Articles

Added Value

Brad Cannon | 11/17/2020

Normally, I use my space here to discuss new products, features, functionality, or benefits, and I guess to some degree I am this time but with something more intangible – but important. 

This whole year has provided (forced) the opportunity for a lot of introspection of our company. We’ve re-thought how we do things, improved product offerings – even increased them. Honestly, some of what we’re doing now is amazing. Especially with paid advertising. If you haven’t seen our IDMP product, get one of our guys to show it to you. Total game changer. We’re the only ones doing it.

But back to what I wanted to share. The intangible. PSM isn’t a big dumb company. We’re a lean company full of A Level players who care deeply about what we do for our clients. I’ve always known that, because we built this company by intent that way, but it really just struck me again recently as our leadership team was in our weekly meeting, reviewing the things we normally do. 

What struck me, was that as we were going through customer issues for the week, as we would discuss them, the different leaders would refer to people by name and not by dealership. “John called in and wanted…”, “Mark called in to check status of..”, “Jacob found a bug in…”, “Did we get Sarah taken care of?”

Everyone knew who we were talking about, and what dealership it was related to. 

We have hundreds of clients, and have been able to continue to see them as people and not numbers or dealerships. I think that’s kind of a big deal, particularly when dealing with the complexity of the different products and services we provide.


Is PSM perfect? No, but we want to be. We have a sign on the wall where we have our company wide Friday morning meetings, it says our responsibility is to “Take better care of our clients than any other company can or will.” A lot of times, those kinds of signs get put up for the benefit of outsiders who walk in to see, and really just collect dust. That’s different here. We don’t have outsiders walk in as a rule. The sign is there for US. And what is written on it gets said in our Friday meetings, and echoed throughout the week in conversations when we face customer challenges, whether they be bugs, odd feature requests, or crazy tight time frames to get something done. I’m super proud of that. It matters.

Again, is PSM perfect? No, but we do a pretty damn good job. And if I go back in time and put my dealer hat back on, having a company to work with that cared enough to know me by name, or help me solve issues after hours, or develop solutions that I suggested would have been great. And we do business the old fashioned way, with a handshake. No contracts or legalese to trap you in a bad relationship. Regardless of the product you get from us, we have to prove our value every month. The fact that our team does that is on public display. Check out our Google reviews… and then compare them to some others out there.

Attitude and grit are intangibles. You can’t put them as a line item on a monthly invoice, but they matter. They matter a lot. And our team is loaded with both, and use them to bring success to our clients every day. 


Talk soon,

Brad

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Super Search

Brad Cannon | 10/02/2020

I can’t wait for this crazy pandemic to be over on November 4th, but in the meantime we’ve been using the time to come up with some amazing bolt-ons to our already amazing suite of products. 

An example of this is something that we’ve just released for digital marketing that is totally cutting edge.

I’ve worked in the PPC space for at least 14 years. Google certified, premier partner, we’ve been flown out as guests to their headquarters, Hell, they even sent us a Google refrigerator. I didn’t even know that was a thing…

Anyway, the point is, none of that is as exciting as what we have going now. If you’ve spent any time at all dealing with Google Ads, there are more than a few frustrations with keeping ads current, relevant, and most of all optimized correctly for the ever mysterious GOOGLE ALGORITHM. You know, the black box that can somehow, sometimes, reach out and slap you and make you invisible on the internet.

We’ve partnered up and integrated our Firestorm Websites with Google Ads for what is easily the most powerful search marketing in the powersports industry. In our business, the money is in the metal – unit sales – and because of this, it’s critical that your inventory has to be accurately advertised via Google Ads. This means that newly added units need to show up as soon as possible, and sold units no longer need to be advertised – also as soon as possible. The trouble is, historically that has been difficult to accomplish without incurring major expense, as well as a major investment in time. Trying to attempt that at the dealership level is impossible. 

Well, we’ve integrated Firestorm Websites directly into Google Ads to provide them with our clients inventory four times per day for starters. It’s automatic – no human error, no fat-fingers. Google knows what you have in inventory RIGHT NOW.

Not just that, although that is awesome. Instead of trying to crack the Google Algorithm code, our interface works with Google’s algorithm, which attempts to provide the best possible results to searches. In other words, we have the most massive search platform working to find matches for our clients instead of screening them out. This is huge.

In our beta testing, we’ve analyzed the data. We’ve seen that searchers are more often taken straight to vehicle display pages where they convert more than ever before. We’ve seen more conversions from what we refer to as “agnostic” searches. These are searches where the person was looking for the bike – not a particular dealership, and they were taken straight to the vehicle page and converted. This is huge, because those often represent conquest leads. They weren’t looking for you, but you had what they were looking for so your ad got served and converted. 

When you combine automatic up-to-date inventory listings, dynamically generated ads, and the power of Google to push you to the front of the line, our new Inventory Based Marketing is an absolute no-brainer. Did I mention that your cost per click will often go down as well? 

Display advertising and Facebook advertising are soon to follow doing the exact same thing, our guys are buttoning up those projects soon as well. I just couldn’t help but squeak about the search marketing now though. We’re working on bolting it on to third party website providers too, but with everything you get with a Firestorm Website already, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to kill two birds with one stone.

Give us a shout, we’ll get you hooked up: 770-692-1750.

Talk soon,

Brad


 

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When a Plan Comes Together

Brad Cannon | 05/21/2020

 

 

As I sit here to write this, the world seems to have gone completely nuts. There’s a pandemic that has shaken up the entire planet, we’ve hunkered down and isolated ourselves, and yet I keep hearing about dealers who have had record months.

Go figure.

With all the isolation and social distancing talk, now seems like a great time to talk about websites.

We’ve always said that your website is your digital dealership, and nothing proves that more than recent events. With many brick and mortar dealerships shut down by mandate, websites have quickly become a go-to for information, communication, sales, and ultimately, survival.

It’s the anchor of your digital presence, and it needs to be efficient and effective at doing it’s job – generating leads that turn into sales. Anything less, and you’re wasting time and money.

Leads have to be generated, tracked, and followed up with every single day. I’m proud to say that PSM has a website platform that generates those results and provides leads every day – 24/7 for dealers better than the competition, and with the best customer service in the business. Don’t believe me? Read our reviews.

While a critical component, having a great website is really just the beginning. When you opened your physical dealership, did you just unlock the door and wait for floods of people to just come rushing in? Would that happen? Of course not. 

Anyone with half a lick of sense advertises, right? That’s why we developed our digital advertising program, partnering with Google (as Premier Partners), Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t sit back and hope for the best, we drive traffic to websites with SEM and social media marketing better than anybody in the powersports business.
We successfully run Digital advertising for hundreds of dealers across the country, but dealers who have a Firestorm website get to see the advantage of the seamless experience and premium performance of using an integrated suite of products to leverage additional performance above and beyond the competition – with less work.

For those serious about performance, we bolt on Firestorm email and website tracking. Visitors are identified – even if they didn’t fill out a form – and begin to receive messages encouraging them to come in and make a purchase. On top of that, regular emails with featured inventory, follow-up, birthdays, anniversaries, and many other important events can be created and deployed automatically. Yeah, it’s amazing. Oh, and all with themes (well north of 200) and graphics designed BY riders FOR riders. Not some cookie cutter platform that tries to be all things to all people. Riders are a special group that deserves special treatment. Oh, and some of that special treatment is a data hygiene program like no other in the industry, along with audience segmentation, that leads to the best delivery rate in the business. Check it out.


There’s really only one thing that is better than advertising. Word of mouth. And we have that covered in our suite of products as well. Our reputation management product has generated hundreds of thousands of positive reviews for our clients – and studies have shown that people make decisions about who they buy from based on both quantity and rating of reviews. Think about it. When you’re looking to make a purchase, do you look at the reviews for the product? Sure. And what about the business selling it? When it’s a big ticket item, of course you do.
 

So what if you want to buy a motorcycle, and you’re looking at two different dealerships – one has 10 reviews with a 3.5 star rating, and the other has 400 reviews with a 4.7 star rating? Which one would you buy from? That’s why our reputation management bolt on is so critical. It’s word of mouth from the internet. And a lot of it.
What is one of the best ways to communicate in a non fear producing way? Text. 

We have an app for that too. Literally. Customer Connections is our app that allows you to use your website (and dealership main phone number if you want) to text back and forth with clients. Texting has a ton of benefits for all departments, as it reduces phone calls, and allows for employees to answer as quickly as possible without customers sitting on hold and getting frustrated. It’s amazing.  And we keep hearing stories from clients who have gone through the entire sales process via text, with customers only coming in to pick up their new units. It’s crazy cool.

My point here is that if handled properly, using all the right tools, it’s possible to use your website and digital marketing to generate an incredible amount of sales. The suite of products we’ve created for you will do just that. We’ve seen it over and over with our clients. I’ve really only given the 30k helicopter view of how powerful these products are, but hopefully you can see how each of them can dramatically improve your dealership – even more so when used together. We’d love to talk with you about how these solutions can work together for your dealership. Give us a shout.
 
