Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Theflyonthewall.blog: Through The Fly's Eyes: DealerTrack Holdings

Theflyonthewall.blog: Through The Fly's Eyes: DealerTrack Holdings

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BlogPro Automotive Has Moved!!!

Please visit www.blogproautomotive.com for the latest postings and to post comments on any entries. This blog is no longer in use.

Because of the Blogger upgrade, I was not able to import the entries and comments from this blog to the new one, so I added all the entries manually. Unfortunately, I was not able to restore everyone's comments. When Wordpress supports the new Blogger system I should be able to do something, but in the meantime, please know I am sorry for this.

Thank you for your support and/or for stopping by. Click here to visit the new live blog.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A 5-Point Plan for Autos Growth

Charisma! Communications' president Laurie Halter examines the top automotive marketing trends that you'll need to know to keep up with your competitors in 2007. She talks about search engine marketing; email marketing; two-way communication between dealers and customers; blogs as a marketing tool; and behavioral targeting.

read more | digg story

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Arkona Completes Integration With Gulf States Toyota

Arkona appears to be making quite a name for itself these days. The recent deal in place with Gulf States Toyota shows that this DMS provider is a real player. Earlier this month a communications interface that was developed jointly between GST and Arkona which means that every GST Toyota dealership can now migrate to Arkona’s DMS, providing "immediate costs savings and improved operating efficiencies from their current legacy solutions". The major points of integration include:

• Parts Orders – Electronically transfer stock orders and supplemental orders
• Parts Return – Automatically download parts returns
• Financial Statement Reporting – Simplify preparation and submission of financial statements

Arkona has continually enhanced its DMS to meet the requirements of key OEM partners. The integration with the Gulf States Toyota organization required extensive programming, certification testing, and several months of cooperative effort between the Gulf States Toyota, Kinsel Toyota as the pilot dealership, and Arkona.

Press Release on Arkona Website

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dealer Specialties Introduces Vehicle Manager

According to a press release, Dealer Specialties, a division of Dominion Dealer Solutions, recently announced the launch of Vehicle Manager, an Internet-based inventory management application for dealers.

New features in Vehicle Manager include:

Inventory Management

—Access to Administration Tools
—Automated Inventory Rules
—Price Comparison Tool
—Moving Inventory
—Categorizing and Sorting Inventories

Inventory Marketing

—Vehicle Brochures
—Vehicle Videos (VeVos)
—Global Vehicle Marketing Text

Vehicle Manager is available immediately and is offered in a variety of different package options for every dealer need.

One thing that sticks out for me is the Price Comparison Tool. DataOne Software is the only company I know that has something like this. Depending on the strength of this tool in their new system, this could be a big competitive advantage for DS.

Notice also the Vehicle Videos (VeVos). This is a new technology product offered by only a couple other companies that I know of - Unity Works! Media and SiSter Technologies. This feature as well will help boost the Dealer Specialties product.

If you are using this new Vehicle Manager by Dealer Specialties or if you have seen it in action please share yoru thoughts and experience.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Automobile hobbyists, check out Hemmings Auto Blogs

Here is a cool blog for car hobbyists. I am not one myself but Hemmings is a known name in the enthusiast market and this blog is simple and sharp. The pictures are crisp. The content is exciting. The people on this project are sure to be having a great time journaling all this fun stuff about car collecting.

>> Click here to enjoy more of Hemmings

I will probably add this to the Blogroll.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lanelogic Launches Dealer Network Expansion

DALLAS — Following a successful pilot program in the Southwest and the Midwest, lanelogic announced Wednesday that it was expanding its proprietary dealer-to-dealer trading network to an additional 21 states over the next 90 days. This expansion represents the addition of more than 300 pre-signed dealerships to its dealer network.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Key words and key findings in a competitive SEM race

Today I came across a web page so out of the ordinary that I had to post an entry on it. The extraordinary part is not so much the site itself, but locating a bedfellow such as I did on this rare site.

The site is called MailBucket and the bedfellow is a Cold Fusion developer that although I do not know him per se, I do know his company. To locate something obscure like this and with such a close degree of separation, is not out of the ordinary.

Ad Words, Key Words, and SEM

This is something to keep in mind when putting together SEM campaigns. Competing for popular ad words is expensive. Buying ad words that are well paced with these high-priced ones can be rewarding too. You can often get more click-throughs per $1 with these words as well.

For instance, you want traffic with users searching for KEYWORD X. The purchase price for that keyword is $1 per click. The purchase price for KEYWORD Y, which generates about 90% the click-through rates of X, is 75% the price of KEYWORD X. Dollar for dollar that is a better return.

Purchasing keywords in lower positions can generate equally as much traffic and costs much less.

PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 9 -- Chrome Systems Inc., the industry leader in automotive data, today announced the introduction of an all new Automotive Description Service (ADS). ADS is a Chrome-hosted web service with the ability to deliver more accurate and comprehensive vehicle descriptions than the VIN decoder products currently on the market. ADS allows users to:
  • Use detailed descriptions to make used inventory look as good as new
  • inventory
  • Conduct robust inventory searches on dealer and consumer websites by
  • providing normalized vehicle names, equipment descriptions, and color
  • descriptions
  • Improve VIN decoding to increase the accuracy of vehicle valuations
  • Normalize inventory for website and database analytics
  • Easily and automatically map vehicle data among various data sources.
If you are using the new ADS or have information to share about this new Chrome product, please post your comments now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dealer Specialties, Inc. Contracts with AT&T for New Data Communications Center

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) announced today a new three-year contract with Dealer Specialties Inc., the nation's leading used vehicle data and photo collection company with headquarters in Monroe, Ohio. AT&T Ohio will provide Dealer Specialties with reliable, nationwide data connectivity through Managed Internet Service (MIS) with a managed router for its hosting center at the company's headquarters, which houses mission-critical applications used by Dealer Specialties' customers and employees.

