page contents Automotive Thought Leadership: Ralph Paglia: September 2012 My title page contents

Saturday, September 29, 2012

No Cost Online Image Editors for Dealership Use


Don't have skills with Photoshop or other image editors? Don't worry. There are a ton of free online image-editing services that will let you create an image to use as your header — or for whatever else you need. I'm going to give you a half-dozen to start with. Use these if you ever need to edit an image, create a logo, or just run a favorite photo through some nifty-looking filters to give it a unique look.

One of our favorite free online image editors is Pixlr. It offers an easy-to-use Photoshop-like interface. It has a wide range of tools and is a solid choice. I'd make it your go-to choice if you want a straightforward online image editor.

Another really excellent tool to try out is PicMonkey. It's strength is that it lets you try out all kinds of neat filters on your images (kind of like you would using Instagram). Tons of experimentation you can do with this, especially if you like distressed looks.

header example

Splashup is another decent choice. One thing this editor has in its favor is that it can let you pull in your existing Flicker, Picasa, or Facebook photos. Very handy if you need that kind of thing.

A lot of tools follow the Photoshop model very, very closely. SumoPaint is one of those. It has an impressive number of tools to choose from (including layers), so if you have more advanced skills, this one might be the one for you. They also offer a downloadable version in addition to their web-based version.

If all of these are too complicated, there are tons of more newbie-friendly choices. If you just want something basic, try

Incidentally, we don't mean to pick on Photoshop. It's the gold standard for image editors, and they actually do offer a free "lite" online version, Photoshop Express, that you may want to check out. It isn't as full-featured as some of these others, but it carries the weight of brand trustworthiness and familiarity if you've used Photoshop before.

[Note: Almost all of these kinds of online tools will require the Flash Player. Your browser probably already has that installed, but you may want to update to the most recent version of Flash if you haven't done that in a long time. ]


Two more tools that might come in handy when editing images:

  • Web Photo Resizer is a simple tool that just resizes things for you. It can optimize images for you. Got a massive file that you don't know how to best shrink? Use this.
  • Need to figure out how to resize something to fit a specific size? Use this Aspect Ratio Calculator. For example, if you use an HTML template to send out a regular newsletter and regularly need to make your images fit a predetermined size, this is a great and simple tool for that.

[Sent from my iPad]

Ralph Paglia

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Google: Smartphone Using Car Buyers Reward Dealers With Mobile Friendly Sites - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Google: Smartphone Using Car Buyers Reward Dealers With Mobile Friendly Sites - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Google's research shows that Dealership Location, Hours, Click-to-Call Important - Car Dealers looking to provide the best experience to smartphone users need to provide users with the ability to take action when on the site. Other details from the study suggest that the key actions most users want to take on mobile sites are getting a location or business hours (76%), click to call the dealership (61%), sending an email (54%), and downloading an application (48%). Also important are getting to the dealership’s social networking page (48%) and playing a video clip (41%).

Google: Friend or Foe to Auto Dealers - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Google: Friend or Foe to Auto Dealers - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

I owe Mark Mark R Dubis a big thank you for redirecting my attention to this post, and more importantly, the PDF file of the eBook that Chuck Barker wrote as a result of his research.  Since the early days of dealers directing customers to post reviews of their sales and service experience on Google, I have been skeptical of the practice, taking a lot of criticism for being contrary to where every other consultant seemed to be taking dealers.  My reasons were quite simple, Google is consistent at one thing... Constantly changing the rules, algorithms, features and functions of their apps.  Ever since I got burned by Google's killing their Google Audio program in May 2009, I have held a healthy skepticism for any process that places the dealer overly dependent upon a Google App that may easily be terminated at any time.  It is easy to tell which Google Apps should be overly relied upon: Any Google App That Does NOT DRIVE REVENUE! So, for example, Gmail is safe, it generates enormous amounts of revenue from advertising and the many fee based users, such as myself.  Google Adwords is a sacred cow, of course... But, those business reviews were NOT making Google any money and that is why I have warned dealers NOT TO DRIVE REVIEWS INTO GOOGLE unless their customers choose Google from amongst many choices... Anyways, download the newly attached PDF from Chuck Barker, read it and you will gain a more balanced perspective on Google's role as a dealership marketing resource.