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Putting it all together…

Brad Cannon | 03/10/2020
I’m writing this article having just finished up with our Marketing Boot Camp/User Summit here in Peachtree City, Georgia. Preparing for them is always a big lift. We work really hard to provide maximum ‘bang for the buck,’ trying to cram as much good information into as little time as we have together with dealers. When it’s all said and done, it never fails, at least one dealer (usually a couple) will say they want to come back because it’s like sipping from a fire hydrant. I love that. It means we’ve provided VALUE. And it’s not just lip service because we always have several repeat attenders at every single boot camp.

This one was a little different though. We bolted on a user summit to the last part of our time together, and honestly, it was amazing.
You see, for over a decade, we’ve been working hard to produce top quality marketing results for our clients, and it became pretty clear that in order to deliver on that, we were going to have to build a lot of infrastructure ourselves. The right tools weren’t out there yet, but we had a vision to make it happen.

This article will probably come off as a bit of a sales pitch, and that’s okay by me because I believe wholeheartedly in what we do. PLEASE stick with me to the end though, because I’d like for you to see the big picture that was very clear to everyone that attended boot camp this past week.
We began with our Sharp Shooter event marketing campaigns which drive a ton of traffic to dealerships and create leads for several weeks worth of follow-up and sales. It’s an amazing product that works as well today as it ever has. Totally kills it. 
Then we bolted on AdWords (Google Ads now) to our mix. We became the first company in our industry to become Google certified Partners, and our relationship with them has only grown over the years. They’ve paid for us to go out to Mountain View for a visit, and we manage millions of dollars in ad spend for our clients per year. We’ve been involved with AdWords for so long, you’d be VERY hard pressed to find anyone who can outperform us in this industry. I’ve never seen it happen.
We bolted on reputation management complete with review acquisition before anyone else in powersports. Nobody was even talking about it yet, but we had a way to systematically generate reviews for our dealers automatically. Holeshot on dealers competitors.
Next was a game changer – the Firestorm email platform. We built an email platform from the ground up, by powersports enthusiasts and dealers, FOR powersports dealers. Not just some plain vanilla email sending program, a feature rich platform that contains just about an feature you could want, from totally amazing graphic elements that are powersports specific, to tracking and analysis tools, custom email sequences, and even heat mapping to see where exactly recipients are clicking in your emails. It’s awesome, and we continue to improve on it almost daily. A good example is the extremely complex data hygiene process we’ve implemented to insure the highest levels of deliverability for our clients. The email landscape has changed dramatically over the past year, and we’ve worked very hard to make it easy for our clients to adhere to best practices.
After all this, it became clear in our leadership meetings that we needed one last piece to close the loop in our marketing circle. Websites. Enter the Firestorm website platform, and you guessed it. It’s our baby from the ground up. Arguably one of the coolest, most feature rich website platforms available. Designed with the ultimate goal of any website – to generate leads. Which our sites do better than the competition. We have the before and after data to prove it. And don’t even get me started on website tracking, the most amazing way to see WHO was on your site and WHAT they’re interested in. Yeah, it does that.
With the addition of sites, came the associated app that allows you to walk through the dealership taking pictures of units and IMMEDIATELY make them appear on your site from your phone. Flawlessly.
Most recently, we’ve added Customer Connections, which provides the ability to enable texting on your website. It also allows you to generate reviews for your dealership by taking pictures with purchases and automatically post them to Facebook for customers to tag themselves. Before and after pictures can be added to show off upgrades or awesome repairs too. Struggling to get approvals for service work, or contact to get customers to pick units up? Customer Connections handles that too.
If you’ve stuck with me – good. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what our products can do for a dealership. But here’s the thing, we’ve created a SUITE of products that work amazingly well as stand alones – but when bolted together are a juggernaut for your dealership. They communicate with each other, share a common data silo of information, and integrate with your DMS for a seamless transfer of data to fuel each component for maximum ROI. 
It was really cool to see all the pieces fall into place for our clients at the boot camp, as well as folks who hadn’t worked with us before. If you weren’t at this boot camp, don’t worry, we’re doing it again in the fall. If you’re interested in finding out more about the suite of products we have available, reach out. We’re happy to show you how we can generate leads for your dealership. If nothing else, you should be thinking about doing Sharp Shooters every month to supercharge sales this spring and summer. You won’t be sorry.
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Pull Back the Curtain

Brad Cannon | 02/12/2020
Email marketing is a combination of art and science. You have to have good looking, eye catching emails to pique the interest of your customers, and you need the data to get a good idea of what is working and what isn’t. It’s a balancing act.
Historically, the norm has been to report a single number for email clicks – which is somewhat helpful, but if you’re doing it right, your emails will have several different calls to action, and knowing which resonated and which didn’t is extremely important. 
It sounds painfully obvious, but with the ability to know exactly which calls to action got clicked and which didn’t, you can begin to craft emails that your customers look forward to receiving and will engage with more and more over time. And that moves metal and rings cash registers.
So, this month I want to take you on a little bit of a deep dive into a feature that our Firestorm Email clients have available – our email preview and heat map.
After your Firestorm email deploys, you can go into the results screen and view the preview. What you’ll see is a map showing all of the calls to action along with how many clicks each of them received. It’s awesome. Take a look at the picture below to see what I mean.
  
Now, a picture is worth a thousand words, but even that won’t do justice to this new feature, so we’re going to do something new.
I’ve made a YouTube video showing exactly how this feature works, and I want you to take a second and go to https://youtu.be/OfS_sgKrVXU and check it out. You’re going to love it (the heat map, that is).
See you soon!
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Google Ads – Don’t try this at home

Brad Cannon | 03/06/2020

At this point it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that running Google ads (formerly known as AdWords) is a must. The only real question is how to actually do it. 
There are a lot of ways you can handle Google Ads management, and you have to be careful because, frankly, many of them are bad. 

GA can be very deceptive in that it’s possible to get campaigns up and running quickly. Actually, it’s pretty easy. That’s part of the problem. Easy doesn’t always equal good.
To run a campaign properly, there are many things that have to be considered. First, you have to define your objectives. Clicks or conversions? Things like geotargeting, key performance metrics, scheduling, bidding, and a lot of other variables come into play. All of them have a significant impact on cost and success. And cost and success aren’t even necessarily directly related. It’s complicated. 

I’ve seen GA management handled in many different ways, but it usually boils down to one of three ways (or close variants). You can hire your nephew to manage your campaigns, ask your marketing manager to run them, or hire a professional.

I think it’s easy to agree that someone hiring a friend/family member isn’t taking GA seriously enough to begin with. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I can tell you that never ends well. Usually just makes Thanksgiving and Christmas awkward. Just don’t.

Asking your Marketing Manager is an option, but often you’re just setting them up for failure. It’s not that they aren’t good, or wouldn’t try very hard, but they usually have a lot of other things on their plate and simply aren’t able to devote the time it takes to get educated and up to speed to do the best job at it. It’s not really fair to ask them to do it.

The most successful dealers hire professionals. Would you rather have an A level tech work on your motorcycle, or your office manager? You can’t just throw a body at a task and hope they can do it.
REAL success comes from the dealer principal and/or Marketing Manager setting some goals, and communicating with a Google Ads specialist what they want and expect. And I’m not talking about some Google Ads person who calls you and says they’ll do an analysis of your business, and their next call is to the pet groomer. We’re talking a real industry expert with years of experience. Like us.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a shameless plug, but we have a long history of outperforming the competition. We’ve been doing this longer than any of them. Give us a shout and let us show you how we can help.

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3 R's of Email

Brad Cannon | 08/27/2019

As I am writing this, school is getting ready to start back up, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and talk about the 3 R’s of email: ‘Readin, ‘Ritin, and ‘Rithmatic.

There’s an art to effective email, but it’s more like finger painting than Da Vinci. If you stick with the fundamentals, you can make some really neat things happen. But you have to stick to good, basic, fundamentals.

‘Readin – The very first goal of your email is for it to be read. If it doesn’t get read, you’ve wasted your time. 

We live and work in a niche market. Only a small percentage of people ride. Given this, it’s important for emails we send to appeal to that whole group each time we send one. If you want to set yourself up for failure, only send emails out referencing special financing on new units. That’s about as close to a bullet in the head as you can do to your email program.

Only a VERY small percentage of people in your email list are interested in buying a new unit at any given time. Like maybe 2%. 

The best practice is to have content in your email that corresponds with each department in your dealership. Mention your parts department with an offer or two, and service. Show a used unit, and for those Harley guys reading this, Motorclothes. 

The point is, you have more than one department in your dealership, and each represents an opportunity to pique the interest of, and create a sale to a customer. Each needs to be represented in your marketing. If the only thing you’re sending me is email offers for 0% on new units, I’m going to get bored of you really quickly and either stop opening your emails, unsubscribe, or mark you as spam.

