Future Visions of the Auto Industry and Automotive Advertising Based on What Was and What Is

Auto industry social networks all have different rules and protocols to create their unique identities in the auto industry and the inter-dependent automotive advertising industry. While there are differences in format, content and contributors they share the common goal to educate their community members by sharing best practices and insights with the concept that a rising tide floats all boats. To provide clarity and share my vision of the future of the retail auto industry and automotive advertising it must be framed it in the context of our changing geo-political and economic environment. Once the foundation of today is built on the broad picture of our world economy and politic, then the role of the Internet and related technologies can be applied to the one constant that we can all depend on — human nature — to help define tomorrow as I see it.

Any competitive business model must be built to accommodate tomorrow as well as today. Today is obvious. Sales volume, profit margins and inventory are down across all brands. Consumer confidence is falling as unemployment is rising even in the face of the expected temporary increase when the million plus census workers and various government employees — such as the sixteen thousand IRS agents to police our new health care system — are artificially added to the equation. Wholesale and retail credit lines are restricted by both natural business cycles and government intervention. Our economy is directly linked to the world economy along both monetary and political lines and the United States as well as our European trading partners are faced with excessive debt and unstable monetary systems. Our monetization of our debt — basically the fact that we loaned ourselves the money we needed to fund our growing debt by printing more money, since no one else would lend it to us — has insured the inevitable inflation of our dollar or some similar correction to our monetary system. This anticipated correction is already supported when observing the situation maturing in Greece, Portugal, Spain and other European Countries tied to the Euro and the International Monetary Fund, (IMF). No one has a crystal ball, so the only way to plan for tomorrow is to recap today’s critical issues that didn’t exist yesterday. It is these changes in — what was — vs. — what is — that will likely define — what will be and the actions that auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies must take to remain profitable and competitive in unchartered waters.

The current administration was voted in on a platform of hope and change with the expectation that the promised transformation of America would take place within the confines of our constitution and in consideration of our established belief in a free marketplace. The redistribution of wealth was understood by most to reflect the giving nature of the American people as a moral and sharing society. Unfortunately, the transformation began in ways that could not have been imagined by the majority that voted for it with an agenda that is only now coming to light. The inherited financial burdens on our banking system that justified the need for change were matured across Republican and Democratic party lines — as evidenced by the contributions of Fannie May and Freddie Mac to our mortgage crisis and the preferred treatment enjoyed by the unions, Goldman Sachs, AIG and other entities on Wall Street supported by the progressive political movement that is represented within both parties.

By way of disclaimer, I recognize that approximately 30% of our population believes in the collective — We the people — and the associated movement for the — workers of the world to unite — vs. the framers of the constitution that defined it as the individual — We The People — and the rights of the individual as a contributing member of the whole. That said, as the President has clearly stated, elections have consequences and I will attempt to limit my comments and future visions to only those actions that have or will have a direct impact on the auto industry and the automotive advertising agencies that are engaged to serve it.

The empowerment of the unions in the formation of Government Motors is already impacting the marketplace even while it is being challenged in the courts. The mandated consolidation of the retail distribution channels for General Motors and Chrysler preserved the interest of the unions over the guaranteed bond holders and independent dealers contrary to established rules of law. This precedence diluted expectations of both investors and corporations to rely on binding contracts and individual rights in favor of the collective we that our evolving society is expected to serve. Recent adjustments to the language in a variety of Federal powers have impacted previously accepted State and individual rights which must also be considered when projecting the future of the auto industry and automotive advertising — if not our country as a whole.

For example, the change in the definition of eminent domain from taking personal property — for public use — to the new definition — for public good — has already resulted in private and commercial property being taken at distressed market values and given to other individuals that promised a higher tax base to the governing authority based on their position that the additional tax revenue was for the public good. Similarly, the ownership of water rights in the United States has been changed from the previous Federal ownership of all — navigable waterways — to include — all waterways — such as ponds, surface streams and basically any water that the government determines can be used for the public good. The potential impact on the farming industry and our food supplies evidence a shift in government control of society that must be considered when projecting the future of any industry — including our beloved auto industry.

