Automotive Advertising Agencies Should Attend the 2010 NADA Convention to Listen and Learn

Automotive advertising agencies have been forced to take on additional responsibilities in today’s troubled economy. As the President of national network of independent affiliated automotive advertising agencies and the host of an auto industry social networking resource portal I recently promoted the 2010 NADA Convention on my blog talk radio show as a real world venue similar to the online resources that I rely on to listen and learn and contribute to so I can presume to teach.

I consider the NADA convention as a must attend event for automotive advertising agencies, auto dealers, auto industry vendors and decision makers that regularly tune in to listen and learn from the auto industry experts regularly featured on various online resources. The NADA Convention is the real world version of online social networking communities focused on sharing best practices for the auto industry and a perfect platform to make new friends and connect with old ones in both the real and the virtual world.

The NADA Convention is a means to stay ahead of the competition by learning about the new Internet technologies and applications being introduced by the vendors and speakers that will be featured at the convention. The 2010 NADA Convention is being held in Orlando, Florida this February 12th. through February 15th., 2010 at the Orlando Convention Center. Additional information on the convention is available at their site — NADA.Org — and their online pre-registration savings of $50 -$75 has been extended to January 27th., 2010. I strongly advise anyone seeking to survive in today’s consolidating auto industry to register before the deadline to take advantage of the discount with the confidence that your investment of your time and money will provide a R.O.I. that can’t be duplicated by any online auto industry-centric venue; including my own.

My affiliated agencies are connected by a proprietary online communication/distribution system I developed in December of 2001. I designed the operating system that links this national network of independent businesses as a means to leverage the resources of the participating automotive advertising agencies, production partners and select vendors to allow them to compete with national automotive advertising agencies. The resulting savings in fixed and semi-variable expenses coupled with access to a wide variety of production and creative resources for the member agencies was made possible through their use of several online technologies that were developed to support the growing World Wide Web.

I reference this history as evidence that I have practiced what I now preach. These same technologies must be applied to the internal processes of auto dealerships to allow them to survive in a consolidating auto industry. The combination of the resulting efficiencies realized in technology enhanced selling systems in brick and mortar auto dealerships integrated with their online showrooms, and the newly developing applications being applied by automotive advertising agencies to promote their auto dealer clients on the Internet, is the key to profitability today and survival tomorrow.

The NADA Convention allows auto industry vendors to present new cutting edge applications to auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies who are anxious to gain an advantage over the competition. More importantly, in a consolidating auto industry auto dealers must sell more for less to satisfy budget conscious and better educated online car buyers and the technology being applied to sell vehicles on the Internet Super Highway is the way to do it in a scalable and cost effective manner!

The blog talk radio station featured on my portal is another example of how a new technology platform can enhance the reach and performance of an automotive advertising agency in today’s Internet driven marketplace. I use various blog talk radio shows as an online communication system for my network to share best practices and new vendor applications with site visitors surfing the web to get the inside story on the auto industry. In addition, my shows attract new vendors anxious to tell their story to the decision makers who follow me on the World Wide Web which allows me to review cutting edge automotive advertising applications before competing agencies know that they exist.

Several vendor clients of mine were discovered during their online reviews and most of them will be represented at the NADA Convention. Why? Because the NADA Convention is the perfect real world venue to launch new products and services and this year is no exception.

Automotive advertising agencies know that they must apply cutting edge automotive advertising technologies to their online marketing plans that integrate with proven selling processes in their auto dealer clients’ real and virtual world showrooms but they don’t know where to find them. Online automotive advertising focused social networking sites provide an excellent filter to find the newest and the best but the NADA Convention is the place to see them all in one place and one time in an environment where the decision makers from both the automotive advertising agency and the vendor can sit across the table and work out the best deal for both. After all, what are friends for!

Automotive Advertising Agencies Need to Reinvent Themselves to Support Social Media

The role of automotive advertising agencies is changing along with the auto industry that they serve. It is important for automotive advertising agencies to educate themselves and their auto dealer clients about their changing roles in a consolidating auto industry that is shifting onto the Internet Super Highway vs. local car rows.

Problems and solution shared at real world venues in the auto industry are having an impact and the slow shift to the new pull/push world of the consumer driven Internet is becoming more obvious. Similarly, a growing number of online social networking communities are also all helping to spread the word and their timing couldn’t be better.

The only constant in the auto industry is change. Of course human nature is also a universal constant, but since that is the fuel that powers most change in the auto industry it must be factored in and considered by automotive advertising agencies who can now look to consumers for the answers.

Radio, T.V. and newspapers are no longer the media of choice for today’s Internet savvy consumers. B2C messages online are filtered out in favor of C2C conversations in social networking communities that now dot the landscape on the World Wide Web. Automotive advertising agencies must reinvent themselves as the resource that auto dealers rely on to navigate them onto the Internet Super Highway because that is where their customers are.