Ford Becomes World's Best Managed Car Company

Ford Continues Transformation Into One of World's Best Managed Companies

The Return of the Ford Blue Oval

In 2006, Ford put it all on the line. We began the Ford turnaround plan by mortgaging nearly all of our assets and borrowed $23.5 billion from our banks – a “giant home improvement loan,” as Ford CEO Alan Mulally likes to call it. This allowed us to pour that money into research and development so we could make world class cars that people want and value. You’re seeing the results of that success now with the global Fiesta and Focus, the all-new Ford Explorer, the fuel efficient and technologically capable new Ford Escape and the stunning new 2013 Ford Fusion, being launched right now.

Our commitment to the role of technology in our vehicles is apparent, from our award-winning SYNC system that allows you to control some features of your car hands-free, to our fuel efficient and powerful EcoBoost engines that give you better fuel efficiency with more power, to cool and helpful features like Active Park Assist, Hands-free Liftgate, and more. Along with our factories and equipment, one of the assets we mortgaged was our none other than our iconic logo – the blue oval. The blue oval has long been associated with Ford and as a brand logo, it’s recognized worldwide. The script in the middle of the oval was taken from the original script created in 1912 and has been part of the Ford heritage for a century. And since Ford returned to profitability beginning in 2009, we have been paying down our debt against that loan. But because our credit had been below investment grade since 2005, the banks would not return those assets to us – including the blue oval – until at least two credit rating firms granted Ford investment grade status. In April 2012, Fitch’s was the first to restore Ford to that level. Last May, we received notice that Moody’s Investors Service lifted the Ford credit rating to investment grade. The blue oval is back. “We are so proud of today’s decision by Moody’s and the resulting release of all collateral – particularly the Ford Blue Oval,” said Alan Mulally, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company. “This is an important milestone and further proof that, by staying laser-focused on our One Ford plan, the Ford team can deliver great products, build a strong business and contribute to a better world even through the most challenging external environment.” There is an enormous psychological impact on Ford and all of our employees; it means our plan is working and that the difficult turnaround we’ve faced is being appreciated by the market. But more than that, having investment grade credit means we can continue to go further in our plan:
  • Have more certain and lower cost access to liquidity from banks and investors without having to pledge our assets as security

  • Invest in new products and plants, thereby creating jobs
From the top office in World Headquarters to every office and assembly plant around the world, you can bet that Ford employees are celebrating. We’d love for you to join in the festivities by telling us your story in how you achieved a similar milestone in your life, or how Ford has positively impacted your life. Or just send us a photo of you with the iconic blue oval, whether it’s on a t-shirt, your car, or at the dealership where you bought your Ford. Tell us your Ford Blue Oval story through the Your Stories section of Ford Social. Click here for a historic look at the Ford logo throughout history. Join us as we celebrate, and as Ford continues to work hard to Go Further! Source:

You Only Say You Love Me: A Tale of the Unconsciously Incompetent - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

You Only Say You Love Me: A Tale of the Unconsciously Incompetent - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Patrick Kelly writes: "That unconsciously incompetent salesperson lost that follow-up sale to Pedro and Adrianna. He lost the sale of the second vehicle they also bought (plus the service revenue on those vehicles) and he is losing all the business that Pedro and Adrianna now send instead to their new dealership and new salesperson, whose business cards enjoy prominent display adjacent to the cash register in their popular restaurant.  Customers want to know they mean something to you. You can love them to pieces during the transaction phase, but if you ignore them afterward you have failed. Prove you love them by sending notes, emails and letters once in awhile to keep your name fresh in their mind so when repurchase time rolls around they know exactly who to call."  Use the link provided to read the rest of Patrick's article and please leave him a comment...

