The Humans of Digital Dealer 22

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 24, 2017

Digital Dealer 22 has come and gone. Thousands of notes, scribbles, and brainstorms represent over 100 sessions filled with valuable content. Those that attended had their cups filled.

One of my favourite aspects of conferences like this, however, are the new people I get to meet. All of the notes, scribbles, and brainstorms become much more valuable in the moments that follow each session. Moments where you get to connect with other like-minded individuals from all over North America. These like-minded individuals are real human beings. People who understand the challenges you face in your career - people who, in some cases, have walked the path you're currently on.

When the hustle of the exhibit hall dies down, and the lights turn off for the night, the real value of any conference is the people. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to some of the Humans of Digital Dealer 22.

Michael Cirillo

Hey, it's me! I'm Michael Cirillo, the CEO of FlexDealer and Host of The Dealer Playbook Podcast. I'm on a mission to enrich and empower automotive professionals all over the world. I take your success personally and would love to help you, however possible. If you haven't checked out my podcast, do it now. You won't regret it. Or, you can connect with me here.

Jenn Dunstan

Jenn is FlexDealer's trusty Marketing Director. Her passion for automotive and marketing are rivaled only by her love of coffee. Jenn and I first met at a conference in Calgary, Alberta and now we work together. When you need to bounce an idea or brainstorm powerful, data-driven strategies, Jenn is who you should have on speed dial. Okay, at the very least, an email. Connect with Jenn here.

Glenn Pasch

Glenn is the CEO of PCG Marketing. He's the guy I turn to for leadership and organizational advice. He's quick, witty, and holds the secret to making a suit look good despite how many times it his have been jammed into a suitcase as he travels the continent educating dealers. Connect with Glenn Here.

Subi Ghosh

Subi is convinced that we are twins that were separated at birth. The difference is that I was kept in a cold, damp basement while she basked in the glory of the sunlight. :) The thing about this Human is that she cares. She wants to see the people around her succeed and reach their goals. Connect with Subi here.

Eliana Raggio

The Webinar Goddess. This woman knows how to assemble the masses into great educational content. Her fun-loving attitude and genuine interest in the people around her make Eliana a must meet for the next conference. Connect with Eliana here.

Mike Davenport

Aside from the fact that he wears a watch on both wrists, Mike Davenport (a.k.a. The Louisville Chevy Dude) has cracked the code to leveraging the Internet to sell cars. Mike's a regular on the conference speaking circuit these days showing car sales professionals how to brand themselves online. When he's not selling a Corvette via Facebook Messenger, he's flying his drone. Connect with Mike here.

Kevin Frye

Maybe it's because his session started with the coolest story about him flying planes in Iraq, or maybe it was how he seamlessly tied the story into how you can get more from your analytics. Either way, Kevin Frye is one of the most knowledgeable people I've had the pleasure of meeting when it comes to setting up a digital infrastructure in store. Connect with Kevin here.

Jake Davis

Subi introduced me to Jake Davis for the first time at #DD22. I was impressed with his thirst for knowledge. You'll find him asking a ton of questions and making the most out of the conference. In short, Jake is a model for how all attendees should be when attending automotive conferences. Connect with Jake here.

Brent Wees

That hat marks the whereabouts of Brent Wees, The NextUp Director of First Impressions. Brent and I first connected on Facebook and proved that industry competitors could also be good friends. IRL, Brent is one of the funniest, and brightest thought leaders in the industry today, just don't tell him I said that. Connect with Brent here.

Elise Kephart Adame

Like many others on this list, I met Elise at a conference in Atlantic City. Though we can both admit I creeped her out a bit at first, we quickly became great friends. She made her name as The YouTube Diva and leveraged the power of video to follow up with customers and book appointments. Since then, she's created a curriculum to help dealers do the same and spends a chunk of her time in dealerships conducting workshops.

Conclusion

The real power of attending conferences is in the relationships. They provide an excellent opportunity to make new friends while strengthening ties with the old ones. Relationships make the difference. Circling yourself with like-minded individuals is a key to success.

There are undoubtedly dozens of others that could be on my list, but I'm curious; who would you add? Sound off in the comments.


FlexDealer Sponsors TADA's 2017 Auto Dealers' Innovation Series

By: Devon Babin Mar 25, 2017

What do you get when you put hundreds of automotive general managers, dealer principals, marketing managers, with some of the brightest industry experts, in a room for eight hours? The Trillium Automotive Dealership Association’s (TADA) Auto Dealers' Innovation Series, of course.

The TADA regularly brings together some of the most sought-after minds in the online marketing and advertising world to speak with management and dealership staff across Ontario. The goal is to educate and help car dealerships adopt best practices and adapt to the ever-changing world of digital marketing. In short, the Auto Dealers' Innovation Series (ADIS) is helping bring Canada’s automotive industry to the next level. If you’re looking to sell more trucks, service more cars, and sell more parts — the ADIS is a must-attend event.

Several of FlexDealer's staff have had the fortune of participating in previous TADA events. Which is why we were so proud to announce our official associate membership of the TADA as part of our sponsorship message this past week.

Members of Team Flex were on hand at both the Ottawa and Toronto stops. Jenn Dunstan, Marketing Director, and Devon Babin, Senior Content Strategist, were in attendance in our nation's capital on March 22, 2017. Michael Cirillo, CEO, and Whitney Norrad, Marketing Accounts Manager, joined Jenn in Toronto.

Our CEO, Michael Cirillo, took the opportunity to interview this year’s TADA speakers for use in upcoming segments of his popular podcast, The Dealer Playbook. We highly recommend that you follow his official YouTube channel to be notified of this and other exclusive video releases.

So what exactly was covered on-stage at TADA this spring? Here's our brief rundown. 

Customer Experience (CX)

“Changes are coming for this industry,” Sean Moffitt of Wikibrands announced to the crowds in Ottawa and Toronto. That wasn’t a warning, but a positive prediction for the future. Generally speaking, the automotive industry at the dealer-level is lagging behind many other industries when it comes to customer experience.

According to Moffitt, from the adoption of new technology, to truly listening to and engaging with customers, dealers have a big opportunity to gain and retain clients. Moffitt gave examples of companies that took cues from their customers' needs and wants to evolve their business practices. One example used was lululemon;, the yoga and lifestyle company knows its customers well, speaks to them directly, and has adopted a powerful online global presence that can’t be ignored.

He emphasizes the importance of looking outside our industry for ideas on how to move forward. Dealers can take a page from lululemon by utilizing the data and information available, to better identify and understand their customers; dealers should also embrace technology rather than fight it.

A GM’s Guide to VDP Analytics

Ian Cruickshank of Speed Shift Media gave an engaging presentation that shed light on the daunting topic of website analytics.

While analytics are nothing new, they are becoming more important for businesses of all types, and their staff on all levels. By understanding even the basics of Google Analytics, dealership staff can learn invaluable information about customer shopping habits; the ROI of digital advertising spend; the most popular vehicles being shopped on their websites and so much more. In a nutshell, dealers are doing their businesses a disservice by ignoring analytics and therefore giving their competition an advantage.

Depending on the dealership size, Ian suggests having a person on staff tasked with understanding and reporting analytic information to the management team. Still, the management team needs to know the basics so they can comprehend the reporting and make educated decisions using the information they’re being given.

Simply put, if your dealership embraces Google Analytics, it will be an invaluable tool for your business.

Pro tip: If you're interested in training your team on this incredible (and free!) software, head over to Google's Analytics Academy to get them started. 

Nevermind the Millennials

The word ‘millennial’ is tossed around entirely too much in advertising and marketing circles. It’s like a drug we simply can’t stop using. Brent Wees, Director of First Impressions at NextUp, took to the stage to deliver an important message to dealers: stop distracting yourself with millennials—they’re no more important than anyone else.

In his presentation, Wees went back through decades of media messaging to show the crowds that “youth” have always been focused on in a negative light, hippies of the ‘60s being a prime example.

Millennials may appear to be more connected and take advantage of technology, but Wees proves that in recent years, Gen Xers and Boomers are statistically on par. That fickle range of people born between 1982 - 2004 are merely coming of age, much like the generations that preceded them. There's simply more technology present, for businesses to contend with.

Someone who is 20 has very little in common with one who is 33—yet both are considered a millennial. To blindly focus on this vast group of consumers, Wees points out, doesn’t make a lot of sense—especially when 60% of new vehicle sales are from people over 50.

Rather than focusing on an entire generation of young people, focus on your customers and how they as a whole, prefer to be treated. With integrity, honesty, respect—those are the things any age group will appreciate.

Fixed Ops with a Mobile Focus

Jeff Clark of DealerOn was a force to be reckoned with, passionately sharing with the dealer audience the countless ways they could be making a lot more money.

It was an unnerving statistic to note: on average, dealerships earn ~53% of their total revenue from the service and parts departments (fixed ops). That’s no secret, yet dealerships continue to neglect their fixed ops departments, instead funnelling thousands of dollars towards moving more metal. Clark pointed out several red flags, like expired service specials, or specials that have nothing to do with the current season (Winter tires? Spring is here).

What's even more shocking? That despite that share of profit—a dealership website only has three pages devoted to their fixed ops content. In his 45 minute presentation, Clark packed in countless other tips, tricks and warnings to ensure each dealership site was supporting all revenue streams. 

FlexDealer as Proud Associate Members

TADA's Spring 2017 Auto Dealer's Innovation Series was a smashing success with dealers from across the province taking away valuable information on how to innovate and serve their customers better. 

As part of our inaugural sponsorship event, we wanted to share some beliefs of our own. One being that content marketing, though slow and difficult—is worth every effort in attracting new customers organically in the years to come. In fact, you might compare it to the long-term benefits of healthy diet and exercise. Our Simpsons trivia-fueled brains want to shout from the rooftops: 

"You CAN win friends with salad!" 

Which is kinda what we did in our last blog. (Read it here.) So to continue this deliciously delightful parallel—we invited dealers to visit our Salad Bar setup in Toronto, to grab a couple of snacks, meet the team, and fill up on free resources to help them do their own marketing better.

In order for a dealership to be successful, it needs to commit to healthy, long-term habits, using an assortment of quality ingredients. While this event's speakers touched on many of said ingredients, we know there are a million ways to make a good salad. FlexDealer's digital marketing experts can craft the right recipe for your dealership, no matter your CMS or budget. Contact us today for a free sample.

You DO Win Friends With Salad

By: Devon Babin Mar 21, 2017

"Content marketing is the equivalent of healthy diet and exercise..."

Tired of eating salad? You’re not alone.

A lot of people are simply bored with salad. All that lettuce isn’t cutting it anymore. So, it isn’t surprising that you’re not winning any friends with your salad. Is it the same, sad salad you’ve been eating for years? Or perhaps you avoided salad for a while because you weren’t getting the health results you were hoping for. 


It turns out, Bart Simpson was wrong, you DO win friends with salad - as long as you’re eating the right salad.

First you have to ask yourself, “What is my definition of a salad?”. If you’ve ever had a jello salad, you’ll understand that not all salads are good for you and those salads certainly won’t make you any friends. And, if your salad is only made up of lettuce and a couple of sad tomatoes, it may not be hurting your health, but any potential friends are going to be turning their nose up at you and your sad salad.

Relax carnivores: We’re not really talking about salads, we’re talking about attracting and keeping customers (friends) with a comprehensive digital marketing and advertising plan. Believe it or not, salads and and automotive marketing have a lot in common.

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"Content marketing is the equivalent of healthy diet and exercise. It's unsexy and slow moving. When our patience wears thin, we throw money at the next magic marketing pill. Despite the countless leaps of faith to find success in alternatives—content marketing remains one of the only strategies to sustainably strengthen your online presence."

- Jenn Dunstan, FlexDealer Marketing Director

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Put a little heart and soul into what you’re serving your potential clients and you’ll see how many friends you can really make. Think outside the box and have fun with your food, throw some nuts, and fruit into the next dish you’re serving up. Why use lettuce when you can try spinach? Heck, mix a little meat in there. When you stop looking at your salad as “just a salad” you’ll soon realize that a lot of people want to be your friend.

Of course, one salad isn’t going to make you or your new friend healthier. Sticking with a healthy diet long term is the only way to ensure you live a long, happy life. The same applies to your marketing and advertising plans - one successful digital advertising campaign isn’t going to keep customers coming back. A consistent, quality marketing and advertising plan (or diet) is the only way to ensure your friends come back and your dealership is financially healthy long term.

The FlexDealer Team is all about healthy diets and we have the culinary experts to make your advertising and marketing salads attract new friends and keep them coming back for more.

As associate members of the Trillium Automotive Dealers Association (TADA), we attended their semi-annual Auto Dealers' Innovation Series in Ottawa and Toronto. To find out what you missed on March 22 & 23, read our recap here.

How To Set Up HTTPS & Why

By: Whitney Norrad Mar 16, 2017

Almost everywhere you go, it seems that HTTPS has followed you there. What is HTTPS, what does it do, and how do you install it? 

What is HTTPS?

That’s a good question! HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure; this means that the connection between the user’s computer and the site is secure, and the data sent between the two is encrypted or scrambled. It does this by exchanging data over a secure link between the server and the user. Out of the gate this sounds like a positive change to your website’s URL, right?

There is also a mental change in the minds of users when visiting secured sites vs. unsecured sites, and a visual change in the way most web browsers represent secured sites, such as a lock, or bright green text.

Why is SSL so Important?

If you’re involved in SEO, or almost any other face of the web, you might have heard whispers of Google giving a ranking boost to sites that are secured with HTTPS using SSL. We started hearing about this change in 2014 and then again in 2015, and here we are in 2017 continuing to hear that Google will give secured sites a boost. To what extent does HTTPS matter to Google? We don’t know (thanks, Google), but it can’t hurt to please the world’s largest and most-utilized search engine, and it can’t hurt to look better in the eyes of website visitors.

There is a social implication, that even if most searchers don’t understand exactly what HTTPS is, the way that browsers represent security increases their trust in secured websites. So why wouldn’t you want users to trust your site a little bit more, for just a few dollars more each year?

SSL Represented in Chrome and Safari, respectively

How to Install SSL on Your Website: Self-Managed Websites

HTTPS is technically a .txt file that you install on your website. To secure your website with HTTPS, you must purchase a SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. Here’s the lowdown:

  1. Purchase a SSL certificate from your domain provider - the same company that you purchased your domain from, such as NameCheap. Unless you are a high-volume eCommerce website, a basic ($10/year) certificate is fine.
  2. You will then need to generate a CSR, or a certificate signing request (a code needed to create the certificate prior to installing it). This is typically generated by your hosting provider. The process is different for each provider but can be found by searching their support database, or in theemail you received upon purchasing your SSL certificate.
  3. If you’re using a self-service hosting provider, you can navigate to the “Products - SSL” section of your dashboard. Here you will typically see an activate button. 
  4. Throughout this process, you will have documented your needed domain and hosting data to complete the activation process. Drop in the required details as follows: 
  5. Once the form is submitted, you can choose between email, HTTP-validation, and DNS-based validation. Each one is a little bit different, allowing you to confirm details by receiving an email to a generic domain-associated email address, uploading a .txt file to the website, or by creating a CNAME directory in your DNS files (more on this techy mumbo jumbohere). Choose the validation method that works best for you, and complete the validation steps required. Most providers will include validation steps in your CSR email.
  6. Once confirmed, you will simply need to renew your certificate on an annual basis (typically) in your control dashboard. You can manage, renew, and reissue your certificate(s) as needed.
  7. Start soaking up the benefits of Google’s modest ranking boost, and stay in the good books of your customers by keeping them safe!

How to Install SSL if You Don’t Manage Your Own Site

To make this easy, web vendors like us often will assist clients in purchasing and installing SSL certificates.

SSL certificates begin at around $10/year for basic coverage from most hosting providers. If your site accepts sensitive client information such as credit card data or social insurance numbers, you might require extended validation at a slightly higher cost. Many providers will help you purchase a SSL certificate from your domain host, and install it on your website for you.

Work with your website provider’s tech support team to have your CSR code generated and your SSL certificate installed and validated. If you’re a FlexDealer client interested in SSL installation, contact our ever-helpful Batman, and he’d be happy to get you started!

We like to think that ours is the best Batman, not Ben Affleck.

 

Does SSL Really Matter?

While nobody really knows to what extent Google will boost ranking for having a https prefix, we do know that security is under the search giant’s lense. We also know that browsers provide a visually-pleasing and trust-inducing visual when visiting sites that are secured. On top of these two outward benefits, let’s not forget that SSL does increase your site’s security: protecting the information that users exchange with your site by establishing a secure link and encrypting the data.

With all of these positives, and for just a few dollars per year, why not? Let us know your thoughts on installing SSL certificates, or who played Batman best, in the comments!

The Secret To Attracting Brand Ambassadors: The Millennial

By: Christine Hogg Feb 17, 2017

"Millennials are lazy. They don’t really want to work. They live at home, the age of 30 looming on the near horizon, freeloading off of mom and dad’s groceries and the lure of free rent. They don’t have the money for fancy dinners or lavish vacations, let alone enough to buy a car."

Sound familiar? The stereotypes surrounding the millennial generation are infinite—and dead wrong.

While it’s true that millennials are embracing an alternative lifestyle (that might include favouritism of public transit, Ubers or cycling), this generation of young people have an approach to life that encompasses focusing on short-term goal-setting and living in the moment. Mistaken for cash-strapped or cheap, the truth is, millennials prioritize and look at the long-term value of things before making a hasty buying decision.

Instead of this approach: finish high school, go to university, land a job, fall in love, get married, have a couple kids, retire; the millennial timeline might look something more like this: finish high school but take a year or two off before rushing into university, take the time to travel and find where your passions lie, dabble in more than one career field.

So, why is the automotive industry so scared of Canada’s millennials?

Less Cash, More Buying Power?

To automotive dealers, the millennial persona is intimidating, mostly because they are a buyer persona that is unpredictable in a very predictable market.

According to a study done by Autotrader.com, in 2013 there were more than 75 million millennials, who, as a mega-group, were among some of the most educated, socially-conscious and technologically-savvy that the automotive market has ever seen. Depending on the definition you subscribe to, millennials range in age from 19-35, but in the sales and marketing world, the term 'millennial' is generally seen as someone in their late-teens to mid-20s.

Despite this information, automotive dealers continue to be hesitant towards this buying group, especially when it comes to finance or leasing programs. Thanks to the current state of the economy in Canada, post-grad millennials often enter the workforce with a pile of debt, ranging from student loans to condo fees. But the study reveals that although millennials have it bad when it comes to job security, their generation is expected to be the wealthiest the auto industry has ever seen, pulling in $3.4 trillion in car revenue (compared to $2.8 trillion from Baby Boomers), and by 2023, will make up 40% of new car sales.

For this reason alone, automotive dealers need to make friends with their millennial clients. Doing so will offer financial gain and company growth for years to come.

Be Honest, Open and Responsive

One of the most common misconceptions automotive dealerships have about millennials is that they don’t want cars. This isn’t true. Millennials do want cars, but not necessarily right this moment. The economy won’t allow for it. In the same survey done by Autotrader.com, 73% of millennials intend to own a vehicle in the next year or so, and upwards of 84% of older millennials do own one already (and we’re not talking used cars).

Millennials don’t always land in the very first stage of the Buyer’s Journey. In fact, their personas are scattered throughout. For that very reason, building immediate relationships with millennials who express even the slightest interest in your brand is crucial to solidifying a business transaction somewhere down the road.

As a very liberal, open-minded, diverse and educated generation of people, millennials deeply care about personal relationships and face-to-face engagement. In fact, before even setting foot in your dealership, chances are, they’ve already spent numerous hours online conducting their own research about the vehicle they’ve got their eye on, as well as your brand.

Asides from online research, Autotrader states that at least 46% of millennial shoppers land on your dealership’s website, or come in for a visit, due to a referral or word-of-mouth from fellow shoppers. Technically speaking, they don’t even need to see you, because their minds tend to be made up. The difference is, they want to, and it’s up to you to take advantage of this offer and engage them to your best ability.

Needs Outweigh Wants Where Car Shopping Is Concerned

Millennial car shoppers prioritize what they need in a vehicle, over what they want. They view a vehicle as something they will invest in only if it is absolutely necessary to benefit their lifestyle. They are deeply trusting and it’s important to exceed their expectations when it comes to your brand.

Personal image and brand identity go hand in hand with millennial personas, so the stronger your brand presence is, the more willing they are to purchase from you. Millennials are willing to pay more for a vehicle, if the entire package speaks to their individuality, which means there is plenty of room for profit and business growth. Millennials are also very intuitive and connected in the digital age, (with 70% citing technology features as a must-have in a new car) so unlike the Baby Boomer generation, they are more likely to engage and interact with new vehicles that feature smart features, compared to previous generations who crave a more traditional, classic automotive style.

As plugged into technology as they are, millennials still prefer in-person consultations when it comes to the final stage of the Buyer’s Journey: decision making. They are also very brand-loyal, so if you take the time to build the relationship and provide excellent service, the rewards will appear in the form of more leads, a stronger brand presence and more referrals.

The next time you see a millennial (or a crowd of them) enter your dealership, drop your assumptions and forget about all of the stereotypes you know. Remember, millennials love a good conversation and the more genuine your approach is, the more likely they’ll remember you, your dealership, and your vehicles when it comes time to make that purchase.

The 14 Best Automotive Conferences You Need To Attend In 2017

By: Michael Cirillo Feb 14, 2017

When it comes to increasing your professional knowledge, nothing beats attending a conference. From inspiring keynotes, and informative workshops to networking and making new friends, there are plenty of automotive conferences, workshops and seminars to go around.

In fact, there are so many that it might be difficult to figure out which ones you should attend. That's why I've compiled a list of the Top 14 automotive conferences that you should consider attending in 2017. I've either had the pleasure of attending or speaking at these events, and for those that I haven't been to, I've received great non-biased feedback on.

Here's a quick list of each and their location, with a little more information to follow:

 

CBT Automotive Conference and Expo

Known for their daily automotive news broadcast, CTB has assembled a lineup of big names, including Gary Vaynerchuk from VaynerMedia and Scott Stratten from unMarketing to headline their show.

 

30 Sales a Month

Those that know Fran Taylor know that he is the king of prospecting. At his 30 Sales a Month seminar, you'll learn what it takes to prospect and sell more cars. 

 

Rockstar Auto Conference

Matt Koenig's mission with the Rockstar conference is to make the learning experience unique, fun, and engaging. Rather than hearing the same recycled content, you'll be immersed in a unique environment catered to help you grow. This year, you'll hear from David Villa, Elise Kephart, Frank Lopes, Tim Kintz and several others.

 

Grant Cardone's 10x Growth Con

Get access to the most advanced growth strategies from experts responsible for over $10,000,000,000 in annual sales. Grant has lined up an all-star roster of the most successful entrepreneurs and subject matter experts in the world

 

Jim Ziegler's Sales Manager Forum Seminar

Taught personally by James A. Ziegler, this workshop was designed to help dealers and managers of all positions in the front-end operation sell more cars with more gross per sale. Jim "Alpha Dawg" Ziegler's track record speaks for itself when it comes to getting results inside the dealership.

 

Auto Remarketing Canada

Auto Remarketing Canada is an annual event that brings together all corners of the remarketing and used-vehicle industry for two days of instruction and networking. This year's event will be hosted at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto.

 

Innovative Dealer Summit

The Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver, Colorado has become the definitive management education forum for dealer principals and senior dealer managers. The subject matter includes topics on the most important sales, profitability, tech, and digital best issues in the dealership today.

 

DrivingSales President's Club

This individually unique and exclusive event for owners and general managers is not a typical conference. Rather than including keynotes and breakout sessions, President's Club is crafted around critical operations discussions led by real-life experts.

 

Digital Dealer 22 and 23

#DD22 fuels the passion that drives the automotive industry's most progressive and highest-grossing dealers. With over 100 sessions to choose from, on a variety of dealership specific topics, Digital Dealer is a must-attend conference for those wanting their cup filled.

 

Digital Marketing Strategies

Developed by Brian and Glenn Pasch of PCG Consulting and PCG Marketing, this workshop was designed for automotive dealers, general managers, and marketing managers to help create a market dominating digital marketing strategy for the year ahead.

 

Women in Automotive

Women in Automotive is a conference designed to educate those in and around automotive and start a movement that is focussed on accelerating the role of women in the auto industry. Featuring Ted Talk style keynotes, longer education sessions and plenty of time for networking, it's on our list for must-attend conferences of 2017.

