Automotive Advertising Agencies Must Lead, Follow, Or Get Out of the Way

I am a self described old school car guy but perhaps my definition of that well earned title has a different meaning than many of my contemporaries have assigned to it. My definition of a car guy is an entrepreneurial business man that is driven to win, who values relationships as a team builder and who prides themselves as being a community leader. The people skills needed to accomplish most goals in the car business are built on an understanding of human nature which has survived in the virtual world of today’s Internet Super Highway. However, the technologies and online processes needed to communicate to customers have changed dramatically and us car guys need to stay ahead of the curve to stay competitive.

Similarly, automotive advertising agencies serve the retail auto industry in much the same way that they have for decades. However, since the one constant in the auto industry is change — and human nature is also a constant — then change in the automotive advertising industry must be limited to the technologies that have developed to serve the newest media of choice; the Internet. Agencies are still striving to improve the reach, frequency, cost per impression and the basic R.O.I. of their automotive advertising campaigns delivered to a qualified and targeted audience, however in my considered opinion there has been a paradigm shift in automotive advertising as a result of the empowerment that the Internet has extended to the online car shopper.

Conventional wisdom supports the position that selling processes on the virtual showrooms being built on the Internet Super Highway must replicate and integrate with those used in the brick and mortar showrooms on local car rows, however that is reflective of the needs of the auto dealers, not the customers. Structured selling systems require repetitive processes that eliminate redundancy of data input and accommodate follow up and management monitoring which has little value to consumers who just want to know if the auto dealer has the vehicle that they want and how much will they have to pay for it.

Old school wisdom suggest that the goal for the dealer after an initial contact by phone, email or by an online visitor to their website is to make an appointment to get the customer into the showroom since, after all, you can’t sell them a car on the phone or on the Internet — or can you? New technology based solutions like AutoTransaXion introduced by Argistics provide an online transaction tool with a two way video customer interaction application that links to the auto dealer’s DMS, CRM and ILM in a comprehensive push/pull manner that replicates the real world selling process. The enhanced transparency and relevancy provided by this online communication tool satisfies the needs of the online car shopper while providing a seamless transition that allows the auto dealer and the consumer to complete an online transaction.

Most Automotive advertising agencies recognize the need to provide transparency and relevancy to attract online car shoppers but few are aware of solutions such as AutoTransaXion to convert these new opportunities on the World Wide Web to sales. Budget challenged auto dealers are demanding that their automotive advertising agencies deliver more for less and staying in touch with new technology is one way to deliver.

Another opportunity to leverage online resources for automotive advertising agencies in the know can be found in new online inventory based marketing platforms like ronsmap.com that utilizes its game changing technology to integrate social networking media with their platform. The extended reach and frequency of message provided by their vBack Ask-a-Friend / Tell-a-Friend application increases S.E.O. for the auto dealer by integrating their social networking engine with every vehicle posted on ronsmap, the auto dealers’ website and third party sites that the auto dealer posts their inventory on. As a result, leads and sales are increased exponentially as they tie into the viral messages powered by their C2C marketing methods vs. more commonly utilized B2C methods offered by banner ads and other attempts to market into social networking communities from the outside in vs. the ability for vBack to market from the inside out.

In addition, the Intelli-Leads gathered by ronsmap and their vBack application are enhanced by the market intelligence gathered by their SellersVantage application which provides real time information on the online consumer beyond the typical name, IP address, contact information and questions regarding the vehicle they selected. SellersVantage provides the auto dealer with the comparable vehicles that the customer may have considered through ronsmap as well competitive information on similar vehicles currently being offered on the Internet. As a result, conversion rates are increased for the auto dealer and the transparency and relevancy for the car shopper is enhanced. Of course none of this is possible if the automotive advertising agency doesn’t know about ronsmap and similar leveraged online marketing platforms to recommend to their auto dealer clients.

Understanding and applying the rules established by the search engines to maximize the S.E.O. for their auto dealer clients is another challenge for automotive advertising agencies that requires them to listen and learn about new Internet applications before they can presume to serve their clients’ needs. Social media has earned a weighted position on Google that is only matched by their similar respect for video to reflect consumer preferences. A generation of T.V. watchers has matured into video-centric consumers that prefer to watch an online video of a vehicle vs. a typical display ad listing features and benefits or even a set of pictures. SiSTeR Technologies has a video production platform, Video CarLot, that hosts applications like their vShock and VidBrid that produce professional quality videos from still pictures extrapolated from an auto dealer’s website using human voice, existing video footage and multi-schema layers with interactive information for the consumer to increase the transparency and relevancy of the experience.

In addition, SiSTeR is able to increase the vSEO of the dealer by distributing each produced video directly onto the search engines through their dedicated API with You Tube with their own URL, file name and associated search words and meta tags. Couple that with the linked micro-site offered by their vShock application that follows custom business rules established by the auto dealer to display the selected vehicle video with other similar vehicles chosen from their online inventory and you can see the added value of an automotive advertising agency that knows to suggest this video platform to their clients.