Peacheetameleon: New Cobalt Study Shows Car Dealers Must Evolve to Survive

Peacheetameleon: New Cobalt Study Shows Dealers Must Evolve to Survive - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

When it comes to automotive digital marketing, it’s a jungle out there, and a new Cobalt eBook proves that dealers need to change their spots to survive.
According to new data from Cobalt’s car-buyer intelligence database, car-shoppers visit a minimum of eight dealer websites, with some visiting as many as twenty in a single day. With so much competition, consumer loyalty is clearly an endangered species. What’s a dealer to do to win the sale?
Evolution, baby. To survive, a dealer must take a cue from some common jungle fauna. Enter the Peacheetameleon, a mysteriously powerful new trybrid creature that is one third peacock/one third cheetah/and one third chameleon.

The Anatomy of a Peacheetameleon Dealer Website

  1. The Peacock: Like the most vibrant bird in the jungle, dealers need an eye-catching website to engage and dazzle those who have been desensitized by hours of dizzy web-surfing. Stop them in their tracks with a captivating design that-much like the peacock-shows off your best assets: competitive messaging like largest inventory, awesome specials, or great customer service. Websites with drag and drop capability make it easy and fun to mix up your dealer website with vibrant designs.
  2. The Cheetah: Looks are one thing, but it doesn’t matter how compelling your dealer site is if it takes eons to load. Look for websites that are HTML5 compatible so they can load with lightening speed on any device (tablets, mobiles, desktops, oh my!)
  3. The Chameleon: On a related note, you don’t want to blend into the digital landscape like the chameleon, but you DO want a website that easily adapts to any surroundings. A dealer website that is optimized for tablets, mobiles, and desktops ensures you can provide ideal car-shopping experiences anywhere, a must for today’s on-the-go shopper.
Becoming a Peacheetameleon takes work, but it’s worth it. Additional data demonstrates that today’s car-shoppers are easy pickings for the differentiated dealer. Our new eBook found that 60% of consumers haven’t selected a make and model, and 64% of shoppers visiting your dealer website will purchase within 60 days.
Translation: these shoppers are in-market, undecided, and looking for something that’s going to catch their eye and put their mindless web surfing to rest. All you have to do is be the dealer that stands out from the pack.
To find out more about real car-shopper behavior and how to differentiate your dealer website, download the full eBook ““The Guide to the Modern Car-Shopper: Connecting the Dots from Thei...

Jade Makana is Corporate Storyteller at Cobalt. She is passionate about bringing brands to life through competitive positioning. Her first car was a maroon Toyota Corolla named Ruby. 
Illustration by Yan Chow, Cobalt Designer

Are Your Dealership's Emails Ready to be Opened on a Mobile Device? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Are Your Dealership's Emails Ready to be Opened on a Mobile Device? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Ali Amirrezvani asks: "Since over a third of emails are already being read on mobile devices, shouldn't you at least make sure they look the way you want them to?" Use the link to read Ali's full blog post and please be so kind as to leave him a comment...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plenty of Activity Developing With Used Car Prices - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Plenty of Activity Developing With Used Car Prices - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

As we look at the trucks, the stability continues with 3 segments increasing for the week and another 5 segments that depreciated by less than .2% or less. The Mid-size Pickups (MPT) at +$24 and the Full-size Pickups (FPT) at +$16 were just ahead of the +$3 for the Compact Crossovers (CXU). A year ago there were no segments with positive adjustments although there were three that declined $6 or less for the week.
The 3 increasing truck segments were a force regarding the 42% of all adjustments that were increases during the past week.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Turn an Angry Customer Into a Loyal One - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

How to Turn an Angry Customer Into a Loyal One - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Every employee should be trained how to deal with angry customers. Employees need to know that even if they are being insulted to their faces, they still need to make a genuine effort to regain that customer’s goodwill. Here are some steps that may help turn an angry customer into a loyal one (or at least, not a detractor): Use the link above to read the rest of Mike Gorun's article...