 

Internet Sales 20 Group

Not your traditional 20 Group, Sean V. Bradley, and Dealer Synergy assemble subject matter that is designed to help you dominate your market. This year, IS20G 10 is in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Driving Sales Executive Summit

At #DSES, every speaker, every award, every experience is designed to provide Dealer Principals, General Managers and Dealership Directors insights and innovations that will guide their strategic planning for the coming year. Driving Sales brings together the most progressive automotive dealers to the luxurious Bellagio to have an industry-changing conversation.

 

SEMA

SEMA Show takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center and features the automotive aftermarket industry's brightest minds and hottest products. 

 

Conclusion

What auto industry conferences are you planning to attend in 2017? Which ones did we miss? Sound off in the comments below!

Your Dealership Isn't THAT Important

By: Devon Babin Feb 10, 2017

If you’re a dealer principal or general manager of a dealership, I can pretty much guarantee that you have heard the following from a handful of people over the years, “Your website IS your dealership!”

For the longest time, it seems, many dealership owners and staff were hesitant to embrace websites. It made sense; this was a shift in how business was done in the automotive world. Instead of customers coming into the dealership to shop and ask questions, these websites were making it so the customer had the power. Websites allowed customers to browse without the aid of a sales consultant.

It took drastic measures to convince owners and management to accept websites and make the most of them. So, some clever marketing-type person thought of the term, “Your website is your dealership” and repeated it so many times that it eventually caught on. For at least the last five years I have heard this echoed throughout the industry - in every showroom, every industry event, every marketing-related conference call.


The Hard Truth

Here’s the thing though, your website isn’t your dealership. Your website is much, much, much more important.

“Blasphemy!” many will shriek. It’s understandable that dealer principals see their brick-and-mortar dealership as the most important piece of their empire. The crown jewel. We’re talking about multi-million dollar buildings that keep important things like staff, vehicles, computers, service equipment and everything else safe and sound.

While all of that is true, it’s also right to say that the average customer doesn’t care. Walk-in traffic seems harder and harder to come by. There is a pretty good chance the customer in question won’t step foot into your dealership until the day they buy/lease the vehicle from you. After all, nine out of 10 of your customers go online to do research before purchasing a vehicle - some may even know MORE than your sales team. Those same customers, in many cases, will have spent more time on your website than they ever will in your dealership - depending on the speed of your delivery process.

Perception is Everything

While you may see your business primarily as a physical place, your customer judges you by your website first. It’s all about perception, and your dealership has a serious flaw: it actually exists. It can never be as perfect or as accessible as your website.

Because they are big, physical buildings, dealerships are affected by things like weather, power outages and other “acts of god”. Your business can’t function without a staff and a staff needs time off. Websites don’t. Websites are available even on stat holidays. Websites are available when a guy can’t sleep and shops for a sports car at 3 a.m.

On a heavy snow day, at most dealerships, it’s all hands on deck to brush the snow off the cars so potential walk-in customers and appointments are impressed by the condition of the lot. Sadly, the same care is rarely taken on dealership websites even though many more people are visiting the website than driving by the dealership - especially on a snow day. If you’re busy brushing snow while your website’s vehicle inventory is missing photos and descriptions, it’s time to reassess your priorities.

If you perceive your dealership in the same way your customers do (website first), you can provide them with all the information and resources they need on your website and then know exactly what to expect when that online shopper does come in for an appointment.

 

 

When you subscribe to our weekly mailing list, you'll get access to step-by-step marketing guides that you can use immediately.

PLUS, you'll learn how to generate double and triple-digit increases in traffic to your website, and get access to exclusive

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Let's do this!

Let Your Website do the Work

A website can and will do more for your customers than the actual dealership experience. At the click of a button (on a good website) a customer can compare vehicles side-by-side. At a dealership, even if a sales consultant does go to the trouble of lining up two or three vehicles so their customer can compare them - it would take forever. No customer is going to wait for that when they can do it on your website in seconds. Of course, you have to have the right options and content on your website.

If Mr. and Mrs. Customer are trying to decide between buying a Honda Civic and a Hyundai Elantra, they probably aren’t the only ones. As a hypothetical Honda dealer, I would want to have content on my website that compares the two vehicles and highlights the benefits of the Civic. The keeners out there may even include a video explaining the differences to make life that much easier for your customer.

“The internet has become consumers' most-used source for all things car buying. Nine in ten car shoppers use the internet as a source of information while researching and the top resource consumers interact with online is search, followed by OEM and dealer sites, and then review sites.” - Think with Google Report

No one wants to hunt around for the information they want. Customers don’t want to go to review sites if they don’t have to. Provide the customer with the info they are looking for and they’ll never have to leave your site.

 

Meet the Staff and their Ugly Coats

If a customer walked into your dealership and asked for the entire sales team to line up and talk a bit about themselves, you would likely laugh. That would take a lot of time for little payoff.

Customers are already doing this, they just aren’t telling you about it. Having something as simple as a robust, content-filled staff page that provides quality images of your team along with brief bios will get you and your team sales.

Just ask Joy.

Joy was about 5’2”, 110 lbs soaking wet and had a certain mother goose aura to her. Completely new to the auto industry, selling cars was an uphill battle for Joy, but she worked hard and eventually found some traction. Joy was certainly present on this dealership's staff page; it was hard to miss her in what I would call a “techni-colourful” jacket, but others would simply call ugly.

When I was visiting the dealership one day, Joy brought me aside. A new customer contacted her directly and they got a deal done on a vehicle. The way she told it, the customer had been nervous about buying a car and was browsing various dealership websites in the area. For one reason oranother the customer really liked Joy’s jacket. The customer felt a connection with Joy and it’s all thanks to a robust staff page and an ugly jacket.

Work Hard

It’s a “work smart, not hard” approach. With a focus on your dealership website - by providing the customer all the content and resources they want - you’re doing your customers a service while making your own job easier.

Your customers will be coming to sales appointments informed and knowing exactly what they want. Less running around and more quality time closing deals with customers.

How to Launch a Successful Blog in 2017 | Car Dealer Marketing Tips

By: Michael Cirillo Jan 27, 2017

I wish I started blogging sooner.

That's one regret that most online marketers share, myself included.

Why?

Blogging has a unique ability to grow and nurture an audience of interested consumers. Many thought leaders today have become well-known because of their blogs. 

What I'm about to share with you works extremely well in driving traffic and leads because the focus is less on your dealership and more on your readers (i.e., customers).

Consumers are going online to research products and services. Your blog is a distribution point where consumers can get the education they need to make informed purchase decisions.

But having a blog isn't enough, especially if it's being used to spew useless sales-related information. 

I talk a lot about having a strategy and following through on it. That's where I observe many dealerships get hung up. Nothing in business can compensate for the lack of strategy. Without one, you'll flip-flop your way to burnout and defeat.


Launch a Successful Dealership Blog in 2017

Here's an 8-step process that you can use to create and launch a successful dealership blog in 2017. Don't have time to read the full post? Use on of the jump links below.

How to Get OrganizedHow to Define Your ObjectiveHow to Create a List of Blog TopicsHow to Create an Editorial CalendarHow to Stay Relevant to Your AudienceHow to Include Additional ValueHow to Email Your ListBonus Email Strategy

1. Get organized

There's nothing worse than wasting valuable time tracking down documents and resources. In this example, we're going to use Google Drive and Google Docs as the hub for all strategy creation.

Start by going to drive.google.com. Once you're there, click on the "NEW" button in the top right corner. Select, "Folder" from the drop-down menu.

Name your folder something memorable. I chose, "Dealership Content." The "Dealership Content" folder will become the centralized location for all dealership content-related items.

Inside that folder, click on the "New" button in the top-right corner of the screen and select, "Google Docs." This will open a new browser tab with the text editor loaded.

Title your new document, "2017 Dealership Blogging Strategy." Feel free to format the text with fonts however you'd like.

From the "Insert" menu, select "Table of Contents." This will insert a dynamic table of contents into the document that will update as you add to the document.

With these items in place, you're ready to move on to the next step.


2. Have a clear objective

One of my favorite marketing-related quotes comes from the Disney Movie, "Alice in Wonderland." 

When Alice arrives at a point in her journey where she realizes that she's lost, the Cheshire Cat appears in a tree above her. 

She asks, "I just wanted to ask you which direction I ought to go?"

The Cheshire responds will a brilliant piece of marketing advice.

"Well, that depends on where you want to get to."

Confidently, Alice replies, "It doesn't really matter, as long as I..."

"Then it really doesn't matter which way you go!" 

Simply having a blog is not sufficient. Hoping that your blog will attract droves of customers to your website is also naive, especially if you aren't clear on your blog's purpose.

In your Google Doc, type, "Blog Objective." Select your text, and make it a heading. Once complete, hit enter (return) on your keyboard.

Articulating the purpose of your blog is important. It will act as your compass and will help you determine whether you are truly providing value to your community.

If you're stuck, try answering these three questions that will help you gain some clarity.

1.) Who are your readers?

2.) What do they need?

3.) How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

By honestly answering those three questions, you should be able to craft a simple purpose statement for your blogging efforts.

For example, here's a sample statement:

My readers are off-road enthusiasts (who are they) who are not leveraging all of their truck's potential (their need). Reading the ABC Trucks blog will help them get to know their truck, aftermarket accessories, off-road tips tricks, and locations so that they can enjoy their vehicle to its fullest extent.



When you subscribe to our weekly mailing list, you'll get access to step-by-step marketing guides that you can use immediately.

PLUS, you'll learn how to generate double and triple-digit increases in traffic to your website, and get access to exclusive

inbound marketing strategies that we only share withour subscribers.

Let's do this!


3. Create a list of topics

After completing steps one and two, you're already further ahead than most dealerships. Congratulations.

But now we're going to start diving into the nitty-gritty.

Most people get overwhelmed and give up because they struggle to come up with topics. Not knowing your objective and audience makes this task even more challenging.

Since we're going to use off-road enthusiasts as the example throughout this post, here's how you come up with topic ideas.

Create another heading in your Google Doc called, "Topics." 

Check out my last post about the five must use websites to create traffic-worthy content. Inside, you'll discover a method for finding topic suggestions using a tool I love called Soovle. 

To summarize, Soovle is a keyword suggestion tool that leverages autosuggest data from a variety of search engines such as Google, Bing, YouTube and Amazon.

All you need to do is start typing a search, and Soovle will get to work revealing the most popular searches across search engines. You can click on any of the suggestions to visit the original location.

Doing so will help you know what topics your audience will want to learn about, and should help you create a list of subjects.

As new ideas come to you, or as your research gets more in-depth, return to your blog document and add them to the list. Your Google Doc is a living document that can be shared with your entire internet team.


4. Consistency is key, create an editorial calendar

Even though Google rewards consistency, Google doesn't suggest what that "consistency" means. Some of the most influential, wealthiest bloggers I know, only blog once per month. 

 

Whatever you choose, make it realistic and take some of the pressure off. The more pressure you feel around blogging, the less likely you'll be to follow through. 

Create an editorial calendar by opening Google Calendar. Navigate to your calendar settings by clicking on the "gear" icon.

Next, click on the Calendars link. This will take you to a screen where you can create a new calendar.

Create a new calendar by clicking on the "Create new calendar" button at the bottom of the page.

Fill out all the fields on the page to setup your new editorial calendar. For this example, I created a calendar called, "Blogging."

If there are others at your dealership who will share in the content creation task, you can share this calendar with them and also edit their permissions.

From there, all you need to do is insert your blog topics on the dates that you'd like to publish them. That way everyone on your team can see (yourself included) when new blog posts are scheduled.


5.) Relevancy is King

People use to say, "Content is King," and I admit that I used to believe that.

But how can content be king if it sucks? 

What I've come to learn is that relevancy is king. Without relevancy, your blog doesn't stand a chance. 

Consumers are looking for information that will enrich and enhance their lives. They aren't looking to be forced into a cookie-cutter persona where every piece of the content applies to them.

If you look closely at this example, you'll be in one of two camps. Camp A which believes the numbers represented aren't that high. Camp B that which sees how high the numbers are. 

Why?

Because those stats are accurate to what's happening with many dealerships out there. Sure it would be nice to have hundreds of thousands of visitors to your website each month, or year, but I don't believe that's realistic for the state the automotive industry is in.


6.) Include additional value

When done right, your blog can act as the salesperson that never sleeps. 

24/7, 365, it will work in the background by helping attract and nurture your audience. 

Most dealership blogs fail to provide additional value. The result is the opposite of what we're trying to achieve by setting up your blog properly.

Don't scare readers away by including a tacky call-to-action at the end of your blog posts. All the credibility you're seeking washes away with the infamous, "Check out our inventory," CTA.

Rather, offer more resources to your blog readers. They will love you all the more for it. Include calls to action to other relevant information. Doing so will solidify your credibility and nurture your readers into shoppers.

At FlexDealer, we add extra value in a variety of ways. For example, if you checked out some of my previous posts, you probably noticed that they are quite lengthy. 

To make the information even more accessible, I thought it might be cool to make downloading the entire blog post (guide) as an option.

When you click on the CTA, you get a pop-up that asks for your name and email. Entering their information adds the reader to our email list (which we'll talk about in a second), so that, with their permission, we can continue to communicate with them about the topics they are interested in.

Creating a download of your guide doesn't have to be difficult. First, start by going to the Google Chrome app store.

Search for "Print Friendly" and click the "Add to Chrome" button. Doing so will install the print-friendly plugin to your web browser. Once installed, it will appear in your browser extensions.

Navigate to your blog post url. Once it has loaded, click on the "Print Friendly" icon.

Don't ask me how they came up with the name for this extension, but once you click the button, it will generate a print-friendly version of your entire blog post, including links. Just click on the "PDF" button to download a pdf of your post.

Next, head over to Dropbox.com. If you don't have a Dropbox account yet, sign up for free, or you can use any online storage platform. If you do, create a folder where you can upload your new PDF.

Once your pdf is uploaded, click on the "Share" link. You'll see a pop-up with some options for sharing. 

Go ahead and click on the "link settings." Select "Anyone with a link" as your sharing option and then click "Save Settings."

All you have to do from here is copy the Dropbox link of your pdf into your email autoresponder so that when people sign up for your blog, they'll receive it in their inbox.


7. Email your list

Every time you publish a new blog post, make sure you email your list. The trick is to only email segments of your list that have shown interest in the topic you've published. This is the best way to keep your audience segments engaged.

At FlexDealer, we use ActiveCampaign because it offers a robust feature-set for a reasonable price.

ActiveCampaign has done an excellent job at presenting your email list data in an easy-to-consume dashboard. 

They've also made it super easy to create and manage behavior-based automated emails. 

When you're ready to email your blog list, all you have to do is create a new campaign.

ActiveCampaign makes designing and sending a campaign super easy with their intuitive wizard.


8. BONUS TIP: Re-Email your list

FlexDealer finds that about 30% - 32% of our readers will open the original sent email. That means that 70% of our list isn't basking in the goodness that is the FlexDealer blog. 

That might sound low, but it's a pretty standard number.

So, to get around that and increase blog traffic and readership we follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Send your email and then wait for a week

Step 2: After one week, filter your sent list by those that are "unopened."

Step 3: Change your subject line, and re-email your "unopened" list


Conclusion

Okay, here's the recap about how to launch a successful dealership blog in 2017.

1. Get organized: Create a folder and document to store all your blog's crucial information. This will include post archives, image assets and whatever other items you'll need to save time and energy.

2. Set your blog's objective: This will help you keep your blog's subject matter focused and relevant to your ideal audience.

3. Create a list of topics: Do you leg work upfront and never struggle to find ideas again. This will help you stay motivated rather than discouraged not knowing what to write.

4. Create an editorial calendar: Stay on task and publish within a schedule that is realistic.

5. Stay Relevant: Your blog is not the place to pitch. Offer your readers the information that will help them grow a relationship with you.

6. Add more value: Something as simple as getting them to sign up for your blog newsletter can go a long way in nurturing the relationship and building credibility. Get creative and don't be afraid to try different calls-to-action.

7. Email your list: As soon as you're published, email your list. Make sure that it's an opt-in list so that you are compliant with email spam legislation.

8. Re-email your list: For those that didn't open your initial email, wait one week, change your subject line and send the email again.

When you focus on the items in this post, you'll create more shareworthy content and have a greater ability to attract, engage, and convert high-quality vehicle shoppers on auto-pilot.


Have a question or comment? Sound off in the comments below!


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

Why You Need More Than a Website

By: Whitney Norrad Jan 25, 2017

Is my Website Enough?

This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but the answer is no. FlexDealer is a digital marketing company, so of course we’re serious advocates for a strong web presence for your business.

You have a dealership — do you just sit and wait for people to show up to buy a car? I sure hope not!

You might buy TV spots, placements in the local paper, run referral campaigns, hold private sales, or execute any number of other marketing initiatives that bring people into your dealership.

Your website also requires a marketing plan to bring users to it, because otherwise, the only people who will be visiting your website are people that already know about your business. We wouldn’t want that!

The Purpose of Dealership Websites

Think about why your dealership has a website in the first place. Maybe that reason is to sell more cars (but how?), or perhaps you have a website because you know that it’s important to business but aren’t sure why.

Your website is an extension of your physical dealership, pulling your offline brand into the easy-to-access world of the internet (here’s another great how-to article on mixing the two). Visitors come to your website to gain information, which will likely, at some point, lead to a vehicle purchase. It is important to provide users with easy access to the information that they want and need.

Make sure that you provide value, gain trust, and are a true dealership presence online — not just a sales pitch. Be the place that car shoppers want to shop.

When you subscribe to our weekly mailing list, you'll get access to step-by-step marketing guides that you can use immediately.

PLUS, you'll learn how to generate double and triple-digit increases in traffic to your website, and get access to exclusive

inbound marketing strategies that we only share with our subscribers.

Let's do this!

How to Drive Traffic to Your Dealership Site, and Why

There are seemingly millions of ways to market your website and here are some of our favorites:

Strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization): A website with strong SEO is a website with digital muscles. A website with great SEO is a website that Google and other search engines like. This means that the search engines know what your site is about, can match search data to information on your site, and will serve it up to eager searchers. If your website can rank for relevant search term organically, you’ll be at the top of the list, and the top of shoppers’ minds, without additional expenses. Organic traffic is often classified as “the best” traffic because you’re attracting users who are searching for what you’re offering. Bonus: with the right SEO in place, they’re seeing your website over the competition’s.


Paid Advertising: We love Google AdWords and Facebook advertising. Both have different benefits based on what type of consumers you want to attract, and both are deeply entrenched in the lives of potential customers. With Google AdWords and Facebook advertising, you can reach your users somewhere that they’re already visiting, and become their new friend. With paid advertising, you reach new customers who might not know about you, or might be searching for a vehicle but don’t know where to look. You’re also able to be specific in the consumer segments you’re reaching, which means you that won’t just be bringing in traffic, but the right traffic!


The Humble Bundle knows what’s up - reaching gamers directly in their Facebook feeds and giving back to charities while doing it!


Content Marketing: Your website’s content plays into SEO, while providing value and resources to website visitors. If your website has all the answers to their questions (reviews, blogs, and comparison pages), great deals (real promotions), well-merchandised inventory pages, and is easily accessible, visitors will trust and use your website to research and purchase their next vehicle.

Strong Relationships: This is the car business, and we all know the value of strong relationships.There’s nothing like word-of-mouth advertising, so why not translate this evergreen theory to your web presence? Being able to build links from reputable websites adds credibility and trust to your dealership’s brand, both in the eyes of consumers and of Google. To gain trustworthy backlinks, build relationships with automotive bloggers, sales professionals, and your community. Community events, sponsorships, and donations also show your philanthropic side, while boosting your digital presence. #winning!

One of FlexDealer’s Partners, Tip Top Auto, sees some love and linkage on Dear Santa Durham’s sponsorship page.

What Else Can I Do?

We could brainstorm and make recommendations for days on how to dominate the web all day - we’re “making dealership digital rock” addicts. Luckily for us, the web is constantly growing and throwing out new ways to enhance your brand. Let us know in the comments what your favourite ways to drive traffic are, and why you feel that they’re important!


Whitney Norrad

The collaborative marketing partner and trusted liaison for dealer clients of FlexDealer. Whitney hails from a background in automotive accessory marketing, and has a love for all things digital. Marketing Account Manager duties aside, she enjoys snuggling with cats, making wine and convincing her spouse to buy more TMNT art for their home in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Connect with FlexDealer:

            

5 Must Use Websites To Create Traffic-Worthy Content in Half the Time

By: Michael Cirillo Jan 17, 2017

As a 21st-century car dealership, it's important to understand that content marketing isn't going anywhere. It's the way of the future.

If you've ever caught yourself wondering why it's so important, consider that you've been touched by someone else's content marketing efforts every time you conduct a Google search. 

Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day.

Each of those searches represents an individual that is seeking out information. There's just one problem, not everything indexed by Google is gold. You and I both know that there is a ton of crap content out there that just needs to go away.

But how?

Since Google's mission is to make the world's information more accessible, they do that by rewarding high-quality content with higher rankings.


Simply put, if you don't produce content, you're not feeding Google anything to index. If your site doesn't rank, your digital dealership won't get found. 

There's another problem, though. Content marketing isn't easy. It can be time-consuming, especially without a plan or the right tools to help you out.

Most people get stumped with content marketing because they find it difficult to come up with ideas. I've been there. There is nothing more draining of creativity than not knowing what to write about or not know where to find useful information.

What also sucks is creating content that you're not sure has the share factor. 

If you're not in a position to hire writers or devote more time to your content marketing efforts, the only solution is to be able to get more done in less time.

The goal of this post is to bring you inside of some of my favorite online tools that will help you create high-quality content in half the time. Each tool will cover different aspects of the content creation journey.


Five Websites To Create Traffic-Worthy Content in Half the Time

Here's a quick summary of of the websites we're going to explore today. Don't have time to read the full post? Use one of the jump links below.

Soovle.comBuzzSumoHubspot's Blog Topic GeneratorGoogle Docs Voice TypingGrammarly


1. Soovle.com

When I first stumbled upon Soovle, I felt like I had struck oil! Soovle taps into the autosuggest search data from a variety of websites. Using the autosuggest data will help you understand more about what real users are searching for online.

To get started, enter keywords that are relevant to the topic you want to write about on your website. In this example, we're going to use Ford F-150.

As you begin to type, Soovle will present autosuggest searches from a variety of search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, and YouTube.

Having clarity about the topics that real users find helpful or interesting is the golden ticket to content marketing. If your content isn't useful, it won't resonate, drive traffic, or generate leads.

You can click on any of the Soovle results to see the actual search results page from that search engine. In this example, I'm going to click on "Ford F-150 towing capacity."

Now you can see all of the different websites and content that is currently ranking for that search term. This simple step will help you curate data and information that you can cite in your content to add 3rd-party validation.


2. BuzzSumo

Early I mentioned that it's important to create content that consumers will find helpful or useful. But how is it possible to know? That's where BuzzSumo comes into the mix.

BuzzSumo is an awesome service that will help you find the most shared content and key influencers in a niche. The idea is that if content is shared or is going viral, that's a good indication of its helpfulness or usefulness within a particular audience.

Type in whatever you want to search in the search bar. Keeping with our example from earlier, I searched for "Ford F-150." Remember that you can search for keywords, authors, or even paste in the URL.

BuzzSumo gets to work find the top articles that have the most engagements. As you can see, several interesting blog posts are getting a ton of social interactions.

You can leverage this data to help shape your content ideas. For example, the article titled, "5 Unknown Facts About the Ford F-150" has had 26.6K Facebook engagements. 

Click on the link from BuzzSumo to view the original article and see what information they've included. 

Following step one and two will help you acquire and curate content much faster than if you tried to write it all from scratch. By tapping into search engine auto-suggest data and knowing what content has already gone viral, you will know for sure what content to publish on your website without wondering if consumers will enjoy it or not.

Moving on...



When you subscribe to our weekly mailing list, you'll get access to step-by-step marketing guides that you can use immediately.

PLUS, you'll learn how to generate double and triple-digit increases in traffic to your website, and get access to exclusive

inbound marketing strategies that we only share withour subscribers.

Let's do this!


3. Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator

Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator is pretty self-explanatory. After you have a topic idea and have gathered some sources to reference, it's important to have a headline that will compel searchers to click.


To get started, fill in the fields with nouns related to content that you'd like to publish.