The service will be able to accommodate growth in Dealer Specialties' volume of transactions plus additional applications including Web-based inventory management tools and automotive dealer Web sites, which support the company's business.

In addition, this solution will provide Dealer Specialties with additional hosting capacity and also will align with AT&T's customer-focused convergence strategy, enabling Dealer Specialties to scale their nationwide Web application offerings for the automotive industry.

"We have valued our relationship with AT&T since we started in 1989. AT&T has consistently delivered reliable solutions that have met our business goals," said George Nenni, vice president and general manager of Dealer Specialties Inc. "When it came to picking a telecommunications provider for our needs, there really was no contest."

Source Article from AT&T

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Backs are Being Scratched for the Independent Automotive Dealers

A couple months ago I had posted an entry questioning readers about where the online community was in this industry. Click here to check it out. I had just embarked on this blog venture at the time and was searching all about for the online activity in the automotive online marketplace, but there was little to be found. Today however is revealing a different story.

In the past month I have come across a few new online ventures specific to this industry, some of which I have already posted on and some which I have not. Interestingly, of the recent discoveries I have encountered, the target audience or clientele for some of these sites has been the independent dealers. I find this encouraging because it shows the innovativeness of technology and marketing providers out there for the independents. Call it a sign of grassroots if you will.

Take a look at AutoJini’s blog and HigherTurnOver’s blog. Both target the independents and for similar reasons from what I can tell. They both are providing website solutions designed for the independent dealer but both are backing up this standard product with innovative technology resources such as blogs with content written to help market their businesses and sell cars. This is cutting edge.

I look forward to getting closer to these innovators a bit more that are behind these sites and I am encouraged to see that the online community for this marketplace is indeed growing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

iMagicLab to Buy DealerConcierge.com and add Hosted BDC services to Improve Dealer Conversions

iMagic is on the move to provide a call center for its dealers to call prospects and customers as an outsourced solution. I emphasize “outsourced” because with the purchase of DealerConcierge this actually becomes an in-sourced solution. The intriguing aspect to this acquisition is that the service is intended to integrate with iMagic’s CRM.

Keith Latman, Chief Software Architect of iMagicLab, said the addition of the Dealer Concierge "will allow dealers to use our hosted call center to make calls directly to customers at schedules the dealer can change in real time from inside the CRM suite." Latman said with iMagicLab's proprietary ActionPlan system guiding the process, calls can be triggered by over 20 different events within 15 minutes.

Latman deserves praise for his innovativeness and ability to make quick moves like this and get them publicized. I do not keep up with the CRM industry so I am interested in hearing feedback from my readers on this.

Source Article

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

AutoJini Stresses Technology and Backs it up with a Nifty Signup Procedure

The other day I came across AutoJini by way of a comment left on this blog by someone with the company. Upon visiting their website I felt inspired to write an entry on them because of the company’s obvious grasp on today’s technology. For a dealer not familiar with the technology terms and solutions available today, the AutoJini site could be overwhelming with all of its content, but for those that are up to date with the latest offerings AutoJini.com reveals some things about the company.

Most apparent to me is that AutoJini are technology people, but not necessarily marketing people. The site is rich in content which tells me they have a grip on the terms and technologies needed to create an online presence for dealers. They also have a blog which is a clear indication of being in step with the forerunners in the industry. I am not convinced however in their effectiveness in marketing. Understanding the importance of marketing concepts is different from applying them and the way the website is presented it indicates to me that truly effective marketing is not their game.

The most inspiring piece on the site is the signup form which presents the dealer/user with many template designs from which to choose and then prompts the dealer/user to input important information about the dealership and site preferences. Since I did not actually complete the form I can not comment on how deep the signup process goes, but it certainly appears to be the most automated signup process I have come across online in this industry. Kudos to AutoJini for that.

AutoJini is geared toward the non-franchise dealer and from what I see it has much to offer. To whomever it was from AutoJini, “thank you” for commenting on the blog and I look forward to learning more about your company.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Susan Givens, Among Others, to Receive Spirit of Leadership Award During NADA 2007

The Women's Automotive Association International (WAAI) will present its 12th annual Spirit of Leadership awards at a fundraiser luncheon to be held during the 2007 NADA convention in February. Among the four women being honored is Susan Givens of AutoSuccess Magazine.

I wanted to use this opportunity to acknowledge the award going to Susan who has done an extraordinary job with AutoSuccess. The magazine is an important part of my own professional growth and Susan is an important part of the magazine. The focus of the magazine is leadership and to help create a positive avenue for the readers to learn and grow. Susan has made this way of thinking part of her everyday life and she is also part owner with the company.

Congratulations Susan and thanks for your excellent work!

Source Article
Discuss Online at Auto Industry Forum
Discuss Online at Car Dealer Forums or

Leave Your Comments Below

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dealer.com is now linking its customers’ inventory to Google Base

Dealer.com is now linking its customers’ inventory to Google Base, a content search system with appeal to advertisers because it puts products (like vehicles) on the front shelf for users searching for things on the Web to see.

Bonfigli says as far as he knows, Dealer.com is the only company providing the automatic inventory uploads to clients. Bonfigli said Dealer.com has been uploading its clients’ inventory for about a month but working to make sure everything was running smoothly before officially announcing the service today.

Dealer.com has proven to be an innovative company in this business vertical and also has a knack for gaining press attention. Google Base is still an under-developed system but that is changing quickly. I am curious to see how this impacts Dealer.com users benefiting from the service.