Keeping ahead of new technologies and applications that integrate selling processes between the real and the virtual world showrooms and inserting auto dealers into the conversations that make up the online marketplace must be job one for automotive advertising agencies who wish to serve their auto dealer clients in today’s challenging auto industry. Radio, T.V. and print production has a shrinking role in an automotive advertising agency’s tool box and leveraged online production resources will eliminate them altogether in the near future. Similarly, agency commissions earned from conventional media analysis and placement are being absorbed into the media providers as value added services for their auto dealer advertisers. At the same time, automotive advertising budgets are being shifted to online digital marketing platforms with more verifiable sourced R.O.I. that is far superior to conventional media. The writing is on the virtual wall and automotive advertising agencies must either read it, write it or accept their diminishing value in tomorrow’s auto industry.”

The Internet has empowered consumers to bypass auto dealers and even their most strategically placed marketing message in favor of online information resources that are not dependent on automotive advertising agencies or auto dealers for their content. Initially, third party aggregators captured online auto shoppers attempting to avoid real and virtual world auto dealerships by collecting inventory from hundreds of auto dealers anxious to get their inventory in front of today buyers for new and pre-owned vehicles. Consumers quickly realized the limitations of looking at vehicles in this kind of dealer-centric platform and the technology driven evolution of online marketing platforms soon provided more consumer-centric solutions.

Auto dealers are now able to monetize social media with features that invite car shoppers to share their vehicle selections with their online friends and family to assist them in their car shopping experience. These C2C conversations pushed to Face Book and other social networking communities replace previous unsuccessful attempts by automotive advertising agencies to post B2C messages on the same social media platforms. Automotive advertising agencies need to know about sites that offer a variety of free services and a way to earn a seat at the social media table More relevantly, they need to tell their auto dealer clients about them to justify their agency fees!

Other technology driven applications automotive advertising agencies need to tell their auto dealer clients about that will allow them to sell more vehicles and service for less money and with less staff include dealer hosted personal web sites for their staff, dashboard tools that integrates telephone and SMS text messaging for more comprehensive and cost effective follow up, automated video production platforms that converts the pictures on an auto dealer’s website pushed onto the search engines with Facebook applications that allow an auto dealer to display their entire inventory on a non-offensive tab within the customers Face Book page, customer interaction platforms that allow online shoppers to initiate a two way video conversation from within an auto dealer’s website that can accommodate a turnkey online transaction without having to drop the glass wall that empowers online shoppers to move forward in the negotiation process and appraisal tools which provide site visitors with NADA sourced values for their trade-in while selecting suitable vehicles from the auto dealers online inventory to find a car to replace the one that they are selling.

Any one of these new online conversion and marketing tools can develop a superior R.O.I. to even the best written and placed conventional automotive advertising messages and/or online digital marketing campaigns. These technology driven solutions and their importance to automotive advertising agencies are needed to justify their agency fees to their auto dealer clients in today’s consolidating auto industry. Many automotive advertising agencies still operate under the assumption that if they bring enough bodies to the front door then they have earned their fees. In today’s consolidating auto industry; not so much!

Reduced sales volume and profit margins coupled with increased expenses demand that automotive advertising agencies must increase their areas of responsibility to include internal selling processes using systems to increase efficiencies across all departments in an auto dealership in both their brick and mortar facilities and their newly developing virtual showrooms. You have to be in it to win it and for the foreseeable future the game is being played on the World Wide Web. The most active lanes on the Internet Super Highway are those that lead to social networking communities that share information between automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers as much as they do for their customers.

Automotive Advertising Agencies Focus on Consumers Vs Auto Dealers to Sell Cars Because Google Does

Consumers prefer to go to the Internet to shop for a vehicle to get information to make a buying decision without having to visit a dealership. Sometimes they turn to the World Wide Web vs. their local car row to avoid being pressured by a self serving car salesperson — real or imagined. Other times their objective may be to save gas and time before they jump into the real world where they may be pressured into making a premature buying decision based on emotion and limited information. Frankly, in many cases, they are right; can you say — spot delivery.

Job one for search engines, like Google, is to provide relevant information to their online customers to help them narrow down their list of vehicles of interest and answer associated questions like trade-in value, payment options and the many items that must be addressed before they can select — the — vehicle vs. — a — vehicle. Once those issues are resolved, they need to help their online shoppers find an auto dealer that can provide a vehicle that best satisfies those terms and conditions; in that order — vehicle first and dealer second. My point is that when Google first directs their customers to the most relevant source for their desired information it is not necessarily limited to a particular dealership. Today’s car shoppers are much better educated than yesterday’s. They know what questions they need to ask before they can make a buying decision so their online search words are more able to target vehicles that warrant their consideration rather than limiting their search to their local car dealerships. For better or worse, auto dealers can’t put that horse back in the barn!

The adversarial relationship between consumers and auto dealers that governed old world selling processes originated in the real world to help auto dealers control the shopping and negotiation process and they survived briefly on the virtual showrooms being built one on the Internet, but — today and tomorrow — not so much! Once auto dealer’s realized — or more correctly — once customers told auto dealers that they no longer controlled the access to the information that they needed to purchase a vehicle the dealers tried to control the information on the Internet; how is that working out for auto dealers!