The Spheres of DiMaggio - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

The Spheres of DiMaggio - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Keith Shetterly writes: "What do I mean?  In baseball, it’s easy to see that the Dimaggio’s “Spheres” are certainly baseballs, themselves, but as "spheres of influence" even a baseball park itself has influence.  For example, Joe DiMaggio is a famous baseball player, still, holding several amazing records 70 years later.  Would you believe, as a right-handed hitter in his home Yankee Stadium, his home run percentage always ran less than on the road?  That’s because Yankee Stadium was uneven, having a deeper fence in left field than right.  That was the “sphere” that such a champion as DiMaggio had every home game." Use the link provided to read Keith's entire article, and please be so kind as to leave him a comment...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Automotive Internet Sales 20 Group Composite - Chicago, October 23-25 2012 At The Hilton - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Automotive Internet Sales 20 Group Composite - Chicago, October 23-25 2012 At The Hilton - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

I am proud to be one of the presenters selected to speak at the Automotive Internet Sales 20 Group in Chicago from October 23rd to the 25th and highly recommend this event for dealers and managers who are seeking to improve their Internet sales results. The way Sean Bradley has designed this event, participating dealers will be included in monthly conference calls to review participating dealer composite reporting ala "Dealer 20 Group" style, but specifically for handling online marketing and sales.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ralph Paglia: Evolution of Automotive Digital Marketing

Web1 new result for Ralph Paglia
Ralph Paglia's Evolution of Digital Marketing Presentation from ...
This is the presentation I used for my Evolution of Automotive Digital Marketing workshop at AutoCon 2012: Ralph Paglia AutoCon Evolution of Automotive ...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Should SEO Video Companies Own Your Videos After You Leave Their Service? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Should SEO Video Companies Own Your Videos After You Leave Their Service? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Because I believe that branding somebody else's (including a supplier) owned and controlled YouTube Channel is such a major strategic blunder for dealers investing in video production, editing and distribution online, I am going to list a few YouTube links showcasing just a handful of dealers who have effective video marketing strategies in place that include their own dealership branded YouTube Channels:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Google Panda Update Starts Rolling Out - SEO Practitioners on Red Alert! - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

New Google Panda Update Starts Rolling Out - SEO Practitioners on Red Alert! - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

For all you Google SEO freaks out there in the ADM Professional Community, here is some information about the next update to Google's Panda SERP Ranking and Indexing Algorithm from Search Engine Land.

Google’s announced that another Panda Update is being unleashed on its results, one that it says will impact 0.7% of queries. We’re calling it Panda 3.92, through we’re wondering if it’s time to declare Panda 4.0 upon us.
Here’s the official news from Google:
Panda refresh is rolling out—expect some flux over the next few days. Fewer than 0.7% of queries noticeably affected:
The link leads to Google’s official announcement of the first Panda Update back in 2011.

Panda Update History

We’ve had a string of updates since then, as follows, along with the percentage of queries Google said would be impacted:
  1. Panda Update 1.0, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
  2. Panda Update 2.0, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)
  3. Panda Update 2.1, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  4. Panda Update 2.2, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  5. Panda Update 2.3, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  6. Panda Update 2.4, Aug. 12, 2011 (6-9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)
  7. Panda Update 2.5, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  8. Panda Update 3.0, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)
  9. Panda Update 3.1, Nov. 18, 2011:  (less than 1% of queries; announced)
  10. Panda Update 3.2, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  11. Panda Update 3.3, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)
  12. Panda Update 3.4, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)
  13. Panda Update 3.5, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)
  14. Panda Update 3.6, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)
  15. Panda Update 3.7, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  16. Panda Update 3.8, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)
  17. Panda Update 3.9, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)
  18. Panda Update 3.91, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  19. Panda Update 3.92, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)


Numbering Panda: From Panda 1 to Panda 2

Google doesn’t always announce these updates. Sometimes, we get reports of ranking changes being noticed, and then after the fact, we get a Google confirmation. Sometimes Google does announce them, either the day the go live (as is the case today) or shortly after the fact)

When Google announces or confirms and update, sometimes it explains how much of an impact it is expected to have on the search results. The very first Panda Update was huge, estimated by Google to have an impact on 11.8 percent of all queries done on Google in the US. In contrast, today’s announced update is said to have an impact on less than 1% of queries globally.