Source Article in Dealer Magazine

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dealer.com Unveils a Company Blog

[www] The View from Inside (Blog)

This morning I discovered an entry on AutoIndustryForum.com that Dealer.com has a company blog. How timely in that jsut last week HomeNet too had unveiled its blogs. As stated earlier, blogs are an excellent way for companies to reach out to the marketplace for customers and partners and I think this will become a common thing throughout the automotive industry in due time.

Dealer.com's blog seems to be geared towards industry news and information whereas HomeNet's concentrate on product and company info. It will be interesting to see where these companies go with their blogs and how quickly other companies in the industry will be with publishing their own.

Discuss Online at AutoIndustryForum.com
Discuss Online at CarDealerForums.com

Be sure to leave your comments below about this entry.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

iMagicLab Produces One for the Team…a blog, that is, called DealerMagazine.com

[www] www.dealermagazine.com

If you are looking for the Dealer Magazine website and forget to or don’t think about putting a hyphen (-) between the two words (dealer & magazine) and the three double ewes (www) and the dot com (.com), then you will have appear before your very eyes a newly created blog called DealerMagazine.com. Produced by Keith Latman of iMagicLab, formerly known as iCarMagic, DealerMagazine.com is a blog for the next generation auto professional.

The format looks more like a discussion forum with dedicated contributing writers concentrating on specific topics like CRM and advertising, which are two things Jeff Kershner writes a lot about on his blog DealerRefresh.com. I have a feeling however that the Dealer Magazine people will have some concerns once they learn of the name and domain being used.

I will go ahead and add this site to my blogroll and make a point to reference content posted there that is relevant to BlogPro.

Online Discussion at Auto Industry Forum

Online Discussion at Car Dealer Forums

Be sure to let me know your thoughts about this site by entering your comments below.

Friday, November 24, 2006

DealerRefresh.com is good for your brain and for your soul

[www] http://www.DealerRefresh.com

DealerRefresh.com is one of the original blog sites, if not the original one, specific to the automotive internet sales professional. Conceived and produced by Jeff Kershner, a young, but veteran automotive sales professional, DealerRefresh offers opinions, tips, and input not just for Internet Sales Managers but also for anyone in the automotive online retail business.

The first time I met Jeff was in 2005 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during an AutoSuccess show. Jeff’s blog was less than a year young at the time and I was impressed with the insight of the content he was producing. Jeff knows CRM and he know SEM, among other things. Naturally, I was excited about meeting him. Jeff’s laid back style and witty approach overshadow his passion for and deep understanding of today’s technology and the car business, but his blog puts Jeff’s professional philosophy in perspective.

If you sell cars online or if you help dealers market their cars online then DealerRefresh should be bookmarked in your browser. You will find that the content being posted is completely relevant to what you do. Jeff does offer an irregular newsletter as well. Be sure to let Jeff know that Ryan sent you too.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dealer Magazine - "A conduit of information"

[www] www.dealer-magazine.com

Dealer Magazine was founded by Mike Roscoe over 10 years ago and presently Mark Dubis is the Editor. It is a digest of expert advice and opinion, edited from the perspective of the franchise automobile dealer. The magazine takes the position of being an advocate for the individual independent business men and women who are franchised automobile dealership owners. It is a conduit of information between dealers and top experts in the retail automotive business.

Essentially there are three core monthly publications – Dealer Magazine, Digital Dealer, and Dealer Fixed Operations, each one catering obviously to specific audiences and each one circulated individually. Digital Dealer however is often incorporated inside of the primary Dealer Magazine distribution as well.

Dealer Magazine also has seven free weekly eNewsletters to which you can subscribe. Click here to visit the subscribe page. The website has an extensive archive and also plays host to online forums for each publication, which I think is a great addition.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

HomeNet, Inc. Launches Two Company Blogs for Public Use

HomeNet, Inc., the creators of Inventory Online (IOL) are publishing two company blogs for public use - HomeNet News & HomeNet Ministry. The company has also published a blog for internal use.

HomeNetNews.net will be used to post information about HomeNet's product, its organization, its, customers and its partners. On it you will see postings that date back to the beginning of 2006.

HomeNetMinistry.net will be used to post information about the company's Christian Ministry. Information about the Ministry is available on the blog including the covenant which explains the purpose for the ministry.

Blogs are a great way for companies to reach out to the marketplace with information relevant to those its does business so I suspect we will see more of this in due time.

Be sure to leave your comments below.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How the New AutoMoBids System Affects the Car Buying Experience

AutomoBids is closing a $1.2 million round of seed funding and going live with an online service that allows car buyers to haggle over price without ever seeing a sales agent. This is not necessarily a new concept as it has been talked about for a few years now, but it is the first system of its kind that I know of.

The way it works is dealers load their inventory into the system and set a floor price for each vehicle. Essentially, the dealers are creating a branded virtual sales lot on the AutomoBids system. They also have the ability to create vehicle-specific ads with search engine marketing campaigns. Consumers register their credit cards with the system and then can search for vehicles in the sales lots. They can bid up to three times on a vehicle and up to 10 vehicles at a time. The bidder can then lock in a price for up to seven days by exceeding the dealer’s floor price which is not disclosed to the bidder.

Although there is more meat to the equation, this new buying process has the potential to change the way autos are shopped and purchased, just like eBay Autos has done. This of course could take years to become a part of the consumer culture, but from what see it should have a lasting impact. This will not replace the sales rep, but it will force the sales rep to adapt to the new method by finding alternate ways to add unique value to the consumers’ online buying experience.