Keep in mind that this is a resource to inspire creativity. I strongly recommend NOT copying the suggestions verbatim because you risk publishing content that is identical to someone else. As you can see from their disclaimer, the algorithm isn't perfect.

As you can see, some of the suggestion are awful, while others have some merit. 


4. Google Docs Voice Narration

I learned this trick when I started writing my best-selling book, "Don't Wait, DOMINATE!" 

Rather than staring at the cursor blinking on a blank page, start talking. It's so much easier to get your point across when speaking rather than writing.

If you have a Google account already, head over to docs.google.com. Create a new document by clicking on the blank template in the top-right of the page.

Once your blank document has loaded, hover you mouse over "Tools" in the menu and select "Voice Typing." 

Your browser might prompt you to give Google Docs access to your microphone. Make sure it's enabled, or you won't be able to use this feature.

Start by clicking the microphone icon. From there, just start talking. Don't worry about formatting or grammar just yet. The idea of this is to get the words out of your brain and onto the page.

The next tool I'm going to show you will solve your grammar and formatting woes.


5. Grammarly

Simply put, I. LOVE. GRAMMARLY. I use it for every piece of content I write. From emails to magazine articles to this very blog post. I even have the Chrome Browser extension installed so that my social posts sound a little more intelligent. :)

Grammarly is more than a grammar checker. It also helps with sentence structure, readability, plagiarism and a slew of other helpful writing resources.

Keep in mind that Grammarly is not free. At a $11.66/mo the value cannot be beaten. 

Once you're in, click "New" to create a document. Copy and paste your dictated content from Google Docs. Grammarly will get to work helping you format the text into sentences that make more sense. 

You can also enable a variety of features to help you get your new content just right. 


Conclusion

Content marketing isn't going anywhere. If anything, it will continue to be something that Google looks for more of. They want brands and businesses to be as relevant as possible. Creating high-quality content is the best way to do that.

Dig into each of the websites and tools mentioned in this post. Even if you only adopt half of what I've talked about here, your content marketing efforts will be much more streamlined.

Have questions? Feedback? Sound off in the comments below.


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

Top 30 Canadian Local Listing Sites Your Dealership Needs To Be On

By: Michael Cirillo Jan 10, 2017

If you've ever wondered what you can do to enhance your search engine ranking, pay attention.

There's something online called citations, and you want them. 

Why?

Citations are an online reference to your dealership name, business address, and phone number. Google uses them to evaluate the online authority of your business.

You might be thinking, "Isn't that a backlink?" Kinda, but not really. Citations differ from backlinks because you don't need to include a link to your website for you to get credit for them.

The difficulty in building citations, however, is that they can be time-consuming. You have to source credible directory websites and then go through the process of creating a profile on each. 

That said, there is massive value to doing so especially when considering how mobile device usage has surpassed desktop usage. 

The easier it is for people to find your information, the better. That's why our Local SEO specialists have compiled a list of the top 30 Canadian local listing websites you need to know about.

 

Download a Free PDF of this Guide

(+ BONUS: 28-point Local SEO Checklist)

 

30 Canadian Local Listing Websites

Here is a quick summary of the sites we're going to explore today. Please keep in mind that we're not going to look at the obvious Google Places because, well, it's obvious and you SHOULD already be there by now.

Don't feel like reading the whole post? Click on one of the jump links below.

YellowPages.caIndustry Canda411.caYelp.caFacebook Business PageBing PlacesWebLocal.caGoldbook.can49.caHotFrog.caiBeginMapQuestBrownBook.netProfileCanada.comShop In CanadaCylex.caeSourceCanada.comFoundLocally.comMySheriff.caPinBud.caDakiTaki.comYalwa.caFoursquare.comOpendi.caFindUsFastAboutUsFactualWorldWebWhere2Go.comShowMeLocal.com 

1.) YellowPages.ca

Start by visiting www.yellowpages.ca and click on the three lines in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Doing so will open a slide-out menu.

Clicking on the "Advertise with us" link will redirect you to their 360 Business Centre website. Don't worry; it's not going to cost you a dime!

In the top right-hand corner of the screen, click on "Free Business Profile." 

Finally, fill out all of your business information and click to submit your listing. First listing site = done!

 

2.) Industry Canada

Like most government websites in Canada, you'll need to select your language to begin.

Industry Canada website is a little bit cluttered, but not near as bad as some of the other websites we're going to look at a bit later. Hover over the "Just for business" link in the navigation and select, "Find Canadian companies."

Scroll down the page until you reach the "Find Canadian Companies" section. Click on the last link that says, "Add or Update your company profile" and follow the prompts from there.

 

3.) 411.ca

Easy-peasy, all you need to do is click on the "Add your business to 411.ca for FREE!" link and submit all of your company information. DONE!

 

4.) Yelp.ca

Yelp has done a pretty great job at maintaining their purpose of being a business recommendation and review platform. Chances are, your business is likely already listed on Yelp. In which case, this is a good opportunity to check in and make sure that your information is up-to-date.

Whether your dealership is listed already or not, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Claim Your Business Page."

Fill in your dealership name and location and then click, "Get Started."

If you already have a listing, it will show up in the list of results. Next to your listing, there will be a "Claim this business" link. Follow the prompts to claim your business.

If your dealership doesn't show up in the results, click on the link at the bottom of the page to get your profile and listing set up.

 

5.) Facebook Business Page

It's 2017. If you're still using a personal profile as a dealership, you need to STAAAAWWWWWP! And get with the times! Before you can create a Facebook business page, you'll need to be logged in to Facebook using your personal profile. 


After you log in, click on the little arrow located in the top right-hand corner of the page. Select "Create Pages."

Since your dealership is a local business, select that as the option.

Make sure you select the category that best reflects your business. In the case of a dealership, I'd recommend "Automotive" as the category. Submit your dealership contact information and click, "Get Started."

Facebook will walk you through the steps of creating your business page. I'd recommend keeping your page unpublished so that nobody stumbles upon it while you're still building it out.

 

6.) Bing Places

It's true; there are other search engines out there besides Google! Bing makes it easy to submit your business information. Click the big "Get Started" link front and center on the page. 

If you scroll down the page, they even have a hand infographic that walks you through the process. Get 'er done!

 

7.) WebLocal.ca (Yellowbot)

Weblocal is a partner site of Yellowbot directory listings. To get started, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the "Contact Us" link.

You will be redirected to the Yellowbot site where you can submit your business information. In the right-hand column, there is a link where you can submit your business.

 

8.) Goldbook.ca

I like easy, and this one is that. From the homepage, click the "Add/Update my listing" link to get started.

You'll need to have all of your business information at the ready (which you should have by now) and send an email to them. It's free.

 

9.) n49.ca

To list your dealership with n49, click the "Add a business" link in the top right-hand corner of the page.

You will need to create a free account before you can go any further. Enter your email address, password, and username. Once complete, click, "Create My Account."

Check your email and click on the confirmation link they sent to you.

Once your account is created and confirmed, they will redirect you to your account dashboard. Click on the "Add a Business" link and follow n49's setup wizard to complete the process.

 

10.) HotFrog.ca

It's easy and free. To add your business, click the "Add your business" link from the homepage.

Fill in all of your dealership's contact information and submit. You'll also have the option to create a HotFrog login, which I recommend. Doing so will make it easier to manage your listing if needs be.

 

11.) iBegin

iBegin is a directory listing website for Canada, the USA, the UK, and New Zealand. To get started, click the "Submit your business" link on the homepage and follow the instructions. Basic, free and easy.

 

12.) MapQuest

Remember MapQuest?!? They are still around and have a pretty cool interface for adding your business. To claim you business, click on the three-lined icon in the top left-hand corner of your browser. 

From the slide-out menu, scroll down until you see "Claim your business."

Fill out the form with your dealership information, and you're off to the races. I'd recommend setting up a profile on Mapquest so that it's easy to manage your listing in the future. They make it easy by linking to the Facebook login api.

 

13.) BrownBook.net

I love when they are easy. Go to www.brownbook.net and click the "Add a Business" link in the top right corner of the screen. Noticing a trend for how this get's done yet? 

 

14.) ProfileCanada.com

Yes, it's a little cluttered, but it's still a great place to get listed. Once you click on the "Add a Business" link on the homepage, just follow their prompts to complete setup. CHECK!

 

15.) ShopInCanada.com

Another easy place to get listed, the name says it all. Shop in Canada makes the process of adding a business listing easily. 

Start by clicking the "List Your Canada Business" link located just under the logo on the homepage. Done like dinner.

 

16.) Cylex.ca

To list your dealership on Cylex, you'll need to register an account with them. Click the "Register" link in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

On the next screen, you'll be presented with two options for registering on their site. I recommend selecting the Business Directory. Once selected, follow the instructions to complete your profile setup.

 

17.) eSourceCanada.com

Ugly site, yes. Valid and easy listing process, also yes. That's kind of the point to these listing sites, though. They don't need to be pretty, and you're not there to show off the beauty of the sites you list with. Remember that the point is to show Google that you've got some Klout.

To get started, navigate to the "List your company" link at the top left of the screen. That's it.

 

18.) FoundLocally.com

Found Locally is a little more unique because they have segmented their site by region. To kick off the listing process, select your Province from the drop-down menu.

Once you've selected your region, an "Add free listing" link will magically appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Click it.

See the big blue arrow on the page? Follow the instructions right below it. 

 

19.) MySheriff.ca

I don't get the name, but I get that listing here is important. After you're done gazing at the beautiful yellow map of the world, click on the "Add your business today and get the top listing free" link. 

Done.

 

20.) Pinbud.ca

I don't know about you, but I just want to meet the people behind this site. You start off with a cartoon, and I'm hooked. I've also always been fascinated with how off the word "enrol" looks to me. At the time of writing this, my grammar correction tool is even screaming at me to change the spelling to "enroll."

Nonetheless, you're going to want to click the link that says, "Enrol Business." 

True, it's not a free listing site, but are you really going to cheap out over $2.99? Click the signup link and get listed!

 

21.) DakiTaki.com

It is what it is. A business Directory. Canada. At least, that's their slogan. Click "Add Listing" to get started. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall while they came up with the name of this site. 

Also not a free service, but there is a reason they are in the top 30 Canadian local listing sites you need to be on. If you're asking my opinion, yes they are valuable enough to be on this list. Would I maybe consider them last? yes. Just my $0.02. 

 

22.) Yalwa.ca

If you guessed that this is another listing website, you'd be correct. Click the blue, "Add business" button in the top right of the screen.

They at least had the decency to have a clutter-free landing page promoting the fact that this won't be free. That is respectable. If you want to move to the next step with Yalwa, it'll cost $4.95 per month.

 

23. Foursquare.com

Foursquare hit with a boom back in 2009, but for some reason started to fade away a little. At least, that's how it seemed to me. 

Having said that, there is no scoffing at the fact that Foursquare.com still receives 10-billion (with a B) check-ins per year spanning 55-million active monthly users. 

Start by clicking on the "Small Business" link in the top right of the homepage. You will be redirected to their small business portal.

Located just below the search bar, click the "Get started now" link. 

Type the name of your dealership and your location and click "Search." If your dealership is already on Foursquare, it will appear in the list of search results. If that's the case, go ahead and click, "Select."

You'll need to claim your dealership (if you haven't already done so). Check the box to verify that you're the owner or someone that represents the owner of the store. Click, "Get started."

Enter the store's phone number or cell phone number of the owner of the store to verify ownership. From what I found, they don't call or send a text. If you were trying to claim a business, it means that they already have preliminary contact information on file that they need to verify.

I entered my cell phone number, and that was all they needed.

The hook. It's not free, but you've already invested this time into getting to step 7. For $20 bucks, you can claim the business and get it listed and maintained in Foursquare's directory. It's a little annoying when it's not free, but $20 is a very small investment considering how much you've already spent on SEO.

 

24.) Opendi.ca

Ah, simple. Clean. The way websites should be. Click the "Create a free listing" button in the top right corner of the page.

Fill out the form with your business information and submit. That's it. Moving on...

 

25.) FindUsFast

I don't know if it's just me, but I find it extremely ironic that the name of the directory is "Find Us Fast," but I felt like I was playing a game of "Where's Waldo" trying to find the link to submit a site. :)

As you can see from the image, it's there, but it is small. Click it.

Click the link to add your listing to the Find Us Fast website. That's it. Easy.

 

26.) About Us

AboutUs is an interesting concept where you can create a page that supports a person, place, or thing. If you fall into one of those categories, they want to know about it.

Start by clicking the "Anything" link. 

They've made things super helpful by clicking you through to their user guide. Follow the instructions to learn more about the platform and determine whether it's a good fit for your dealership or not.

 

27.) Factual

I'm going to save you hours of digging and just link you directly where you need to go. Fill out their form, and submit to get listed.

 

28.) WorldWeb

To kick things off on WorldWeb.com click the "Business" link on their homepage. 

The next page is a little confusing, but whatever. That's why you're here, right?!?

First, do a search for your business. If WorldWeb has your listing already, follow their instructions to claiming it. If it's not listed, click the 'back' button and proceed to step 2.

Follow the on-screen instructions to get your dealership listed on the site.

 

29.) Where2Go.com

Am I reminded of the old Yahoo! Geocities website my buddy Dan and I used to create? Absolutely. Visiting Where2Go.com brought back some fond memories of my teenage years.

See that tiny little "List Site" link in the navigation? Click it.

They have a specific warning about adding duplicate listings, so I would recommend doing a search to see if you're already on the site. If not, follow the instructions and giddy-up!

 

30.) ShowMeLocal.com

Phew, you made it! Last, but certainly not least is ShowMeLocal.com. To get started, click on "New Business signup."

If you already have an account, you just need to sign in. If not, fill out the form and click the "Register for Free!" button.

This is a little bit backward but go with me. Right when you register, they immediately direct you to a page where you can enter your business details. Go ahead and do that.

You will get a warning that before they can review your listing, you will need to confirm you account. On most sites, they prompt you to do this before being able to do anything else.

Head over to your email and click the confirmation link they sent you. Once confirmed, you're done. 


Conclusion:

As mobile usage continues to rise, giving Google as much insight into your online authority will be crucial. Getting listed on the top 30 directory listing sites covered in this post will help you get the attention of Google and rank even higher than before.

Have any questions or comments? Sound off in the comments!

5 Things You Need To Know About Marketing Your Dealership In 2017

By: Michael Cirillo Jan 02, 2017

It's a new year and you're ready to start marketing your dealership. There's just one problem. The term "online marketing" is the fastest way to get a room full of dealers to scowl and gnash their teeth. For some reason, the thought of online marketing renders this uncontrollable frustration that many dealers can't seem to shake.

It's understandable. The internet has been a growing element of a dealer's marketing efforts for over 20 years, but many fail to see the results that they've been promised over and over again by money hungry vendors. Don't worry; I'll spare you the rant in this post, especially since I've already done so elsewhere.

Ushering in a New Year is the perfect time to start marketing your dealership properly. It's a time to reflect on the previous year's efforts and identify what worked, and what didn't.

Whenever I set out to create a new strategy, there are factors that I always consider. I believe that there are certain beliefs that will either make my marketing (and business) objectives achievable or kill the momentum altogether.

On November 1, 2016, I was invited to keynote Den Digitale Forhandler (Digital Dealer) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Standing in front of 350+ car dealers, I shared the five things dealers (and you) need to know about marketing your dealership in 2017.

Be warned, you've likely heard all of this stuff before. Why? Because the five things you need to know about marketing your dealership in 2017 are the truth.

And let's face it if you found this post and are still reading it, my guess is that you haven't applied what you're about to hear as well as you thought you did.

 


Video Credit: http://bilinfo.dk

 

1. Focus on what matters most

There is a lot of competition in the market. There are car dealerships on every corner. The chances are that your store is sharing a similar message to all of the other dealerships.

I talk a lot about this in my book, "Don't Wait, DOMINATE!" When every dealership is sharing the same message (e.g., "0.9% APR Financing" or "We're the #1 Dealer in Toronto") consumers get confused and begin ignoring you completely.

Not only that, many dealers follow the perceived 'upper hand' that competing stores always seem to have. There's always a store that is leading the region, and you're always going to want to overtake them. The reality is that rather than focusing so much of your energy on what they're doing, you should focus on what actions you can take that will have the most positive impact on your business.

It's like watching a murmuration of starlings. Like a thick black cloud, thousands of tiny black birds take to the sky, shifting directions without notice. Each bird following the wing of its closest neighbor. Each bird following "the leader."

When you click on the video below, ask yourself, "Which bird is the leader?"


You're right. The market is cluttered. It's important to understand, however, that the same way you have your eye on the competition, they have their eye on you. They are wondering the same things.

Instead of changing direction without notice, set your sights on a clear target and fly straight towards it. The best way to make this happen is to have your marketing plan document handy at all times. Good marketing plans will help keep you focused on the things that matter most to your business because it will cause you to cross-reference each of your actions to your business goals, mission, vision, and core values. 

 

2. Why Are You In Business?

What's your definition of success? What do you want to achieve? These are not often the easiest questions to answer (which is why so many business owners skip over them), but you MUST answer them!

You can probably guess what the most prominent answer is.

Money.

By far, "Money" is the answer I get most often. Sadly, money isn't what your entire focus should be.

Why not?

Money isn't the best motivator and has a tendency to bring out the worst in us. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that money is evil or anything like that (after all, we aren't running non-profits).

I am suggesting that if making more money is all you care about, it will shine through in how you interact and market to your customers.

Money is the natural byproduct that there has been an exchange of value. It will happen when you give more than you take. The best way to give more than you take is to share what you believe. Doing so will help align you with others that share your beliefs. 

At FlexDealer, we're on a mission to enrich and empower the lives of automotive professionals all over the world. We do this by aligning our client's objectives with the demand of the online market. We believe that the best way to give more than we take is by adhering to our six core values. They are the pillars of what we believe and act as a mechanism that attracts like-minded potential clients and partners.

So my question to you is: what do you believe?

 

3. Be Valuable to Somebody, Not Worthless to Everybody

Value is something you better get used to hearing in 2017! Every day that goes by where you try and accommodate all audiences the same way, you dig a deeper hole for your dealership.

Each vehicle in your model lineup was intended for a specific group of people with similar interests. Take a look at these images taken directly from the Peugeot 108 brochure and see if you can identify the common denominator.

She is clearly a woman with style!

The power women putting on her lipstick. She's powerful, independent and just doesn't care if she gets any on her teeth (at least that's what I assume seeing as how she's trying to apply her makeup looking into a camera and not a mirror.)

Go figure! A couple out for a nice stroll in the nice weather. It's the woman who is going for the second glance at the vehicle!

Rather than trying to depict the Peugeot 108 in a way that would appease all audiences, they dialed in on the young female segment and highlighted the vehicle in a way that the target audience would find attractive and relevant.

Your focus should be to overdeliver so much value that the market can't deny you. Consumers are going online every single day to gather information that will help them make informed purchase decisions.

Where do you think they find the information? Not on your website! And that's the problem. They should be able to find information on your website. They should be able to go to your website and get all of their questions answered.

Currently, dealers give away their ability to educate the market to the OEMs and third-party websites like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Cars.com and others.

It's not too late to turn that around, though. You can recapture the market by providing value. Provide so much that it hurts. Focus more on what you would want if you were in the customer's shoes. Focus less on yourself.

Zig Ziglar said it best:

4. Be Patient

You're going to want to flip flop. You're going to want to abandon ship at times. Don't. That's the worst business strategy ever.

Success will never be achieved in marketing if you don't stay the course. Since you've identified a clear objective, it's well in your interests to do everything in your power to achieve it.

Doing so will require a ton of patience. So much patience that it will hurt at times. Anything worthwhile achieving requires patience.

 

5. Rinse, Refine, Repeat

Once you've set your sights on a goal and are determined to move towards it with strong motivators and patience, you have to be okay with failure.

It's impossible to execute any marketing strategy perfectly, and you need to account for that. If failure is a part of the plan, it will make it much easier to move through it and learn.

After you've seen your strategy through to the end, it's important to determine what worked and what didn't work. Get rid of what didn't work while refining what did work. From there, repeat the process from the beginning for each of your marketing efforts.

The Headline Writer’s Laws of Attractions

By: Christine Hogg Dec 20, 2016

Headline writing is an artform. But it’s also an important element of the copywriting realm that many people don’t think twice about. Remember the good old days of writing a university paper and slapping a title on that had enough to do with your topic for a solid B+? If you really wanted that A, you might have even included a “professional” approach with a colon (Selling Your Car: The Right Way) to stand out from the crowd. If this is how you currently title your auto blogs or web pages, it’s time to stop. Right now.

The key to writing a catchy headline is the difference between people actually reading your copy versus skimming the first few lines (or worse, ignoring it completely). Consider this. When you pick up your morning newspaper, do your eyes zoom in straight for the body of text, or do they jump to the bolded words at the top? The structure of your headlines and your attention to the craft is critical to the copy your business produces. If your headlines suck, even if your content is juicy and knowledgeable, nobody will read it. What’s worse, is your inventory will sit dormant and go stale because nobody will visit your site (are you scared yet?). An attention-grabbing headline is your saving grace because that’s what will convert your audience and ultimately sell your products.

So, how do you write a killer headline?

It’s not as hard as it looks, but it definitely takes practice. The secret to creating engaging, crisp, and convincing headlines is to know your copy inside and out. After you’re informed on everything the article or content snippet advertises, put your thinking cap on and get to work.

Law No. 1: Be a Tease

The internet provides us with millions of clickbait articles, listicles, infotainment and real news to the point that it might seem you can’t go 5 seconds without seeing another “How To” or “Why You” or “Top 5” article in your social network. With so much similar content, it’s critical to really find a unique angle that’s hiding within your copy and write a headline that both identifies what the copy is about, but also implies a strong CTA. The sense of urgency should be there too as a means to lend exclusivity to your brand. If your headline looks and sounds like everyone else’s, why should readers stick around? For example rather than writing “The Best Used Cars”, why not try “The Top 5 Used Cars You Need To Test Drive in 2017”. See the difference? The first one tells us what many of us might already know, or not care about. The second invites us to book a test drive and also stirs up a little bit of curiosity from the reader which leaves them wanting more.

Law No. 2: Get Some Action

Never let your headline sit on the page for the sake of acting as a title. If you’re going to do that, it’s best to not write anything! Headlines are essentially your guiding CTA which encourage the reader to learn more through reading the copy below the headline. The headline should be useful and outline some sort of benefit. Consider the following examples: “Custom Truck Detailing” vs. “Build Your Next Custom Truck In Less Than a Day”. If you were the consumer, it’s obvious which one sounds more fun and engaging. Never write a headline simply as a means to title a page. By doing that, you’re missing out on a bunch of great new leads and interested consumers who could bring in a ton of new web traffic and business for your company.

Law No. 3: Let’s Get Technical

Headline writing in the digital age has never been more challenging. The way we search for products online is changing and has a lot to do with SEO strategy. Search engines analyze content and context, location services and keywords in order to deliver consumers with the closest match to what they’re looking for. With that being said, you must write your headlines with this in mind. What are your customers looking for? Where are they located? It’s important to do your homework on your customers and analyze how they interact with your website. Once you have that down, you have a better idea of how to write for your audience. These insights will ultimately drive traffic, increase new leads and grow your business. Conduct SEO strategies to identify keyword opportunities that can be incorporated into your headlines and you’ll be on your way to writing a killer headline in no time.

Headline writing is no easy task. But, with the right balance of creativity, a sense of urgency, emotional leverage over your customers and maybe a cup of coffee or two, your online copy will have even the pickiest readers following along. And if you're still not confident in getting it right, our content marketing team at FlexDealer is ready to help. 

Christine Hogg is a deadline driven content writer for FlexDealer who comes armed with an Honours B.A in Journalism. When she’s not drinking lattes and typing away furiously at the keyboard, you can find her practicing photography, enjoying Toronto’s downtown core, or looking for the best all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

Why Online Marketing For Car Dealers Keeps Failing: My Two Cents

By: Michael Cirillo Dec 02, 2016

The struggle is real.

There's this problem in the automotive industry that keeps getting swept under the rug. For some, it's under the rug intentionally. For others, there isn't another place for it.

It's a real problem, one that causes much debate.

When Things are Good, Invincibility is Real

When the internet first started rising in popularity among consumers, dealers were asleep. Times were good. The economy was steady, and people were buying cars.

That's the first part of the problem. When things are good, it's difficult to anticipate that they'll ever be bad. There is a false sense of invincibility that sets in when cash flow is regular and consistent.