‘Ritin – There are some foundational best (and worst) practices when it comes to the actual writing of emails. Let me go ahead and get 2 of the biggest writing worst practices out on the table first….

SUBJECT LINES IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!

Just knock that the hell off for the love of God. That was cool for like 15 minutes back in the mid-nineties, but since then anyone who receives emails like that has an immediate visceral bad reaction and is significantly less likely to open it than if it were just typed and not SCREAMED. All caps is understood by literally everyone on the internet as yelling, and throwing 14 exclamation points at the end comes off with the same level of desperation as that ex that can’t understand, “Why can’t you just love me?” Stop it. We want our emails to be friendly, not creepy or off-putting.

The absolute best email subject lines create curiosity, or appeal to the desire for gain, or fear of loss. Here’s a couple of good ones:

• Want a free <premium>? 
• Check out what’s happening at <dealership> this weekend!
• Top 5 things to check before you go riding this Spring

• Top tips on storing your motorcycle for the winter

Cardinal Sin #2 is creating emails that are nothing more than one banner image after another. There are a couple of reasons this is awful. 
First, it reeks of being thrown together. Like I told my mom about my science project the night before it was due kind of thrown together. Don’t do that.

There’s an additional fun fact that may not be as well known: email service providers hate them. Your deliverability WILL suffer (from both sins I mention here). Have a good balance of images and text. You’ll have better open and response rates.

Extra party foul points for not linking the images to anything. In doing this, we’ve literally emailed a billboard out….

Best practice in creating emails is, as I mentioned earlier, presenting every department, so that no matter where a customer is in the life/buying cycle, there’s potentially an offer that will appeal to them. In crafting emails this way, your customers will begin to open your emails, and even look forward to doing so because there will be a reason to do so if it’s not always about special financing.

Bonus points if you include small blurbs, or a paragraph or two of content in each email that passes on best practices for riders, or interesting local or dealership info. 

It doesn’t have to be a lot to be interesting.

‘Rithmatic – All of this leads to this part: The math. Following best practices leads to better numbers overall. You get better open rates, click rates, and my favorite math – bank deposits.

Firestorm email goes a long way towards helping you create better emails with hundreds of different powersports-centric designs that contain the building blocks for great emails. If you haven’t seen Firestorm email yet, give us a call and let us walk you through it: 877-242-4472

Talk soon,
Brad
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...In with the New

Brad Cannon | 07/25/2019

There’s a new buzz of excitement around the office here in Atlanta. For nearly a decade, we’ve cranked out the single best way to drive traffic to dealerships in the industry – the Sharp Shooter program. It’s worked week in, week out, month-to-month, year-to-year, during the riding season and outside the riding season. The Sharp Shooter has been amazing, and we have the data to prove it. Back in 2009 when we first launched the Sharp Shooter, we had done all the research and combined the best of all marketing worlds at the time to craft a program that incorporated marketing best practices to cover all 4 bases for a perfect campaign: right market, right media, right message, at just the right time. And it worked.

It was revolutionary in the industry, and we were all very proud of how we were able to provide a valuable service to dealers, handling the marketing end of their dealerships so they could focus their energy on selling more units and making more money.  

Fast forward a decade, and now we have a new program we’re rolling out that we think is as exciting as the Sharp Shooter was. It’s called the Bullseye program. Because we’re fun like that. 

You know what else is fun? More leads. And the Bullseye program gets them.

Over the past several years, dealers have shared with us the pain points they have when marketing, and we’ve developed this program to help.

The Sharp Shooter is event based marketing – which is a great way to market, but not all dealers can successfully host events. Sometimes staffing is an issue, parking lot size, location, weather, and a host of other things can come into play that make events difficult for some.  

The Bullseye is targeted in much the same way as the Sharp Shooter, but doesn’t have to be event driven. This helps dealers for whom hosting events is a hardship. 

The media methods used are a little different with this program as well. We still use direct mail – easily one of the best marketing media on the planet – and it isn’t permission based, so it makes conquest easy. But instead of callblasts (like with the Sharp Shooter) we use a combination of Google Ads and social media to reach out to prospects.

Side note here: there’s nobody in the business better at using Google and Facebook to market powersports dealerships than PSM Marketing. Yeah, I said that. 

We’ve been partnered up with Google for over a decade. We’re Google award-winning Premier Partners. We participate in Google focus groups, beta new Ads and Analytics functionality, and participate in new product reviews. 

Another pain point for many dealers that we’ve been hearing about for a long time is lead follow-up. We generate leads for dealers. A lot of them. For many dealers, efficiently following up with leads and turning them into sales is a challenge. As part of this program, we can use our in-house call center to follow up with your leads, set appointments for your sales team, and let them focus on what they’re good at – sales. 

This program is a total game changer. It’s exciting because it leverages marketing best practices to generate leads, and we handle the hard part of follow up for you. You don’t have to be a big dealership with a lot of staff, we can help you be successful with a program that doesn’t break the bank, and drives leads into your dealership in a manageable fashion, so you can maximize every opportunity.

Give us a shout and we can cover the program in more detail and show you how it can work for your dealership.

Talk soon,
Brad
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The White Screen of Death

Brad Cannon | 06/17/2019

I think at this point, everyone on the planet has either heard of, or experienced the Microsoft Blue Screen of Death. It’s the one where Windows (pick your version) crashes, and all you have is this blue error screen that means you have to reboot and have likely lost whatever you were working on. It’ll drive you nuts.

There’s another screen of death though that is frustrating, and difficult to deal with. I‘m calling it the White Screen of Death. 

This occurs when you need to write an email to your customers, so you sit down in front of your computer and are faced with a blank, white screen. More often than not, it’s an accurate representation of what is in your head as far as the content of that email you need to write.

So what happens? Often times, we fall back to the kinds of emails we’ve seen others send. Most of the time, that’s not a good idea. What often ends up happening, is that an email gets composed that screams some kind of awful sales only message – many times in all caps, offering “Low, Low” interest rates or rebates. Basically, a message that will appeal to maybe 2% of your list who are looking to buy today. Not to mention the fact that a headline like that shouts an invitation to the least attractive part of the entire buying experience… financing and negotiation. Good times.

Another worst practice that we engage in is taking the lazy way out. After all, we’re in a hurry, got lot’s to do, and need to get something thrown together quickly. So we take a bunch of OEM banner ads and string them together – and call it done. We may (or may not) actually go the extra mile to link those images to a page somewhere, but it’s still a worst practice.

The problem with composing emails like these is that almost nobody wants to see them. They ALWAYS look “spammy” and if they get more than a passing glance it’s a miracle.

It’s a major reason why we created the Firestorm Email platform. It’s a powersports-specific platform, designed by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, who hate starting off with a blank, white screen.

Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and other platforms are designed for anyone to use them, so they have pre-designed templates that are generic, and more work has to be done to try and make them relevant to our industry than it’s worth.

Firestorm has HUNDREDS of templates that are pre-designed for every relevant, fun message imaginable – and they are powersports specific. You can’t beat that.

Unless, of course, you want to take into account that it can be integrated directly with your inventory if you are also a Firestorm Website client. 

If you want to have an actively engaged customer base, there are a lot of pieces that need to work together, but it all has to start with a foundation that gives you everything you need to build on. Firestorm Email does that by handling 95% of the look and feel for you. 

Firestorm Email has graphics designed so that you can feature every department in the dealership in a single email, and by doing so, engage the broadest number of your customers – not just the guy who is in the final stages of shopping for a unit. Every department in the dealership is (or should be) a profit center. They need to get promotional attention as well.

There are also ways to add content like “5 tips for winter storage” or “Top 5 safety checks before you hit the road” – which would also make WAY more compelling subject lines for the email and position you as the experts that you are.

If you haven’t seen Firestorm Email, reach out and let us show you how crazy simple it is to use. We’ve got folks here who can walk you through the email creation process.

Talk Soon,
Brad

 

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Brad Cannon | 05/20/2019

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Breaking up is always tough. But sometimes you have to do it for your own best interest. Take email, for example. Sometimes you just have to let folks go. It’s for your own best interest.

There’s been a common mindset over the years that email is basically free, and all you need to do is grow your list, send them emails forever, and you’re good to go.

But your list is like an apple tree. And you have to treat it like one.

As an apple tree grows, it begins to produce fruit. Kind of a no-brainer, right? But as the tree matures, and the branches get bigger, longer, and new branches grow, something happens. The new branches grow in every direction. They point up, down, back towards the trunk, away from the trunk – it’s very organic and chaotic. 

As the tree continues along this path of growth, your natural thought might be that with all those branches, it would produce a lot more fruit.

And you’d be wrong.

All that uncontrolled growth over time actually reduces the amount of fruit the tree can produce. What the tree needs is an apple farmer.