A link to the original press release is below. Be sure to leave your comments to this entry and share your thoughts on it. You may also visit the online discussion forum for AutomoBids on CarDealerForums.com to rate this company and access more detailed company info and other peoples’ feedback.

Source Article

Discuss Online at Auto Industry Forum

Discuss Online at Car Dealer Forums

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Memorial Entry for Elisabeth Kelly Reilly of AutoMart.com

This past weekend Elisabeth Kelly Reilly was shot and killed at a shopping center in Virginia Beach. It appears as though the shooting was the result of a mugging that went awry. Kelly was an employee with AutoMart.com. The link below leads to the article about the incident.

Source Article

My condolences go out to family, friends, and co-workers that knew Kelly, who was recently married and probably seemed to have had a bright future before her. There is little that can be said to provide comfort in times like this, but in my experience I find comfort in knowing that people like Kelly who came to this earth for such a short period of time when it seemed they had everything to live for, were here to fulfill a God-given purpose that may or may not be known to us here on earth. May peace and understanding be made available to those closest to her.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

True Leadership Requires Giving Credit and Praise To Those Around You

My Uncle Roger was an independent electrician in his hometown in the state of Michigan. He had a great reputation for quality work and an amazing network of contacts in the construction and remodeling industry throughout the area that was of great use to him not only for business but also for bartering. Roger was always doing favors for people and always making friends.

Roger was also a stickler for quality and when I worked for him he didn’t go easy on me because I was his nephew. In fact, the first time I worked for him he let me go after a few months because I wasn’t meeting is quality standards. The final straw that summer was when I had goofed up big on a job, which interestingly I think, was a favor. But my Uncle didn’t give me the boot with my head down. Roger made sure I left that summer job feeling like a winner.

When my goof-up became apparent, Roger showed up to the site hours early and re-ran the cables I had laid the day before which had holes drilled in them. He didn’t make a big deal about the error; in fact, he even praised me in front of the homeowner for doing such a great job. Of course, this was probably more about storing confidence in the homeowner than anything, but still.

This was not the only time Roger gave praise to me or others for things that may or may not have even deserved praise. Roger would give people so much praise for their work it made you want to do a better job for him. After all, he was giving you praise before you deserved it, or even when you didn’t deserve it at all.

This is not easy to do. So often in the business world we want people to see and know how much we do, how hard we work, and what good work we do. Often I hear things like, “welcome to my world” or “now you know what I go through”. I too am a culprit for this. I catch my self all the time wanting people to see and acknowledge my sacrifice, but ingenuity, and my contribution to the things going on. The reality is that people are not that interested in what you do. People are interested in what they do. People want to be acknowledged, praised, and glorified for their own efforts.

A good leader realizes this and lovingly and selflessly finds ways to give others that praise and let others feel good about themselves. A good leader understands that by allowing, or even encouraging those around him to be recognized ultimately comes back to the purpose of the matter in positive ways which naturally impacts everyone.

So be willing to give credit and praise to those around you, and be willing to receive none. By doing this, you can focus on making others feel good about them selves and if someone else does the same for you then it is just one more thing to be happy about.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mosley Automotive Group Sends Me Its Newsletter But I Never Subscribed

The other day I discovered in my inbox a newsletter from Mosley Automotive Group. Based on the name I presumed it to be from a dealer group and did not read it right away. But tonight I had a few minutes to dig through my inbox and looked into it further.

What I found was the Mosley is actually a consulting firm for auto dealers that is geared towards helping dealers maximize their online selling technique. Complete with process analysis, coaching, consulting, training, and workshops, these guys seem like one of a kind in that they are geared towards online retailing vs. conventional retailing. How they got my email address is beyond me, but kudos to them for spamming me.

Anyhow, check them out and please provide your feedback. The website is www.mosleyautomotive.com. I will add them to my lineup and keep an eye on their procession in the industry.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Interview with 37Signals Jason Fried

Here is a quick interview read on Web Worker Daily with Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals. I do not know much about the company 37Signals other than the names of some of their products like Basecamp and Campfire. We use Basecamp in my company for project management. It is not fully sufficient for needs but that is because our needs are beyond the scope of the software, not that the software itself is insufficient. In fact, the Basecamp software is quite modest, simple, and extremely useful.

What struck me about Fried’s comments in this interview was his take on physical proximity being more of a distraction and interference with productivity in the workplace than it is a benefit. In my work, I find this to be quite true. There are constant interruptions each day with people buzzing me on the phone and coming into my office (or me buzzing other people’s phones and going into their offices). Sometimes it seems that we would all get more done if we locked ourselves in our own offices. But then again, there is the irreplaceable benefit of face-to-face interaction for productivity.

Fried also commented that they rarely use email. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for this. Email has to be the single most counter-productive tool in the workplace. I spend more time filtering spam and deleting pointless threads between co-workers than I do actually addressing the legitimate needs and issues that come to me on email. I do believe an online collaboration tool would be better, but that requires buy-in from your co-workers.

Well check out the interview and let me know your thoughts or if you want to talk about Basecamp and/or Campfire.

Reference Article

Women Sites Making a Claim on the Web

According to an article The New York Times, women are increasingly becoming a recognized consumer in many industries, not just the auto industry…

- Shane Homes is building houses designed with the feedback from female consumers

- BeJane.com is an online home improvement site geared specifically for female handy(wo)men

- Crave Party seems to be a nationwide network of women that like to indulge in things like shopping, entertainment, and personal pampering

Like AskPatty.com, these sites are designed exclusively for women. Identity is an increasingly important thing in our culture these days and these sites are obviously catering to this popularity.