But then the market crashed. People lost their jobs, their savings, their homes. Map markers that once represented car dealerships on Google maps began to disappear. Long-time, family-owned operations closed their doors forever.

While all of this was happening, consumer behavior shifted. Internet usage spiked, and e-commerce websites like Amazon, eBay, and others took over. With each new website came an increased sophistication in how consumers used the web to acquire information and make purchase decisions.

 

It’s Like the Movie “Encino Man”

This is where the second part of the problem came into play. Tough financial times woke many business owners (including dealers) up to the fact that things had to change.

Since things changed while they were asleep, they woke up to a new world. That created this false perception about the internet that continues to cast a shadow over the industry to this day; that the Internet moves so fast and there is no way to catch up. That's not true. Things just started moving forward when nobody was paying attention.

It reminds me of the movie Encino Man, starring Brendan Fraser (whatever happened to him, btw?). As a caveman, he gets frozen in ice for thousands of years. It’s not until the 1990’s (when the movie was filmed) that he’s uncovered while Dave (Sean Aston) and Stoney Brown (Pauly Shore; another disappearing act) are digging up space for a pool in the backyard.

The rest of the movie is about the caveman learning how to live in a modern world. Dave and Stoney try and pass him off as a foreign exchange student to cover up his neanderthal-ic bewilderment.

Panic for dealers set in and a new breed of 'the vendor' was born. New tech companies started emerging left, right, and center and began to prey upon the ignorance of the industry.

 

The Sad News

Dealers aren’t neanderthals and can’t be passed off as foreign exchange students. Moving on...

 

“We Struck GOLD-ish!”

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that intentions were negative at the beginning. I don't even think they are negative today. Those early tech companies started by providing a solution that bridged the gap between where the consumers had already advanced to and where the dealers currently found themselves. It was like the California gold rush of 1847.

As the market became more saturated with tech vendors, differing opinions began to swell. The dealers didn't know who they should listen to for advice. The fresher pitch and competing prices led dealers to switch providers over and over again.

Each switch added a new layer of contamination to the dealer's online presence and marketing objectives. Old objectives got rinsed out with the wash of the previous provider, and many loose ends were in the wind.

As you can imagine (or have likely experienced first hand), confusion levels rose. Dealers lost track of the reputable sources of information because everyone had failed them. Not to mention, the competitive climate became more like a shark tank.

 

A Website is a Website is a Website

The misconception about the real capabilities of tech was solidified; that a website alone would help dealers generate more leads and sales. Today, the same story gets told as our industry's website vendors spew their canonized script to dealers; thus the misconception about the web is perpetuated.

But like I said, when things are good, it's difficult to foresee a time when things get bad. Many of our industry's vendors fell asleep during their 'gold rush' and slowly stopped cross-referencing their growth to the original problems they set out to solve.

Panic set in. Vendors started resorting to saying anything and everything to keep the business from their competitors. It got personal (for some reason), rather than taking a close look at the toxicity of the industry and aiming to change it.

 

Greed

When I talk to dealers and ask what their number one priority is, the answer is almost always, "we need to make more money."

I'm sensitive to the fact that this could be due to the economic downturn of 2008, which has caused many people to feel the financial pinch.

I'm also sensitive to the fact that cash is essential to running a business. None of us are running non-profits.

Our industry is highly regulated which can cause undue stress for the dealer. Money tends to solve many of the stresses imposed upon them.

But rather than acknowledging that consumer behavior has changed, and rolling up our sleeves to do something about it, we complain about change.

We complain about how much it will cost. We complain about how hard it will be. We complain that we don't know what to do. We complain that consumers have become needier.

We continue to switch providers thinking that it will make a difference. We continue to look for the easy way out and as such become attracted to the shiny new objects dangled in front of us. Doing so only contaminates our digital presence even more.

 

Just Give Me the Dang Car!

There is a piece to the puzzle that has remained the same over the years. Consumers want to buy vehicles. They want to have a good experience and want a trusting relationship. They want to be sure that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely.

Can you blame them? Those are the same things all of us want. Nobody likes feeling like they got ripped off.

After all of the consumer research on sites like Edmunds, Trader, Kelly Blue Book, or Cars.com, they want to know that the dealership they are getting referred to is going to help enrich and enhance their life.

Dealers have surrendered their entire ability to educate and build trust with the market to third-party sites, rather than aiming to build confidence and educate the market directly.

 

Time to Get Busy

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Turning things around and providing meeting consumer expectations online is going to require work. A lot of it. With the amount of digital contamination that has taken place over the years, dealers have to roll up their sleeves and get busy.

They will need a clear objective and stick to it. No more flip-flopping. Success is found by staying focused. FOCUS = Follow One Course until Successful.

Focus ZERO energy on things that don't matter. Everyone just needs to stop 'oohing and awing' at the next shiny thing that comes across the desk. Stop getting distracted by side-tracks disguised as opportunities.

I'm well aware that this might sound like a grim report. Heck, I've hesitated writing it several times but felt that unless we understand how we arrived at our current location, it's going to be difficult to move forward.

 

Now That Things Are Awkward Between Us, Where Do We Go From Here?

My intention in writing this is to raise awareness about how we’ve arrived where we are today. The hope is that dealers will reverse engineer their journey to success by marketing in a way that attracts, engages, and converts high-quality vehicle buyers.

This happens in a few simple steps:

 

1. Identify a clear objective

Without knowing where you want to end up, it will be impossible to get anywhere. Your objective will highlight a series of actions that must be taken to get from point A to point B.

Always make sure that your objective includes making the consumer the center of attention. We all know that a foundational business practice is supplying a demand. Today it’s easier than ever to know what consumers want and how they want it.

 

2. Build trust and authority

Consumers want to be educated and informed. They want to know that their purchase was the right decision to make.

On the flip side, they don’t want to feel like they’ve been taken advantage of or cheated.

The best way to build trust and authority is to be the source of information. Content marketing is a powerful way to answer their questions and build a relationship before they even pick up the phone or walk on the lot.

If you’re running short on content ideas, check out my previous post where I provide 25 blog topic ideas.

 

3. Audit your current marketing vendors against your objectives

Are they helping you achieve your goals? Are they all talking to one another to provide you with a unified approach? More importantly, do you have someone in-house or an agency that knows your vision and can act as the liaison between all of your third parties?

If there are services that don’t align with your objectives, or that are pulling you off your chosen path consider giving them the 86. I know that sounds harsh, but this is your business and you want to succeed!

 

4. Measure, Rinse, Refine, Repeat

Making sure that Google Analytics is setup properly, is crucial to your success. Every move you make online should be tracked.

Review your data to find out what’s working and what’s not working. Identify ways that you can improve so that you can keep moving forward. Rinse out what doesn’t work, refine what is working, and repeat this process over and over again until the end of time.


The market has evolved, but it’s not happening as rapidly as we all think it is. That’s the false perception that comes from not having a clear set of goals, and a plan for achieving them. I can’t stress how important it is to set your target and stick with it long enough to get an accurate reading on its effectiveness. Beware of sidetracks disguised as opportunities. Consistency and data-driven decision-making will position your dealership for greater success moving forward.

It's Not About You

By: Whitney Norrad Nov 10, 2016

Why Your Website Should be Consumer-Friendly, Not Dealer-Friendly

As humans, we have a tendency to think that other people like what we like, but that’s not always the case. Some of us play video games and watch cat videos, while our friends play football and watch trash TV. That’s okay, luckily everything isn’t quite so personal on the internet!

You’ve got a website, and it’s your website. You want it to display the things that are important to you and your dealership, and to help you to reach certain goals. Okay, so it’s your website. Fine. But ask yourself this: “Why do I have this website?” If you’re in automotive, your end goal is probably to sell cars, be a known presence, and garner attention for your inventory and various departments. In-house, this usually involves walking your customers around, showing them what they want to see, and negotiating a deal. The same should apply to your website: giving consumers what they want, and nailing a deal. Below are some of the top dealer-centric mistakes that can drive consumers away from your website, and how to avoid them.

Shiny Things

Despite how awesome the nineties were, it’s doubtful that anyone in your dealership is dressing in bright orange hammer pants while selling cars. The same should go for your website. There is no good reason to have a homepage image for anything that looks more like a disco advertisement than a clever car ad. Clean art design that flows and is easy on the eyes will keep users around, and warm them to spending time on your website.

Sliders

In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t loooove sliders. Last week’s blog post will give you the full scoop, but to keep it short and sweet: nobody cares about your second, third, or tenth slider. While having a horde of sliders seems like an easy way to bring attention to each different department, consumers aren’t waiting around to see them. Put a dominant and relevant hero image on your homepage, keep your page fast, and your visitors happy.

Third-Level Navigation (Dropdowns)

We’ve all been there: trying to get where we need to go on a website, and it refuses to let us. You hover over the first navigation point, great! The second, almost there! Then by the third level your hover isn’t quite perfect; everything slides back up and you’re stuck at square one. Most of us will try this once or twice, then get angry and go somewhere else to find what we need. It isn’t any different for visitors on your website. Save them the heartache by organizing everything they need in easy-to-navigate categories and a single tier of dropdowns.

Too Much, Too Soon

For most websites, the homepage is the most important page on the entire site, and the page that sees the most traffic. Your homepage should make it easy for visitors to find what they want, and be presented with applicable additions that they may also want, such as warranties and services. With that being said, it is a best practice to not overwhelm visitors with information from every single department, and lists of every single service that you provide all at once. Make sure that all information is accessible, but not obnoxious.

Obnoxious Popups

Popups can go either way, meaning that they're something that can be done well, or terribly. If you want to integrate a chat popup, or popup offer, there are a few key points to keep in mind. First, make sure that your chat popup isn’t intrusive. Keep this in one of the lower corners of your website so that visitors know that it’s available without getting annoyed. Work with your website and/or chat provider to ensure that the popups are optimized and compressed so that they don’t hinder your site’s speed or performance. Lastly, make sure that your chats aren’t a waste: if you can’t provide any real value, or a real communication experience, leave it out completely.

To sum it up, consumers have an overarching set of expectations when browsing the web. It is important to keep your website fast, current, easy to navigate, and looking sharp. Ensure that you have unique content, but don’t be so different that consumers are lost and/or can’t find what they need. It’s important to have digital marketing partners that you can trust, as they’re able to provide answers and insights into what ideas are flops, and what ideas will rock. Think of your experience as a digital consumer, and keep your experience in mind when looking at your own website.

Whitney Norrad is the collaborative partner and trusted liaison for dealer clients of FlexDealer. Account Manager duties aside, she enjoys cat gifs, making wine and convincing her spouse to buy more TMNT art for their home in St. Catharines.

Why Homepage Sliders Suck

By: Briar Latam Oct 28, 2016

What’s big, bright and probably completely useless? If you guessed homepage sliders, you are correct. That’s right folks, today we’re going to tackle one of the most popular requests we receive from our clients and the controversy associated with it. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of choosing this popular design element.

Pro: They Can Be Peacemakers

Between fixed operations, new and used sales, there’s a lot going on at your dealership. Your Service Department is offering a wheel alignment special, the Parts Department is running their yearly tire rebate incentive, the OEM’s year-end clearout event is on for New Vehicles and your Pre-Owned Department is waiving their delivery fee this month. Sound familiar? 

We know that each department’s offers are important and every manager wants to reach their potential customers. Everyone wants to be heard. Unfortunately, all too often the solution is to simply stick a slider for each offer on the homepage and call it a day. This may make the department heads in your dealership feel better, but it doesn’t do much to actually achieve their goals. There's got to be a better way! (Hint: There is. It’s called inbound marketing and it’s kind of our jam.)

Pro: They’re An Easy Solution

It takes a lot more work to conduct thorough demographic research and set up functional funnels on your site than it does to upload a shiny new slider. Adding a slider or carousel can make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, but in reality, it does nothing to reach (or engage with) your target audience. You need to roll up your sleeves a little bit to position yourself in front of those who are interested in buying what you’re selling. The old adage “nothing worth doing is ever easy” applies here.

Pro: They’ll Make You Fit In

Perhaps you’re more of a follower than a leader. We’re not here to judge, but we will advise: in a world where everyone and their cousin has a website, including your competitors, it’s good to stand out. But you want to make sure you’re standing out for the right reasons. That “exciting” slider graphic is probably not what you want to be remembered for. You can do better! Tacky graphics are soooo last season.

Con: They’re Site Speed Slayers

Have you ever tried to visit a website, only for it to take ages for a page to load? There are many factors that affect site speed, but graphics is a big one, particularly if you have several large files that need to load all at once. Slow site speeds increase bounce rates, decrease the quality of your user's experience and make puppies cry. Do you want to make puppies cry? DO YOU?

Con: They’re Conversion Killers

When is the last time you landed on a homepage and waited around to watch all of the sliders cycle through? Probably never.

A study conducted by Erik Runyon found that out of 3,755,297 homepage visits on ND.edu, only 1.07% of visitors clicked on the slider feature at all. Of that, 89.1% of the clicks were on the first image in the slider.

If only one percent of all visitors are engaging with this feature, there’s probably something more compelling you could put in this highly valuable location on your site.

Con: They Won't Be Seen

Jakob Nielsen wanted to see if banner blindness was real, so he conducted an experiment. He put participants to the test by asking them to determine whether Siemens had any specials on washing machines. Despite having not one, but two separate banners on the homepage, one of which took up the majority of the page, users did not pass the test. He concludes that “the worst offense is probably in making something move that should be static”. Enough said.

Okay, okay, so the pros weren’t really pros. But at FlexDealer, our mission is to help dealers attract, engage and convert more qualified vehicle shoppers. Homepage sliders simply won’t help you achieve those goals. Yes, we know, they can be pretty… but we implore you to consider alternatives. If you’re not sure where to start, drop us a line. We’d love to work with you to create something awesome.

Briar Latam is the Senior Project Manager at FlexDealer. When she’s not juggling budgets and charting deadlines, you’ll find her touring Toronto's west-side with her fiancé and their pup, Millie.

Battling the Bounce

By: Christine Hogg Oct 13, 2016

A good, hard look at the ten best attributes of any business website. 

Advertising and social media, if done correctly, can produce incredible results for your business. At some point or another, many business owners choose to build a custom website to accompany and promote their products and services. There are many DIY or industry-focused website providers available to get you started—and full-service marketing partners to improve and grow your digital presence, once those sites are live.

Regardless of which route you take, be sure to analyze your website’s appearance at a glance. First impressions count, and when someone visits a webpage, you want them to stick around, without making a hasty exit from annoying pop-up advertisements, crammed text, broken URL links or poor graphics.

The key to producing a refined business website and getting the attention of your customers and social media followers is by selecting a template or theme that is modern, concise and most importantly, user-friendly. Minimalist themes are becoming increasingly popular, as the extra whitespace trains the reader’s eye to flow effortlessly across the page, without straining or lingering too long on run-on paragraphs. Typography and fonts should be clear and in a colour that is visible and legible. Avoid using creative cursives or bubble fonts, and make the print large enough so that it is compatible across mobile, tablet and desktop platforms. So, what else can you do to make sure your business is getting the attention it deserves?

No. 1: State Your Purpose

Who are you as a brand? What is your purpose? What are you trying to sell to your customers? Your company’s mandate should be recognizable immediately upon entering your website. If you’re an independent auto dealer, whether you have a car as your logo or not, your customers should know immediately who and what you are as a business.

No. 2: Can I Get Your Number?

Making your contact information visible and easy to find is one of the most important features for any business website. Even if your graphics are incredible, if there’s no accessible CTA (call to action), you’ll most likely lose out on valuable customers who intended to use your services. Placing your business’s telephone number and social media accounts in the header or footer of your website lets your visitors know how to get in touch for additional information or service.

No. 3: Pave a Path

The minute somebody visits your website, they arrive with a purpose in mind. Whatever they’re looking for should be easy to find at the touch of a button, without having to maneuver through random sub-categories and links. Implementing an easy search tool, like a navigation bar on your homepage that separates your services under one umbrella is a great way to add user-friendly features to any business website. (Remember: Not every page needs to be in your menu. Six items, MAX!)

No. 4: Great Graphics

Adding visual interest to any website catches the attention of your audience, and says a lot about your business as a brand. Make sure that the images you use on your website reflect the core values of the business, and whenever possible, use original content rather than stock photography.

No. 5: Stick to the Point, and Repeat It!

Want your customers to remember your business? Then highlight only your company’s best-selling features like premium used cars or luxury and exotic vehicles. Studies have shown that readers remember only small quantities of information before passing onto the next page, so if you want to leave a good impression, include language that illustrates the who, what and how of your company in language that is simple and understandable.

No. 6: Encourage Free Features

Offering free exclusive services for subscribers or repeat customers, is a great way to attract more consumers to your website. For example, if your business has a monthly newsletter and you’re an automotive dealer, perhaps offering subscribers access to a free tire change is an incentive to keep them returning the following month. When you create an environment of exclusivity that comes with perks and real value, you cultivate a more personal relationship with your customers.

No. 7: Compatibility Across All Platforms

According to recent statistics, more online traffic in Canada stems from mobile devices than it does from a desktop computer. Nothing is worse than designing a beautiful website that looks great from your desktop, but is a downright mess on your smartphone or tablet. When designing your website, you need to be sure that it’s functional across multiple platforms, while ensuring a user-friendly experience, or you run the risk of losing many online shoppers.

No. 8: Get a Blog!

Blogging is becoming more and more popular for business websites as a means for owners to share a more personal side of the company with their consumers. While the website is a great place to promote your services, creating a blog lets you keep your customers up-to-date on industry news, topics of interest, and any potential contests, events or promotions offered by the business. A blog is also a great way for your customers to know more about you and your staff, while feeling more connected to your company as a whole. Pro Tip: If you're looking to get started, may we recommend these 24 Car Dealer Blog ideas to jumpstart those creative juices? 

No. 9: Acknowledge Your Competition

As a business owner, unless you’ve got a one-of-a-kind invention, chances are somebody, somewhere, is already selling your product in the exact same industry. While there’s no way around this, one of the best things you can do before creating your business website is to take a good, long look at your biggest competitors, and take note of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Is it working? Could it be better? How? Brainstorm the ways in which you can leverage an alternative and focus on standing out. With so many new tools, design layouts and incredible features, there’s never been a better time to push creative boundaries and show your consumers why your business is better than the rest.

No. 10: Know Your Customers

It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising just how many dealerships can make the mistake of paying for a website platform that doesn’t directly speak to or acknowledge the needs of your consumers. Who is your target audience? Why are they visiting your web page, and why should they come back? Understanding your demographics is crucial during the design process, as it’s largely part of what makes a visitor a customer. By making your website interactive and responsive, it’s much easier to convert your customers to your brand, and keep them away from your competitors.

Before you start building your website, remember the basics: acknowledge and understand your clients, check out the competition and start building a website that speaks to your brand, your services and your business values. With these helpful suggestions in mind, you’re sure to stand out!

Christine Hogg is a deadline driven content writer for FlexDealer who comes armed with an Honours B.A in Journalism. When she’s not drinking lattes and typing away furiously at the keyboard, you can find her practicing photography, enjoying Toronto’s downtown core, or looking for the best all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

Crafting a Newsletter That Doesn't Suck

By: Kate McDonnell Oct 07, 2016

Our top five tips on how to write emails that people will actually read.

Newsletters are a great way to build and maintain relationships with clients. They help establish a connection and keep you front of mind. While the benefits of a regular newsletter are clear, a poorly performing newsletter is one you may as well have scrapped. We all have that special place in our junk mail folder for newsletters we’re too lazy to unsubscribe to (I’m looking at you online craft retailer). If no one is opening your e-newsletter or biting at those tantalizing offers, it may be working against you. If you have the bounce rate blues, we can help. Writing an effective newsletter is an art, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t quite found the balance between quality content, sleek layout and snappy headlines. We’ve put together a few pointers to make your next newsletter your most clickable one yet.

Newsletter Tip, No. 1: Know Your Goal

Don’t write a newsletter just for the fun of it. Before you sit down and get started, outline the message and desired result of your newsletter. Consider who you are writing to and why they would be interested in the information you have to share. Knowing your goal, whether it's generating leads or boost sales, lets you assess who should be on your send list and how to approach writing your copy. If possible, try to stick to a theme or break up your copy into organized sections.

Newsletter Tip, No. 2: Try your best not to write long and obnoxious titles and subject lines that no one wants to read.

See what I did there?

No one wants to read a poorly-worded, long-winded subject line—let alone click on it. The trick to a clickable headline is to bait your reader with an offer. Your offer should hint at what’s inside and leave the reader wanting more. This piece of advice goes for email subject lines as well as in-text headlines. Avoid repeating yourself with recurring headlines such as “October Offers and Newsletter”. Your subject line should tell the reader why they shouldn’t let that email sit there for another second.


Newsletter Tip, No. 3: Less is More

Don’t crowd your beautiful newsletter with lots of text. Online marketing tools such as email are made to establish a connection and lead your reader to your other online resources. You don’t need to give it all upfront; simply outline your latest deal or relevant news event with a brief-but-clear Call to Action (CTA) and link them to a relevant page on your site. If such a page does not exist, I recommend fixing that or at the very least make your newsletter copy brief and to the point. The tone and message of your newsletter offer should match with the reader's final online destination and reward their click with more information. Even on-site, keep your message front and centre. No one is going to scroll through dense text to collect on your offer.

Newsletter Tip, No. 4: Make it Look Clean

We are visual creatures. If your e-newsletter looks sloppy like something I did in my seventh grade HTML coding class, no one is going to take you seriously. White space and crisp images are your best friends when it comes to web copy. We suggest only one large image for your main offer or upcoming event and small graphics to accompany any other headings. There are many FREE online tools available to help you create memorable, visually-pleasing emails. Companies, such as MailChimp, have dedicated their business to well-designed email templates. Use them.

Oh, and please use a legible and properly sized font. No Comic Sans, okay?

Newsletter Tip, No. 5: Be Yourself

This is a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality. Don’t be scared to ease up on that corporate speak a little bit. Your online communications don’t always have to be formal and should tastefully reflect the message and attitude of the people behind the logo. While this certainly is a place to share promotions and offers you can also use your newsletter to share a personal and relevant piece of news or an upcoming event for the company.

If you aren’t used to writing newsletters or other forms of mass communication, getting a handle on it can be tricky. Take a minute to go through your personal email and take a critical look at some of the companies you subscribe to. Do you click on those emails? Why or why not? Use these insights as you move forward with your own email marketing campaign. If you find you're consistently getting stuck on your strategy and need a helping hand, digital marketing experts like us are here to help. It takes time to test and hone the right message for your audience but by following the tips above, you’ll be one step closer to some high-flying click and open rates. And what could be better than that?

Kate McDonnell is a fervently resourceful content writer at FlexDealer. Known for her quick-wit and affinity for two-wheeled travels, Kate whiles away the week in her Toronto home office with a cat called Wanda.

Does Your Dealership Need an Internet Manager?

By: Whitney Norrad Sep 30, 2016

Most of the dealerships we encounter these days seem to have some type of Internet Manager. Every dealership is different, so why play by the rules? We’re going to throw down both sides of this debate to help you decide if your dealership needs an Internet Manager, some agency partners you trust, or both!

What is an Internet Manager?

An Internet Manager is often seen in one of two lights: a liaison between your business and internet vendors, or a jack-of-all-trades who manages all of your dealership’s web to-dos. Either way, an Internet Manager will be responsible for your website, digital marketing, e-commerce stores, social media, and your overall web presence. The good news is that having a talented individual in this position, as well as great vendors is often the perfect solution.

Now that we know what they’re responsible for, let’s figure out if a dedicated Internet Manager is right for your dealership.

You Know You Need the Web, But Have no Idea Where to Start

With a large business such as a dealership, you’re often running in ten different directions. If you know that the interwebs can be useful, and that’s the extent of it, having a professional dedicated to your online efforts can be crucial to your success.

Playing off their strengths, this person will be able to aid your web efforts and choose the right vendors to help in areas where they need assistance. The right person will have a clear understanding of your business, and communicate with vendors easily. If your business has the budget, allow for an Internet Manager to set your goals, manage content in their star areas, and choose the best vendors to work with. Having these vendors on your side saves you the cost of an extra body on-site, and gives you access to experts with the skills to outline a strategic marketing plan for you.