The apple farmer steps in and as the tree grows, manages the growth by thinning the branches, cutting off the ones that point in crazy directions that could never bear fruit and may actually harm the tree by rubbing against other, good fruit bearing branches and damaging them - ruining the harvest. He makes sure only branches that point away from the trunk and are healthy remain on the tree. Doing so insures that each tree bears the most fruit possible.

Your email list is the same. Most lists are grown organically, from newsletter sign up forms, marketing initiatives, counter sales, quote requests, and a hundred other ways. That’s great, and how it needs to happen. But just as in the case of the apple tree, that list needs to be pruned occasionally to maximize it’s potential. Your list needs to be pruned.

I wrote last month about engagement, and that is one topic thats importance can’t be overemphasized. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) use engagement metrics (opens, clicks) to determine if you are a good sender or not. If you’re sending emails that never get opened or clicked, they assume that the recipients don’t want to receive your messages, and therefore you must be a spammer. You don’t want to be put in that category.

Over the past decade, email SPAM has become a very expensive problem in the internet community that service providers have been forced to deal with. According to M3AAWG (Messaging Malware Mobile Anti-Abuse Work Group – the ultimate email regulatory authority recognized by service providers) in 2014 90% of all email traffic was SPAM, with an estimated actual cost of over $20.5 BILLION dollars worldwide. The estimate at that time was that if allowed to grow at the same rate, within four years the cost would balloon to $198 BILLION annually.

Needless to say, over the past five years, service providers have been significantly tightening down on email senders and traffic in an effort to combat the astronomical rise in the cost of SPAM by implementing a litany of new checks and balances to make sure that senders are legitimate, and recipients actually wish to receive emails sent.

If you’re put into the SPAMMER bucket by ISPs, you could see a reduction in open rates and clicks. This is because while your emails aren’t bouncing (the addresses exist), the ISP’s internal filters are either quarantining your emails or sending them to junk folders – but you won’t know that directly. ISP’s won’t report that back to you, because if you really are a spammer, they don’t want to let you know they’re on to you.

So how do you ‘prune’ your list?

The first thing you can do is remove people who haven’t opened an email from you in a long time, and clearly won’t be any time soon. If you send weekly emails, and someone hasn’t opened and/or clicked one in a year, it’s time to make a decision on what to do with them. The first step is to send them an email asking if they still want to receive your emails. Ask them to click a link in the email if the answer is yes, or click an opt out link (or do nothing) if not. Clicking the yes option is engagement, clicking no or doing nothing tells you what you need to know as well to make a good decision.

The second thing you can do is send messages that appeal to your whole list and make them want to open them. I wrote about that last month, and you can see that article on www. powersportsmarketing.com in the articles drop down on the marketing best practices tab. I’ve still got a lot more to say on that subject though, so stay tuned.

The bottom line is that having an active, engaged list is absolutely foundational to insure that your messages get where they need to go, and bear the most fruit for you. If the list is bad and doesn’t get delivered to, the message doesn’t matter.

Need help? Give us a call: 877-242-4472.

Talk soon.
Brad


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It’s all about engagement

Brad Cannon | 04/15/2019


Last month I talked about email list hygiene, and explained why it matters. I also touched on engagement, and I’d like to talk a little about that this month.

So what is engagement? 
Engagement is when a recipient takes some action on an email. They can be both good and bad.

Good engagements are opens, clicks, forwards, re-opens, movement to sub-folders from the inbox, and prints. Yes, they know when you print emails. Creepy? Yeah.

All of these types of engagement are positive, and help improve your reputation as a sender with the IPS (internet service providers).

There are bad engagements as well. Movement to the junk folder, unsubscribes, and of course spam reports, will all harm your reputation with various providers and can lead to your emails being undelivered or delivered straight to the junk folder.

No engagement at all is also bad. Providers see this as you sending emails to people who either aren’t expecting to get emails from you, or don’t care about what you’re sending. 

We oversee the sending of over 12 million emails per month, and as you might suspect I get to see the good, bad, and ugly. We have high quality senders who have great open and engagement rates, and some who seem to be trying to put on a clinic of how not to do email.

Let’s walk through a couple of the basics of good email.

First – people want to hear from people. The WORST POSSIBLE “from” address is “donotreply@”. Don’t do it. Although not nearly as bad – but still not good – is “sales@” or “marketing@”. These are not people. Make your email from a person and you’ll see a bump in open rates. Better still, we’ve proven with the data that emails coming from a female get an even better bump. 

Second – your subject line needs to make people want to open your email. We have some dealers who think that the secret to getting people to open emails is TO TYPE THE ENTIRE SUBJECT LINE IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! AND ONLY MENTION ZERO % FINANCING RIGHT NOW!!!

For the love of God, please stop. Stop yelling at me. At any given point in time, a small fraction of your buying base is ready to get a new unit, and they were just put off by the all caps subject line. As the recipient, it makes your emails remind me of the used car salesman on TV who runs around slapping hoods, yelling at me. Never bought anything from him either.

Great subject lines use one of the proven drivers of response in a smart way. Curiosity, desire for gain, and fear of loss are where magic happens. Rather than the all caps, veins sticking out screaming headline, it would be better to try something like

• 5 things to get your ride ready for Spring
• Look what’s just in
• We’re celebrating this weekend!
• The 3 most important safety checks

The idea is to create headlines that make folks want to click to see more. If you have subject lines that basically give out the content – and the content is a shallow sales message – they’ve seen all they need to in order to ignore it.

Once we get people to actually look at your email, we want to get them to take some additional action. Click something. It shows better engagement, and hey, could lead to a sale!

There seems to be a practice that is beginning to spread, and it’s a bad one. There are folks who are creating emails that are just banner graphic after banner graphic, like a stack of little billboards one after the other. Many times, they aren’t linked to anything to take you anywhere, and if they are, you wouldn’t know it because there’s no call to action.

Your content needs to have text, not necessarily tons of it, but there needs to be text. Say something.


There needs to be a call to action, or better yet, several of them. For different departments. Cast a broad net to catch a lot of fish. We give webinars every week that show you how to do this and generate leads for every department. 
Good practice leads to good deliverability, good engagement, and the real goal, which is sales.
Spend the time to get your email sending up to snuff, and you’ll find that it will reward you with the best ROI of nearly any marketing you can do.
Give us a shout and get your invite to one of our Firestorm Email webinars where we show you the best practices in action, and how they can impact your dealership.

Talk soon. 
Brad

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Protect Your Gold

Brad Cannon | 03/25/2019

If you don’t already know that email marketing is one of – if not the most- efficient ways to market, particularly when combined with direct mail, you’re living under a rock.

In our boot camps, we talk about your customer list being the hidden gold in your dealership, and the most valuable asset you have that your accountant won’t tell you about. It’s that important.

 

Unfortunately, oftentimes most of the discussion of list quality is about physical addresses. I think the reason why is because it’s easy to draw a correlation between bad mailing data and our bank account. If you have a garbage mail file and spend money to send mail pieces to it, when that returned mail comes back there’s a VERY direct line from that mail piece’s postage to the bank account. That hurts. Sometimes badly.

So let’s change it up a little this go around. Let’s talk about our email list.

 

Let’s start with the perspective that your email list is the marketing weapon in your arsenal that has the absolute highest ROI of all. It’s that important.

Now consider a major difference between email marketing and direct mail marketing:

If you send direct mail out to a bad list, and a lot of it gets returned, you’re out real money. That sucks, but only the folks for whom you had bad addresses were actually impacted. The post office doesn’t really care either, because you paid to drop off mail pieces and have them delivered somewhere. Doesn’t matter to them if the final destination is your customer or your desk. It was paid for either way, and their costs were covered when you bought the stamp.

 

Email is different. You have a reputation as a sender, and that reputation impacts your overall deliverability. To put this in perspective, if the number of bad email addresses you send to goes over a certain threshold, the ISPs (internet service providers) will start throttling the number of emails they even attempt to deliver for you. And the more you send to bad addresses, the more you get throttled, until you eventually get blacklisted, and they just stop delivering your mail completely. 

So while bad hygiene for direct mail matters, it’s actually more important for email because with enough bad addresses, even the good ones can get rejected. 

 

So how do we make sure the list we use is clean? It starts with the understanding that accuracy is critical. Make sure that the addresses are typed correctly. Read them back as they’re being input to be sure they’re right.

Whatever you do, DO NOT put a cute place holder in the email field. I’ve seen things like none@noemail.com in some files. Some managers tell people to put that there so they can see that the employee actually asked for the address. **News Flash** if you see that, there is a 98% chance they didn’t ask and they just put that there to shut you up.

 

The real problem with doing something like this, is that many email programs and providers do a quick check to make sure you’re attempting to deliver to a valid address by checking for the presence of an “@” and “.”, which all emails have. Including the cute example above.

Almost 100% of email programs on the market will initially attempt to send to this address. It will hard bounce. It will register a ding on the senders reputation. Enough dings, good emails start getting throttled. Lost opportunity.

