Social/Digital Media

Winning Social Skills: Why Social Sellers Succeed


I’m not here to tell you your dealership needs to embrace social media. Every dealer’s heard it; most dealers have come to believe it; and many are already actively engaging customers in a variety of social channels. I’m here because out there, it’s getting more and more competitive by the day.

Customers are gaining more control and more transparency, and above all, they know exactly what kind of dealer they want to do business with. Gone are the days when you could rely on your best interpersonal skills to make shoppers glad they walked into your showroom. They like you — or don’t — before you even know they exist.

Understandably, this environment leaves many dealers feeling like they’re scrambling every day. Which brings me again to why I’m here: There’s a simple way for dealers to regain control over sales and overall success, store-wide, and that’s by becoming the exact kind of dealer your customers want to buy from. It’s something that’s always been at the heart of this business, and now, in the most pressured and fast-paced era of automotive sales, we have tools at our disposal that we’ve never had before.

That’s right. Your social channels are your superpowers. And I want to help you use them to their full advantage. I want to see more dealers rip off their Clark Kent glasses and become all-seeing, all-selling, all-succeeding superheroes. You just have to master these five social skills:

Capture attention

It’s not about your favorite time, place and way to have a conversation. Your customers have control of that. And be ready for them to change it up on you — often. They’re on a one-way street to the best purchase they can find. If you can find them early in their search, make a connection and take full advantage of their frequent use of social channels, you’re in.

Use your CRM to log your customers’ preferences, and target them accordingly. Don’t assume everyone’s using Facebook or Twitter exclusively; segment your database according to actual activity, and go from there.

Remember, you have 24/7 access to your customers’ attention span. Be direct, purposeful and personal — no blanket messaging. Catch their attention, and get ready to show them how much you know about the things they care about.

Be a know-it-all

Your customers never need just one thing from you, no matter what they’re coming out and asking for. Every shopper needs to make a purchase at some point, and every buyer will need service on their vehicle. But none of them will want to do business of any kind with any dealer who doesn’t know what they truly need, and talk to them accordingly.

Being a know-it-all isn’t just about knowing cars. It’s about knowing customer wants and needs, and knowing how and when to capitalize on them. All of your outbound content should be targeted and relevant. And all of their comments and clicks should be captured, and quickly. So, use your channels to know what buyers want before they do. Offer the best solution before they ask for it. And give them a seamless experience through every point in the lifecycle.

Win the popularity contest

Yes, welcome back to high school. Your job now is to be a buyer magnet. And step one is to start seeing what many dealers consider a disadvantage as a huge bonus: Your customers are all talking to each other — directly and indirectly. They’re reviewing your team and your services in every part of your store because they’re encouraged to and because they can, easily. You’ll never again talk to a customer who hasn’t done their research and read all the reviews out there.

So stay on top of it. This is not the time to hide under your blanket out of fear of hearing the worst. You have to look your reviews dead in the face and take advantage of the fact that they’re there. And really, it’s easier than you’d think.

Here’s a secret we didn’t have in high school: Popularity is all about listening. Listening to the feedback. Listening to the buzz. Listening and learning and realigning your efforts with what will make you more popular, not less. Remember that social media is a two-way street; it doesn’t stop with sending information outward to customers. Give your best attention to what’s coming back in, and be ready to make changes.

Don’t be an overachiever

Spreading yourself too thin across too many social outlets won’t work. You have to be the best at something, and that has to be something buyers care about. Not every conversation out there is worth your time and effort because not every conversation will affect an ultimate purchase decision. Be choosy, be in control and be ready to catch the conversation threads you need most.

Be close-minded

This is where it all comes together. Social selling doesn’t end with making friends. It’s about making deals. No one will buy from you if you don’t listen, aren’t connected and don’t care about what they do. And no one will buy from you if they don’t like what they see and hear in your reviews.

I’m urging you to be a winner in your social channels because that’s what gets you the wins you want. And because you can develop winning social skills without adding new tools or undue expense. Simply leverage what you have available to you now in a new and more targeted way, and watch the new success roll in.

Sean Stapleton is the vice president of sales and marketing for VinSolutions.


Flick Fusion Debuts Automotive Video Marketing Platform


Flick Fusion announced this week its video marketing platform for dealers, offering what it contends is the first of such platforms to automate the video production process, including inventory videos, video emails and other various dealer-related videos.

