Car Driving and the Environment

My friend, Ed Brooks, pointed to a NY Times story today about american driving peaking in 2004. Fewer miles of driving is good for the environment, but doing it vehicles getting better gas milage is even better. For this reason, smaller family fleets may not be a good thing. The optimal household fleet allows you to get your stuff home from Lowes or Home Depot but also allows you to get fantastic milage when you don't need a truck.

As more new vehicles are sold, more of the older, less-economical vehicles can be used sparingly as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th vehilce. The path to lower energy usage need not include a decrease in the number of automobiles. In fact, more of today's newer vehicles may be just what the environment needs on top of a decline in the number of miles driven.

Greater Dealer Profits Despite Razor Thin Margins

Check out this new article on DrivingSale on dealers' ability to adapt at any age. My partner, Lindsey Auguste, did a great job with this. Adaptation is how we survive in the world and in markets. http://www.drivingsales.com/blogs/InvestigativeReporting/2012/03/30/greater-dealer-profits-despite-razor-thin-margins

Measurement and Objectives

When I ask companies what their marketing objective is , they often say, “to increase sales.” Obviously, that is a vague. What are the most cost effective ways to increase sales? More sales from existing customers? Acquisition of competitor’s customers? Turning non-users into users? We need to be more specific about who we are targeting to obtain incremental sales. Once we know that, we can explore various options for achieving the objective and estimate the cost effectiveness of each.

Naturally, we will want to measure the success of the effort once we execute it. However, comparing total sales in the test period with total sales in the previous period can be extremely crude. It invites dozens of additional variables to influence the measured outcome. How can we be sure the new marketing communications were the cause of the change in sales? The other extreme is strict sales attribution, “Our sourcing attributed 10 sales to the new communication effort.” This assumes that there is no integration between your various marketing communications efforts. I certainly hope that is not the case, and it today’s environment of hyper-connected consumers it would be nearly impossible to achieve even if you wanted to.

The trick is to find the variable of mix of variables that best relate to the new communication effort as a cause for the desired activity leading toward a sale. Notice I said leading toward a sale. It will probably not be the sale itself. The mix of variables should include not just the medium used by your organization’s use of that medium. If it’s a listing a product, then your merchandising has a big impact on the contacts coming out of that listings service. If you are buying leads, then your organization’s lead handling has a big impact on the number of appointments set through those leads.

Strict attribution from one marketing activity to a precise number of sales is an illusion most businesses cannot afford. Measure the things you know contribute to sales and can be attributed to the marketing activity you are trying to measure. Your decision-making will improve, and your frustration level will go down.

Online Vehicle Merchandising

My new book, Online Vehicle Merchandising, is now available on Amazon.com and will be available soon through other common channels. The book is based on a concept I brought forward in my first book, Sales Integration, that online merchandising is selling rather than advertising.

The importance of getting vehicles rapidly merchandised with photos, videos, and text descriptions is central to the sale of vehicles when roughly 80% of shoppers are starting their vehicle shopping process online. But the advantages don't end there. This same information is what allows those answering phone calls, emails, and chats to set more appointments and bring those shoppers to the store more ready to buy.

Good online vehicle merchandising also helps floor sales people understand their products better and gain credibility with the customer. Increasingly, dealers are providing tablet computers to their sales people, allowing them to bring together the technological touchpoints the shopper had been experiencing with the human touchpoint the sales person provides and many customers are suspicious of.  This credibility through online documentation only works if the data exists and is accurate.

The book was written for dealership owners and GMs. The perspective of the book is vendor neutral and objective toward the controversy regarding whether dealerships should merchandise vehicles in-house or contract out to service providers. The dealer is provided with sufficient information to make the right decision for their store.

Online Vehicle Merchandising is available in paperback for $10.00. A Kindle version will be available soon for $5.00. The book is well illustrated with original photos and diagrams, as well as photos provided by cDemo, CDM, and Dealer Specialties.

Does Automotive Social Media Spark Influence or Action?