Time and Autonomy

Does the lead visionary or business owner have the time to dedicate to being a liaison or managing all of these outlets? A leader that has the time and the skills to do this will be able to ensure that their vision is infused into web outlets with or without the assistance of vendors. A leader that doesn’t have the time and/or skills will need a second hand to make their digital dreams come true. A strong Internet Manager needs to have the autonomy to make decisions quickly and without having to run to the leader for answers. The vendors you work with will require trust, direction, and a clear understanding of your business goals. The person in charge of your web presence, be it an Internet Manager or another staff member, should be able to communicate those goals to vendors.

The Right Skillset

While it may seem easy to hire a marketer and call it a day, you need to be sure that this person is equipped to handle every facet of the job, and is able to admit if they’re missing part of this skillset. Graphic design, marketing, digital advertising, and SEO are all different specialties. If you have an Internet Manager with some of these mastered, having them work with external vendors on the ones they’re missing is a great solution. Many vendors employ a team of experts that each specialize in a few key areas—these are the folks you want on your side.

Often we see Internet Managers that think they know what they’re doing but are only scratching the surface. Sure, that cool new graphic is great, but a graphic with no alt tags is not only poor form but is also illegal in some Canadian provinces and US states! If you or your Internet Manager knows what you want, but lacks the skills to execute, it’s time to bring in the big guns and work with a vendor.

When You Need an Internet Manager

  • You know that the Internet is important, but that’s it.
  • Elements of your digital presence change daily. Have someone to make little changes when the hammer drops.
  • You’re lacking the knowledge to fulfill your digital goals, but want the comfort of having someone in-house that is responsible for your business exclusively.
  • You don’t have the time to either DIY properly, or communicate with vendors.
  • When you need on-site tasks done frequently; this could be rotating stock photos, blogging from the driver’s seat (not literally - that’s dangerous and illegal), keeping up with your social media on a personal level, and making changes quickly and easily to website verbiage or content. Having someone who knows their way around these platforms is preferable to slotting odd jobs on your receptionist who might not be fully-equipped.

When You Don’t (When Vendor Partners Rock)

  • You know what you need and have the time to communicate these needs with vendor partners.
  • You want to ensure that every little detail is handled perfectly.
  • Your Internet Manager says so! Rather than expecting an Internet Manager to have ten specialties, trust them when they say someone else could do it better.
  • Your business wants to save on expenses or simply doesn’t have the cash to add another staff member. Skip the added payroll and bring in an agency with a team of experts.
  • You want things done your way. Having an Internet Manager can be great, but if every time they need an answer they’re running to you, skip that step and communicate your goals directly to a skilled team of experts.
  • Past experience. Specialized vendors with experience in your industry will be able to provide advice, top-notch service, and connections within the industry to help achieve your goals.
  • You want to skip the middleman.
  • You have a great vendor team. Our clients often call on us for advice outside of our regular duties and we’re happy to help. Sure, we manage your website, but would be happy to provide some tips for social media management! A true partner will be just that, someone you can count on to interact with your business on a personal level, with a true understanding of who you are and where you want to go.

How About Both?

The dealerships that have the clearest vision and most dominant digital presence often have someone in-house who knows their business and digital goals better than anyone else, and also knows when they need help from experts. Their main goal is to make sure you’re killin’ it online.

A manager is exactly that, a manager. This doesn’t mean that everyone can be expected to be an expert at everything. In having an Internet Manager and select vendor teams, you have someone accountable in-house, with experts to lean on for different specialties. Our team of experts would love to hear from you; leave your thoughts or questions in the comments!

Whitney Norrad is the collaborative partner and trusted liaison for dealer clients of FlexDealer. Account Manager duties aside, she enjoys cat gifs, making wine and convincing her spouse to buy more TMNT art for their home in St. Catharines.

Three Symptoms of a Sick Website

By: Jenn Dunstan Sep 20, 2016

Sluggish? Unsteady? Disoriented? No—not you, silly. Your website! Much like a balanced diet and regular exercise, making healthy choices for your digital storefront will dramatically improve its performance. Often, the assumed remedy is a cosmetic design change or the laborious migration from one CMS to another. Our team at FlexDealer is begging you to consider a second opinion. 

Your symptoms aren’t new and they’re unfortunately quite common: stale traffic that’s increasingly paid, yet refusing to convert. Why is that? Consumers are buying faster and researching smarter. This leaves you, the dealer, envying your competitors while hunting for an elusive conversion antidote.

The bad news: there isn’t one. The good news: your website—which often is OEM-mandated—is good enough to get better results. It just takes a balanced helping of content and a bit of regular maintenance. 

Pre-Op

Let’s get one thing straight: the ultimate goal of any dealership website is to appear in the top local search results when a prospective customer is looking for product or service information that is relevant to that dealership. 

Regardless of your budget for digital outbound marketing channels like Facebook or Google AdWords, nurturing a healthy, well-ranking website will always be the best investment. In order to improve your key site performance metrics, you need to convince Google that each of your webpages provide the very best answer to an in-market shoppers’ search query.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? At FlexDealer, we believe that small steps are still steps. So let’s slap on some rubber gloves, take a deep breath and dig into your website diagnosis—one symptom at a time. 

Symptom No. 1: Seeing Double

Are you operating a franchise under General Motors? So are 456 other rooftops across Canada. Many of whose websites are plagued with duplicate text. Difficult to spot at first glance, the offending content is often copied from an OEM site or grandfathered into the page during a new site launch.

Take this snippet of copy from toyota.ca, for example: 

Our team of dedicated Service Advisors and factory-trained Technicians is committed to delivering quality service using only Toyota Genuine Parts.

Great message. But there are 85 other websites saying the same thing. Therefore making each one completely ineffective at a) ranking the page in search and b) differentiating the dealer from its competitors. Feeling dizzy yet?

Recommended Treatment:

Form an opinion. Then communicate it. 

Whether you’re revealing a new semi-autonomous tech feature or the FAQs of a publicized recall, share the news in a voice that represents your business, in language that connects with your customer-base. Why is this news relevant? What does it mean, in layman terms? 

Immediately distance yourself from the copy-and-paste mentality. Duplicate content is infinitely worse than having no content. Not only is it negatively affecting your SEO, (bad for Google)—it likely cost billable time to put it on your website, (bad for business).

Symptom No. 2: Hunger

Are you starving the search engines? Dealership websites are loaded with handy tools from their OEMs and third-party vendors. Tire Finders, Credit Applications and Maintenance Schedules are solution-finding juggernauts of the website world; tools that are never adequately leveraged by the dealer. Quite often, these webpages are the product of good intentions and boundless opportunity—that inevitably fall short, due to poor execution. 

Take for example your ‘Book A Service’ page. With an iframe contact form and an H1 tag (your page title), this page is merely two strings of overlooked code to Google’s site crawlers. From a search perspective—no one will find it organically.

These are actionable pages that allow customers to schedule their appointment, to ultimately provide your Fixed Operations some revenue. It’s foolish to assume that this sophisticated lead form can independently convert every page visitor by itself. 

The lesson here: we can do better. 

Recommended Treatment:

Complement the tech with a side of digestible content. Set your goal for a minimum of 250 words; now tell us why we’re here. What amenities can be expected during a typical service appointment? Brownie points for adding crosslinks to relevant specials or departments. 

Ranking on Google? Check! Providing your visitors value? Check! 

Symptom No. 3: Feeling Bloated

The omni-channel marketing approach is growing in popularity, and rightly so. In-market shoppers are being targeted with advertising on the radio, television, social media, print and in search. This escalated presence across mediums can trigger rookie mistakes during execution, so it’s imperative that each channel be treated based on its unique needs. Your website, the heart of your digital strategy, requires a little extra TLC.

Rest assured, you’re not the first person to upload a newspaper ad to the Specials page and consider your digital needs met. Don’t ignore your gut instinct—that innocent upload can trigger numerous UX issues, including:

1. Decreased pagespeed: the typical visitor will give up on your site after 4 seconds. Large images, especially ones designed for printing purposes, take time to load.

2. Unreadable content: much like those IFrames, Google needs text to determine what your page has to say. An image is an image is an image. And it’s not conveying anything more than <img src=“http://media.flexdealer.com/media/fall-service-special.jpg” />

3. Not mobile-friendly: even on a responsive website, your promotional graphic (and its itty-bitty copy) will become virtually illegible on smaller screens.

Recommended Treatment:

Satisfy Google’s site crawlers by giving them something to read. To ensure your promotion can be discovered through local search, pair a complementary promotional graphic with some indexable words and a clear call-to-action. (And make sure there’s a form or phone number nearby, for heaven’s sake!)

Looking for a clean bill of health? 

Whether you’ve recently migrated your dealership’s CMS platform, or are itching to audit your existing site, there are numerous diagnostic tools available that can be used to identify website performance issues. (We’re fans of Google’s Page Speed browser extensions, a free product that enables you to audit page-by-page.) Start with a checklist of your site’s biggest pain-points and call in your team of experts, in-house and vendor-side, to address them. 

We typically prescribe 2 or more rounds of heavy site maintenance, followed by a renewed commitment to content best practices. Side effects may include: higher search ranking, faster site speeds and happy customers.

Jenn Dunstan is the over-caffeinated Marketing Director for FlexDealer. Despite refusing treatment to remove the iPhone permanently affixed to her hand, Jenn remains passionate about cleaning up our industry's promotional clutter and antiquated notoriety—one dealership at a time.

CASL Checklist for Email Marketing

By: Briar Latam Sep 09, 2016

Since July 1, 2014, small business owners and email marketers alike have been following the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) implementation timeline. As the July 1, 2017 deadline approaches, many are wondering if they have taken the necessary steps to become compliant. 

Because we know that you love your audience and want to keep your email marketing lists healthy and legal, we’ve come up with a handy checklist to ensure your subscribers stay happy and help you avoid hefty penalties

What is CASL Anyway?

CASL is the abbreviation for Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which is a law enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Its purpose is to protect Canadians from unsolicited commercial electronic messages including text messages, emails, and instant messages. These email marketing laws won’t prevent you from using email as part of your marketing mix, but if your organization is based in Canada and/or you have Canadian subscribers on your list, you’ll need to make sure that you’re compliant.

CASL Timeline

The law was passed in late 2010, and was effective as of July 1, 2014, however, businesses were given a three-year window from that date to ensure compliance. On July 1, 2017, that window will be closed. As of the same date, the private right of action will be enforced, giving individuals and organizations the ability to file lawsuits and seek damages against businesses who are not CASL compliant. Lawyers and lawsuits and fees, oh my! Follow our checklist to avoid that noise:


CASL Compliance Checklist

There are 4 words you need to remember when confirming CASL compliance: Consent, Identity, Unsubscribe, and Truth. Use this checklist to make sure your business’s email marketing practices are CASL-approved.

Get Consent (And Document It)

If you have an email address, chances are you’ve received a spam or phishing email from a business or individual at some point (hello, Nigerian Prince scam). Obtaining consent in this context simply means that you get permission to send emails to your subscribers. Under CASL, there are two different types of consent: Express and Implied. 

Express Consent is when permission is explicitly requested, and the individual clearly agrees either verbally or in writing. An email marketing best practice is to have a “double opt-in” process, which sounds more complicated than it is. In practice, this means that when someone subscribes to your list, they then receive an automatic message following up to make sure they intended to subscribe. Replying to that email or clicking a confirmation link would demonstrate express consent. This consent is not time-limited unless the recipient explicitly withdraws it. As of July 1, 2017, express consent is required for all commercial electronic messages.

Implied Consent is less clear and explicit. One example of implied consent would be when someone makes a purchase from your business. They might not have specifically signed up for your email newsletter, but one might assume that since they chose to do business with you, they would be interested in joining your list. Implied consent is invalid after 2 years if the subscriber does not engage further with your business (for example, makes another purchase) from the date the business relationship was established. If you have subscribers on your list who you only have implied consent from, you will need to obtain express consent prior to July 1, 2017. It’s advisable to send an email to these subscribers and request that they confirm their opt-in status prior to that date.

In both cases, it is up to the organization sending the emails to be able to prove that consent exists. Because of this, it is extremely important for business owners and marketers to develop a plan to track consent. Though consent can be given verbally, it is more difficult to prove, so a best practice is to get things in writing.

When obtaining express consent online, it’s advisable to track the date, IP address, opt-in page URL and time that the individual joined your list. Email marketing services such as MailChimp and Constant Contact have double-opt-in capabilities that make this easier to track. Offline, you’ll need to implement comprehensive record keeping of your paper registrations, and ensure that the registration forms themselves include CASL-compliant language.

Identify Yourself

Now is not the time for mystery. Under CASL, you must ensure that your subscribers know who you are. Which we’re guessing you’ll want too, since you probably want them to do business with you again.

Must-haves include a physical mailing address, a functional email address (no-reply addresses need not apply) and a phone number or website address. If you’re using a third-party to send your emails, they must be clearly identified as well. 

Make Opting Out Easy

You want them to want you. And if they don’t want to hear from you anymore, you need to give them an easy exit. No one likes to be stalked. 

All communications must include a clear and accessible unsubscribe link that works for at least 60 days from the time the email was sent. Charging a fee to unsubscribe is not kosher, and all requests to unsubscribe must be processed within 10 calendar days. If you’re using an email marketing service to manage your list, this should be almost instant, which makes things much easier to stay on top of.

Tell The Truth

Finally, your communications can’t be false or misleading. That includes sender information, subject matter and more.

Simpler than you thought, right? The CASL guidelines are in-line with current email marketing best practices, and you may already have some if not all of your bases covered. Having permission to market to your subscribers ensures they’re receiving value and supports the development of long-term relationships, which we think is pretty important.

Where are you on your journey to becoming CASL compliant? Share your tips in the comments.

Briar Latam is the Senior Project Manager at FlexDealer. When she’s not juggling budgets and charting deadlines, you’ll find her touring Toronto's west-side with her fiancé and their pup, Millie.

24 Car Dealership Blog Post Ideas

By: Michael Cirillo Sep 02, 2016

READING TIME: 5 MIN

If you like the idea of having a car dealership blog but are struggling to come up with topics or ideas, you're not alone. There's a good reason why more dealers aren't blogging, and that's because it's not easy. It takes a lot of planning and hard work, but it is doable, especially when you have plenty of ideas to work with.

Blogging does pay off, though. It's one of the best ways to build relationships of trust and grow an audience that thirsts for your subject matter expertise.

Consumers are going online every single day to research your products and services. Their research helps shape the purchase decision. The name of the game is to give them the information they are looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That's why we've come up with this list of automobile blog ideas that you should definitely consider when you're ready to start blogging for your store. The trick is to make your car blog post topics as shareworthy as possible.


1. FAQs post

As a dealership, you're likely getting asked the same or similar questions all the time. Take note and answer them through a blog post. You can create different categories based on departments (e.g., parts, service, finance, sales, etc.)


2. Community Events post

Get involved in the community by helping promote and talk about community events. These posts are typically time sensitive but can generate a high amount of local traffic to your site. After the event is over, you can write a follow-up review post of the event.


3. Response posts

There is no shortage of opinions on the internet. Response posts are an excellent way to leverage existing content online and offer your two cents.


4. Comparisons post

What's the difference between car A and car B? You already know that people are online searching for this exact question. Why not answer it through a blog post?


5. Checklist post

What can we say? People love checklists. Especially if it helps them achieve something desirable. You could create something simple like a checklist that walks your readers through a routine vehicle safety check before driving.


6. ‘How To’ post

How to posts are going to generate a ton of traffic to your blog if they are about topics that people care about. These posts could range from 'how to sync Bluetooth with my device' to 'how to check my credit score'.


7. Behind the Scenes post

There is something about a 'behind-the-scenes' look that appeals to the voyeuristic appetite that most human beings share. These posts are a great way to give your audience a transparent look at what happens in the places of your store that nobody else can see. Though not a promotion post, there is a subtle promotional element to giving a natural look at your store, processes and desire to serve that will draw in an audience.


8. Series post

Consider taking part of your store, product or service and breaking it out into bite-sized chunks of information. For example, if you were talking about a vehicle, you could write a series of posts that cover its technical, safety, economy, comfort, competitive features.


9. Best of post

Using Google Trends, you can identify the most viral or popular content on the web (related to your industry) and write a post that compiles all the links together in one place. Remember, it's not about creating new content, it's about making it as accessible and easy to consume as possible.


10. Prediction post

Who doesn't like a good prediction? What are your thoughts about what's happening with your vehicle lineup? Will the concept cars from 5 years ago get produced?


11. Speculation post

We see speculation posts all the times when it comes to technology. Everyone loves speculating about the new features in the next Android phone or iPhone. There are automobile enthusiasts who get equally excited about new features in the upcoming vehicle lineup, so why not talk about it?


12. Reaction post

Reaction posts are an excellent way to embed, link, or reference breaking news and then share your reaction to it. Opinions are always highly readable and share worthy.


13. Review post

From parts and service to finance and sales, there is a plethora of products and services that you can give an honest, unbiased review of. The trick to review posts is just that. Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly and your audience will appreciate your information so much more.


14. Contest or Giveaway post

Whenever there's a contest or giveaway at your store, you should be blogging about it. Share details about how to enter and qualify, and what the rules of the giveaway are. Case in point, people LOVE contests and giveaways.


15. Community engagement post

It's time to start branching outside of the four walls of your store and start building relationships and affinity with other local businesses. Similar to community events post, this post is where you highlight other local businesses in your community. For example, you might write a post about the top 5 burger joints in town. Those business owners will likely share the link and just like that, you have traffic coming to your blog.


16. Should Ask (SAQ) post

Similar to a FAQ, the SAQ (or Should Ask Question) is a post that outlines the questions that consumers should be asking with the associated answer.


17. Enthusiast post

From Corvettes to Tesla's, there are plenty of automobile enthusiasts who are always looking for more content to consume. Whether you are a sports car or rally car dealer, you should consider posting regular content that appeals the enthusiast audience.


19. List post

This very post is a list post, and it works for all the reasons you decided to click the link and start reading it. Everyone loves a good list.


20. Mythbuster post

You've likely heard a few myths about your products and services out there. Use the Mythbuster post to explain why the myth is bunk.


21. Picture of the week post

Share a cool picture that you or your staff have taken and write a commentary about it.


22. Content Aggregator post

I've mentioned leverage already existent content, and that's what the content aggregator post is all about. These posts are helpful because you can use content that is already being shared and talked about. It's important to link back to the source of the content though so that you're not getting penalized for plagiarism.


23. Company update post

What's new in your store? What's exciting? Who are the new hires? What processes have you changed to make the buying experience more enjoyable? Share them all!


24. Holiday post

This is not about religion, belief, faith or anything of that nature. Wishing your audience the best at the holidays shows your humanity. They may not get a ton of comments, but they will help people remember that you're not a robot, and that's a bonus in my books.


With these 24 car blogs topic ideas at your fingertips, you should never run out of things to blog about.

Perhaps the most crucial element of blogging is not to be over promotional. Keep it real. Meet your audience where they are instead of trying to force them into the 'buyer' bucket, and your blog will continue to turn the eyes of high-quality people to your website for the long-term.

What did I miss? What have you been blogging about that is getting a good response?


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

5 Image Apps That Will up Your Instagram Game

By: Michael Cirillo Aug 12, 2016

With over 500 million monthly active users, it's no secret that Instagram is a powerful tool for building your personal brand or the brand of your dealership. 

At its core, Instagram is much more than a place for you to blast out irrelevant images about how awesome you think you are or what vehicle you just sold. It's a place to get creative, and share value in a very visual way.

And to be visual, you're going to need some handy apps in your toolbox. That's why we've assembled five of our favorite apps to help you pump out excellent, creative photos for your Instagram profile.

1.) Over

Over allows you to create stunning typographic images with just a few simple steps. With full integrations to Unsplash' photo directory, you can leverage a vast library of pre-edited images that will look good no matter what.

I use this app every single day because it's easy, fast, and looks good!

iOS: http://apple.co/2bmwrE3

Android: http://bit.ly/2bahRPK

2.) Wordswag

Wordswag is similar to Over, but with a different spin. While crisp typography is at the core, it also has pre-designed typographic templates for you to choose from.

iOS: http://apple.co/2bmuZBN

Android: http://bit.ly/2aPjMuQ

3.) Enlight

For those of you that like to have a little more control over your photo filters, Enlight is a powerful image editor at your fingertips. Not only can you adjust filters, but there is also a broad range of other photo editing features such as red-eye reduction and masking, to name a few.

iOS: http://apple.co/2b2ypdT

4.) Snapseed

Snapseed is arguably one of the best (free) photo editing apps for iOS (sorry Android). Developed by Google, Snapseed provides more in-app editing tools than Instagram, making it a viable option for those not willing to spend money on an app.

iOS: http://apple.co/2bmvWKm

Android: http://bit.ly/2bbSb9e

5.) Layout

Layout by Instagram allows you to create photo collages with a variety of pre-design templates. Just select the design template you'd like to use and drop in your images. 

iOS: http://apple.co/2bbSi4M

Android: http://bit.ly/2aFFlQ8

If you're a visual person but haven't given Instagram a try yet, this just might be the social network for you. It's where I'm most active because I enjoy the creativity of it. It's also where I happen to be building an audience the fastest (but we'll get into that more in a future post :)

What did I miss? What are some of your favorite visual apps for Instagram? Hit me up in the comments below!

Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

The Best SEO Tools for DIY Car Dealers

By: Michael Cirillo Jul 07, 2016

Before we get into this, can you just take a quick minute to bask in the glory of that dude's manliness? I mean, that is one heck of a beard... It would make Travis Lindenmoyer proud enough to sing "I will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston at the top of his lungs...

Okay, moving on...

When it comes to optimizing your car dealer website, having the right tools in your SEO toolkit can make the difference between pulling your hair out with frustration or winning by design.

In this post, I'm going to share some of my favorite DIY car dealer SEO tools so that you can get a head start on doing SEO the right way.

Before I do, here's the caution. SEO requires strategy. Don't just jump in thinking that these tools are the magic bullet to ranking your website. Without a clearly defined SEO strategy, these SEO tools could be the last nail in the coffin of a never-ending wormhole of digital problems. 

That's enough doom and gloom for one post, I think. With all of that in mind, let's move on to my top picks for best SEO tools for the DIY car dealer.

Local SEO

1. Local SEO Checklist

You will immediately know what's up when you visit this site. It's what you'd expect by reading its name: A Local SEO Checklist chalk-full of useful things that you can do to ensure your website is firing on all pistons.

2. Schema Creator

Created by Raven Tools (a software we also use), schema-creator.org is a simple website that helps you create structured data snippets for your site. Google (and other search engines) use schema to help make sense of all the content in your HTML code.

3. Moz' Local SEO Quick Check

This simple SEO tool lets you type in your business name and zip/postal code and checks a few sources for your NAP information. It notifies you of the listings that aren't complete or ones that you're not even using yet, such as Yelp, Bing, Google and more.

4. Whitespark Local Citation Finder

Whitespark, along with the others are LOCAL SEO tools that have been designed to help you discover and clean up your local citations. 

Whitespark helps you find where you should be listing your business online and also adds in competitive analysis as well.

5. Free Review Monitoring

This is a cool review monitoring site that allows you to enter your information to get up-to-date notifications about new reviews of your business. This is particularly useful when managing multiple locations, that is, if knowing what your customers are saying is important to you...


--> Click here to schedule a complimentary SEO strategy session <--


Keyword Analysis

1. SEM Rush

Though SEM Rush isn't free (if you want the real goods), it provides a slew of helpful information not just on keywords, but about PPC, competitors keywords, and PPC. It's a great way to hack competitor keywords and see what's performing well for them. 

2. KW Finder

The fastest and easiest ways to do keyword research. Trust me, just go check it out and follow the prompts. You'll be addicted.

3. Keyword Tool Dot IO

Another really simple website for keyword ideas. Keyword Tool leverages the data contained inside of search engines' auto-complete functionality to deliver you raw data on what people are searching.

4. Über Suggest

Über Suggest is another service similar to Keyword Tool. All you have to do is type in your keyword, and it will come up with loads of keyword suggestions for you. They even have a Google Chrome extension called KeywordEverywhere that will help you get search volume and CPC for free.


SEO Tracking

1. Google Analytics (obvi)

If you're not using Google Analytics by now, uhhh, whaaa?

2.) Raven Tools

I mentioned Raven Tools earlier. They provide a robust view of your website data so that you can learn more about where you're winning and losing online.


In closing let me just say this. There are hundreds upon hundreds of SEO tools out there. I've included a few of my favorites here, but that's only because I didn't want this post to be 80,000 words.

My encouragement would be to check these tools out (no I'm not an affiliate for any of them, but even if I was, they are still tools that I use), and get familiar with what they do.