Brian Cox, the president and chief executive officer of Flick Fusion, says his company offers to dealers the digital platform for their inventory that they need to maximize sales.

“Many dealers want to incorporate video into their marketing plan, but don’t have the resources or expertise to create dynamic videos for all their marketing needs,” Cox said. “Our platform offers a simple, cost-effective method for creating a video marketing strategy proven to attract more web site visitors and convert them into leads.”

Flick Fusion utilizes the power of Google by avoiding Flash and publishing videos in “SEO-friendly” formats and uploads them to YouTube, increasing exposure to a wider market.

“Flash videos can’t be indexed by Google and therefore they don’t boost SEO rankings,” Cox said. “Additionally, many third-party sites don’t accept Flash so dealers can’t benefit from video syndication, which also boosts rankings.”

In addition to the video format, the program also utilizes VidMail, which allows dealer employees to customize videos for individual lead inquiries, which can be custom-made on request with video greetings, vehicle walkarounds and other related dealership videos.

For more information about Flick Fusion, visit their site here.

Used Prices Expected to Fall 10% by 2017


As used-car supply continues to increase, consequently, used-car prices are slumping. The seasonal summer slowdown continues to push prices down, and RVI Group reported late last week it expects used prices to drop by 10 percent by 2019.

When describing last week’s auction price movement, Black Book’s Ricky Beggs said the only difference from previous weeks is the price drops continue to grow week-over-week.

Hitting a the biggest drop seen in the past 12 months, the 10 car segments fell by an average of $86 last week, he said in the latest  “Beggs on the Used Car Market” video report. 

This comes in as a total price decline of 1.7 percent for cars in July — which is slightly over traditional pre-recession monthly change levels.

And there are three segments, in particular, that are trending softer than most.

For example, the prestige luxury cars, which declined by an average of $183 this past week, have a four-week average decline of $131, according to Black Book data.

Next up is the premium sporty cars, which saw a decline of $184 last week — the largest drop for the week — and touts a four-week average drop of $121.

Lastly, the third segment to see a larger-than-average price drop were the luxury level cars, which saw a prices fall by $110 this past week, with a four-week average decline of $87.

Why the significant drops in vehicle values this past week and month?

“Part is the adjustments to get ready and create a space for a new model year of vehicles to come into the market,” said Beggs, editorial director at Black Book.

On the other hand, the truck segment fared better this past week than the previous week, dropping by an average of $45. The four-week average decline for trucks came in at $49.

Used-Car Prices Expected to Drop by 10%

RVI analysts said in its latest Risk Outlook report they expect to see used-car prices drop from current levels during the rest of the year, as well, as supply rises.

“With strong current sales and more favorable economic conditions, the supply of used cars in the market is expected to increase steadily through 2019,” the report stated.

Lease penetration also continues to grown, RVI pointed out, and the company predicts this rate to increase even more for 2014 and 2015 model-year vehicles.

Illustrating the significant spike in lease penetration, Infiniti — which led the market in leases for the first quarter — reported 60 percent lease penetratsion in the first quarter.

Volkswagen had the highest lease penetration among non-luxury brands with a rate of 42 percent.

Interestingly, the new-car market is expected to have a downward impact on used prices, as well, as new-car competition increase and new-car prices decline. Click here to read more on this trend.

RVI predicts that with both expanding used supply and new-car market trends pushing downward, used-car prices will drop more than 10 percent by 2017. And though prices have begun dropping this year, RVI expects more dramatic declines to begin in 2015.

And one segment, in particular, is expected to exceed the 10 percent drop: small SUVs.

RVI predicts supply to expand significantly in this segment through 2019, pushing the expected price decline up to 10.9 percent by the end of 2017.

To view the latest “Beggs on the Used Car Market” report, see the video above.



Penske, AutoNation Announce Focus on Digital Sales

CARY, N.C. - 

As the digital age continues to develop, dealers have had to adapt at an ever-quickening pace to satisfy a perpetually evolving consumer base. For used-car customers, Penske Automotive Group announced during their second quarter conference call on Wednesday that one of their main conduits for sales is via their website.

Roger Penske, the group’s chairman and chief executive officer, believes mastering the digital side of the business is key to limiting competition.

“We have looked at our, and we have over 60,000 used cars online there, which seems to be generating quite a bit of traffic,” Penske said. “I think that’s working out from an e-commerce perspective.