 

You also want to make sure things are spelled correctly. Some common misspellings of domains that we see are “yaho.com” “gmial.com” “sgbglobal.com” “comast.com”, among many others. Those (and literally thousands of others) are all going to bounce and create reputation problems for the senders. We have to get it right.

I’ll also mention the thing nobody likes to talk about, spam traps. There are typo traps (that catch misspellings like I just mentioned), pristine traps (designed to catch people who unapologetically spam), and recycled traps (the ones most likely to impact you as a dealer).

 

Recycled traps are email addresses that at some point were legitimate addresses but were for some reason abandoned and reclaimed by the provider. The provider monitors who sends emails to those addresses. Here’s the important part: they NEVER open any of the emails or engage in any way with the senders. They watch those senders over time, and if they keep receiving emails from them, their reputation takes a hit. Enough hits, and they stop accepting any emails from the sender at all. 

Believe it or not, ISPs measure engagement with legitimate email addresses as well, and if you are sending to people who never open your emails, your deliverability can suffer in that way as well. Accuracy and engagement are critical. 

 

So, while it’s really easy to see how bad physical addresses impacts the bank account, email accuracy is no less important. Arguably, maybe more so because trouble with email deliverability not only impacts the specific bad emails and the dollars they could represent but can and WILL impact your opportunities and dollars from GOOD email prospects as well.

If you want to talk more about email, and what we can do to push your results up to the next level, give us a shout and we’ll show you Firestorm. The only industry specific email platform designed by powersports enthusiasts for the powersports industry.

 

Talk again soon.

Brad
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One-Two Punch? We’ve been doing it for years.

Brad Cannon | 02/13/2019
Sometimes, during the course of your career you run across something that totally validates what you do. I’m fortunate enough to run across those kinds of things a lot. I love my job.

Most recently, I had one of those moments when I read an article detailing a study that was done on direct mail and email marketing. Go Inspire Group randomly targeted a group of 240,000 people, and created a direct mail piece, and an email for an unnamed retail company with a product range that appeals to a broad audience.

Both the print piece and email had equal creative quality.

They split them up into three groups. One group got just the direct mail piece, one group got just the email, and one group got both.

The results were very interesting. The response rates were actually pretty similar, but that’s not what’s most interesting. That basically revealed that both types of media are good, viable methods. It was the financial performance that was most interesting.

• The email only group generated right at $1 of revenue per customer.
• The direct mail group generated $5 per customer.
• The group that received BOTH direct mail and email generated $7.50 per customer.

That’s the magic of the one-two punch. 

One of the analogies we always share with clients is the magic of combined effort. It’s the old story of the farmer who had two horses that could pull 1000lbs. each, but when harnessed together, they could pull 3000lbs. 

That’s how direct mail and email work together. 

Quoting the conclusion of the study: 
“Astute marketers should not be regarding direct email and direct mail as a choice -- an either/or decision -- but should be exploring how the two mediums are combined to provide the greatest incremental, complementary effect.”

Each media method has it’s own strengths. Direct mail, for example, has greater perceived value due to its production costs, and if you’re trying to reach millennials, it’s a definite proven winner. Email has benefits like the ability to link directly to response pages, and can be more interactive.

Some other points the study makes that I found particularly satisfying (validating):
• Send two emails for each direct mail piece
• The first email should hit the week after the mail piece is sent, and should reference the mail piece.
• Email should be continued at regular intervals.

If you’re reading this, everything Go Inspire Group discovered in their study a month ago is what we at PSM Marketing have been practicing and preaching for over 10 years now.

We call it the Sharp Shooter Program. If you’ve ever participated in one, you know they work. They work really well. 

If you’ve never participated in a Sharp Shooter Program, re-read the above study results, and consider a couple of other benefits that you have over the unnamed retailer in the study. With us, we not only use the one-two punch of direct mail and email, we bolt on social media, web banners, store signage, call blasts, and more. It’s not just two horses hooked together, it’s a dozen or so.  And all of this is specifically targeted to people who are passionate about what you sell – not just random folks. 

And we handle all the promotional details. You get your own coordinator, who puts it all together and makes sure nothing is forgotten…. Like MAP or Co-op.

We’ve been executing and refining our Sharp Shooter Program for a decade, and have the benefit of being able to see the results of FAR more than the 240,000 people included in the study. We’ve sent over a billion emails, and I’ve lost count of the millions of direct mail pieces that have gone on our trucks. We have the data, and we know the old one-two is a proven winner. 

The good news is that we’re at the beginning of the year with the riding season coming up soon. Now is the time to plan out your spring and summer to include at least one campaign per month. It will absolutely drive traffic to your dealership and create sales opportunities for your team in a way that nothing else does.

To get rolling, give us a call at 770-692-1750 or email us at:

Talk again soon.
Brad
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Email hygiene?

Brad Cannon | 01/15/2019


Back in August, we talked about email reputation, and that just like everything on the internet, it’s a continual evolution.

Internet service providers are the entities that make the digital world go ‘round, and they’re a lot like your OEMs. They make the rules. And just like the OEMs, if you want to play their game, you have to understand that it’s their ball, their court, their rules, and their referees. Whether or not any of us like it, that’s just how it is.

As I shared a few months ago, email reputation is a critical element for your overall email deliverability. There are a lot of factors that play into the quality of your reputation with ISPs (internet service providers), IP reputation, domain reputation, engagement metrics, bounces, spam reports, and overall list quality.

This month, I want to dive into one major component of email reputation that impacts all the others, and you have a great deal of control over. List quality.

Just like in the printed mail world, your list is the foundation of the success or failure of your marketing. If your list (audience) is bad, timing and message become a moot point.

So what makes for a good list?

For starters, I sincerely hope that by now everyone knows that you never buy an email list. Purchased email lists are garbage. Never buy one.

In a perfect world, we would all harvest our lists using double opt in. That’s where someone signs up to be on your mailing list online, and then gets sent an email at that address to confirm they really want to receive your emails and that there wasn’t a typo.

We don’t live in a perfect world, so it’s not always going to work like that. Most often in a dealership, we harvest email addresses looking eyeball to eyeball with someone because we ask for it at the parts or service counter and in the sales department. And that’s fine.

Now, in the same way that people change physical addresses, they change email addresses, too. The difference being that there is significantly less commitment to an email address than there is to a physical one. 

The numbers show that in a 12-month period, up to 30% of any given email list becomes invalid due to people changing accounts, providers, abandonment, or any number of other reasons. That’s a pretty astonishing number, actually. 

So what? Who cares? What’s the harm in sending those emails anyway?

With the daily volume of email worldwide, and the fact that there is more spam email than legitimate, ISPs have begun to tighten the screws when it comes to email. They have the ability to measure your engagement metrics. Things like hard and soft bounces, opens, clicks, and spam reports are measured for your account. If you have a high volume of hard bounces – and you keep sending to them – providers assume that you are completely inattentive to best practices and begin to throttle your delivery. If you continue to send emails to people who have reported you as spam your deliverability will tank. 

Hard bounces and spam reports are relatively easy to deal with. Any reputable email provider is going to pull those from your list for you, after all, it makes no sense to send an email to a closed mailbox or someone who reported you as someone they never want to hear from.

The trickier (and more emotional) part of the equation is when dealing with engagement metrics. Sending to people who NEVER open your emails (and subsequently never click in them) are people who aren’t engaged with you. Sending to unengaged (or as the ISPs say, uninterested) recipients is a party foul. The opinion of the ISPs is that you’re taking up resources for a DOA message and they don’t have time for that. As a result, you can see your deliverability suffer.

Sometimes this is a function of right message/audience/time and can be fixed with better content. Sometimes it’s inbox abandonment, disinterest, or some other factor that causes them to not engage. 

Here’s the part that’s hard to hear: To maintain the highest level of deliverability, with the best likelihood to get your message to the intended inbox, sometimes you have to let the bad ones go. I know, it’s tough. Especially when we have to work so hard to get our employees to collect email addresses in the first place, the last thing you want to do is draw a line through any of them. But the bad ones aren’t responding anyway, and only potentially bring down the good ones too.

So how does one go about handling this? Through a sunsetting policy. A successful sunsetting policy identifies customers who haven’t engaged in a given period of time, and sends emails specifically designed to re-engage them. Emails with subject lines like “Hey, haven’t heard from you in a while,” “Hope everything is okay,” or “Breaking up is hard to do.” The idea is to have a subject line that gets the email opened (engagement) and then ask them to click a link to confirm that they still wish to get your emails (deeper engagement). 

This ensures that they actually do still check that inbox, and that they want to receive your marketing. ISPs love it and you stay in their good graces. If after a few of these attempts you still get no engagement, pull them from your list. Emails sent to them will have proven to be a waste of time anyway, since they aren’t engaging with you. ISPs love it when you pull them from your list, and will have better delivery rates – not to mention much more accurate numbers when it comes to your actual email stats.