Ultimately I encourage you to work through a strategy. If you're having trouble, hit up our live chat or send us an email and we'd be happy to provide a complimentary strategy session. It's something we normally charge for, but 'what the hey', let's do this! 

Click here to schedule a complimentary SEO strategy session


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

10 Ways to Become The Top Salesperson in Town

By: Michael Cirillo Jun 29, 2016

How?

That's probably the number one question I get when sharing ideas about how dealers and car sales professionals can dominate the market. With over 300,000 car salespeople in North America, there seem to be very few who are crushing it.

That doesn't have to be the norm, however. According to Nathan Hays, a car sales pro at Jefferson City Autoplex, you can become the "Mayor of Carsville" by following a strategic set of actions.

Think about that. Success is a recipe. It's a series of strategic actions that, combined equal the desired end result. That's not any different in business or life. Whatever you want to achieve, you must follow the right steps in order to obtain the outcome.

With that in mind, here are the 10 steps to becoming the top salesperson in town.

1. Get involved

Getting involved in a hobby, volunteer organization, sports event, or chamber of commerce are great ways of getting involved in the community.

Take some time to get to know what drives your community. Learn about the population, key demographics, schools, sports, city council, and Mayor. Introduce yourself to the Mayor and take a selfie with them.


2. Be professional

Review your social profiles and make sure they align with the professional appearance that you want to portray. Don’t send your friends random invites to 3rd party apps (e.g., Candy Crush) or post graphic videos and news articles.


3. Amplify your presence 

Purchase some custom keychains, pens, calendar fridge magnets or any other swag you think would help spread your presence. Consider getting a digital business card from http://inigoapp.com/


4. Thank your customers

Both in person and on social media. Add photos and videos, and ask for your customers to leave reviews. Take and share anniversary photos to thank them for the time they purchased a vehicle from you. You’d be surprised at how many people start thinking about making another purchase when you position yourself top-of-mind for them.


5. Be real

Get to know people as friends. Talk about the things you have in common with people. This could include your kid's sports team or school programs, your pets, and cars. Talk about the best restaurant in town or the local night clubs and night life.

Whatever you do, refrain from talking to people about the “BIG SALE” at your store.


6. Network on and offline

Connect with other local business owners via social media and in person. Online, visit the Facebook Business Page of other local businesses. Like their page, leave comments (as your page, not a personal profile), and share their posts. In so doing, you begin to aggregate useful, hyper-local information that you can build an online community around.


7. Broadcast live video

Extend your reach and show how genuine you are. Portray yourself as a real human being and not a money-thirsty salesperson. Talk about life, tell a funny story and express gratitude to those that are tuning in. Talk about the nasty roundabout in town or upcoming events that people should check out.

The network that you’ve built up to this point will tune in and share your content out to the people they know as well.


8. Connect with your community's five largest employers

Find out who the biggest employers in town are and visit with their HR departments. Put together a car buying program for their employees. Love those people. Bring them treats, and remember their names and birthdays.


9. Become a friend

Befriend Five Insurance Agents, 5 Realtors, and 5 Bankers from different companies and send them referrals. Create a list for your clients of the people you do business with and let them choose who they want. Let your friends know when you’re sending them business. In so doing, you become a connector.

Do the same with Tradespeople, Sports Coaches, Music Teachers and so on. You will deposit so much goodwill and social currency that it will pay you back dividends for as long as you want!


10. Join a networking group

Look for a group that meets 2 - 4 times per month. If there isn’t one, consider starting one yourself! This is a great strategy for gaining a mentor, accountability partners, or friends that know nothing about the car business, but have skills that will benefit you and vice versa.


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

2017 UPDATE: Social Media Image Size Cheat Sheet

By: Michael Cirillo Jun 21, 2016

Editor's note: This post has been revamped and refreshed to display 2017 Social Media image sizes. We've also added some content to make the information in this post more accessible. 

Nothing says 'scroll faster and ignore' on social media than pixelated or blurry images. Since social media plays an influential role in maintaining brand consistency, your dealership can't afford to convey the wrong message online, especially since that's where most of your consumers are spending their time.

The images you share are just as important as the words you write when it comes to conveying a message. Great looking photos or images go a long way when it comes to social media engagement as well.

In fact, according to HubSpot,

"When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later." (Source)

In the same article shared by HubSpot, they mention that "Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images."

But there are so many image dimensions to remember, especially when considering how many social platforms there are. From Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the social media image dimensions out there.

 

2017 Social Media Image Cheatsheet

Below you'll find image dimension sizes for the most popular social platforms. Click on one of the jumplinks below to get to the section you want.

 

FacebookYouTubeTwitterLinkedInGoogle PlusInstagramPinterest 

 

Facebook Image Dimensions:

Cover Photo: 851 x 315 pixels

As a best practice, try to display an image the reflects your dealership accurately to your audience.

Profile Photo: 180 x 180 pixels

Since your profile photo is attached to everything you do on Facebook (comments, likes, posts, etc.), it's important to make sure that you choose a photo that best reflects your business. I recommend using your dealership logo so that it's easy to recognize.

Shared Image: 1200 x 630 pixels

Shared images show up in the newsfeed of your Facebook connections. By sharing meaningful images you can engage your connections in powerful, trust-building conversations.

 

YouTube Image Dimensions:

Channel Cover Image: 2560 x 1440 pixels (for desktop), 1855 x423 pixels (for tablets), 1546 x 423 pixels (for smartphones), and 2560 x 1440 pixels (for TV)

Admittedly one of the things that frustrate me about YouTube's image dimensions is that they have to work across multiple devices. Since YouTube is streamed across multiple devices, there isn't an easy way to have one image that works across all their platforms (from phones to television). You can click here to get a YouTube Channel Image template to work from which should make things easier.

Custom Video Thumbnail: 1280 x 720 pixels

Research has proven that having a custom thumbnail for your videos helps with clickthroughs. 

 

Twitter Image Dimensions:

Twitter Header Photo: 1500 x 500 pixels (maximum 100kb file size)

Twitter Profile Photo: 400 x 400 pixels

Since your Twitter profile photo is your main identifier on the social platform, I recommend using your dealership logo. That way it's easy for people to recognize you in the fast moving twitter stream. Don't let the speed of the Twitter stream scare you, though. A few months ago I shared some strategies that you can use to grow your Twitter followers and avoid the Twitter Stream here.

Twitter In-Stream Photo: 440 x 220 px

Including eye-catching graphics for your tweets is a great way for people to slow down their Twitter stream and take a look at what you've shared. Up until May 2016, images used to count against the 140 character limit, but now Twitter has announced that they don't anymore! 

 

 

When you subscribe to our weekly mailing list, you'll get access to step-by-step marketing guides that you can use immediately.

PLUS, you'll learn how to generate double and triple-digit increases in traffic to your website, and get access to exclusive

inbound marketing strategies that we only share withour subscribers.

Let's do this!

 

LinkedIn Image Dimensions:

LinkedIn Standard Logo: 100 x 60 pixels

LinkedIn Career Cover Picture: 974 x 60 pixels

LinkedIn Banner Image: 646 x 220 pixels

It can be pretty easy to self-promote on LinkedIn until you're blue in the face, but you need to pump the brakes a little. Even though LinkedIn is a professional social network, that doesn't mean you have to talk about yourself like you think you're God's gift to the business community. Be genuine. Share highlights from your career that will align you with like-minded professionals. Remember that only talking about yourself and why you think you're the best doesn't make for good conversation on or offline.

 

Google Plus Image Dimensions:

I know, I know - Google Plus is dead (or something like that)... but since people are still kinda using it, I thought I'd include some dimensions for you.

Google Plus Profile image: 250 x 250 pixels

Google Plus Cover Image: 1080 x 608 pixels (random size...)

Google Plus Shared Image: 497 x 373 pixels or 150 x 150 pixels

 

Instagram Image Dimensions:

Instagram Profile Image: 110 x 110 pixels

Instagram Photo Size: 1080 x 1080 (1:1), however, Instagram also lets you upload in a variety of sizes now. Square images still tend to stand out more.

Instagram Photo Thumbnails: 161 x 161 pixels

 

Pinterest Image Dimensions:

Pinterest Profile Image: 165 x 165 pixels

Even though the Pinterest profile image doesn't stretch across the medium like Twitter or Facebook, it's still important to have a nice one. In a similar theme to my other recommendations, use your dealership logo. That way you're able to maintain brand consistency across all of your social profiles.

Board Display Image: 222 x 150 pixels

Pin Sizes: 236 pixels w with scaled height. 

Expanded pins will have a minimum width of 600 pixels.

 

I hope you find value in this information. If you have any questions about this topic or another topic, let us know in the comments below!

(Image Source: http://makeawebsitehub.com/)

How to Track the ROI of Social Media for Car Dealers

By: Michael Cirillo May 24, 2016

Is it possible to generate a return-on-investment from social media? Chances are if you're reading this post, you've asked that question once or twice before.

The short answer is: Yes. Of course, you can. Given the right systems are in place, you can track the ROI of almost any action. Since social media is an incredible place to build a fanbase and increase followers, many dealers wonder if their social media efforts are paying off.

But wondering if your efforts are paying off won't help. You need to be able to prove it, especially if some higher up than you at the dealership is wanting answers. 

In this post, we're going to explore some ways to track the ROI of social media for your dealership using tools you already have at your fingertips.

Before we dig in, it's important to remember one thing. Though ROI is an acronym that gets tossed around in almost every conversation, it means nothing if there isn't a clear objective to measure.

Most dealerships struggle to create clearly defined objectives for their marketing efforts. In that atmosphere, ROI is impossible to track. How would you even know which way is up without a reference point?

Marketing done right means that you start with a clearly defined objective. It should be as accurate as possible so that you're not leaving holes in your strategy and measurements. 

In other words, don't set yourself up to fail by not knowing what you want to achieve. And don't just say 'leads and sales,' either. You'll need to be more specific than that! 

What type of leads do you want? New car? Used Car? Finance? Service? Until you know exactly what you'll be measuring yourself by, you're not ready for the ROI conversation. 

A clear goal/objective gives you something to reverse engineer. Like any goal, it's important to understand what steps you will need to take to get from where you are to where you want to go.

What steps will your customer need to take to achieve your objective? 

When 'Results' Aren't Easily Quantified

It should be no secret that automotive retail doesn't have the immediate fulfillment of a transaction like other industries do. The consumers path to purchase ranges from 30 - 90 days with between 24 - 900 (that's right, 900!) different touch-points considered.

When results aren't easily quantified, you'll have to rely on a variety of data sets to help you understand the consumers path to purchase. By analyzing data, you'll be able to see if the customer is following the course that you've intended them to take. At a base level, you should be able to see whether or not your social media efforts are capable of bearing fruit.

Again, for this to work properly, you'll need to have a clearly defined objective and chart out the steps that they'll need to take along the way. Those steps lead to the overall goal and create a marketing funnel.

In this example, you can see that the Facebook Ad promoting a $19.99 oil change directs the user to a Landing Page on your website where they can get more information about the offer. The landing page also includes a call-to-action where the user can claim the offer. Once claimed, the user redirects to a thank you page on your website which includes other options of things they might be interested in learning about.

Let's simplify everything I just wrote there:

1.) Facebook ad promoting $19.99 oil change (or whatever your offer is)

2.) User clicks on ad and lands on a Landing Page on your website.

3.) User clicks the CTA (call-to-action) on your site to claim the offer and clicks "submit."

4.) This redirects the user to a "Thank you" page on your website

Keep this funnel clear in your mind because we're going to refer to it throughout the rest of this post.

These non-financial reference points can help tell the story of each users' behavior. Can you see how these actions lead through to a financial outcome?

Consider Your Cost to Gain Ratio

Once you have a marketing strategy, objective, and funnel created it's important to factor in your hard costs. These might include:

- Time / Labor

- Training

- 3rd party agencies

- Paid media

Are you keeping tabs on everything that is going into making social media work for you? It's important to set aside some time to conduct an audit of everything you have going on, measuring it against your core objective. 

Until then, you won't have a clear picture of what's working and what's not working, and that may cause you to take missteps that muddy up your social media efforts further.

Tracking Leads and Revenue

Tracking leads specific to your social media efforts can be done. To do it effectively, though, you'll need to know how to set up goals within Google Analytics. 

Once you've correctly created goals in Google Analytics, you'll be able to track what traffic either completes or abandons the steps in your funnel.

Watch this quick tutorial on how to create goals in Google Analytics.

Referencing the simple funnel we talked about earlier, here are some things that you should track:

1.) How many visits to the landing page originated from Facebook

2.) What percentage of users clicked on the call-to-action

3.) What percentage of users opted-in and landed on the "Thank You" page?

The number of users that arrive at your "Thank You" page should align with the number of leads that you're tracking through your website provider or CRM.

Again, all of this is dependant on whether or not you've clearly defined an objective. In this case, it's the "Thank You" page because that means they submitted a lead (or opted-in to claim your offer).

Tracking goals and conversions is one of the leading reasons many dealers are tracking an ROI from their social media efforts. They either aren't setting up their funnel correctly, creating the right goals, or aren't doing any of those things at all.

Don't Discredit Vanity Metrics

There has been a lot of chatter out there about the irrelevancy of vanity metrics such as +1's, Likes, Retweets, or followers but it depends on what you're aiming to achieve. 

Mike Davenport is a rock star when it comes to leveraging social media. Not only has he worked deals on Facebook directly, he recognizes that there is more to vanity metrics than meets the eye. That's not to suggest that there is a shotgun approach to success, but vanity metrics can give you an indication of the approval level of your following.

For example, if you're posting regularly to Facebook (non-paid, organic) and aren't getting any level of engagement whether vanity or not, that would serve as a simple indication that what you're posting is of little interest to your audience.

With that in mind, a good goal for you to achieve is focusing on the quality of what you're posting to see if you can find the sweet spot of information/topics that resonate with your ideal audience. 

Doing so is less expensive than going 'all in' on paid advertising, especially if you're having trouble getting to know your target audience' interests and problems. 

Marketing (whether on social media or some other medium) is about conveying the right message to the right person at the right time. Though very simple, vanity metrics can help you understand how aware people are of your brand. This is especially important if brand awareness or an increase in followers is a step in your path to acquisition.

Make Adjustments as Needed

Never, and I mean NEVER EVER set and forget! This is something that might be costing you more money than you think!

It's not enough to just set things up once and hope that they keep working. Your job moving forward is to monitor what's happening. Are people engaging with your offer and funnel? Are they following through? 

As you keep a close eye on consumer movements through the funnel, you'll be able to make some calculated adjustments that will get rid of what's not working to make everything work more efficiently.

Can you measure ROI from Social Media? Of course, you can. While there is more to it than just posting regularly or creating some ads, social media is a powerful resource to build brand awareness and acquire new customers.

Video: How The New User Explorer Report in Google Analytics Will Help You Win More Business

By: Michael Cirillo May 19, 2016

The team at Google Analytics has recently rolled out a brand new report to their Audience suite that will help you understand your site visitors with clarity.

The new User Explorer report provides step-by-step action data that can help you understand what users are doing while on your website. In so doing, you'll be able to get a clearer picture of what pages and content, inventory, or services resonate with your audience.

Having this information at a much more granular level will help you optimize your website experience to account for real human behavior rather than relying on guesswork or assumptions. In so doing, you'll have a greater opportunity to win business by supplying the demand of your market.

Along with the marketing implications, this also will give us more validation about what users find most valuable, and how long their purchase process takes. 

To learn more about the new User Explorer report, watch this brief video below:


The User Explorer report breaks apart into just a few simple segments. Let's take a look at each of the main parts so that you can see how the information is useful and what you can learn about your site visitors. 

User Explorer Overview

You'll find the user explorer report in the Audience suite of metrics within Google analytics. Simply click on Audience and User Explorer to access the data.

Once you've clicked on the User Explorer report you will see a table of high-level data. Each column in the table reflects data that is familiar to other metric suites within Google Analytics such as, Sessions, Avg. Session Duration and Bounce Rate.

The Client Id column lists a series of id's that get assigned to a user to help track the movement and actions they take while on your site. The id is also linked to a specific device which is helpful in understanding how mobile-friendly your website is.

From the table above you can see that there are site visitors who are spending an average time of over 5 minutes per session, and in some cases have logged over 30 sessions. Cross referencing that data to their average bounce rate, and you can see that these individuals are making quite a bit of movement throughout your website.

By clicking on any of the user ids, you'll be directed to an in-depth view of that user's visits to your website.

In the right column, you'll see when the date that they first visited your website along with the acquisition source and the device they were using to access your site.

This information is helpful because it adds a layer of context to the data that we're going to look at in the next section.

Along the top of the page, you'll see some baseline metrics about the user as well. These include the total number of sessions (45) and the total amount of time this user has spent on the site over those 45 sessions (about 2 1/2 hours).

The rest of the information on the user's page gives a breakdown of what their activities were while on your website.

According to the information above, this visitor spent some time browsing the inventory, filtering search results and looking at two different vehicles. 

As the data accumulates over time, you'll begin to see patterns in search behavior that will ultimately help you optimize your website in a way that speaks to the demand of your market.

The 28-Point Local SEO Checklist for Car Dealers

By: Michael Cirillo May 06, 2016

By now it should be no secret that SEO is alive and well. In fact, it's more important than ever when trying to increase visibility online.

Ranking on Google has always been a bit of a mystery. There are over 200 ranking factors that webmasters need to consider when working on a website, but no one has ever actually known what ranking signals receive preferential treatment. 

Until now. 

In my last blog post, I revealed what the top three ranking signals were and what you should focus on to help your long-term SEO strategy.

But we also know that Google loves mobile and that you need to have a solid mobile strategy to assist the visibility of your website from smartphones and other mobile devices.

In 2015, mobile usage surpassed desktop usage which means that if your website isn't mobile-friendly, this is a good time to consider making that happen. 

Credit: eMarketer / SmartInsights

There have been many debates about what mobile protocol works best for car dealers, but hopefully knowing that Google prefers responsive websites should help sway your decision in what direction to take.

And that's also where local SEO makes its entrance to the stage.

Since your phone knows your present physical location, that data is used to offer more relevant search results to mobile users. That means that when a consumer is out and about conducting commerce related searches, it's in your best interest to show up.

That's why we've published our 28-point Local SEO Checklist for car dealers. 

Download your copy of the local SEO checklist here

Inside the checklist, you'll get access to the 28 most important actions you can take to get your website (and dealership) more visible for local related searches. 

You'll also get access to a list of 50 directory sites that you should consider submitting your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information. 

Credit: BrightLocal

SEO is something that you need to pay close attention to, especially with more and more users migrating to mobile search. It's crucial to have a responsive website that will offer the same access to information for mobile users as it would on a desktop. 

As a local business, it's even more important to make sure that you're soaking up as much local search real-estate as you possibly can. 

Start implementing the actions included in the 28-point local SEO checklist so that you can rise above the clutter and dominate local search!

Download your 28-point local SEO checklist here

Google's Top Three Ranking Factors Finally Revealed!

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 19, 2016

When it comes to ranking your website, the topic of Search Engine Optimization has always been somewhat vague. Though we've had a list of ranking factors to consider, Google has never been upfront about what the top considerations are. When the list tops 200 factors, things tend to get a little sticky.

For example, in 2015, Google announced that site speed accounted for 1% of it's ranking algorithm. Even though that's not a very significant number, it was something. To have Google attribute a definite number to a ranking factor was a huge leap for the tech giant, and it stirred up a frenzy in the automotive industry.

Vendors and Dealers went crazy over it. It became a game of 'who has a faster website'. It's funny to see how quickly the sky can start falling inside of this industry, especially over something that only accounts for 1% of the ranking of your website.

So what are the ranking factors already?

Last year, we learned about RankBrain, which Google announced then as the third most important ranking factor. At that time, they refused to say what the first two were.

Thanks to a recent Google Q&A session with Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, we know what the top three ranking factors are for Google.

"I can tell you what they are. It is Content. And it's links pointing to your site." 


So now we know. The top three Google ranking factors are Content, Links, and RankBrain.

Though we don't know what comes first between content and links, my best guess is that the list looks like this:

1.) Content

2.) Links

3.) RankBrain

The fact that you need content to link to suggests (in my opinion) that content is the number one ranking factor for Google. 

At FlexDealer, we believe that content is one of the most valuable (and underutilized) methods of attracting high-quality vehicle shoppers.

Think about it. Every single day, thousands of automotive shoppers in your market are going online to search for information. Those that provide it win. 

In closing, my question is this. Now that you know Google believes are the most important ranking factors, what are you going to do about it?

Building Out FlexDealer's Roster

By: Team FlexDealer Mar 01, 2016

FlexDealer's team of rockstar automotive marketers is growing

Digital marketing is the dealership’s fastest moving target and we at FlexDealer take pride in our cat-like reflexes. Agile and ambitious, we’ve built a team driven to excel and evolve alongside our clients. Our websites provide the ultimate first impression, but it’s our strategic marketing and creative content that foster relationships. Nope, no wallflowers here. We make sure that dealers aren’t just showing up to the party—they're making new friends too.

To keep pace with technology and our expanding network of clients, we are thrilled to announce a new addition to the FlexDealer leadership team. We are delighted to appoint Jenn Dunstan as Marketing Director.

Jenn has been in the industry spotlight since making waves developing the Ontario Motor Sales brand. A champion of change, her robust portfolio spans several national magazines and global ad agency, FCB. She’s thrilled to come onboard, applying her talents to the development of marketing initiatives that will increase traffic and generate leads for our FlexDealer clients. In addition, Jenn will be identifying opportunities and providing ongoing strategic direction for the Dealer Playbook Podcast.

[VIDEO] What Wikipedia Can't Teach You About Blogging

By: Michael Cirillo Oct 15, 2015

Blogging is one of the most underutilized inbound marketing strategies in the automotive industry worldwide, yet has massive potential to provide serious ROI for car dealers.

There are a few dealers who maintain an active blog, but for the most part, most dealers post once or twice per year. Those that are more consistent use it as another promotion source rather than using it for where it can be most valuable.

When you look outside of the automotive industry, blogging is still one of the most popular and widely used methods of attracting new and returning visitors to your website. From there, the blogger has an increased opportunity to having readers accept relevant offers and convert into leads.

The objective is to enrich and enhance the reader's life by providing them with useful (or shareable) information. When the blogger consistently pumps out great quality content, it encourages their readers to keep consuming their content. In my experience, blogging can be difficult to do.

That's likely why more dealers aren't doing it. From not knowing what to write or not having enough time, there is a variety of reasons why blogging in the auto industry usually sits on the shelf. That's why I'm sharing my five favorite YouTube videos about blogging.

Each of these videos walks through different blog post types. My hope is that after watching these videos you will have some ideas about how you can make blogging for your dealership a regular (and less time-consuming) activity.

212 Blog Post Ideas

After you watch this video, there should be no shortage of blogging ideas for your store. Russ at Digital Marketer is one of the most well-respected inbound marketers on planet earth.

The Embed Reactor

This is one of the best ways to get a high-quality blog post up with little effort. It consists of embedding a video on a topic you like and then writing your reaction to the post. You can agree or disagree, but ultimately the information you share is valuable to your target audience.

How-to Blog Posts

There is no shortage of how-to posts that you could come up with. Think of all the FAQs that your customers have about the vehicles they drive. There is an entire blog library sitting there just waiting for you to engage!

The Crowdsourced Post

A crowdsourced blog post is one of the easiest posts you can do. That's because it involves emailing a question to a few respected people in your niche and waiting for their response. When they respond to your question, you simply paste them in a Q & A style blog post on your website.

The Content Aggregator

Exactly what this blog post is. To do it, you go out and find viral content and aggregate it into a single blog post. You can use tools like Buzzsumo to find out what content is viral and being shared already. There you have it. The Five best videos about blogging. If you found this information valuable, go ahead and share it with someone you think would benefit from it. If you have any questions or comments, sound off in the comments below!

How to Set Up a Video Studio For Your Car Dealership

By: Robert Wiesman Sep 17, 2015

Setting up a DIY video studio in your dealership can seem like the hardest thing in the world but it really is not.

With the unbelievable results video on the web can deliver to an auto dealership more dealerships and car sales professionals are using video to sell them more cars than ever before.

That is why your dealerships videos need to stand out from the competitions, and the way to do that is by investing in producing quality videos. The way invest in producing quality videos is by investing in a video studio for your dealership.

I have helped many people (including myself) set up their DIY video studio but only after wasting precious time and money on the wrong equipment/resources trying to get things right.