“On the used car side, we were up $50,” Penske continued, in regards to profit per car. “When you look at it sequentially, there’s no question that we’ve been able to sustain our margins for the last three or four quarters, which I think is key. We don’t have the inter-brand competition on the new and I think with the used, with the execution of the Internet, if a person wants to buy a particular car, and if the process is efficient and we can get that customer in, we don’t have a competitor on that car.”

To contrast, Mike Jackson, the chairman and CEO of AutoNation, while speaking in his own company’s second quarter conference call last week, addressed a long-term but slightly different goal for the group’s online strategy. Though not referring directly to new or used sales, Jackson wants to get to the point where customers who shop for cars online can get all of the financial logistics squared away before ever setting foot into the dealership.

“Informational sites are useful. They’ve taken us to a certain point, but the customers are not interested in doing all of that work, disconnecting, and then coming to the stores and starting all over again,” Jackson said. “The sites need to reach into the store and transact on real inventory, real incoming inventory, with real pricing, with market data that validates that pricing. And the customer, when they see the car they want, at that price they want, are able to send us a deposit and make it their car."

Jackson noted that the company is investing $100 million, over the course of 2014 and 2015, into this effort, aiming at making the AutoNation website transactional by the end of 2014. 

“I think we will have to see how skillful we execute and how the marketplace reaction is, but this was the reason behind why we rebranded the company coast-to-coast. We could not envision doing this with multiple names, we think it’s far more powerful with one name,” Jackson said. “It’s sort of like the Shared Service Center, which took us seven years to fully implement, that gave us both a cost advantage and a performance advantage and, also, in many ways, was a foundational element for this digital undertaking and that we need all the stores on the same technology platform for everything from database management to how we run the company day-to-day.

“It’s certainly not the end of the story over the next two years; there will be many more chapters,” Jackson continued. “But we’re in a very ambitious and exciting phase. I call it an investment phase, that we feel, in our ambitions to build a great company, and a great brand, in the long term, we need to make and hit the right vision for the company and win in the marketplace.”

Automakers Bet on World Cup Craze — And Win

CARY, N.C. - 

A substantial American viewership for the 2014 World Cup was expected — but the resulting record-breaking number of people tuning in to the tournament shattered all expectations. And the car brands who may benefit the most? Kia, Hyundai and Volkswagen.

Over 26 million people in the U.S. viewed the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina, averaging about 17.3 million on ABC (English) and 9.2 million on Univision (Spanish), the most to ever watch a single soccer game in America, according to those respective networks.

To put that into perspective, the last Super Bowl peaked at about 111.5 million American viewers, according to Nielsen ratings. And that was just one game, with an estimated 115 million viewers during the first 62 of the 64 World Cup games, on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC alone, not taking into account viewers tuning in via various streaming methods or participating in public viewings.

According to a study from Jumpstart Automotive Group, which compared online traffic during the World Cup (which ran from June 12 through July 9) to the 30 days prior to its commencement, their family of publishing sites saw dramatic increases in Web activity related to the three automakers who made World Cup advertising their priority.

Kia, which featured Brazilian model Adriana Lima in its spots, saw the biggest bump in digital traffic with a 32-percent increase in interest while the World Cup was open.

Hyundai, who is the current official auto sponsor for the World Cup, saw a 31-percent increase in Web traffic on Jumpstart’s collection of sites. The automaker also experienced significant interest increases with their social media efforts, finding success via Tumblr and Twitter with their #BecauseFutbol hashtag, the latter maintaining a 30-percent share of the conversation versus other official World Cup hashtags.

Volkswagen, competing with the South Korean sister companies, viewed the World Cup as the perfect opportunity to market the 2015 GTI. As an unofficial sponsor, VW drummed up a 26 percent increase in digital interest via three official people: current ESPN analysts Alexi Lalas (former U.S. international player) and Michael Ballack (former German international player) along with Argentinian commentator Andres Cantor. Featuring figures from each of the two countries that played in the final was just convenient icing on the cake.

Perhaps even more convenient is the timing for Chevrolet, who timed the unveiling of the 2014-15 Manchester United kit perfectly in tune with the World Cup final, seeing an increase in 17-percent in online traffic. The automaker’s $559 million deal with the British giants will ensure seven years of world-wide exposure on the front of the Manchester United jerseys despite the fact General Motors announced last year it will stop selling new Chevrolets in Europe by the end of 2015, in an attempt to shift European focus to Opel.