One site I found of interest while reading this NYT article is called My Open Wallet, a site run by a female New Yorker revealing the details of her personal financial lifestyle. The blog site is pretty cool and definitely rich with content, not to mention a sense of bold honesty and openness. There is a great section on the site called “My Rules”. Check it out when you get the chance.

Shouts out to the girls at AskPatty.com for forwarding this article. I think it is quite revealing for what sort of possibilities are out there in the marketplace these days for women and men.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Women’s Site AskPatty.com Has Content and a Sense of Humor

In May 2006 I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Jody DeVere, President of AskPatty.com. Jody might not recall our talk at the AAISP event, but it is has stuck to my mind for the past several months because it was not your typical convention talk about how her company and my company could work together to create the next silver bullet. Jody and I got talking about how technology gadgets such as fancy cell phones was affecting our lives, which is what instigated the discussion because everyone at the table had in their hands some sort of fancy cell phone device.

Our discussion led into her role as President of AskPatty.com which until then I had not heard of. The site concept from what I could tell seemed like a good idea, but it was catered to women in the automotive profession so I personally had no vested interest in participating with it. Now, six months later, I have finally taken a moment to see what this site is all about.

The first thing that sticks out for me is that this site has a blog. Whoa, wait a minute…a blog!?!? About a month ago I had posted the entry “Where is the community?” on my blog site because I was not encountering many sites in the industry geared towards the blog community. Here is AskPatty.com which not only is caters to women but also is geared towards the blog community. Suddenly, I feel inspired.

Now, let’s not let the site’s most current blog entry about Patches the horse that rides in the car with his owners, fetches beer from the fridge, answers the telephone, and sleeps in a bed scare you off from seeing what else is on the site. Yes, you did just read that. Check it out for yourself. This shows me they have a sense of humor. The site also seems to have plenty of other good content such as:

Are Female Auto Execs a Dieing Breed?

NADA Names Female Vice Chair for 2007

Plus, the site has a “Womanars” section, now that is catchy!

Well, I am intrigued and I am happy to see that women out there are helping to blaze the trail out there in our industry. AskPatty.com will be added to my site and to my RSS feeder. This site my be geared towards the female automotive professional, but men in the industry might want to keep an eye on it too.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Izmo’s Hybrid Solution for the Hybrid Marketplace

This month Izmo Cars is making available to some markets The Hybrid Internet Sales System, a.k.a. THISS. The announcement was made by Izmo Cars V.P. of Training Dennis Colome at the company's San Francisco headquarters with this press release.

According to their press release, THISS is the first hybrid sales system in the industry designed to integrate the dealer's present systems with modern technology. I don’t know what that means, but let’s move on. It enables dealers to use their current resources and achieve the maximum output with the least amount of effort from each person involved. I think I know what that means but how is this different from what every other sales consultant and company in the marketplace attempts to do? THISS assists dealers increase lead conversion and manage the Internet department through a proven sales system. Great, but again, isn’t that what all these companies strive towards? One of the benefits of THISS - it can be integrated and is compatible with all Internet Sales Department technology. Ah, ok so this is the silver bullet!!!

The program offers on-site training plus an in-depth analysis of consumer facts, trends, and dealership statistics. Now we are getting somewhere. The customized templates excite potential customers, brands the dealership, and projects professionalism that will make the customer want to begin a relationship with the dealership. I suspect this is their CRM software to which is being referred.

Realize that my sarcasm is out of my own ignorance of THISS. Izmo is a great company with great products and if anything is apparent in the promotion of THISS it is Izmo’s effectiveness in marketing. Why not pass that on to the dealers they represent? The acronym is catchy, the color theme they have chosen, bright red and white, is provocative and appealing. Izmo has a great line of marketing tools and concepts that I have no doubt when applied appropriately in the dealership can produce results. They have Dennis Colome, known as one of the industry's leading dealership processing trainers, behind the distribution of THISS.

My first impression is that Izmo has a “system” they know works and they also have the right guy behind it and a good marketing strategy. But I would like to know what makes this system a hybrid? Is throwing the word hybrid into your product name just a catchy trendy way to attract dealers in a marketplace where hybrid is the buzzword, or does THISS truly offer a hybrid solution for the Internet department at the dealership? What two heterogeneous elements are being fused together here?

Let me know what you know about THISS. I am interested in knowing more about the actual product, or the system per se.

Source Article: Izmo Announces THISS The Hybrid Internet Sales System

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Next Phase in Automotive Online Retail

This universe is a responsive place. A few weeks ago I had posted an entry on this blog called “Where is the Community?” which raised the concern that the automotive online retail community was not flush online in the blog/forum realm which if you think about it is quite the irony. This is one sector of the market that should be all over the online community collaboration opportunities. Fortunately I see this changing and this entry is about why.

In September’s newsletter for AutoSuccess magazine was an article titled, “Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths”. I finally got a chance to read this article in full and I had to force myself to finish reading it before I wrote this entry. I am glad that I did. After I post this entry I will be logging on to the discussion forum operated by the author(s) of this article because I know already from the message in this article that this/these author(s) know what is up in our industry.

Go here to read this article and then come back and finish reading this entry.

The reason I am glad I finished reading this article is because when they posed the question, “So if that is where we are in automobile retailing today, what is the future to bring?” I wanted to write an entry answering the question. But they already did.

The answer….do you know? The answer is exactly what the author(s) state, “…removing any need for a salesperson”. The Internet, in my observations, is doing just that. It is removing the salesperson. How do I know this? Well, I have purchased three NEW vehicles from two different dealerships in the past 5 years. No I am not obsessed with buying new cars; there are real-world reasons for this. Anyhow, in all three cases, the salesperson at the dealership was both helpful and an interference at the same time. Allow me to explain.