I have been a long time video marketing student of James Wedmore the leading authority when it comes to online video for businesses and entrepreneurs. It was after I enrolled in several premium courses and workshops hosted by James that I started to get the level of positive results from my videos I was looking to achieve.

I learned from James that my video studio was set up wrong so since I learned from James, I think it would make sense that you learn how to set up your dealerships video studio. So let's dive into the steps courtesy of James Wedmore on how you set up your dealerships video studio.

Step #1: Your Backdrop

Solid color backgrounds are the way to go. They make it easy to add text and image overlay to your videos to make them more engaging plus they are pretty easy to execute, and that is key to production. White backgrounds are very popular but require a lot of lights. Darker backgrounds are much easier to execute the right way and look really good. As James says in this video green screen is an option but if all possible stay clear of them. I happen to agree with that. I have used a green screen many times, and it can be a real pain, especially if you have no experience with them. Backgrounds are available all over the net and you can get a background solution from $50 - $100.

Choosing the right background for your dealerships video studio. via James Wedmore YouTube

Step #2: Your Lighting

A poorly lit video sucks. Do you watch them? I know I don’t. To avoid issues with your lighting purchase a 3 - 5 piece lighting kit. The kit James recommends he uses personally and cost roughly $200 on Amazon. You need to make sure you are turning off the normal lights in your studio when filming and just using your light kit. You also want to use the same kind of bulb in each light. Will keep it consistent and not shadowy.

As James covers in the video, you will need to position one light called your key light at a 45-degree angle to the left of your subject. You then set up another light on the right side of the subject also at a 45-degree angle, called the fill light. James then suggests having another light over your head to fill in any shadows and give your subject depth. Keep in mind if you are shooting on a white background or green screen you will need another two lights on each side of the background also both at a 45-degree angle.

Setting up your lights for your dealerships video studio. via James Wedmore YouTube

Step #3: Your Camera and Microphone

The first thing James says is you will want to use a tripod with your camera. There are tons of tripods out there just make sure when you pick yours for your dealerships video studio just make sure it extends tall enough. When it comes to your camera for your dealerships video studio, it is easy to get bogged down with choices. I suggest just use what you have. If your lighting is right, and audio is crisp (will get to that in a second) a newer iPhone or Samsung smartphone can get the job done. When you set up your camera and tripod, you will want it to be about 4 - 6 feet from your subject. The type of camera you are using will affect this.

Every dealerships video studio will need a quality audio source because let's face it, audio quality will make or break your videos overall results. In this video, James recommends a lapel microphone, and that is also exactly what I use. Just like a camera, you have several choices for a microphone for your dealerships video studio. A hundred dollars can get you an awesome quality lapel microphone for your dealerships video studio that will consistently crank out killer quality audio for your videos. You get what you pay for in most cases when it comes to a microphone so keep that in mind.

Setting up your camera and audio source for your dealerships video studio. via James Wedmore YouTube

Time To Wrap It Up

So there you have it three easy steps to set up your dealerships video studio and the best part is you can set up your dealerships video studio on the smallest budget. The easier you make creating quality videos, the more videos you will create and that's the name of the game when it comes to video marketing. Do you have a video studio in your dealership? What equipment do you use? Would love to hear about it in the comments section below. Get your dealerships video studio up and running today and start using the unbelievable power of video marketing to sell you more cars! Check out the full tutorial video by James Wedmore here:


Check out James Wedmore on "The Dealer Playbook" Podcast discussing video marketing strategies and tips for car dealers here.

The Car Dealer's 10-step Guide to Optimizing a YouTube Channel

By: Robert Wiesman Sep 02, 2015

Your auto dealerships YouTube channel is a massive opportunity for highly targeted traffic to your website 24/7 365. Better yet that not only is the traffic highly targeted it is also FREE.

Your YouTube channel is your dealerships hub for all your video content. There is so much more to really tapping into the power of YouTube for your auto dealership than just creating the right kind of videos and uploading them to your channel.

Youtube has a number of tools and features that will help you get the most out of your videos as well as its targeted viewers.

Is your dealerships YouTube channel optimized? There is tons of chatter and content about the optimization of your videos but beyond 

Here is 10 actions you can execute and reference to anytime to ensue your dealerships YouTube channel is optimized to the max like a pro!

1.Update/Change YouTube Channel Title

 Now of course as an auto dealership you will want your YouTube channel name to represent your brand. It is important your channel title represents your business, brand, or an individual.

Get creative and add some of your keywords to your title will never hurt.

For example, if my dealership was “Wiesman Hyundai” I would probably name my channel “Wiesman Hyundai TV” or something else along those lines. It is important you have one of your main keywords in your YouTube channel title.

To change your YouTube channel name all you need to do is click the pencil icon you see to the far right of the section from your channel view (as you see in the image above) then click the channel settings and then once inside settings just click change right beside your name and you're all set.


2. Your YouTube Channel Icon


Your channel icon is basically the profile picture for your YouTube channel, kinda like your Facebook profile picture.

It makes sense for you to upload your dealerships logo as your YouTube channel icon because it is very important that your channel reflects and represents your brand but studies show that online users tend to engage more with pages and channels that use an actual photo of a person as the icon as opposed to your brands logo. Just some food for thought.

If it was my dealership I would as the dealer principal use my picture as the channel icon.

To add or change your YouTube channel icon is really a piece of cake.

Just click that pencil icon that hovers over your channel icon image. From there they will forward you to your Google + page which the way Google has it set up you have to change your channel icon there.

You just click on the image on your Google + and it will prompt you to select or upload a new image. Like I said… Piece of cake but very important to your channel.


3. Your YouTube Channel Art

Your channel art is the header/banner graphic that is located at the top of your channel.

Your YouTube channel art should be 2560×1440 with the main element of your art positioned on the inside 1546×423 area so when the user views it via smartphone tablet etc the channel art is still viewable.

Your channel art is the main brand representation on your YouTube channel so it is important to make sure the graphic is professionally designed represents your brand to the fullest. You can add calls to actions to your website links and many other promotional branding opportunities.

Be sure that your channel art conveys what exactly your dealerships YouTube channel is going to do for them (the viewer).

To update your dealerships YouTube channel art from the “My Channel” view just click the small pencil icon in the top right corner on your channel art and in that drop down select “edit channel art” then from there you can select a image or upload a new one. Super simple. 


4. Your YouTube Channels About/Description

If you optimize your YouTube channel description not only will it increase and improve your search rankings, it also can help convert a viewer into a new subscriber.

It is very important you make your description keyword rich. Make sure to add the keyword phrases that your target audience is searching for.

The channel description is also where you lay out to the viewer exactly what is in it for them by subscribing to your channel. How is your content going to benefit them because the last thing you want to do is try to sell them via your YouTube videos.

To update your dealership's YouTube channel description start with clicking on the About tab you will see when you are in the My Channel view.

From there all you need to do is click that famous little pencil icon y

Since your already in there go ahead and scroll down right below your dealerships YouTube description and you will see where it says “For business inquiries” where you can add an email address.

Click on where it says email then just enter the email address you want any inquiries from your car dealerships YouTube channel forwarded to. Just like that.


5. Your YouTube Channels Keywords

The keywords for your dealerships YouTube channel is another opportunity to improve your rankings in Google and YouTubes search results.

Your channels keywords should be the keywords and phrases you are trying to rank for and also the types of videos your dealerships channel will be uploading.

To update and add to your YouTube channels keywords you will start with same steps as when you were updating your dealerships channel title.

From the My Channel 

When the drop down pops up then just click the Channel Settings link and you will see where you enter your dealerships YouTube channels targeted keywords. Again not the hardest thing to do in the world and will only take a few minutes but also very crucial to the proper optimization of your car dealerships YouTube channel.


6. Add Your Dealerships Website and Social Links To Your YouTube Channel

T

YouTube has to much traffic coming to it every second of everyday to not take advantage of this feature on your dealerships YouTube channel.

To add your dealerships links, again we start in the My Channel view and click the pencil icon you see in the top right corner of where your Youtube channel art is.

Once you click that pencil icon the drop down will appear and from there you click the Edit Links link. (there is a few different ways you can access these links but I prefer this way because its easier to demonstarte).

Once you have clicked the Edit Links link you will land on a page that should look familiar. It is the same page you updated your dealerships YouTube channel art.

YouTube allows you to add 15 links to your channel so max them out if you can but I suggest your first link be to your website. It would be best to make it to a landing page or some kind of page that provides the viewer with even more value. You can add a call to action to your link telling them why to click.

Take a look at the image and see how mine says “Get FREE Branding Checklist”. When the viewer clicks there they are directed to a landing page/download page where in exchange for their email address they get access to a valuable resource. Make sense?

I suggest taking that approach as far as your website link then in the other sections add all your social links and anything else you would want to drive traffic to.


7. Upload A Channel Trailer To Your Dealerships YouTube Channel

A YouTube channel trailer is the featured video only non subscribers to your dealerships YouTube channel will see when they land on your channel. Once they become a subscriber they will not see this video anymore.

Your channels trailer sole purpose is to educate the viewer on exactly what they will get from your dealerships YouTube channel and also ask them to subscribe to your channel.

Now to be clear you do not want to be selling anything in this video except for selling the viewer on why your content is valuable to them and also selling them on the subscription. Thats it.

The video should be as short as possible but do not cross the 2 minute mark. Even 2 minutes is a little long but that is the cut off time without a doubt.

Now to add this video is a piece of cake. When you are in the My Channel view click the now famous pencil icon you will see on the far right of where you see your channels title.

Once the drop down appears click Edit Channels Navigation. After doing that you will be on the Channel Navigation page and at the very top you will see the word Browse to the right of that you will see the word Enable. Click on Enable then return to your dealers channels Home page which then you will see the option to Add A Channel Trailer. Click on that and select the video you want as your trailer. And that is that.


8. Verify Associated Website To Your YouTube Channel

It is very important that you verify your dealerships website on your YouTube channel.

The benefit of verifying your dealerships website is you will then be able to add your website to clickable annotations in your YouTube videos as well as the new YouTube Cards feature. Both of these features are how you get your YouTube traffic to your dealerships website.

Verifying your dealerships website for your YouTube channel is super easy.

Again click the pencil icon to the far right of where your channels title is which is right below your channel art.

Once you do that the drop down will appear and then you click Channel Settings. Scroll down the Channel Settings page until you see Associated Website. Add your website url then click verify. From there Google will forward you some further easy to follow and execute instructions to finalize the verification of your dealerships website for your YouTube channel.


9. Enable Custom Thumbnails & External Annotations To Your YouTube Channel

Thumbnails and Annotations are major players in the success of your dealerships YouTube channel.

Lets start with Thumbnails… When you add custom thumbnails to your YouTube videos you will see a increase in views on this videos. Point blank. Custom thumbnails not only look so much better but they also visually inform the viewer of what they can expect inside your video.

Clickable An

To enable both custom Thumbnails and Annotations to your YouTube channel you will need to be in the Y

Click on your channels profile in the complete top right hand corner of your page. It is the very small and is in a circle.

Once you click the icon the drop down will appear and from there click Creators Studio.

On the far left menu you will see Channel in the columns navigation, click there and then click Status and Features. Scroll down that page just a tad and you will see External Annotations and Custom Thumbnails right below that.


10. How To Add Playlists And Sections To Your YouTube Channel 

Playlists and Sections are an amazing way to organize your video content on your dealerships YouTube channel but they are so much more than that.

Creatin

YouTube allows you to add 10 sections to your channel and although there are a few different types of sections you can add, I only think the Single Playlist Section is where you should be focusing when it comes to your channels Sections. We will talk more about this in a second.

Playlists are a great way to create groups of videos that are about the same topic which makes it easier for your viewer to find them.

Another awesome feature about YouTube Playlists is if you title them properly (with keywords) and write a detailed keyword description (YouTube allows 5,000 characters) YouTube and Googles algorithm will rank those playlists in search.

To create a Playlist first click the Playlist tab in the menu right below your dealerships YouTube channels title.

Once you are on the Playlists page click the New Playlist button where then a drop down will appear to enter the title of your Playlist. After you create the title you then click on the Add Videos button you will see to the far right which then another box pops up to add videos from there you will click the far right option “Your YouTube Videos” where you then select from your YouTube videos which ones you want to add to that Playlist.

Now that you have created the Playlist you will see the option to “Add A Description” to your Playlist.

Now that you have created a Playlist you need to “Add A Section” to display your Playlists.

To do that you will need to click the pencil icon to the far right of your YouTube Channels title and if you have not done so already click enable next to where you see “Browse” at the top of that page.

When you are back in the “My Channel” view after enabling the “Browse” feature scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see a “Add Section” button. Click that and in the drop down that appears select “Single Playlist” and then select the Playlist you want to add to that “Section” and just like that you have a new “Section” displaying your new “Playlist”.


Now you just have to go out make some killer videos

So now that you have the 10 step playbook to fully dialing in your dealerships YouTube channel, now you just need to upload some videos.

Go out and execute on any or all of the above steps and watch your results from your dealerships YouTube channel explode!

What is working and what is not working for you on YouTube? I want to hear it… Lets connect in the comment section.

5 Reasons Why Car Dealer Websites Are Broken

By: Michael Cirillo Aug 27, 2015

As the online marketplace for car dealers becomes more and more cluttered, it's time for us to start having a meaningful conversation.

The concept of having a "car dealer website" is broken, and it's time we stop talking about it.

Great, you're a car dealer. You sell cars. And you have a website.

But that doesn't mean that what you have is a car dealer website. At least, that's not what it should mean.

There are going to be varying schools of thought on this. Some will argue that I'm grasping at thin air, trying to have a conversation about a technicality.

Others might think that I'm losing my mind. "How can it be anything other than a car dealer website when it's a website for a car dealer?!?"

But this isn't a technicality. It isn't me grasping at nothing.

There is a legitimate reason car dealer websites are a broken concept. My hope is to illustrate how this "technicality" can translate to massive success for your store or dealer group. 

1. Car Dealers Are Not Your Target Market

The whole concept of "For Car Dealers By Car Dealers", only makes sense if auto dealers are your target market.

But if you aren't in the business of selling cars to car dealers, then this idea is broken.

Now, I understand why this slogan rose to popularity. Of course, you want to partner with someone who knows your business.

There's only one problem... see #2. 

2. Dealers Still Complain

To my last count, there are well over 50 "car dealer website" providers in North America alone.

And while each of them are touting success stories and sharing statistics to help encourage your trust in them, there's a massive caveat.

No matter the provider, dealers still complain about the same things.

Lack of service, lack of results, not getting what they expected, and round and round it goes.

So let me ask, how well is working with a company who understands your business working for you?

More importantly, why hasn't anyone drawn any attention to this?

Company's like DrivingSales are on to something when they seek inspiration and speakers from outside of the automotive industry. Again, there is an incredibly powerful reason for that as well. Find out by continuing to point #3. 

3. Car Shoppers are Every Other Type Of Shopper First

We often think of automotive customers from inside a vacuum. We talk about them as if they are exclusive.

The problem with this is that it's not true. Automotive shoppers are influenced by the activities that they frequently do.

From online shopping sites like Amazon or Zulily to Social sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. Automotive customers are conditioned for a particular online experience before they visit your site.

This leads to reason #4. 

4. Your Car Dealer Website Isn't Where Consumers Go First

Ever wondered why shoppers are going to sites like AutoTrader or Kelly Blue Book first?

First, because they've been trained that this is where they should go to get unbiased information.

Second, because the information is nowhere to be found on your "car dealer website".

I've had the opportunity to audit thousands of dealer sites, and there is one thing I know for certain.

The majority of them are truly dealer sites in the sense that all they do is talk about the dealer. They are dealer-centric.

It's annoying...

You are surrendering your ability to educate your prospects and become the credible source of information by not providing any value on your site. 

5. The Shiny (Unproven) Object

It's entirely human to want something new. We all have a tendency to want the latest and greatest.

Most car dealer website providers have leveraged this by continuing to develop the next best thing and keeping dealers wanting more.

But according to my observation, those shiny new objects are exactly that. They often are nothing more than the next "promise" that allows the provider to increase your monthly spend.

But here's the thing...

The vast majority of those shiny new developments have little proof behind them.

Sure they win awards and draw up a ton of PR, but very few of them have been proven to work.

That's why the hype often wears off so quickly, and those shiny gimmicks become forgotten memories.

The fact of the matter is this: you already have everything you need to achieve incredible success online.

It's not so much about what you have as it is how you're using it.  

So What's The Solution?

To reiterate my first point, this is a meaningful conversation that we need to start having in the industry.

It's not meant to be controversial, it's supposed to be empowering.

I am not looking to be yet another industry "vendor" who becomes the next disrupter. You know...the ones who make fools of themselves debating all over social media. I am starting the conversation because there is a solution.

There is a way to get around this crap and see incredible, sustainable results online.

Don't have a car dealer website.

Have a consumer website.

Focus on providing an exceptional online experience for those that visit your site, or who engage with you elsewhere online.

You'll find that the slight shift in focus means less time updating your meaningless coupons and more time providing valuable, enriching information that consumers are truly searching for.

Doing so will immediately differentiate you from your competition. You will quickly rise above the clutter and dominate your market.

Automotive SEO Trends in 2015 that Every Dealer Needs to Know

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 13, 2015

April 21, 2015 is right around the corner and many dealers are starting to panic about the impending 'Mobilegeddon'. The new mobile search algorithm from Google is about to roll out.

I've been receiving emails on a weekly basis from dealers asking if their site is going to be okay.

But this new algorithm shouldn't come as a surprise. Google has been recommending an enhanced mobile experience for quite some time now.

Before I get into what you need to know about Google's mobile algorithm, here is something to consider.

SEO is not dead.

I've seen this as an emerging topic online. Some people are suggesting that SEO is a dying practice.

The push of this new algorithm suggests otherwise.

SEO is alive and is necessary more than ever...especially automotive SEO.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some SEO trends to keep track of in 2015.  

Car Dealers Need Mobile-Friendly Websites

Since Google is getting ready to roll out the 'Mobilegeddon' update on April 21st, this is something to keep in mind.

Back in 2014 it became increasingly clear that Google was making strides toward a mobile-centric SEO ecosystem.

We have also seen Google penalizing sites that generate errors on mobile devices.

But Google's aim isn't to make you suffer (unless you suck). Google provides plenty of tools for Webmasters to make sure their sites are in line with Google expectations.

Google's Mobile-Friendly Testing tool is a simple way to see how your website stacks up on a mobile device. If your site is mobile-friendly, this page will let you know.

  

The Great Divide. SEO and Content Marketing Part Ways?

Up until now, using the terms content marketing and SEO were often interchangeable.

The overlap between the two is massive, which makes sense.

But moving forward, you're going to see the two find their happy little homes in the virtual landscape. SEO will encompass more of the technical components of online marketing, while Content Marketing itself will be the main driver of search engine rankings.

Of course SEO will continue to serve as an important element of content marketing, but dealership's that focus only on technical SEO will fail.

Yes, keyword research will still be important.

Correct - meta tags, indexing and penalty issues will still be crucial.

But those are aspects that need to be included in a solid content marketing strategy. Your dealership needs a strong content marketing plan to gain visibility of high quality buyers.

The Ultimate Dealer's Guide to Creating Awesome Content

- How to get the attention of qualified vehicle shoppers - How to increase dealership profitability through content marketing - How to get started creating compelling digital content

Get Instant Access

 

Social Signals Influence Search Rankings

With the recent death of Google+ Authorship, Google is now placing more emphasis on social signals from Twitter and Facebook.

For several years, SEO experts have debated whether social signals have influenced search rankings.

All the speculation was put to rest in Bloomberg Business' recent report.

According to Bloomberg, Twitter and Google struck a deal to include users tweets in Google search results.

This is a mutually beneficial relationship where Twitter's 140 character tweets will begin to show up in SERPs.

SEO is more than just trying to get your site to show up though.

That's where Social Media can really shine for you. If you use social media to build relationships, you will have a greater ability to keep yourself or your dealership at the forefront of consumers' minds. When it comes to SEO, staying ontop of what's working or not is crucial.

These are a few of the trends that you need to be tracking through 2015.

Doing so will help you keep your dealership infront of high quality vehicle buyers. They will help strengthen the foundation of your automotive digital marketing efforts. 

Think this post will help someone out? I'd be deeply grateful if you'd give it a share!

How to Build Relationships to Sell Cars Using Social Media (Bonus Strategy Included)

By: Michael Cirillo Mar 26, 2015

You’re asking all of the right questions…

  • How can I leverage social media to build relationships?
  • What social networks should I focus on?
  • What should I be saying on social media to achieve expert status?  

Almost every day I hear questions just like this from car sales professionals around the world.

And I love it! It's motivating to see how many movers and shakers there are on the front lines of the auto industry.

But even though you know it and I know it - it's time for your customers to know it! So let's take a look at each of these questions and explore the options available to you.

What Social Networks Should I Focus On?

Hint: Ditch the Dead Weight.

First of all, don't feel like you need to be active on all the social networks out there. There are dozens of them! In most cases, I bet you're finding yourself using some more than others.

I know this may contradict what other "experts" say, but the proof is in the pudding.

How many social profiles do you have currently? And of those, how many get neglected?

If the answer is 'none', then you're a superstar. But chances are there are at least a couple that don't get the regular TLC you give others...

I recommend ditching the other social networks that you don't use for the time being. Focus on being great at the ones you use more often.

If that's Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, channel your social energy into those two networks. It's better to be active on fewer social networks than inactive on a bunch. This will also help your followers know where they can find you on a consistent basis.

Once you decide which social networks to keep, make sure that your profiles get optimized. Search Engine Watch has some cool tips about how to optimize your social profiles that are really easy to do.

An optimized profile makes a huge difference in the user experience, and also can help interconnect the other social profiles you plan on using. Long story short - don't have too many social profiles that it becomes overwhelming for you to manage.

Give your customers and followers a consistent place where they know you'll be providing value on a regular basis.  

How Can I Leverage Social Media to Build Relationships?

If you ask me, social media is one of the best prospecting tools out there.

Think about it. Where else do you have access to an unlimited supply of vehicle shoppers in one place?

I recently interviewed Mike Davenport (30 car guy) a.k.a Louisville Chevy Dude, for an episode of The Dealer Playbook Podcast.

After the show, we were chatting when Mike announced, "By the way, I just sold a Corvette from Facebook chat while you guys were interviewing me!"

WHAAAAAT?

How awesome is that? Mike is building relationships on social media every day. Those relationships are turning into leads. Those leads are turning into sales, and they are reaching out and conversing with him on social media!

But what can you do to build these relationships, especially if you don't know the people?

Since everyone is always talking about Facebook, I'd like to go a different route. I want to take a minute and look at some ways you can use Twitter to BRT (build relationships of trust).

...we'll get to Facebook later in this post.

I use a piece of software called Tweetdeck, which works incredibly well for keeping track of various Twitter feeds, topics and users. Check out this video that explains Tweetdeck in more detail:


What Should I say on Social Media? 

Have you ever had a conversation with a group of people where at least one person had nothing valuable to contribute?

There always has to be "one of those" right? Well, that's kind of what's happening on social media right now. Think of social media as a big group conversation. If you have nothing valuable to contribute, chances are you're going to get ignored. Here's what I mean...

Does this look like what you've been posting on social media? If so, let the data do the talking.

This post, in particular, has only received 3 likes since February. In case you're wondering, that's not good. No comments...that's even worse! No shares - you get the idea. It's bad.

If you're doing this with your social posting, I hate to break it to you. You're doing it all wrong.

You're 'that guy' in the conversation who has nothing valuable to contribute. Spend less of your time posting images of your inventory and more time posting something of value to social users.

For example, if you want to draw attention to a particular piece of inventory, do this:  

1. Think about who that piece of inventory is for

I spend a lot of time talking about this because it's crucial to your online success.

Each vehicle type that you have on the lot today has an intended target demographic. I call these consumer segments. Segments are groups of people who share similar needs and interests.

Young Families are a consumer segment because 9 times out of 10, they are always interested in the same things. Safety, economy, seating configurations, entertainment features and space. With them in mind, can you identify what vehicles you sell that would satisfy their needs?

2. Create a piece of content about your inventory

Write a blog post about the 5 reasons why young families in [your location] prefer the [make/model] over the [competing make/model]. Include a video walk around of that vehicle and embed in in the blog post. Somewhere in the middle of the blog post, include a call-to-action for people to check out your [make/model] inventory. Make sense?