Google doesn’t number these updates. We began doing that when the second Panda Update happened. Since it was the second, we called it Panda 2.0. At times, people from Google have occasionally used our numbers, as have others (notably on SEOmoz’s excellent chart of Google algorithm changes).

From Panda 2 To Panda 3

When the third Panda release happened, we were ready to call it Panda 3.0. But Google itself said that this wouldn’t be right, that it was a minor update that wasn’t worthy of a full increase in number. That’s why we dubbed it Panda 2.1.

Following updates were all minor, so we carried along with the “point” naming, in other words, Panda 2.2, Panda 2.3 and so on.

In hindsight, we probably should have dubbed Panda 2.4 to be Panda 3.0, because it was such a major change in that Panda rolled out beyond the English language (except for Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages). Still, perhaps we’re to be forgiven given what happened when we finally did get to Panda 3.0.

You see, Panda 2.5 came and went, yet another minor update. Then we had a warning of “Panda Flux” get issued, which made it sound like the schedule of Panda Updates happening every few weeks was changing to an ongoing update.

Instead, Google belatedly said that one of the updates we numbered as minor should have been tagged as major (and thus warranting a 3.0 figure). We did the best we could to figure out which one that was, which is why the October 19 update became Panda 3.0.

Getting To Panda 4.0

When do we finally get Panda 4.0? I suppose it’s whenever we want to declare it. Potentially, it happened in March. I say that because March is the last time Google said the impact on queries would be above 1%.

In hindsight, this seems an obvious metric to use, how big an update is as given by Google. But as I’ve explained, Google doesn’t always give that estimate. In fact, with Panda Update 3.5, no one even knew that a Panda Update had happened. Because it came around the time of the Penguin Update, all the ranking changes that normally signal an Panda Update were masked by Penguin Update changes. Only Google itself commenting that a Panda Update had also happened alerted everyone.

As the updates kept coming, we hit something unexpected. We were running out of point numbers. That’s why we ended up with Panda 3.91 last month and Panda 3.92 today.

Panda 20, Anyone?

We could go back and say that Panda Update 3.4 is being renamed to Panda 4.0, which would bring today to Panda 3.7. But there’s no guarantee we’ll have another major-enough Panda Update to get us away from having a Panda 3.98 or Panda 3.933 or … well, you get the point.

I’m against going back and renaming things, because people get used to a name, so changing adds to confusion, rather than clarifies it. Instead, I’d be curious to hear comments from others on how you’d like to see Panda naming (or numbering) go forward.

One thought is to lose the entire point system that started with Panda 2.1. If we’d ignored Google’s advice and just made Panda 2.1 into Panda 3, regardless of how “major” it was, we’d be at Panda 19 right now.

That leads me to think the next Panda update should be called Panda 20, regardless of how big it is, then going forward we simple increase the number by one.

There’s no doubt we’re going to keep having them. Google said to expect Panda Updates on a roughly monthly basis. So Panda 20? Stay tuned for October.

Related Entries from Search Engine Land


I get asked this once in awhile..... How do you shoot a Video on a rainy, windy day Ken??? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

I get asked this once in awhile..... How do you shoot a Video on a rainy, windy day Ken??? - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

This video was shot during a rainy and windy day, which serves to accentuate this vehicle's bad weather stability, quietness, reliability and safety... Ken Beam shows us why you do not need all sunny days to record a Vehicle Presentation Video (VPV).

Dealers: Sell Your Accessories Online! - Automotive Digital Marketing

Dealers: Sell Your Accessories Online! - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

How To Sell Vehicle Accessories On The Web
Customers come into your dealership all the time to buy cars as well as get their current vehicles serviced. Some also come back to buy accessories for vehicles, such as tires, parts, and customization items such as body kits and aftermarket headlights. Your Parts department loves to see these customers and help them develop an identity for their vehicles. However, what if you could allow them to do the same thing online?