The answer is both, but the real surprice is the degree to which the positive actions outweigh the negative actions. This article on DrivingSales.com uses new industry research to demonstrate the difference. http://www.drivingsales.com/blogs/InvestigativeReporting/2012/01/03/automotive-social-media-influence-vs-action

 

DrivingSales to Acquire Revenue Guru

I am thrilled to announce the acquisition of Revenue Guru by DrivingSales. For the thousands of unique visitors who have enjoyed the independent content here on RevenueGuru.com, you can expect more of the same from me on DrivingSales.com. The refreshing changes to RevenueGuru.com will be determined over the weeks ahead, but you can be sure the site will continue on with wonderful tools and information to help you grow your revenue and profits.

DrivingSales.com has grown to be the largest dealer community in North America, while the DrivingSales organization has added a newsletter, magazine, DrivingSales University, and the wonderfully successful DrivingSales Executive Summit. Founder and CEO, Jared Hamilton is a remarkable leader with vision, passion, and extraordinary integrity. He is among the auto industry's most sought-out speakers, and surrounds himself with an energetic, determined team of high achievers. We are proud to be part of that team.

I was a featured speaker at the first DrivingSales Executive Summit in 2009 and immediately felt a kinship with the organization. As both DrivingSales and Revenue Guru have grown, we have grown together in purpose and accomplishment. The result today is an acquisition that feels as natural as coming home, uniting our capabilities in the service of dealers.

My primary role at DrivingSales will be to head up the Research and Data divisions. It has been exciting working with the team at DrivingSales in these areas. The talent and unique access to data enjoyed by the firm will manifest themselves in wonderful new products for dealers that provide vendor-neutral information for more profitable dealer operations. Kathy and Jennifer will also stay on to join the DrivingSales team. Most importantly, there will be no disruption of service to our clients. This acquisition is truly a win for everyone involved.

Thank you for your participation with Revenue Guru and RevenueGuru.com. We could not have reached this exciting milestone without you. You can see Jared Hamilton's announcement of the acquisition on DrivingSales.com.

Profiting from Sales Integration

Sales Integration was published over one year ago, yet its sales are hotter than ever. The ZMOT concept described in the book by Google's Jim Lecinski, ZMOT, is very similar to my book, Sales Integration. The core differences are that the foundation of ZMOT sprung out of consumer packaged goods. I first approached Sales Integration from a durable good perspective. Thursday, I'll conduct a webinar showing auto dealers how to profit form the Sales Integration concept. I'll also reconsile the two books for the first time in a way that delivers immediate action items for greater bottom-line results. All webinar participants will receive a free, autographed copy of Sales Integration. Follow this link to register http://mywebinarsonline.org/Sessions_PUQ5.html

 

The New Wave of Sales and Marketing Tools

Classification is important to understanding, and I'm concerned our industry is off on the wrong foot. I'm hearing a lot about new mobile applications, but apps fall into a number of tool classifications. Some simply do what you tell them to do; some help you remember how to do it, and others extend your management programs to guide or control the work of others. Here are the four categories as I see it:

1) Wrenches and typewriters have no memory. There is nothing about them that can help the user understand the process of tightening bolts or writing letters. These non-memory tools are great for users who know or can figure out the process of completing the task without assistance. The user works the tool.

2) Many software products come with a help button. The process for completing a task is recorded in the help menu and can be called up when needed. The user accesses additional process memory within the tool.

3) Everything in Microsoft office has a multitude of features, but does not memorize processes unless a macro is created to do that. Macros do tasks according to a recorded process. The user starts the process as recorded within the tool.

4) A GPS determines the process for getting somewhere, then tells the user what to do. This is what some of the new apps coming out offer, and it is a boon to areas like sales and marketing involving complex processes. The tool directs the user.

I'm going to call this fourth group management tools, because they manage the actions of others. This is often essential for process control.

Configurator tools guide shoppers through the path of designing their dream car. More recently, apps are being sold that guide the salesperson through the sales process or guide the F&I manager through the menu process. The if-then nature of computer programming allows for branching, making it possible for the system to design a nearly infinite number of process combinations. Each solution is produced to optimize the process based on the situation as input. The user is guided through a process of information inputs, and those inputs optimize the remainder of the process.