3. Share the link

Now that you know who you're speaking to, you're ready to share the link on social media. Now you have something worthwhile sharing. After you've posted the link, ask your friends and family that live in your area to share the link on their timelines. Doing so will increase your chances of it getting noticed.

4. Value, value and more VALUE!

It's one thing to just post an image of the latest vehicle you took in on trade. It's something completely different when you take the time to provide value to the market. When that's your focus, you will be perceived as your market's expert...and who doesn't want to work with an expert?  

BONUS BRAND BUILDER strategy…

Caution: Following these steps may create a snowball effect that you won't be able to stop! This is something that can happen immediately. That's right... you heard me. IMMEDIATELY! (insert evil genius laugh here)

Have you ever thought about friending your new clients on Facebook or Twitter? Have you ever asked your clients if you can take a picture for them in front of their new vehicle? If not, WHY THE HECK NOT?

Take a look at Mike Davenport (who sells 30+ cars a month btw).

When you look at Mike's activity on social, most of his posts are pictures of him, tagging the people he just sold a vehicle to. BUT look at the engagement levels on his posts! 60+ Likes and 24 comments!

It doesn't matter if you sell 1, 10, 12 or 100 cars a month. You can use this strategy to start building momentum online.

When you friend your clients (because you'll be able to service them better), that also gives you the ability to tag them in the photos you take. When you tag them in the photo, their friends also see the image and it sparks engagement.

Give this a try. Build relationships, be social, be valuable...be powerful! It's your turn.

What strategies are you using online to sell cars using social media? Let me know in the comments below.

[CASE STUDY] Zulily.com, Skechers and a BIG Fat Lie About Online Automotive Marketing

By: Michael Cirillo Mar 17, 2015

Wait a minute.

Do you mean to tell me that there is such a thing as a "wrong customer"?

Why yes, yes there is. In fact, that's the whole idea behind marketing in the first place. To attract the RIGHT customers and REPEL the wrong ones.

Let me explain.

About a year ago, I was watching television with my wife when a "Skechers Tone-ups" sneakers commercial came on.


As I sat there thinking about how ridiculous the product was, I could almost see my wife inching closer to the television. She was intrigued and becoming attracted by the message like a mosquito to those shiny blue zapper lights.

I mean, what could be better than butt-shaping and boosting running shoes, right? WRONG...at least for me. My wife was compelled at the same time that I was being repelled.

That's not to say that the messaging in the commercial had enough force to drive me completely out of the shoe market, though. It was just enough to repel my interest level in butt-toning sneakers.

From this example you can see that Skechers fulfilled their objective. They attracted the RIGHT (or intended) audience and repelled the WRONG (or non-intended) audience.

Find Out What North America's Top Dealerships are Doing to Attract High Quality Vehicle Shoppers

- Gain instant access to strategies that will help you dominate the web - Easy-to-execute techniques that will help you rise above the competition

Click here for Instant Access

A recent Facebook post by a colleague caught my attention. The argument made was about how many potential customers shopping website Zulily must be turning away by forcing people to sign up for a membership.

Several other automotive marketing professionals agreed.

I commented on his post by stating that depending on Zulily's objectives, this may be a genius move on their part. His reply made me chuckle a little. The responding argument was that he is their target demographic insinuating that they need to change things up if they want people to shop there.

Here's where it gets interesting. When I looked at Zulily's about page on their website, this is the first paragraph of the page:

something special every day zulily is a retailer obsessed with bringing moms special finds every day–all at incredible prices. We feature an always-fresh curated collection for the whole family, including clothing, home décor, toys, gifts and more.

I had to post this to the comment string. From what I can tell, Zulily is interested in the “Mom” demographic and providing the best deals on great products via a membership model.

Point served.

In my opinion, Zulily is properly executing a strategic marketing initiative in order to attract the RIGHT customers and REPEL the wrong customer.

They have a plan that is designed to build a customer demographic that they want and through the desired (membership) model that they want.

How does this apply to your dealership?

How can you create a strategic marketing initiative that will help you attract the right customers to your store?

For starters, you need to understand that, like the Skechers commercials, every car you have is designed for a specific audience. Not everyone wants or needs to drive cars, or trucks or Vans or SUVs. Each vehicle is designed with a specific target demographic and audience in mind.

If you produce marketing material that focuses on a particular make or model, don't assume that it will attract everyone. Understand that the marketing that you do will, by nature repel certain customers.

That's not to say that they will be turned off from buying vehicles altogether, it just means that they will be turned off from the wrong vehicle for them. Focus on creating relevant marketing messages that will help you attract the right customer for a particular product or service.

As you do this for your entire vehicle lineup, or types of vehicles, you will begin to see the RIGHT customer come in to learn more about what resonates most with them.

Doing so will also help you increase the quality of the leads you get because you will be speaking to people about the things that they care about. What one group of automotive marketers learned on Facebook about how to repel the wrong customer is a virtual goldmine for you.

Happy marketing. 

Find Out What North America's Top Dealerships are Doing to Attract High Quality Vehicle Shoppers

- Gain instant access to strategies that will help you dominate the web - Easy-to-execute techniques that will help you rise above the competition

Click here for Instant Access

Evolution of the Salesman - Comparing Past Sales to Today

By: Joe Cirillo Nov 13, 2014

Over the past four and a half decades of my sales career, I’ve seen many changes in the sales industry.

In the beginning, sales people were known for their ability to fast-talk a customer, and their top priority was strictly closing the deal.

When I first got into the sales industry, I went through the Xerox selling course. It taught us the most basic selling skills, like asking open and closed questions, and how to “read” a customer.

Being able to read your potential customers was vital because as a salesman, you needed to know precisely when to ‘go for the kill’.

It was a sales technique similar to looking at prey through the eyes of a lion - if you wanted to eat, you needed to know exactly when to strike.

Forty years ago, salespeople held all the cards. They knew all the facts, and the buyer had to actively choose whether or not to believe him.

But as years went by, the general public caught onto the lion/prey technique, and sales people were pegged as sleazy and dishonest, never to be trusted. While that isn’t the case with all sales people, all it took was a few bad sales people to give the good ones a tarnished reputation that we’re still struggling to change.

Selling is an ever-changing art form. A sales person must be willing and able to adapt to ongoing changes. Why? Because over the years, buyers have become better informed and more demanding, forcing salespeople to raise their game.

There is less room now for the older “go for the kill” approach, because customers are more educated and have so many more resources available to fact check, shop, and compare.

In order to stay alive, the sales industry has been forced to develop a huge focus on customer service, because people are smarter and they’re doing research on the internet.

Before a good sales person should approach a prospective client, they must first complete thorough research on their prospect’s business. They can’t just walk into a client’s office and fly by the seat of their pants. They need to go in prepared with knowledge, strategic insight and a genuine belief in the product or service they’re selling.

In addition to knowing the product better, salesmen need moral qualities which are shortly and completely covered by the Golden Rule. Sincerity is vital. If you aren’t sincere, meaning if you walk into a potential customer’s office without honest intentions, the customer will be able to tell. The customer’s interest must be paramount because if it’s not, your customer will know.

The salesmen of today who are willing to put the customer first will definitely gain a customer’s trust and appreciation. In the end, only those genuine sales people will be rewarded with long-term, loyal happy customers.

How to Attract the Right Customers with Objective Driven Content

Aug 12, 2014

‘Content’ is a buzz-word.

It’s the BIG thing right now that everyone seems to be talking about. When Google launched their Hummingbird and Panda search algorithm updates, the term ‘content’ exploded like never before.

It’s no secret that every good website needs relevant and engaging content.

Two years ago, I wrote an eBook titled, “The Ultimate Dealers Guide to Creating Awesome Content” which revealed how to get the attention of qualified automotive buyers and increase dealership profitability. But today, everyone seems to be talking about content and for good reasons. I mean, what would search engines be without it?

There is a problem, though.

While everyone seems to be talking about the need for content, nobody is actually explaining HOW to create it. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters but action, and if none is taken no results are achieved.

That’s why I’m sharing the four steps that I use to create content and help hundreds of dealerships and other small businesses around the world create and produce content that has helped them gain search engine visibility and increase their profitability.

1. Identify Who You’re Speaking To

Seems like a bit of a no brainer, but let’s be honest. If it was really that simple, why aren’t more dealerships doing it. I’ve reviewed thousands of dealer websites in my career and the one thing that each of them have in common is that they aren’t speaking to a single market segment.

As it is in life (and in content), it’s about being something valuable to somebody, not worthless to everybody. Instead of trying to speak to everyone on your website as if they are “People who purchase vehicles,” start thinking about them in terms of who they are. Start by making a list of the people who purchase vehicles. It might look something like this:

  • Seniors
  • Young Families
  • Students
  • Military/Civil Servants
  • Union/Construction
  • Special Finance

Select one segment from the list and then move on to step two.


2. Identify Their Questions, Concerns and Needs

Once you know what audience to focus on, you can easily identify what makes them tick. For example, if you selected Young Families from the list, think about the s

  • Need more space/cargo
  • Fuel economy
  • Seating configurations
  • Safety features
  • Convenience features (e.g., DVD players, etc.)

Once you’ve made this list for your target segment, move on to step three. 

3. Align their needs with the vehicle that best solves their problems or fills their needs

Using Young Families and their list of needs as an example, what type of vehicle best aligns with what they’re interested in? You might conclude (using a little common sense and logic) that either a mini-van or SUV are the top two vehicles of choice for the audience.

With this info, you can brainstorm the topics that you’d like to create content on that you think will be most valuable to your target market segment and speak about that topic in a way that will resonate best with them.

You could start by creating a video walk-around of your favorite mini-van or SUV, pointing out the features that address their needs and wants. Doing so will shape their desire for your vehicle because they are now looking at it in the light that it was designed for. 

4. Have an Objective

One of the biggest problems that I see with most content online is that there is no apparent objective.

It’s so important to know what you want the reader/viewer to accomplish by the time they are done consuming the information that you provide.

If you’re posting a video on YouTube, be sure to include a link to a VSR (vehicle search results) page on your website that specifically lists the type of vehicle that you’re talking about. Don’t link back to a generic inventory page. Get a little more specific.

If you’re writing a blog post, get creative with a call-to-action at the end of it that says something like, “Check out your new [yr/mk/mdl] here!” or something along those lines.

NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER release a piece of content that you don’t have an objective for. All your work will be in vain. Following these four steps will help you create content much faster, increase consumer loyalty AND most importantly leverage your existing site visitors into customers because you’ve now spoken to them in the terms that are most beneficial for them.


How to Attract The Right Customers With Objective Driven Content from flexdealer

New Data Agreement for Kijiji Auto Dealer Posting Service through FlexDealer

By: FlexDealer Team Apr 28, 2014

FlexDealer is pleased to announce that we have signed a data feed agreement with Kijiji to directly syndicate inventory from FlexDealer to the newly-released Kijiji Inventory Tool (KIT).

Before this exciting announcement, all inventory feeds from FlexDealer to Kijiji were required to run through a 3rd party, and in order to further manage the ads and handle billing, dealers needed to sign in to that 3rd party platform. Now, with KIT, we send your inventory directly to Kijiji, and any billing or ad management happens right in Kijiji’s system.

What this means is that as an automotive, RV, or 

Enjoy

Contact us today to learn more! 1-877-525-4709


Customer FAQ

What is KIT?

KIT (Kijiji Inventory Tool) is a new tool created by Kijiji to allow dealers to manage their ads and billing with Kijiji directly instead of through a 3rd party.

How does this affect my current Kijiji feed through FlexDealer?

Up until now, all of the inventory feeds from FlexDealer to Kijiji have run through a 3rd party. We are pleased to announce that FlexDealer has signed a data feed agreement with Kijiji to syndicate your inventory to KIT directly, without using any 3rd party sites. With your inventory going directly from FlexDealer to Kijiji, your ads will get posted more quickly and with much greater accuracy.

When will the new 

We anticipate that we will be rolling out this update to all existing and new clients within the next week or so. We will notify you as soon as your feed has been converted.

Do I have to do anything differently?

Nothing will change for you on the FlexDealer side of things. You can continue to manage your inventory completely within the FlexDealer platform just like you do now. We will ensure that it everything gets copied over correctly to KIT.

The only thing that will be different is that if you are currently signing in to the 3rd party system to manage your ads and billings, you will now do this through KIT directly. Your Kijiji rep will reach out to you soon, if they haven’t already, with details on how to access KIT.

What if I have additional questions?

For questions related to the inventory syndication process to Kijiji, please contact your FlexDealer account manager, or email at FlexDealer team at dominate@flexdealer.com (Phone: 1-877-525-4709).

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to SEO: PPC, PPM and CTR

By: Michael Cirillo Jan 15, 2014

When you’re new to web marketing, the acronyms are overwhelming and seemingly endless. Michael Cirillo and I are tag teaming the demystification of SEO/SEM (search engine optimization/search engine marketing) terminology in this ‘Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to SEO’ blog series.

In this post, we’ll focus on the definitions of PPC, PPM and CTR (as general media terminology, not Google-specific), and break them down side by side. (Michael shed light on the definition and meaning of ‘SEO’ in a previous post – if you missed it, it’s definitely worthwhile.)

Definitions of PPC, PPM and CTR

PPC means pay per click, referencing a type of online advertising where your company’s ad is placed on a webpage, and every time a viewer actually clicks on it, your company pays a pre-negotiated rate.

PPM means pay per mile, also sometimes referred to as PPI (pay per impression). With PPM, when a site visitor goes to a page where your ad is displayed, it automatically counts as an ‘impression,’ regardless of whether or not the visitor actually read or clicked on your ad.

CTR, or click-through rate, is the percentage of site users who clicked your ad. If your ad is static on a homepage, there were 100 visitors to the homepage, and five of those visitors clicked your ad, your campaign would have a 5% CTR. As you can imagine, the guaranteed 100% CTR of PPC campaigns holds great value because you’re only paying for users who have already expressed enough interest in your brand to act (their action = clicking on your ad to learn more).

PPC or PPM - What's Right for Your Dealership?

While online advertising campaign rates vary drastically based on the website (popular, high-traffic sites charge more money to advertise than low-traffic sites do), it’s generally the case that PPC campaigns are more expensive because they guarantee a 100% CTR. A 100% CTR typically implies higher sales conversions.

PPC campaigns tend to be lower risk than PPM, because if you run a crappy campaign with poor messaging, nobody will want to interact with your campaign by clicking on the ad, meaning you won’t get charged. Essentially, a bad PPC campaign can run for a very long time inexpensively, but obviously running a long-term campaign that negatively affects your brand just because it’s cheap is not a smart move.

If you know your market, are well-researched on your audience, and you are confident in your messaging, PPM campaigns have the potential to produce grand rewards for less dollars spent because you’re charged the same rate regardless of your campaign’s success and CTR. PPM campaigns are frequently cheaper because they don’t guarantee a high CTR – you’re on your own to produce a worthwhile ROI. If your ads are enticing enough to site users, you’ll earn a high CTR without paying top dollars – it’s all about being a smart, efficient marketer while still offering value to the consumer.

Which is right for your dealership? I won’t tell you how to spend your hard-earned dollars without knowing more about your business and doing the proper research, but what I can tell you is that investing in SEO to increase your organic search results over time will help your dealership prosper much longer than any pay-as-you-go online campaign.

[Stay tuned for future posts defining and explaining tricky important acronyms for SEO newcomers.]

So You're Ready to Start Blogging?

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 27, 2013

Excellent. I’m excited for you! Seriously; you don’t know how pleasing it is to see more and more dealers embrace blogging as a way to reach out to automotive consumers. According to Consumer Barometer, dealership websites top the list of places where automotive research began. This makes for a solid argument why you (if you’re not already doing so) should have a blog with awesome content on your dealership website.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with dealers across Canada to show them the 1-2-3’s of blogging and offering suggestions to help them get their dealership blogging dialed in. I thought I’d quickly share a few thoughts with you so that you can kick things up a notch as well. 


Tip 1: Don’t Plagiarize!

There’s a couple of scenarios that I’ve observed when working with dealers. 1) They just flat out copy/paste the text from an article they liked online and 2) they just copy/pasted an article or press release that they found from the manufacturer website.

To make this concept simple, here are my two rules.

1.) If you copy/paste full articles, you’re plagiarizing content.

2. You haaaaave to name your references. You can actually copy and paste snippets of content from an article as long as you give the credit to the original source and

I’ve put together a simple blogging cheat sheet to help dealers get more familiar with blogging. If you’d like to get your hands on it, let me know in the comments below.

Moving on.

 

Tip 2: Have a Purpose

This could potentially be tip #1 in level of importance, but I’ll keep it here for now. Before you write an article, press release or blog post, identify what the purpose is. What would you like the consume

I’ve read hundreds of dealership website pages, blog posts and press releases; none of which have any real purpose. They basically provide information and then leave the door wide open for the consumer to leave and make an informed purchase decision over at another dealership. This kills me.

Make sure your posts have a purpose and make sure you link to an on site page so that the consumer completes the action you’d like them to.

Again, hit me up in the comments if you’d like me to elaborate more on this.

 

Tip 3: Be Consistent

The fact that you’re thinking about blogging puts you light years ahead of your competition. Maintaining a website with fresh content is work. No doubt about it, but it’s also very necessary. To get the most out of it, you must remain consistent.

Set up an editorial calendar so that you know when to post new content. Hold a brainstorming session to come up with a list of topics that you can discuss and then stick to it!

Ready to start blogging? It just so happens that I’m passionate about it. Leave your questions or comments below and I will respond personally.

Introducing Kijiji Auto Posting

By: FlexDealer Team Aug 30, 2012

The Kijiji Auto Eagle Has Landed!

After many requests from Dealerships throughout Canada, FlexDealer™ is happy to announce the ability to automatically post vehicles to Kijiji. In conjunction with our data partnership with Boost Motor Group, FlexDealer may now automatically post your vehicles to Kijiji on a nightly basis.

To learn how you can take advantage of our Kijiji Auto vehicle posting tool, call or email us today: (877) 525-4709

3 Ways to Convert Internet Leads into Showroom Visits

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 16, 2012

One of the main frustrations for dealerships with regards to their website is that they have trouble converting their internet leads into showroom visits. I'd like to take a few moments to demonstrate how there is a very real cycle at play here that will increase the amount of quality internet leads you receive and increase the amount of showroom visitors you receive month by month. The closing ratio from dealer to dealer may vary, but overall I think it's safe to say that dealers are able to close prospects once they arrive at the dealership.

Don't you need Internet Leads before the showroom visitors?

Here's my little tangent for this post. I promise, we'll end up back in the right place. Go with me for a minute. It may appear that way, but as we've discussed in our reputation series, you may be surprised to learn that the in-dealership experience of customers past is actually the driving force of future visits. Happy customers write reviews, reviews are read by prospective clients, prospective clients visit your website and submit leads, now the ball is in your court. I think it's safe to say that for most dealerships, the perceived first step of the cycle is when the prospective client visits their website, but there is a whole slew of other variables already at play that determine the quality and seriousness of your website traffic.

So how as an internet department can you convert the internet leads you receive into showroom visits more effectively? Let's look at 3 proven ways at doing this:

Response to the client

Is the content in your response giving your customers a real reason to visit your showroom? Are you conveying the right sense of urgency without being pushy? What current programs do you have in place that would compel a potential customer to visit your showroom? Is there an invitation to visit you? You'd be surprised at how effective inviting customers can be. People need to be given a clear call to action.

Some time ago, I was made aware of a dealership who received a lead from their website from a real customer inquiring into the availability of a certain make/model. The response that the customer received still frightens me. “Yup”. That was it! No more, no less! Think of how ridiculous that would appear if it happened in person!

Tactful, compelling messages with the right sense of urgency and invitations are the kind of responses that you want to send in order to increase the amount of showroom visits you receive.

Incentives

This is pretty self explanatory and possibly something you have already thought of. If not, let's think outside the box here. For the most part, nobody is really willing to pay attention to you unless you have an incentive in place to lead them to you. Dealers are getting amazing results using a differentiator – something that sets them apart from their competition. It could be as simple as a Free $25 gas card for taking a test drive, or a pre-paid credit card or receiving a free oil change. Incentives don't have to be costly to set you apart and to give your customers a compelling reason to pay you a visit. 

Tip: Incentives are a great thing to mention in your follow up messages 

Schedule/Confirm appointments by phone

This is the customer service variable of the equation for more showroom visits. This is something that has been done in the industry for years and still works as effectively now as it ever has. When an appointment is set, have a manager call to confirm. By extending an early welcome to your customers, you are letting them know how valuable their visit with you is. You set the tone for the visit and increase their believability in your products and services. You show them that you're team is there for them and that you're taking their visit seriously.

Tip: Before calling, learn your customers name and make sure you call them by it. Every person on the planet has a favourite word whether they are willing to admit it or not. Can you guess? Their name! People love hear their name. It invokes feelings of happiness and caring.

Having said that, you'd be surprised at how many phone calls go something like this,

Customer: “Hello”

Dealer: “Hi this is Mike from the dealership and I'm just confirming your appointment for...”

I'd suggest a script a little more like this,

Customer: “Hello”

Dealer: “Hi [Customer Name], this is Mike from the dealership, how are you today?” then move on to confirm the appointment.

Acknowledge your customers with a higher level of respect by calling them by name and you'll be amazed at the results. That's it! These simple steps are proven to contribute to the effectiveness of getting leads to show up in your showroom. 

If you aren't already doing these things, what are you willing to change today to give these simple steps a try?

How To Check Your Email Sender Score

By: Michael Cirillo Mar 21, 2012

Email correspondence is one of the most commonly used methods of communication with more than 294 billion emails sent per day worldwide in 2010. That means that there are over 2.8 million emails sent every second and around 90 trillion email's sent per year. It's also worth mentioning that approximately 90% of the millions of email messages sent are spam or viruses. The more important statistic however; one that eclipses that of how many messages are sent is how many messages are actually received and delivered to your inbox.

In our last post, we discussed some best practices that will ensure a higher inbox delivery for your email messages and increase your email sender reputation. Today, let's further the discussion by mentioning some online resources that will help you determine what your actual reputation and risk level are. Your sender score works much like a credit score. It's an indication of the trustworthiness of an email source.

Your reputation score is provided by taking into consideration data that is provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and other email receivers to determine whether to accept or reject email. In order for you to check your reputation score, you will first need to know how to locate your email IP address. Let's take a look at how this is done in the most common email services out there.

The first step is to have someone using the same email domain (you@dealershipname.com) as you send you an email. Once you've done that, then you can move one to see how to find the IP address using some of the most common email services out there. 

Microsoft Outlook

1. Open a message

2. On the View menu, click Options

3. Header information appears under Delivery Options in the Internet Headers box. 

4. To determine the IP address of the sender, you have to look to the Received: headers. They are usually in the following format:

Sample: Received: from 088156106043.stk.vectranet.pl [88.156.106.205] by web41013.mail.yahoo.com with SMTP; Mon, 21 Jul 2008 03:44:26 -0700 This means the message was sent from the IP address 88.156.106.205

Gmail

1. Log into Gmail

2. Open a message

3. To display email headers, click on the inverted triangle next to Reply. Select Show Original.

4. Look for Received: from followed by the IP address between the square brackets [ ].

5. If you find more that one Received: from patterns, select the last one. 

Yahoo! Mail

1. Log into Yahoo! Mail

2. Click on Inbox

3. Click on the Subject of the email and right-click

4. From the menu select View Full Headers

5. Look for Received: from followed by the IP address between the square brackets [ ]. 

Hotmail

1. Log into Hotmail/Windows Live

2. Click on Inbox

3. Under the column that says “Sort By”, find the email that you want to track and right-click on it.

4. Click on View message source. 5. If you find a header with X-Originating-IP: followed by an IP address, that is the sender's IP address Now that we've got the IP address, it's time to check out our sender reputation.

Go to www.senderscore.org. This is a free service offered by Return Path.

They rate your IP address based on data that is received from ISPs and other sources and give you an overall Sender Score. All you need to do is sign up for a free account and you're on your way.

Once you are logged in, you simply enter the IP address and SenderScore will return information that has been pulled from Internet Service Providers and other data resources worldwide.

You will be able to get an idea of what percentage of your emails are being delivered to the inbox and if there are any flags on your emails as being spam like.

This is a valuable tool for dealers to measure whether or not their email correspondence is being received as anticipated. By improving the quality of the emails you send and measuring your overall email reputation, you are well on your way to making sure that the emails you send are being received as expected or are hitting the spam box.