To read Jumpstart’s World Cup Report in full, click here.

Copart Seeks Public Input for Rebuild Contest


Copart has invited the general public to vote on the finalists of its first Copart Rebuild Challenge.

The contest, which gathered video entries of various vehicle rebuilds from April 14 through July 6, has been narrowed down to 10 finalists. The three with the most votes by July 25 will receive one of three prizes: a $10,000 grand prize, $2,000 second-place prize or the third-place reward of one year of Copart Premier Membership.

Matt Burgener, the chief marketing officer at Copart, was elated to view the variety of entries his company received.

“We had an overwhelming response to the Copart Rebuild Challenge,” Burgener said. “Our members fixed up everything from luxury cars to boats and motorcycles. It was wonderful to see how talented our customers truly are. We are excited to get the public involved to vote for their favorite video and ultimately select the winner of our inaugural Copart Rebuild Challenge.”

To view the ten finalists selected by Copart’s panel, click here.

Outsell Releases Buyer-Detection Tool for Dealers


Digital marketing company Outsell launched a new buyer-detection product this week that works to keep dealers from missing out on new leads and potential repeat customers while also helping to gauge just how serious a shopper is about securing a new ride.

BuyerScout actually alerts users when current customers and prospects are actively shopping for a vehicle.

The tool evaluates customers’ online and offline behaviors and scores their actions to detect when they’re ready to buy.

"More than 50 percent of consumers seeking to purchase a vehicle begin gathering information six months prior — and the majority of that time is spent online. Traditionally, it's been extremely difficult for automotive salespeople to get visibility into shoppers' readiness to purchase and vehicle/brand considerations outside of their own website and store," said Dan Smith, vice president of product and marketing at Outsell. "BuyerScout is the only product available to the automotive industry that identifies active shoppers early in the purchase cycle and provides deep insight into the customer's shopping behavior prior to, and after, initial engagement with the dealership.

"The BuyerScout information is like gold to an automobile salesperson."

The tool utilizes data from more than 12,000 automotive websites, and works “to provide a full picture of buying behavior, brand preferences and shopping intensity.”

After synthesizing vehicle, customer, Web and behavioral data, BuyerScout provides the dealers a daily "most likely buyers" report, identifying who's actively shopping for a vehicle, along with details on any competitive makes/models that the shoppers may also be considering, company officials explained.

BuyerScout is available through Outsell's Digital Engagement Platform, and more than 280 auto dealerships across four automotive brands are already using the new tool.

One dealership already using BuyerScout is Tom Hesser Chevrolet in Scranton, Pa.

Internet sales manager Adam Jones said, "BuyerScout is fantastic and provides valuable ammo for us. The data shows us how we stack up against competition. Now that we have it, I can't imagine not using this tool at our dealership.

"Based on BuyerScout's scoring system, we are able to identify and qualify customers more accurately. It's another piece of the puzzle to help us win more business from other dealers."

DealerSocket Partners with Private Equity Firm


Billed as a “true partnership in every sense of the word,” software-as-a-service relationship management solution provider DealerSocket entered into a strategic investment relationship on Tuesday with Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm with more than $12 billion in committed capital focused on investments in software and technology-enabled services companies.

DealerSocket recapped that it has grown from a startup software company in a garage 13 years ago to a firm with 450 employees supporting the CRM platform for franchised and independent dealerships.

DealerSocket partnered with Vista to accelerate growth and to continue to invest in product, service and operational scale.

Chief executive officer and co-founder Jonathan Ord explained the new relationship with Vista will serve as a platform to continue the DealerSocket traditions of great culture, innovation and customer service and couple it with an increased ability to scale and grow well into the future. 

Ord added DealerSocket’s current management team will remain in place and continue to hold a significant ownership stake in the company in a situation he deemed as a “true partnership with Vista in every sense of the word.”

Ord went on to say, “DealerSocket is a great company with tremendous potential. We looked long and hard for a partner that could provide the type of strategic and operational support for our leadership team that would enable us to realize our full potential.

“We did not want to be acquired. Rather, we sought to find a partner that would not dilute our brand or de-energize our employees or customers as well as help us capitalize on all available opportunities for growth. This relationship with Vista accomplishes that goal and more,” he continued.