The Helpful Salesperson – The salesperson in all 3 cases was helpful in the sense that I needed someone I could trust to help me with my purchase. When buying a new car, the dealership is limited by what the manufacturer franchise permits. The consumer, me in these cases, is also limited by what the manufacturer permits. The manufacturer determines the selling process for new vehicle purchases and the dealership and the consumer are limited by this process.

The salesperson at the Jeep dealership ultimately made it possible for me to purchase the vehicles I did by finding the right finance package for me which included a vehicle better than what I had ultimately gone there to purchase. In other words the salesperson helped me buy a better car with less money (so I think).

The salesperson at the Mercedes dealership from which I recently purchased was helpful in the sense that because of the way Mercedes-Benz USA has their sales process designed it was impossible for me to locate the vehicle of my choice without the help of the dealership. The salesperson, however, had access to the location of and specifications of every single Mercedes in the world from assembly line to ship liner, port, train, holding lot, and dealership and could tell me almost exactly what date one of those vehicles would appear on which lot anywhere in the country. Think of that. Imagine if the consumer had access to information like that.

This is what was so frustrating to me. I needed that information but MB made it unavailable to me and when I confronted the sales rep with the limitation his response was on the lines of, “Well if you had access to that info then I would be out of a job”.

This could not be further from the truth. While I do understand the mentality, or fear quite frankly behind this misinterpretation, the salesperson was still my best friend. Why? Because even if I had access to all of that information, once I found the vehicle that best suited my needs is when I would need him. His job at that point would be to put together all the paperwork and logistics to deliver the vehicle for which I searched so long and hard.

Of course, not all consumers would want access to such info. Some would prefer to let the salesperson know what he wanted and let the salesperson do all the legwork. This is why I agree with the author(s) of this article. They are right when they say, “Will 100% of consumers buy this way? No chance, but even 1% of 29 Million retail new and used vehicles sold by franchised dealers annually is a lot of vehicles.”

As the average automobile consumer increases in knowledge of vehicle information and technology, the manufacturer and the franchise will have to adapt to cater to this empowerment. Those that do not will suffer and those that do will monopolize. The author(s) of this AutoSuccess article are right and I now that I am a registered user on their forum I am going to find out who they are.

Source Article: Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths

Link Backs: Building a Super Highway vs. Paving the Cow Paths

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Creating a Small Business Marketing Plan without Marketing Experts

For small companies, marketing is likely one of the more under-invested areas in the organization, and I don’t just mean monetarily. I mean in terms of time and planning too. Small companies typically start with a product and a sales effort. The sales effort consists of creating a network of people and companies with which to do business and it typically is an ad-hoc effort. This continues for a period of time as the company grows until one day the people in the company realize they have competitors to fend off and customers for which to compete. Suddenly, the idea of marketing becomes a necessity.

At this point, the management team must rise to the call and be marketing experts. If there is a marketing expert in the organization then the management team will expect this person to take the reigns and this person obviously should if he or she can. But if there is no marketing expert then someone must be appointed to organize the efforts. It takes many people to put together an effective marketing plan regardless of whether or not an expert exists. In fact, a marketing plan without experts can be a good thing, I think.

The innocence and inexperience of non-experts can be used to the company’s advantage because the marketing strategy will not get bogged down in pre-formulated and cliché strategies. Of course, those involved will want to do their homework and research diligently about marketing plans and strategies. A marketing expert’s best use would be to guide the planning and design process of the marketing strategy, but a good marketing plan requires people from all across the organization to produce.

Below is a simplified approach to creating a marketing plan for small businesses. This breakdown was derived from and inspired by an article on Entrepreneur.com. I do not claim to be a marketing expert but I am posting this information to summarize what I have accumulated from my own research as I am coordinating a formal marketing effort within my company and needed some background.

  • Identify the relationship between your marketing plan and your business plan or vision statement. Your business plan spells out what your business is about. It is the U.S. Constitution of your business and it provides the environment in which your marketing plan must flourish. The two documents must be consistent. A marketing plan, I think, should be mapped on an annual basis but with quarterly milestones. If possible, stretch your marketing plan out 2-3 years too.
  • Research your market with primary and secondary research. Primary research includes direct mail, phone surveys, online surveys, personal interviews, etc. Secondary research is public information about companies and markets, commercial information, and research information from educational institutes.
  • Define the elements of your marketing plan. Extract the core information of your financial reports the past 2-3 years. List your products and target markets. List your marketplace, i.e. your customers, competitors, partners, distribution channels, etc. List out their demographic data too. Find out from your sales people and customer service folks their opinion on the more important points that should be included. They are on the front lines so they know what your market wants and needs.
  • Capture the market situation. What is the dollar size of your markets? What is your sales and distribution setup? What geographic area do you sell to? Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, and income levels and so on. What competitors exist in this marketplace? Historically, how well have your products sold?
  • Identify market threats and opportunities. What trends in the marketplace are against you? Are there competitive trends that are ominous? Are your current products poised to succeed in the market as it now exists? What trends in the marketplace favor you? Are there competitive trends working to your benefit? Are the demographics of your market in your favor? Against you?
  • State your marketing objectives and then provide step-by-step goals on how you are going to achieve those objectives. Objectives can be vague or explicit, but goals must be clearly identified. You might have a set of objectives matched with a series of campaigns, or you might have a set of objectives matched by one campaign. Your goals should serve as a roadmap to fulfilling the objectives and you can expect to make adjustments along the way.
  • Set budgets and implement controls to measure success. Marketing for the sake of marketing is a bad use of resources and is an easy trap to fall into, particularly for small companies. Allocate a set amount of money that can be put into your marketing plan each year and then make sure you are getting your dollars back. If you are not measuring this then it is all too easy to fool yourself into thinking that your marketing efforts and advertising dollars are effective.
  • Write an Executive Summary. This summary should give those involved in executing the marketing plan a clear and concise description of what the plan is. The summary could be written in paragraph form or step-by-step. It should include financial goals and objectives and capture the essence of what this plan is all about.