Dealerships need a system of selling accessories online that can integrate seamlessly with the sale of their vehicles. Salespeople also need to be able to present such a system to prospective customers. There’s an innovative way to do this – through your Facebook page! That’s right. Selling tires and accessories provide a good revenue stream for dealers, and any way to increase this should be explored.

Multichoice Apps brings the e-commerce to your customers through your Facebook fan page.  As developers that understand technology, marketing, and your customers – we have created a great system through which customers can go to your Facebook page and view accessories such as tires and parts. They can then order these parts and pick them up when they come in for other services. This allows you to double the revenue stream by earning money from providing maintenance services while also allowing people to pick up accessories without being pressured into an impulse buy. If they can view and order it beforehand, they feel better about the purchase. Your customers can also click the Like button and this will be seen by their friends and family on Facebook, which will also give them the chance to view your online store and make a purchase.

Check Butler Toyota Scion in Macon, Georgia for example. Butler Toyota sells many accessories at their dealership, but they have realized that many of their customers are not aware that they can do the same thing online. That’s right – customers can now go to Butler Toyota’s Facebook page or and order the same accessories that they can get from the dealership.

You can now view their inventory vehicles and accessories, and order them right away from Customer can then come down to the dealership and pick up their order while also getting additional services such as oil changes or tune-ups. This allows customers to obtain parts and accessories without feeling as if they will be pressured into a sale, and even though dealership’s Sales team doesn’t use pressure tactics to force products and services upon their customers, they like for them to be comfortable and purchase items at their own pace.

Facebook page also allows customers to click the Like button for specific parts and accessories that they like. This makes it possible for their Facebook friends and family members to see these products, which will lead them to view the items and either purchase similar parts or other accessories that they may come across. Now everyone will know about their great experience with Butler Toyota’s Facebook page and!

The technology is here – you just have to reach out and use it. If you’re ready to take your dealership and Facebook page to the next level, reach out to Multichoice Apps and let us start on your store today!

Top Members this Week - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Top Members of Past 7 Days - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Top Members 

1 Ralph Paglia

Ralph Paglia

Gilbert, AZ, United States
2 Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch

Little Silver, NJ, United States
3 Ashley Lopez

Ashley Lopez

Corpus Christi, TX, United States
4 Aaron Wirtz

Aaron Wirtz

Wichita, KS, United States
5 Jeffery Sterns

Jeffery Sterns

Palm Harbor, FL, United States
6 Kim Essenmacher

Kim Essenmacher

Brighton, MI, United States
7 Stan Sher

Stan Sher

Cherry Hill, NJ, United States
8 Sean V. Bradley

Sean V. Bradley

Philadelphia, United States
9 Timothy Martell

Timothy Martell

Winchendon Springs, MA, United States
10 Dan Weik (pronounced wick)

Dan Weik (pronounced wick)

San Diego, CA, United States
11 Mike Gorun

Mike Gorun

San Ramon, CA, United States
12 Lisa Sarata

Lisa Sarata

Houston, TX, United States
13 Bobby Compton

Bobby Compton

S. Lake Tahoe, CA, United States
14 Keith Shetterly

Keith Shetterly

Houston, TX, United States
15 Jeff Wardwell

Jeff Wardwell

Houston, TX, United States
16 Leonard Buchholz

Leonard Buchholz

Columbus, OH, United States
17 Jeremy Lipps

Jeremy Lipps

Sunnyvale, CA, United States
18 Ken Beam

Ken Beam

Summit, NJ, United States
19 Amanda Meuwissen

Amanda Meuwissen

Minneapolis, MN, United States
20 Frank Busalacchi Jr

Frank Busalacchi Jr

Anaheim, CA, United States

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Email Optimization Through Testing - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Email Optimization Through Testing - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Why Testing Isn’t Optional

A/B and multivariate testing is a proven email optimization strategy that can drastically improve open rates, click rates, the user experience, and ultimately sales and service conversions that impact your marketing ROI.
When done correctly, testing gives you a definitive answer and eliminates guesswork allowing you to easily pinpoint what changes need to be made, and what you should leave alone. Testing can also help to uncover long-standing wrong assumptions about your audience and their preferences. When done correctly, only a portion of your audience is subjected to the variable elements, so testing is relatively low risk.