Vista founder and managing principal Robert Smith said, “We are tremendously excited about partnering with DealerSocket. We are convinced that DealerSocket is a wonderful platform company in a space that is in need of thoughtful innovation and attention to customer satisfaction.

“The company is led by a passionate management team that loves automotive and loves their customers and desires to continue the legacy of DealerSocket,” Smith went on to say.

Study Reinforces How Consumer-Written Online Reviews Impact Leads

WALTHAM, Mass. - 

A recent study from DealerRater and Dataium confirmed that positive online reviews that provide employee-specific information drive website traffic and leads to dealers.

The study showed that DealerRater users were 90 percent more likely to visit a dealer website and 5.3 times more likely to convert to a lead when that dealer had a positive overall rating of 3.5 stars or higher.

Users reacted even stronger to review profiles that provided expanded information through DealerRater’s Certified Dealer Program. In particular, users were 12.1 times more likely to submit a lead to dealers that featured employee pages on their DealerRater review profiles.

Employee pages, available to participants in DealerRater’s Certified Dealer Program, allow a dealer’s customers to write reviews for individual dealer employees and feature specific information on the individual employee, such as an employee bio, photo and video greeting.

“The study validates what we’ve advised dealers on for years. Dealer reviews have a clear impact on the behavior of today’s auto shoppers. And the fact that auto shoppers are more engaged with the employee pages available from Certified Dealer profiles reveals that consumers are looking for more transparency as they research dealers,” DealerRater chief executive officer Gary Tucker said.

“When comparing multiple car dealerships, they’re looking for detailed reviews that provide a clear idea of what to expect from the car buying process,” he continued.

Tucker emphasized the study further illustrates the high value generated by DealerRater’s Certified Dealer Program, finding that participating dealers were able to attract, engage and convert more shoppers into leads than non-certified dealers.

DealerRater users were 50 percent more likely to visit a Certified Dealer website, as well as spend 80 percent more time on-site, than a non-certified dealer website. Moreover, Certified Dealers showed an 8.8 times higher lead conversion for new vehicles and a 10.8 times higher lead conversion for used vehicles than non-certified dealers.

Dataium chief development officer Eric Brown further explained what he believes the study findings show.

“Online reviews have already helped consumers in the car buying process, but now we’re looking at the other side of the relationship by showing how dealers can benefit from reviews,” Brown said. “The numbers speak for themselves: dealers that provide great customer service are receiving positive online reviews that, in turn, attract and convert more shoppers.”

Brown and Tucker also pointed out the findings were corroborated by John Osinga, IT/Web manager of London City Chrysler, a DealerRater Certified Dealer located in London, Ontario.

“We have focused heavily on leveraging DealerRater reviews over the years and it has paid off,” Osinga said. “We are seeing more referral website traffic now than we ever have before thanks to our online reviews. In addition, visitors are spending more time and viewing more pages on our site.”

The study is based on Dataium’s comparative analysis of dealership website traffic and DealerRater review profiles for more than 1,000 dealers. Dealers interested in learning more about the study or how an online reputation can be leveraged to drive sales can visit

Penske Partners with Online Savings Site

DETROIT - — a free social savings website that can help consumers raise money toward a major purchase like a vehicle — recently formed a new partnership with Penske Automotive Group. 

Officials highlighted select Penske dealerships will now provide a discount — what the site calls a BOOST — of up to $500 to all savers.

Here’s how the site is intended to operate.

BoostUp users can create an account to save their own money through automated bank deposits or payroll deductions and raise money from family and friends for birthdays, holidays, graduation or any gift giving occasion.  Partners such as Penske then can offer BoostUp savers a dollar for dollar matching incentive toward the purchase of their product or service. 

BoostUp founder and chief executive officer John Morgan explained the complementary nature of the partnership will allow both Penske and BoostUp to reach their common goal of helping people afford and purchase the vehicle of their dreams.

Morgan noted Penske’s 177 U.S. retail automotive franchises, 35 brands represented, strong reputation and global presence combined with BoostUp’s growing, revolutionary savings platform are what drew both companies together. 

“We are elated about working with Penske Automotive Group.” Morgan said. “This partnership solidifies the important mission of BoostUp, which is to help consumers reach their goals.  This is a major added benefit for BoostUp car buyers.”