  • For a more in-depth exploration of the principles captured in this entry, go to this article on Entrepreneur.com. Your comments and feedback on this entry are welcome.

    [www] How to write a marketing plan
    [www] Laura Lake Marketing Blog on About.com

    [www] AutoIndustryForum.com
    [www] CarDealerForums.com

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Where is the Community?

    Last month I decided to partake in the automotive blog community by creating this blog for the automotive industry technology professional. At first, I thought there was a promising online community but in the past two weeks I have come to realize there is not much activity there for technology professionals in the automotive industry. By “technology professional” I mean those working for companies that provide technology solutions for the dealer market. This would include companies like mine, HomeNet, and those that HomeNet does business with. Go to their website to see examples of these companies.

    Granted I have not done much in the way of advertising or soliciting this blog, rather I have been searching about for other online communities. Here is what I have discovered so far:

    Edmunds InsideLine has a nice online community developed but it is geared more towards the automobile consumer and other car buffs. They also have a blog-forum community called CarSpace but again it is geared towards the car lovers and consumers.

    Jeff Kershner’s DealerRefresh blog is by and far one of the most constructive and useful blogs. It is catered to the dealership ISM’s but much of what he produces is applicable to the industry players that work with the dealers.

    Autoblog.com is one of the busiest blog sites I have come by within this industry but it is certainly geared towards vehicles and not the automotive professional in any way.

    Then there are the two vBulletin forums, CarDealerForums.com started recently by my colleague John DeGlavina, and AutoIndustryForum.com which looks like it has been around a little while but as far as traffic and readership goes is minimal.

    In addition to my new finds, I should comment on the following two industry sources that I frequent and find useful:

    Dealer Magazine has a great collection of newsletters which although are geared primarily toward the franchise dealer they are relevant to the automotive professional.

    AutoSuccess has a weekly newsletter but it seems a bit old school, e.g. no blog or RSS activity going on with it. The articles are great and are geared toward the sales and management professionals at dealerships.

    So where is the community? Is it really this dry? If we are “technology” companies then why are those working in the companies not online interacting with one another to establish a sense of community? Does this stem back to something that plagues us as a nation which is that you can spend years living in the same complex or by the same neighbors and not get to know one another, while you have friends and networks all over the world often times with people you hardly ever see.

    My call to you is that if you are a technology professional in this automotive industry, let me know what it is you seek. What sort of content or information will keep you coming back for more? What tools and resources do you use and need to get your job accomplished? What are your major hurdles and road blocks in your career?

    I am going to start sharing with you the challenges and obstacles of my work. I will post my blogs on the two (1)(2) vBulletin forums that are out there and you can use whichever medium works best for you to help me help you generate this online community.

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    CarDealerForums.com Goes Live!

    Be sure to check out the newly released CarDealerForums.com. This was created by one of my co-workers, John DeGlavina, to be a part of the slowly growing online automotive community. I will be posting entries to this forum that I also post to this blog.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Ford to shrink US dealer base over 3 yrs

    According to a Reuters article published on Monday, Ford has plans to shrink its dealer base to adjust for its shrinking market share, or as the article puts it, to "align distribution better with its current market share."

    One factor in this retraction of market share could be from Americans turning away from SUV’s and more towards fuel-efficient vehicles. In fact, many auto makers are releasing "Crossover" vehicles, a style of which Ford lacks. Another factor could also be our shopping trends. Consumers, especially car buyers, like to buy from people they trust and we also like selection. Ford dealerships tend to be many and smaller relative to other franchises such as Honda, Toyota, and Chevrolet. This forces consumers to shop around more for a Ford dealer they trust and that has good selection whereas fewer dealerships with larger inventories have already won half the battle.

    But how will this affect the franchise owners? How will Ford select who to keep running and who to shut down? Likely it will come down to who you know for the Principals more than anything. Sales volume will have some influence, but if Ford takes away a large producer then most of that business will just migrate to the store that has been kept alive.



    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    BDC, SDC…What’s the difference and which do you have?

    David Hein of yourdealer.net, or bdcstaff.com, has brought up a good point. Your Business Development Center, or BDC, is most likely really a Sales/Service/Satisfaction Development Center, or SDC. Theoretically, the BDC should concentrate on the internal and external processes of your business as it relates to the customers and the vendors as a whole, not just the sales conversion and lead management processes, etc. Maybe it is time for your dealership to expand by creating an SDC?

    This is good stuff. If you think about it, the SDC would be a sub-set of the BDC and considering the many facets of sales and marketing opportunities within an automotive dealership, the SDC could have multiple responsiblities - lead management, demos and test drives, conversion, delivery, follow-up, service appointment scheduling, service drop-off, service pick-up, more follow-up, yada yada yada. The more thought and completeness put in to each of these activities of the car buyer then the more the dealership can take advantage of customer experience and loyalty.

    What David explains as a typical experience at the service center is true. Americans today want McDonald’s-paced service with their car. We want the red carpet rolled out for us. It may not be realistic for the dealer to provide that for everyone, but if customers are like me and see a genuine effort put forth behind a thought-out and effective system then he or she will likely be impressed.

    So what is your BDC doing? Is it concentrated on lead management and conversion or is it touching the outer reaches of the car owner experience? Post your comment today.