Other new vendor solutions offered by companies like CityTwist.Com who offers a do it yourself email platform with over one hundred and twenty five million double opt-in email addresses to facilitate conquest sales for auto dealers and Bull Dog Marketing Technologies who provides an internal data based marketing platform capable of delivering direct mail or email messages with personal URLs and custom vehicle selection and price quotes in monitored monthly campaigns for sales and service will also provide enough of an R.O.I. to support the fees that they paid to the automotive advertising agency that suggested them. Simply put, today’s automotive advertising agencies must lead, follow or get out of the way of those forward thinking agencies that accept their new areas of responsibility that include listening and learning about new Internet based technologies to recommend to their clients.

Philip Zelinger is a former auto dealer principal with an earned reputation as a nationally recognized automotive advertising expert specializing in the technology sector. His philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats motivates him to listen and learn so he can presume to teach. To that end, Philip shares best practices on the respected automotive advertising r

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Automotive Advertising Agencies Must Promote Training To Help Them Sell More Cars And Services

To train – or not to train – is not the question according to automotive advertising agencies who understand the importance of investing in the people part of the sales and service process by providing training before, during and after the sale. Training has often been considered as an afterthought by auto dealers who have enjoyed the luxury of having more customers than cars with a never ending supply of salespeople and service writers who earned a higher than average income for their efforts. Today’s consolidating auto industry has changed the math for auto dealers who now have to deal with shrinking sales volumes, reduced profit margins and the resulting loss of a ready willing and able sales and service staff whose incomes have been reduced along with dealer profits.

Automotive advertising agencies have always been tied to their auto dealer clients bottom line – whether they knew it or not – and today’s automotive advertising agencies are realizing that their areas of responsibility do not stop at the front door of the auto dealership. Automotive advertising plans geared for the Internet using digital marketing platforms coupled with internal sales and service processes powered by integrated technologies provide efficiencies that allow auto dealerships to operate with reduced budgets and support staff in sales and service.

Unfortunately, many auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies have been operating with the false sense of security that the people aren’t as important as the technology and/or the processes that they have applied to replace them. That is as untrue today as it was yesterday. People still like to do business with people that they like and human nature has survived on the world wide web. The real solution for auto dealers forced to operate with fewer sales people and service writers is to train them in the use of the new technology, however, not at the expense of training them in understanding human nature and proven old school best practices to sell a car.

New technologies and automotive advertising applications include training solutions that offer efficiencies similar to other sales and service processes that have been applied to reduce expenses for auto dealers. However, even the best training system can’t teach someone to be a nice person and/or to place their customer’s interests ahead of their own. These applications must be coupled with people skills that are best hired vs. taught and they start before the sale or even the hiring of the sales person or service writer ever begins.

Internet based applications like Hire The Winners help human resource departments sort through applicants in the hiring process. Their focus is on personality traits and people skills surfaced in a series of videos posted on a site that is linked to help wanted ads. This screening process allows the auto dealer to determine how the applicant will react to various real world scenarios in the sales and service process. Applying this filter before investing in training and lost sales opportunities caused by a bad hire provide an R.O.I. that can be easily verified with improved employee retention, C.S.I. / S.S.I. scores for the dealership and incremental increases in sales and service productivity by a well screened employee.

Similar advantages in training during the sales and service process can be applied by applications like DealerMouth that allow sales and service staff to promote themselves through their own websites hosted – and monitored – by the auto dealer to promote best practices. This ongoing training by senior management compliments the desire by the automotive advertising agencies to extend the reach and frequency of their online automotive advertising messaging beyond the auto dealerships websites and or third party automotive advertising platforms. Training by example is a proven practice that can be applied on the internet super highway in the virtual showroom much like it used to be applied in brick and mortar facilities.

Newly developing applications focused on enhancing the sales process with integrated training components are also in development. Applications designed for kiosk, desk top and even mobile platforms promise to support sales and service staff before, during and after the buying and shopping experience for customers. Providing sales people and service writers with best practices and word tracks to enhance the customer experience during their sales and/or service presentation will empower the staff by offering them relevant information to help the customer make a buying decision. In addition to increasing their individual productivity on a real time basis, there is a residual benefit of training the sales and service writer who will be better able to apply and retain the information built into their more consistent presentations to their customers.

Automotive advertising agencies are tasked with evaluating new technologies and automotive advertising applications to provide more for less for their auto dealer clients. The presumption that these technologies can – or should – replace people in the process is misguided if it doesn’t increase the productivity of the people that remain. Training will increase the R.O.I. that auto dealers receive from their staff. More importantly for automotive advertising agencies is that training will directly impact the auto dealers bottom line which is certainly part of the job description for automotive advertising agencies in today’s challenging auto industry.

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