This sounds great. So everybody’s doing it, right?

No – Only 15% of marketers are routinely brainstorming new email testing ideas. *1

If you’re not testing and optimizing then you’re leaving money on the table. Testing isn’t optional for companies that wish to compete in today’s marketplace.

How does testing lead to more opens, clicks, conversions, and higher customer satisfaction?
• More OPENS: Simple subject line tests can boost open rates tremendously. This exposes your message to more people and allows them to interact with your brand.
• More CLICKS: Testing different “calls to action” or button placements can generate hundreds or thousands more clicks that direct customers to your most valuable landing pages.
• More CONVERSIONS: You can pinpoint what types of messages motivate your audience to buy, but don’t stop there. Testing the placement and design of your calls to action is another huge conversion driver. Maybe your customers gloss over your “Order Online” button because it’s buried in a navigation section. They saw it, but it wasn’t intriguing because YOU didn’t make it seem special. A test will reveal the best design.
• Higher CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Through testing, customers are telling you what they like and what they don’t like without the need for surveys and polls. They are actually participating in a type of focus group, and you are instantly collecting massive amounts of customer preference data. Listen to what they “say” and use the test data to anticipate what they want in the future. For example, you could run a split test to see if more people buy when you offer “Free Shipping” vs. a “10% discount”. Customers will appreciate seeing the types of offers that appeal to them, which creates higher overall satisfaction with your brand. Testing and optimization allows you to maximize your efforts and create the best customer experience possible.
Key Testing Takeaways

1) Small changes can have a big impact. How one word created a 22.4% lift in unique clicks

The Test:
We ran a subject line test for an eNewsletter that contained product news, incentives, and lifestyle content. In the subject line, we wanted to see if the word, “Specials” prompted more opens than “News”
Subject A: “Specials from [dealer name]”
Subject B: “News from [dealer name]”

We were surprised to see virtually identical open rates for the two subject lines. Interestingly, “Specials from [dealer name]” generated a 22.4% lift on click rate! We originally expected to see a difference in open rate, but the click rate was the real story. When we looked even closer, we discovered that almost the entirety of the additional clicks were attributed to two links within the newsletter: a “special offer” link in the sidebar, and a “special offer” link in the lead newsletter article.

Customer Impact:
After seeing the word, “specials” in the subject line, customers actively sought out “special offer” links within the email and then clicked through. This test demonstrated that customers prefer a congruent message all the way from the subject line through the body of the email. It goes to show you how small changes can have a big impact on consumer engagement with your email.

2) “New” doesn’t always mean “better”
Many marketers make the mistake of redesigning an email template without thoroughly testing against their current design. Even if your new design is more aesthetically pleasing and follows all the latest best practice research out there, you should still run a test against your old design. For example, your customers may like your old design because it’s easy to find what they want, without any flashy design distractions. We learned this lesson during an annual creative overhaul. To begin the redesign phase, our teams came up with a new navigation section within our email newsletter template. Compared to our old navigation design, it looked fresh, had eye-catching sub-headers, and used text links rather than image-based links (A best practice for inbox preview optimization). We almost didn’t run a test because everyone agreed that it would surely beat our old design. Luckily, we did test, because the results were surprising. Our old “boring” version had a 13% higher click rate than our new “optimized” version! Obviously, the audience didn’t agree with our new design choices.
Don’t make the mistake of using a gut feeling, or relying too heavily on someone else’s research to guide your new designs. Running a test with your creative on your audience is the best way to make a good decision.