Given the government takeover of the banking industry, General Motors, Chrysler, Health Care and Student Loans that are now part of our history, the point becomes self evident. These single word changes and government takeover of entire industries for the public good dilute individual and corporate rights in favor of the rights of the collective. This is a basic step in the process of redistributing the wealth in accordance with Socialistic and Marxist principles. I am not judging the validity of any of these differing political philosophies since it would risk my ability to remain unbiased in my evaluation of present and pending opportunities in the auto industry. My intent is not to defend our previous constitutional republic over the shift to a Socialistic or Marxist democratic society, but rather to apply the

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Automotive Advertising Agencies Use New World Technology to Teach Old World Phone Skills to Dealers

Most automotive advertising agencies have learned to use today’s automotive advertising technologies to blur the line between the real and the virtual world as they help build virtual showrooms on the Internet Super Highway to supplement their auto dealer client’s real world brick and mortar facilities. However, a growing number of new automotive advertising vendors have entered the market to focus on old world telephone techniques that may have been overlooked in today’s Internet driven marketplace.

Automotive advertising Agencies have accepted a new role in today’s challenging economy that includes whatever it takes to sell vehicles and service. Automotive advertising agencies can no longer limit their areas of responsibility to bringing traffic to the front door. Internal selling systems integrated with technology driven processes that link their virtual online showrooms with their brick and mortar facilities share a common element that has survived intact on the Internet Super Highway – human nature. The people part of any process is often the weakest link and telephone skills are still an integral component of communication systems in real and virtual world auto dealerships.

New customer interaction platforms offer a two way video online transaction platform that promises to push through the glass wall between salespeople and their online shoppers. The expectation is that developing online transaction tools will eliminate the need for online sales people to disengage from their initial customer interaction with an email to deliver information or even a telephone call to schedule an appointment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of today’s buyers still prefer to keep the glass wall up between themselves and the sales person to allow them time to make a decision; and that is where and why most dealerships drop the ball.

The people skills needed to maintain control over a customer have always been important. However, the Internet has empowered consumers with the ability to gather information from sources other than the auto dealer so now they are critical to the survival of an auto dealership in today’s challenging economy with reduced sales volume and profit margins. Today’s educated consumer demands that all online communications, including telephone calls to gather information not provided on the websites, are transparent and relevant. Sales people still need to provide information about themselves and their dealership to differentiate them from competing online dealerships and information resources. However there is a fine line between relationship based selling and self serving sales hype; that’s where new telephone support services using web based training, managing and monitoring can help.

Automotive advertising agencies and their auto dealer clients understand the importance of maintaining telephone skills. Telephone training has always held a priority position in any comprehensive plan. You must inspect what you expect and managing and monitoring telephone calls, both in-bound leads and out-bound follow-up, is job one for many sales managers. However, the immediacy of today’s Internet demands and the limited tolerance of online shoppers have required more management oversight and support than previously needed or even possible give the limitations of monitoring systems and processes in most business development and/or call centers. New vendors entering this arena provide a combination of one-on-one training, outsourced resources and web based managing / monitoring functions that promote best practices with easily accessed R.O.I. analytics to prove that the job is getting done.

Of course automotive advertising agencies must continue to focus on bleeding edge website conversion tools and lead generators to generate the phone calls. Applications that provide NADA sourced appraisal values for online consumers with inventory information to select a replacement vehicle with consumer friendly lead generator tools are still needed to get the phone to ring. Similarly, agencies should continue to advise their auto dealer clients to invest in online lead sources like consumer-centric inventory based marketing platforms powered by social media – and automated video production platforms producing interactive videos posted on an auto dealer’s website as well as individually indexed onto You Tube driving leads back to the dealer’s CRM to get the phone to ring. However, automotive advertising agencies also need to insure that when the leads are generated that they are handled properly on the telephone or the leads are wasted and the R.O.I. from these new online marketing platforms are diminished.

Properly integrated telephone training and monitoring applications using new technologies and Internet powered access for outsourced support services can help to blur the line between the real and the virtual world as well as any other online platform. A combination of best practices and technology can create the efficiencies needed to maximize the R.O.I. for auto dealers before, during and after the sale. All too often automotive advertising agencies neglect to look in the rear view mirror to apply yesterday’s best practices to today’s selling processes to build tomorrow’s opportunities.

People skills are still job one when it comes to selling vehicles and service. The filter that the telephone places between a sales person and a customer is as much of an obstacle as the glass wall that separates the lanes on the Internet Super Highway is. In both cases, modern technology can be applied to overcome the one constant that exists in both challenges – human nature.

Philip Zelinger is a former auto dealer principal with an earned reputation as a nationally recognized automotive advertising expert specializing in the technology sector. His philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off