A Canadian company, cDemo, caught my eye in Dallas several months ago with their Mobile Inspector Application. It guides the user through a process that simultaneously develops vehicle photos, live video, and a vehicle condition report. That process varies from vehicle to vehicle. The photos for a pickup truck are not the same as for an SUV or a sedan. If something is found to be wrong in the vehicle condition report, additional detail is captured on that item. There must be millions of combinations, but the user doesn't have to remember any of them. Just about anyone can complete the process. In fact, cDemo asserts it's so easy a monkey could do it, and it all happens on an iPhone or Droid based smart phone.

This is a radical departure in the purpose of tools, yet it is not entirely new. Twenty years ago, I had a sales interview that involved me giving a sales presentation on the product of my choice. I sold them on buying my Hewlett Packard 19B programmable calculator for each sales person. Buy programming in the formulas for quoting rates, no salesperson would ever again need to remember the variables, the formulas, or how to execute. The program tells them what variables to entry and takes care of everything else. No more missed information, no more miscalculations. Sales people could function faster and more perfectly by letting the tool direct them. I provided break-even analysis to demonstrate the how quickly this simple management tool could pay for itself. The interviewing team quickly understood the importance of management tools in sales and marketing. Needless to say, I was offered the job.

If you can hire highly skilled professionals, it may make sense to give them tools they control, and maybe even tools with additional memory support. However, if the process and discipline is more than your people can live up to, then put a tool in place that runs the employee the way you want them to be run. Most of these tools can be modified by the manager. For example, the cDemo tool allows steps to be added or deleted from the process by the manager or through company support.

In many ways, these new tools are an extension of management, and it is badly needed. The cars we sell and merchandise are more complex than ever. The buyers are more knowledgeable than ever. But the people selling and merchandising vehicles are generally not any more talented than those we worked with ten years ago. These management tools are not coming out a moment too soon. If you want to insist that vehicles be sold or merchandised the way you want it done, then consider duplicating yourself through one of these new tools that manage your people in your absence.

Yes, I do practice what I preach. I've developed internal tools to guide myself, preventing mistakes when I'm working tired. I've talked to several companies about helping them develop and/or market management tools and will remain involved in this growing field as it relates to the marketing and sales of durable goods. I recently lured my brother, Gary Galbraith, into the auto industry to help cDemo introduce their new tool in the United States. As I look at the collision course of product complexity, product proliferation, transparency to the consumer, and an undereducated workforce, these tools appear essential to the future profitability of retailers. Management tools cannot be looked at as just another kind of application.

Preference for the Vehicle and the Store

My friends Ed Brooks and Eric Miltsch caused me to think deeper regarding preference for the vehicle and preference for the store. Many shoppers scan through inventory for a vehicle they prefer before contacting the seller it happens to belong to. Other shoppers have sufficient preference for a store -- either from experience, reputation, or branding -- to go to the dealer's website to hunt for a vehicle they might prefer from the dealership they already prefer. There does not seem to be much controversy about the need to maximize both preference for the store and preference for the vehicle, a subject I began writing about on Revenue Guru two years ago.

What these gentlemen caused me to consider was the impact of pricing a vehicle significantly above market. Even if the shopper prefers the store and the vehicle, they are likely to check the value against competing offerings. Being off by too much on the price could not only cost the dealership the sale at hand but the entire relationship. Sadly, this could take place without a single word being exchanged between the shopper and the store.

The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is complicated. Dealerships need to defend against losing customers with a preference for the store at several steps. The first may be their Page One Defense (POD) score, but it is foolish to think luring the shopper to your own site will insulate you from competition. You still need to have the right vehicle at the right price, or at least an acceptable vehicle at an acceptable price.

Measuring the ROI from Social Media

Download the deck from Dennis Galbraith’s presentation at DrivingSales Executive Summit. The full formula for measuring the ROI from social media is broken down to be immediately usable for auto dealers.