3) Disagreeing on Design or Content? Just test it!
Often times, clients or internal team members will disagree on an approach to email design or content. A valid split test is a great way to settle arguments fairly without creating lingering animosity between groups. The proof will be right there for everyone to see, so no one is left wondering if their idea would have performed better.
Here’s the best part – everybody wins! At the end of the day, both sides benefit because you learned something about your customer and what appeals to them. The point of a test is to learn. Therefore, a “failed” outcome is just as valuable as a “successful” outcome. Just because your hypothesis was incorrect, doesn’t mean both sides didn’t learn a valuable lesson about your audience.
1: Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report”
Originally published on The 1to1 Media Blog

Latest Google Car Shopper Research Impacts Dealer Marketing Strategies

Latest Google Car Shopper Research Impacts Dealer Marketing Strategies - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Google's latest ThinkAuto research shared by Joanne Nichols, Automotive Head of Industry, shows just how nimble automotive digital marketing strategies must be to connect with today's auto shopper.  I will highlight four points from the latest Google research that I thought would interest car dealers.

The first point is how important dealership websites have become in the shopper's research.  Dealership websites have moved into the #1 position in importance for consumers doing research online.  The digital influences are in blue and the offline influences in gray.  You can see from the color density at the top of this chart why additional marketing dollars could be moving from traditional marketing to digital marketing strategies in 2013.
Car Dealership Websites Rank Top in Research Influence
The latest research highlights the importance of creating a dealership website experience that is relevant, accurate, and one that differentiates the dealership from local competitors.  As competition increases for online shoppers, dealers must innovate their websites an create a better educational an conversion experience.

That can start by capturing a full set of photos for new cars, like we do for used cars, and eliminate stock OEM photos.  Another consideration is to add walk-around videos to new car product pages.  Videos should also be placed on service, finance, and directions pages to explain how the dealership operates and what they can expect when they fill out a form or call the dealership.  Interactive incentives, chat, and better call to action messaging should all be tested to improve the customer experience.

Video Engagement in The Shopping Process

I have been a long time advocate for using customized video on dealership websites, paid search campaigns, and social media. Previous research from Google has stated that videos are the most effective online advertising unit.   The latest research confirms that video engages consumers and influences shoppers to take action.
The latest research should light a fire under dealers to create engaging comparision and conquest videos that can educate consumers who are not set on a particular brand. These videos can be used in a dealer's SEO strategy as well as on their YouTube marketing channel.  Dealers should also be testing video pre-roll on YouTube, the #2 search engine in the United States, as a low-cost way to engage and generate interest for their brands.

Consumers Are Open Minded When Shopping

One of the most startling surprises from this latest research is that only 20%of consumers who started searching for a specific brand, purchased the brand they started with.
This means that 80% of online shoppers are open to switch brands if dealers can make the clear case on why they should purchase their cars.  This is low hanging fruit for entrepreneurs who want to break away from vanilla marketing strategies and think out of the box.

Younger Consumers Are More Open Minded

The last piece of research that I wanted to share is that younger shoppers are more likely to consider multiple brands when shopping for a car.  Consumers 18-34 years old are very likely to consider four or more brands when they are shopping for a car.  As you might expect, consumers 55+ are more likely to consider one brand when they search online.
I want to thank the Google's ThinkAuto initiative and Joanne Nichols, Automotive Head of Industry, for sharing their latest research to help car dealers make more informed marketing decisions.  Especially when there are emerging digital marketing strategies that can be deployed with a compelling ROI.
One of the greatest opportunities I see in the marketplace for car dealers is mobile marketing investments.  As you can see from the chart below, consumers are using their mobile devices more  and more to research cars.

Don't Forget Mobile Strategies

With over 20% of searches coming from mobile devices today, Google anticipates that by 2013 over 40% of searches will be from a mobile device.  With that said, how strong is your mobile marketing strategy?  Do a few searches on your smartphone by your dealership and see if you are showing up in the top paid search ads with a click to call message.  If not, you are missing low funnel consumers looking to engage with your business.

Posted by Brian Pasch at: