the agent for the customer. Loyalty programs and the insight and communication capabilities they provide can help retailers achieve greatness in a crowded and commoditized space.”

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Dealers can benefit the same way.