    DFO-Magazine.com Article


    Remembering 9/11, 5th Anniversary

    This entry is not going to be a long and winded recap or search for deep meaning of the 9/11 tragedy. There is one important message that I care to share plus I would like to make a simple kind gesture for those that suffered great loss from the event.

    The Morning of: When news broke of the first tower being struck by an airplane I was at work and on the phone with my boss. Like probably most of us, my gut feeling was that this was no accident. After the second tower was struck I called my Grandma who lived in Queens at the time and told her to turn on the news. Her response was, "oh, that crazy city." She did not realize the impact of what was so obvious to me and I could not convince her to stay in the apartment for the day. My grandmother was born shortly after WWI and had seen a lot of terror and violence in her day, but this was new and extreme for me.

    Aftermath: During the next several months my heart remained heavy and I couldn’t help but think that this was a wake-up call for the American people. In fact, I recall Alan Keyes suggesting it was God’s response to our widespread abortion tendencies as a nation. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. We can all search for meaning and question God’s reasoning for allowing such an act to occur, but the simplicity of it is this…

    America today is a land of fornication.

    In the Old Testament there are seemingly endless accounts of Israel, God’s chosen people, falling in and out of grace with God. During the times when Israel did fall, devastating things occurred both naturally and from surrounding peoples.

    Things are no different today and I am grateful that I now see and understand this. I do not just mean that I logically understand what is in the Bible and recognize that history repeats itself. What I mean is that by God’s grace I can now see His hand in our lives.

    For me, this is what 9/11 is about. It is about God carrying out His will on this earth which He created. It is about recognizing our sin and depravity and accepting God into our lives so that He can restore our faith in Him through Christ.

    Please read the following Prayer of St. Francis, which I feel compliments the tragic necessity of 9/11.

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    where there is sadness, joy;

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    In closing I leave you with the following Scripture verse from Jeremiah 29:11

    "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

    May God Almighty bless you and those who perished, and those who suffered great loss as a result of 9/11.

    In Peace, Ryan G

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Edmunds to stop selling VIN data

    Although I can not locate any official press releases or anything on this, word has it that Edmunds is getting out of the business of providing VIN data to vendors because it will be revving up its classifieds business and does not want to be providing its valuable VIN data to competitors. A shift like this can not be taken lightly.

    For one, Edmunds is one of the few key players in the business of providing VIN data in the same league as Chrome & Polk, so pulling out will have significant impact on those that subscribe to such data. One such company affected will be AutoTrader, who subscribes to Edmunds VIN data and will now need to find an alternate provider as well as keep tabs on Edmunds now as a growing competitor.

    If you have information or insight on this definitely post your comments. I am interested in knowing about other companies that will be affected. This includes companies that will now need to find another VIN data provider as well as companies that will now need to keep a closer eye on Edmunds Classifieds.

    New rule on Electronic Data Recorders (EDR)

    According to NHTSA, about 64 percent of model year 2005 cars were equipped with an Electronic Data Recorder (EDR), a device similar to "black boxes" used in commercial airliners that record data about what a car is doing in the moments just before and after a crash. I was not aware that these even existed but considering the amount of computer technology today in vehicles this is not surprising. In fact, I think it makes sense.

    Apparently, the government thinks this information should be known by all consumers and by 2011 car companies will be required to include information about the EDR in the owner manuals. In addition to this, EDRs will collect a uniform set of data which can help investigators recreate crashes and determine causes.

    An EDR does not record the voices of occupants but they do record things like speed, steering wheel movement, how hard the brakes are being pressed and the actual movement of the car itself. I think this is great and I think that EDRs should be designed for and used for legal accountability in accidents. But some will disagree.

    What say you?

    CNN Reference Article
    More info about EDRs

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Microsoft goes DMS...but how and why?

    So Microsoft is officially entering the dealer management system (DMS) business. We have a year to go before its pilot program is launched, but what is the meat behind this story and how does it affect you?

    It all starts with the Nellemann Group, a Danish-based automobile import and retail company of over 100 years. Infonizer, a fully owned subsidiary of Nellemann, is the IT company behind Microsoft's initiative into DMS-land. Infonizer is a Microsfot Certified Business Solutions Partner that utilizes Microsfot's Dynamics AX ERP solution, from which Microsoft's DMS will be produced.

    What this means to me is that Microsoft is obviously thinking globally here. The automotive online retail business is solidifying in the U.S. in a big way, but what about Europe, Asia, and South America? ADP and R&R are making strides in this direction, but Microsoft, being Microsoft, could very well have a multi-continental solution that puts these two giants in the hot seat.

    What are your initial thoughts about Microsoft enetering the DMS business? Post a comment now!!!

    Related Links and Articles:
    Read Computer World Article
    Microsfot Dynamics AX
    This thread on CarDealerForums.com

    Thursday, April 27, 2006

    TK Carsites Receives Diamond Award in Auto Dealer Monthly 2006 Dealers’ Choice Awards for Website Design

    TK Carsites, Inc. was been named the recipient of the Diamond Award in the Web site Design category of Auto Dealer Monthly 2006 Dealers’ Choice Awards.

    "It was an honor to win the Platinum Award in 2005 and now even better, the Diamond Award in 2006," said Richard Valenta, president and CEO. "These awards reaffirm our commitment to providing the best products and service in the industry, period."

    TK Carsites is a developer of Internet related products for Automotive Dealerships nationwide. TK Carsites currently has a base of over 1,000 dealerships in 48 states.

    Auto Dealer Monthly is a publication of AutoDealerDaily.com and is delivered monthly to nearly 33,000 subscribers nationwide. AutoDealerDaily.com is an online service that has been delivering educational and informational material to the automotive retail industry since May 2000.