ISPs have one more tool in their toolbox when it comes to understanding how good a job you do at list hygiene. Spam traps. These are pretty insidious, but very clever.

There are two types of spam traps: pristine spam traps, and recycled spam traps. Spam traps are designed specifically to identify bad actors in two different ways.

Pristine traps are email addresses set up by ISPs that have never existed before. They belong to the ISP. There are only two ways an email can get into a pristine account. Either someone fat-fingered an address and it ended up there, or a spammer is carpet bombing email addresses and this one was caught in the blast. If fat-fingered, a proper sunsetting policy would remove the email address due to lack of engagement. No harm, no foul. A spammer will keep blasting the address. Someone with little to no active list hygiene will also keep sending. The ISP will begin to throttle the sender over time, and eventually completely blacklist the them.

Recycled spam traps were once legitimate email addresses, but at some point were abandoned or cancelled. ISPs will light these addresses back up and monitor what activity they get. It’s possible that they could receive emails from wherever the previous address owner was subscribed – but again, over time those emails should stop if the sender is using a good sunsetting policy. Spammers could have found these addresses any number of ways, but because they’re acting in bad faith will continue sending. Again, over time they all get throttled and eventually cut off.

There’s no question that email is one of the best possible ways to market to customers, even with the evolution it is undergoing. With a little bit of attention to detail staying within the guidelines of best practices isn’t really that hard. If you’d like help with that, give us a call: 877-242-4472.

Talk soon,

Brad

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The thing about magic bullets...

Brad Cannon | 10/09/2018

 This year has been a great time of learning for me. You see, this year was the year I decided to get into better physical shape. I’ve reached the place in life where my doctor likes to poke and prod me in more and more invasive ways, and my medicine cabinet has the appearance of a “better living through chemistry” philosophy.

 

So I decided to do something about it. For real this time. 

 

I did the research. I looked at all the crazy “Eat the food, lose the weight!” products, stand on this board and do the twist “workout” gadgets, pills, and “cleanses” that everyone likes to talk about. Frankly, it all reeks of B.S. 

 

IF (and that’s a very big, generous IF), any of that stuff works AT ALL, the gains are extremely short lived, and often your condition ends up worse later than when you started. Prove me wrong.

 

I’m not a particularly complicated guy, and I am a big believer in Occam’s Razor (the simplest theory is likely the correct one). So in February (I waited until the New Years resolutions faded), I joined a gym. I set my alarm clock for the time I used to go to bed as a young person, and I got my very large butt up and went. I picked things up and put them down. A lot. 5 days a week. I’m not gonna lie, in the beginning everything hurt and I was positive I would die. Then I was afraid I might not. It was rough.

 

But something started to happen. I could pick up bigger things, and everything quit hurting all the time. I started to feel – not just better – but pretty good, actually. 

 

And the scale started to be friendlier. And I began to look like a kid wearing his dad’s clothes. And while initially I really hated getting up earlier, something else happened. I started to actually look forward to getting up and going in the morning. 

 

And then I was waking up without the alarm clock. 

 

Then, I decided to up the ante by adding cardio to the mix. I spent a ton of money to buy jump ropes that I would hopefully feel obligated to use because of the cost. It worked. Now everything hurt again and I was dying. Then it got better. And so did my conditioning. 

 

The point of my sharing all of this isn’t to talk about me. It’s so you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I’ve found the magic bullet. Many people are looking for magic bullets in a lot of different areas of their personal or business lives, and they’re expecting that they’ll be EASY. That’s not how it works. I believe that magic bullets exist – but they are anything but easy to execute. The magic isn’t in the execution, it’s in the RESULTS.

 

So let me bring this around and make it relevant for us.

 

Since we at PSM Marketing have become full-house, in-house marketing providers, it’s been very enlightening to see the different levels of commitment that dealers across the country have to the business of marketing their dealerships.

 

Some folks are all-in, some are a bit half-hearted, and others are very hit and miss. It reminds me of the different types of folks you see at the gym. 

 

There are guys that you see there every day. In fact, when they aren’t there you wonder where they are. They are in great shape. And they stay that way by showing up. They have the routines down, the habit formed, and reap the rewards of consistency over time.

 

The half-hearted gym folks show up a couple of times per week, and usually walk on the treadmill (because that’s easier than the elliptical). They don’t walk particularly fast, and are usually watching the television. They aren’t sweating. They never lift or push themselves very hard. The rewards they reap from this are minimal at best. I find them to be undetectable, actually. And from what I’ve seen, eventually they simply disappear.

 

The hit and miss folks are the most pitiful. I really feel bad for them. They’re usually the two 40+ year old housewives, or the 40+ married couple who sign up for the 6:30 A.M. high intensity interval training class because they want to get in shape. 15 minutes in, they have had their butts handed to them, and because they’re in bad shape and completely overexerting themselves, they’re unable to walk for two weeks. They wake up on day two and promise each other that they’ll never make that mistake again, and don’t return.

 

Some dealerships are all in when it comes to the business of marketing their dealerships. They may have started simply, doing the things they initially learned. They may have started with a website. Later dialing in SEO best practices. Seeing some success, they likely bolted on Google Ads, and maybe Facebook advertising. Those small, incremental successes provided the confidence to begin email advertising – which really fueled success. Harvesting social proof through reviews came next, using a ninja style mobile app, which allowed their sales staff to ask for them at the best possible time. Maybe lastly, these are the guys that run at least one (sometimes two) Sharp Shooter campaigns per month, driving leads to a survey site and crowds of people to their dealership. These guys are reaping the rewards of executing the routines, having the habits formed, and consistency over time. I’m not guessing here. Any dealership that does this becomes a juggernaut in their market. If this isn’t you, you’ve already said their name in your head.

 

Half-hearted dealerships are those that want to do the right thing when it comes to their marketing, but let’s not get crazy. Let’s not do anything that’s too hard, or requires too much follow-up. Maybe we’ll do an email newsletter. You know, something unquantifiable with no call to action. Hey – maybe a billboard, radio, or T.V. commercial! Sometimes, maybe a couple of times a year, they might do a Sharp Shooter. They’re hard, but they drive a lot of traffic on the day of the event, so even if we don’t do any follow up afterwards on the leads, we can feel pretty good about it. The effort isn’t excessive, and neither are the overall results. 

 

The hit and miss dealerships…. In the South we say, “Bless their hearts.” Trust me, here in Georgia you don’t want your heart blessed….

 

These are the guys that still think the Yellow Pages are a good idea. These poor souls are pretty clueless about marketing in general, much less the specifics of digital, print, direct, or branding. They’ve heard that marketing is something they should be doing, and maybe one day they’ll get around to giving it a try. At some point, one of our amazing sales reps signs them up for a Sharp Shooter campaign. Since we do all the initial legwork, the response is predictable. Big.

 

The picture here is like a poor, overweight, middle aged, person trying to jump on a treadmill going 20 MPH. They will likely survive it, but there will be bruising and pain. The initial response is “Are you CRAZY! We aren’t going to do THAT again!”

 

The whole point here is that the magic bullet is the hard work, the routines, habits, and consistency. What kind of marketing do you have? What kind of marketing do you WANT to have? If you aren’t already, I would encourage you to be an all-in dealership. That doesn’t mean that you dive in and do everything right now, like flipping a switch. You simply have to decide that’s what you want to do. You don’t go into a gym and start benching 200lbs.  – but you DO have to go, and you DO have to start lifting SOMETHING. You build up, and over time the results come. Your team begins to see your commitment, and they buy in. Those that don’t, find their happiness elsewhere – that’s going to happen, and that’s okay.  

 

In time, you’ll look at your dealership and see what it accomplished by those routines, habits, and consistency. It will be amazing. I promise.

 

If you’re interested in making the commitment to exceptional marketing (and in turn, profits), we’d like to help. We’re expert trainers, and subject matter experts when it comes to marketing.  Not only that, since we’re full-house in-house, we own a marketing ‘gym.’ 

 

Give us a call and we’ll be happy to partner with you to bolt on all the best practices that will make your dealership the one that others compare themselves to.

 

So what’s it going to be? Reasons or results?

 

Talk soon,

Brad

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Dead Letters

Brad Cannon | 09/10/2018

 

 

So, last month we talked about how email has a reputation. If you missed it, I HIGHLY recommend either finding last month’s paper copy, or going online to our site (Click the Marketing Best Practices navigation) and reading it. It’s important.

 

This time around, I’d like to talk about an element of that email reputation that nobody ever seems to talk about, but plays a big part of how your email is perceived by internet service providers and can impact your deliverability with them.

 

I’m talking about list quality.  In the Sharp Shooter end of the world, we have guidelines for mail files that we use to ensure the highest level of deliverability for our clients. We run those files through an extremely rigorous process to weed out addresses that are anything less than the most accurate.

 

That’s what internet service providers want you to do with your email addresses as well.