Automotive advertising agencies first assumed that S.E.O. and S.E.M. was a way to put Google on the auto dealer’s side of the Internet Super Highway. If they placed the right search words, meta tags, URL names — and the various manipulations of the Google search algorithms that automotive advertising agencies have memorized as fast as Google changes them — then they could manipulate the search results to place their auto dealer clients as the most relevant source for the information that customers were searching for and earn the auto dealers a position on the car shoppers short list. Given the vertical priority placed by Google to position a listing on page one based on relevancy to their customers search words or phrases, that technique certainly has value. However, since customers are prioritizing finding a vehicle before a dealer and/or to answer related questions before they open negotiations on a specific vehicle at a particular auto dealer, auto dealers that base their online marketing efforts to accomplish that priority are positioning themselves mid-sales cycle and they may be a day late and a dollar short for a large portion of today’s and tomorrow’s shoppers/buyers.

Automotive advertising agencies have attempted to answer customer’s questions on their auto dealership’ websites in an attempt to earn them a top position on vehicle based searches. Their assumption is that the more information the better — as long as it is relevant — however, once at the auto dealer’s site the more accurate priority is “transparency!” More time on page, and more page visits used to be considered a good thing but today, once again — not so much! The easier and faster the online car shopper can find the specific information that they need to make a buying decision the better! Site designs are being simplified with more intuitive user interface and dedicated landing pages or linked micro sites to allow customers to limit the amount of “clicks” or wasted exposure to information that may be relevant to the dealer but not necessarily to the customer; at that time in their shopping cycle at least.

Once the shopper actually ventures onto an online showroom the plan is to keep them there by providing direct or linked access to anything that they need to move themselves further down the sales/buying funnel. The dealer may see these information resources as a conversion tool or a lead generator but if they lose track of the truth — that the customer is still in charge — they risk losing them with the click of a mouse. Sorry, but throwing their trade-in keys onto the roof won’t work in your virtual showrooms!

The solution is for auto dealers to listen and learn from their online customers before they presume to sell them anything! Human nature has survived on the World Wide Web and relationship based selling still has a strong influence on consumers. Today’s online shoppers are being directed by Google and the other search engines to social networking sites because the marketplace is a conversation and people are social animals. Auto dealers who want to attract customers with a message that they are the best source for information to serve the customer’s interest vs. their own are better served to have their customers make that case for them.

Next generation inventory based search portals — like ronsmap.com — accept an auto dealer’s inventory for free with the ability to push their vehicles into social media using their vBack application to Ask-A-Friend or Tell-A-Friend about the vehicle — and the dealer –that they are considering within their social networking communities of online friends. Google has already admitted that they are prioritizing real time social media to establish relevancy, and automotive advertising agencies already know that more vehicles on a site provide more relevancy to more online car shoppers. As a result, they have found that the way to attract more online customers to find their auto dealership as the place to go to get all of their questions answered will be the message that is carried along with their individual vehicles listed on this communal consumer-centric site; which is what the customers are looking for to begin developing their shortlist of dealers to do business with!

Customer friendly applications that distribute the information on an auto dealer’s individual website which have the secondary value of functioning as a conversion tool or lead generator are also key differentiators that quickly build branding value for an auto dealer’s virtual showroom and enhance their online reputation as the place to go to get customer’s questions answered vs. their being sold something. For example, GetAutoAppraise.Com is a next generation appraisal tool that provides credible third party trade-in values sourced through NADA with integrated inventory information that allows the customer to review the entire transaction more efficiently. Their trade-in appraisal form includes vehicle, price and payment information to and from both parties to the transaction in one easy transparent and customer friendly process.

Video platforms, like SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot, is another transparent Google friendly application that converts pictures on an auto dealer’s website into interactive videos with human voice that are also pushed out onto the World Wide Web through their dedicated API to You Tube and soon to be announced applications that push their vShock platform onto social networking communities like Face Book. Their proprietary video platform is fully index able for the search engines and it provides relevant information to the customer from within the video as well as direct links through their vShock application that opens a dedicated micro site with similar vehicles chosen from the dealer’s inventory using algorithms and business rules custom designed by the dealer to improve the customers vehicle selection. This process is another example of a customer friendly information delivery system that will improve transparency for the customer once they find an online dealership which will also extend the auto dealers S.E.O..

The point is, the more information that an automotive advertising agency provides through their auto dealer client’s websites in the most relevant and transparent manner the better. However, auto dealers need to get online car shoppers to find and visit their virtual showrooms first, and since information is a key differentiator between them and their online competition — or according to Google and online shoppers, it should be – then the information alone won’t make it! Automotive advertising agencies must focus on consumers’ interests in order to best serve their auto dealer clients because Google does; and Google does it because their customers demand it!