Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Women’s Site Has Content and a Sense of Humor

In May 2006 I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Jody DeVere, President of 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 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 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. 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 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 Your comments and feedback on this entry are welcome.

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