 

If you remember from my example last month, traffic on the information superhighway is pretty congested with email traffic, most of which (spam) is just out there getting in everyone’s way. To keep with the analogy, the service providers would like to make sure we’re all doing our due diligence to make sure those cars are taken to the junkyard, and/or never leave the garage to make a mess of the roads by slowing down legitimate traffic.

 

How do we do that? 

 

First and foremost (and it should go without saying) never buy a list to use. Just don’t. There are more reasons not to do that than I have space to list.

 

Always harvest your own list from your own marketing efforts – and best of all – from your parts/service/sales department. 

 

This is the foundation. This means you’ll get good a good list that contains people who want to receive your communication.

 

That said, email addresses are in many ways the same as mailing addresses. They change. Sometimes, a lot.

 

In the physical mail world, we’ve got an advantage. The National Change Of Address registry can tell you that someone moved or died and that you shouldn’t send to that address and expect to get a response. It’s a bad address. It might have been good in the past, but not anymore. If the individual is on the right side of the dirt, you get back a corrected current address. Good stuff.

 

The world of email isn’t as cut and dried, unfortunately, there is no email address database to run folks through. This means that if you don’t know any better, you can keep sending emails to people who will never see them – cluttering up the highway unnecessarily all along the way.

 

Just like people move from one place to another in the real world, the same thing happens in the world of email as well. People change from Comcast to AT&T, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail (hahaha) or some other provider all the time, leaving behind inaccessible, unattended email accounts that may not stop getting emails for a very long time.

 

Email addresses are incredibly easy to get too, and a normal practice for some folks is to have a “junk” email address. I’ll bet most of the folks reading this have at least one. You know what I’m talking about, an email address you give out when you have to provide one for something/someone and you have absolutely no intention of ever reading what they might send, and you don’t want their crap to clutter up your real inbox.

 

In an effort to improve “highway conditions” providers have begun to pay special attention to emails that get sent and never get opened, and have drawn two basic conclusions from senders who keep sending them.

 

First, they use their own algorithms based on percentages, frequency and other factors and decide based on the results whether you are likely a spammer. If things don’t add up, your mail doesn’t go through, and your domain and IP address get put on blacklists and deliverability goes through the floor. It’s like the postman gets a tray of mail, looks at the “from” address and says, “These guys aren’t legit,” and just throws the tray in the dumpster. And he doesn’t go back to the sender to tell him what he did. After all, it doesn’t make sense to notify a spammer that you’re on to him. Better to just quietly get rid of his mail. In our business, that doesn’t really happen, although it did once for a dealer we worked with who bought an enormous email list and tried to use it. After a big hassle, we got him taken care of, and lessons were learned.

 

If service providers determine that you’re not a spammer, but you still have a list with lots of “never opens” they assume that your list is of poor quality due to a lack of attention on your part. Sloppy housekeeping, for lack of a better way to say it. While you may not get blacklisted, your mail could be subject to greater scrutiny, and deliverability impacted. 

 

Long story short, you can’t just keep sending emails to mailboxes that never open them. It’s a poor reflection of you as a sender, and can potentially create problems for you with deliverability. If you’re a Firestorm user, we can help with list hygiene, especially when it comes to providing a platform that creates emails that customers will want to open. If you haven’t already attended our webinar on Firestorm email you should make plans to do so very soon. We go over tons of best practices and tricks of the trade to get open and click rates up. And according to reputable sources, it’s even better than a Kiss concert.

 

Talk soon,

Brad

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Your email has a reputation?

Brad Cannon | 08/08/2018

The technology business is exciting. When plans come together, it’s spectacular. When they don’t, you usually have a fireworks show followed by a burning crater.

 

The takeaway is that you’ve always got to be careful. It’s something that developers have driven into their heads from the time they start learning how to program. Be careful, always test. Then go back and test some more. You can never take for granted that what you developed today is going to work flawlessly with what you created last week, or year. So you test it. You get the idea.

 

One area of technology that is very underserved in the area of public information is email. 

 

Email is amazing. It’s one of the least expensive, yet most effective, ways of reaching potential buyers available, and has the highest ROI I’ve seen when executed properly.

 

We often talk about what happens “on stage” with email, but the tactical as far as content and deployment strategies is only part of the puzzle. There’s a whole lot more involved.

 

We’ve talked about reputation management for years now, and most folks know that harvesting positive reviews greatly impacts your bank account. Makes sense.

 

Email is much the same. Sort of. 

 

In the world of email, you as a sender have an online reputation. Not with end users, with ISPs (Internet Service Providers). ISPs are the entities that make the internet work, and as you might guess, it’s pretty important to stay on their good side.

 

Years ago, people referred to the internet as “the information super-highway,” and that’s actually a pretty accurate mental image to have. Think of the internet as a highway, and emails are traffic on it. Think of ISPs as the traffic cops of the highway, making sure things move along smoothly, and folks who shouldn’t be driving… aren’t. 

 

Keeping with our picture, imagine that half of the cars on the highway don’t belong there. That’s email spam. According to a spamlaws.com study, 45% of all emails are spam. It’s insane. The Radicati Research Group did a study that shows email spam cost businesses $20.5 BILLION in 2012 due to lost productivity and technical expenses. It’s actually more than the estimated earnings of spammers. Radicati also suggests that based on growth rates, the cost could be $257 Billion annually in a few years.

 

So as you might guess, ISPs are closely watching email.

While ISPs don’t monitor the actual content of emails, they have a lot of other ways to determine if an email and/or email sender is legit.

 

First, there’s hidden code in every email that contains all of the information about message that is used to direct the mail through the internet to it’s intended recipient. That code tells ISPs a lot about the sender. 

 

For example:

 

•  The senders IP address can be tied to their domain (good) – or not (bad).

•  They can include an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record in their Domains DNS that identifies which IP addresses are able to send on behalf of the domain.

• Senders can use DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) signatures that insure that the content of an email isn’t altered in transit.

•  Senders can (and should, as it’s required for Gmail) have a

  published DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication & Conformance) record to tell ISPs what to do with emails that fail the other policies above.

 

These are basic protocols that should be employed by every email provider for every email and email client to insure maximum deliverability. If any or all of the above measures aren’t in place for your emails I can confidently assure you that your communications are ending up either in junk mail boxes or never delivered at all.

 

Your execution of the measures above are what let ISPs know that you’re a legitimate emailer and not a spammer. For spam tactics to work, they often have to imitate domains, or actually take control of them on some level by passing messages THROUGH your domain without your knowledge. The items listed above prove to ISPs that not only is your message from who it says it is from, your domain hasn’t been compromised.

 

This is the foundation of a good reputation with the ISPs. If you’re not employing all of these measures, your emails will immediately be suspect – and run the risk of ruining your domains reputation. 

 

Everyone knows where the “bad part of town” is in their city. It’s the place you don’t go because it’s risky, and probably dangerous. Well, it’s unavoidable that the information super-highway runs through a few of those

 neighborhoods as well. 

The address where your domain lives is called your IP address. And IP addresses are arranged in blocks – just like houses. IP blocks are arranged in sequence, just like house numbers on a street. If your IP address is on a street in a bad neighborhood (like you share an IP address with known spammers – or an IP address CLOSE to one of known spammers) it can be a big mark against your reputation. You have to live in a nice, older neighborhood that is well established to have a good reputation.

 

Spam reports, and emails delivered to ISP spam traps (we’ll talk about those some other time) also play into your email reputation and can cause you problems if you don’t maintain a quality email list.

 

The cumulative effect of having a bad email reputation is that your emails get caught up in spam filters and get dumped straight to junk mail, or worse, don’t get delivered at all. 20% of all emails don’t get delivered because they’ve crossed the threshold with ISPs by having neglected enough best practices that they have a high likelihood of being spam and the ISPs just kill them. They don’t get reported back, or make it to junk mail, because the ISPs don’t want spammers to know why they got rejected because they don’t want them to try and game the system further.

 

Long story short, there’s a whole world of email online reputation management that goes on. The scary part is that you don’t get to see a star rating, you just find out that your mail is going to junk folders or not being delivered at all. Maybe.

 

Recently, I worked with a client who had an email provider that handled many of the appropriate measures for proper email reputation management – but not all. He was struggling to get mail delivered to Gmail addresses. In examining his setup, it was clear pretty quickly what the problem was, and we are helping to correct that. 

 

It’s the job of your email provider to manage that reputation for you, and to keep you in the good graces of the ISPs of the world so that you have the highest level of deliverability possible. If you’re concerned about deliverability, give us a call and we can show you how it’s done. Even better, we can do it all for you when you bolt on one of our really cool websites.

 

Talk soon.

Brad

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There’s More to a Website Than Just What You See.

Brad Cannon | 06/18/2018

 

When talking about websites, people oftentimes get completely caught up with look and feel. Don’t get me wrong, the look and feel of your site are important – but there’s a lot more to a site than simply how it looks.

 

So what makes look and feel take a backseat? 

 

First off, your site’s code. It’s not glamorous, most people never consider it, but to a large degree your site’s coding is a major player in determining whether or not anyone ever even sees your site at all. 

 

Bad site coding = bad search rankings = crickets.

 

If your site’s code isn’t optimized – and beginning this month optimized for mobile first - according to Google, you’re going to have a tougher time ranking in their search results. And don’t forget the push on having a security certificate on your site (https:) because a.) it’s a big ranking factor with Google now, and b.) browsers are now beginning to throw up flags to visitors warning that your site is not secure if you don’t have the certificate – scaring visitors away.

 

A poorly constructed site can continue to cost you in the long run as well. While Google advises that organic search results are not improved by how much you spend on AdWords, there is a very high level of predictability in how much (or little) you’ll spend on PPC advertising when looking at how you rank organically. Your organic ranking is based, among other factors, on how well your site is structured. A well-constructed site is easy for Google to crawl, and is less likely to have visitors bounce (immediately click the back button or leave the page). 

 

Search engines’ livelihoods depend on providing good, accurate, answers quickly. Sites that do this are rewarded first with good organic placement, and second, through less expensive Pay-per-Click costs. 

 

Google is pretty smart, they make it difficult to force your way into relevance using PPC if you have a bad site construction-wise, content-wise, or both, by making it more expensive to force your ad to the top. 

 

So the goal is to have a site that is well constructed from a coding perspective, because that is the first thing that search engines look for, and without solid site construction you won’t get seen in search results, and won’t get the traffic needed to be successful online.

 

As you know, Powersports Marketing now offers websites, and we’ve seen some pretty amazing results from dealers using our platform. The number of leads that dealers are getting are up from previous providers year-over-year, thanks to code written exactly how search engines want to see it, in addition to a ‘No Fluff’ approach to look and feel that creates leads.

 

In addition to the work we’ve been doing to create solid, well-organized, Google friendly code, we’ve been working on something else as well. Our in-house development team members have a release coming soon that will help rocket our client’s web sites to the top of organic search results – both for dealership searches and individual unit searches in a way not seen before. I can’t wait to share the results with you.

 

For now though, I recommend you give us a call and have one of our team show you the best new web platform in the business. We can show you how to increase your leads and sales right now.

 

Talk soon 

Brad

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There’s actually some positive in the negative.

Brad Cannon | 06/06/2018

 

In his article this month, Rod talks about the changes Google has made with regards to how you can ask for reviews, and with those changes comes the possibility of receiving a few more negative reviews.

 

Of course everyone only wants to get positive reviews. As a Dealer Principal, anything negative can really feel like a gut punch, bringing with it all kinds of anger and the desire to go on the offense. After all, how dare someone call your baby ugly, right?

 

Now, we all know that about 5% of the customers who walk through your doors are just plain bat-crap crazy. It’s simply the law of averages, and there’s not really a lot you’re going to be able to do about that. Life simply isn’t perfect.

 

Occasionally, those idiots are going to find their way to a keyboard, and test your patience along with your customer service skills. It just is what it is.

 

There are also, unfortunately, those times where a customer has a legitimate beef with your dealership, and you’re going to have to do the right thing to restore the relationship. Your baby isn’t ugly, but at certain angles, and in a certain light, he might look a little like Winston Churchill. Into every life a little rain must fall…

 

There are a small number of dealers whose baby is truly a beast. Like, face caught on fire and somebody put it out with a shovel, kind of ugly. I’ve seen your reviews and you have bigger fish to fry. This article may help down the road…

 

Right now I’m talking to the majority of dealers who read this newsletter, who are astute, and take the reviews game seriously. You’re the folks who push hard for that perfect 5-star average, because you know it means that people will know, like, and trust you – and that equals sales.

 

Here’s an interesting fact for you: a perfect 5-star rating isn’t the most desirable rating. Why? Northwestern University conducted a study that showed that consumers are most likely to purchase when a product/business has a 4.2-4.5 star rating. 5-star ratings were considered “too good to be true,” while 4.2-4.5 were considered to be transparent and balanced. Potential customers don’t expect your baby to be perfect. That’s good news.

 

A Power Reviews study showed that 82% of people seek out negative reviews in an effort to get all the information they can before deciding where to buy. 60% read negative reviews first. If there aren’t any, that’s a problem. When they do find some, if they’re mostly that crazy 5% group, that’s okay. The crazies self-identify pretty well, and get dismissed by those with any sense – and hopefully act as a deterrent to other crazies. If there are a few other legitimate low score reviews with good responses, that shows potential customers that while you may not be perfect, you care and will take care of the few problems that may arise.

 

Another interesting thing that came out of a Centennial Shopper survey was that 44% of respondents wouldn’t trust a product/business without negative reviews.

 

I’ll give you a real life scenario to kind of bring this all together. I found it interesting that my experience played out the same way as the study results did.

 

I’m a Corvette fanatic. Don’t judge me, at least it’s not Mustangs…

 

I bought my dream car last year (2006 Z06), and couldn’t have been happier or more excited. It’s a monster.

 

I needed to have some work done on it, (because, MORE HORSEPOWER) and as you may have guessed, I was VERY particular about where my baby was going to get it done.

 

I researched all the specialty Corvette shops in the Atlanta area, and found that there were three within 90 minutes of me. The first thing I did was check their reviews – negative first. 

 

One got ruled out immediately, because their reviews gave an overwhelming feeling of a rookie shop ran by idiots. 

 

The second one had better reviews – even the bad ones were better than the first shop. I did get the feeling with a couple of the responses that while they were trying to make things right… well… could’ve done a little better. Didn’t rule them out yet though.

 

The third shop had a lot of reviews, including some that weren’t immediately flattering. The good thing though, was that the bad reviews were pretty clearly very limited to the crazy 5%, with a few legitimate sprinkled in – and all were handled head-on in a very professional, positive, manner. 

 

I called the second and third shops, and as you can probably guess I ended up going with the third. I don’t think it’s coincidence that they had a 4.5 star rating.

 

The bottom line is this, negative reviews are a necessary evil that gives credibility to your dealership – as long as there aren’t many of them and they get handled appropriately. Keep an eye on them (because potential customers are), keep them under control, and they can actually help build trust.

 

We have a system with our Local Web Dominator program that can help you grow those 4-5 star reviews to keep the balance.  Give us a call at 877-242-4472 to find out more.

 

Talk soon, 

Brad

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Would You Like A Front Wheel With That Motorcycle?

Brad Cannon | 05/04/2018

 

Partnering with a website provider to create your digital dealership is a lot like the partnership you had when you contracted to have your brick-and-mortar built. The process is very similar. 

 

With your physical dealership, you started with a plan. Your plan outlined everything that was necessary for your dealership to function – foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, lights, etc. are all a part of the plan for an optimal performing dealership. Once everything was completed, there was a punch list created for those last finishing touches necessary to make everything perfect.

 

As it turns out, this is very similar to how your digital dealership is created as well. You have an initial meeting with your new provider, creating the digital floorplan for your online presence. You review functionality, what you like (and what you don’t), the look and feel, and much of the functionality you want. 

 

One of the things that doesn’t get talked about (or is maybe glossed over) is what’s behind the walls of your digital dealership. What doesn’t get seen, but is extremely important. SEO.

 

SEO (search engine optimization) is extremely important, and most folks have come to understand that over the past few years – even if they don’t fully understand why.

 

It’s critical for search engines to understand how to navigate your site, and understand what your site is about. The better they understand and interpret your site, the better your rankings when people search for you.

 

There are a few things that are pretty important when it comes to having a strong online presence. Your site needs to be easily navigable. It can’t be difficult to find your way around. There has to be good, solid content, and it needs to be as unique as possible.

All of that is what is visible, but there’s more to the SEO game than that. Just like in your dealership, there’s some really important stuff hidden behind the walls that you can’t do without. You know, like electrical and plumbing.

 

In the SEO world, metadata is one of those things that, while not as important as it once was, still needs to be included in the header code of each page of your site to help search engines interpret what each page is about. There’s been a lot of talk saying that Google doesn’t look at metadata anymore, but split testing has shown that it’s still a player. It’s not visible on your pages, but ignoring it can cost you.

 

Having keywords in your URLs plays a really big part in how you appear in search results. Having the name of a particular unit in the URL for its inventory page can help boost the ranking of that page when searchers are looking for that specific unit.

 

Another big, behind the scenes player in the SEO world is proper naming of images on a page. Many folks simply leave whatever default image name tagged to the picture by the camera in place when they put it on their site. An SEO best practice is to name the image after what the image is. For example, if it’s a picture of a 2018 blue Honda Goldwing, use that as the image name when it’s placed on your site. There is also an option when using images for what is called ‘Alt Text.’ 

 

‘Alt Text’ is used when a browser is unable to display the image for whatever reason, the alt text is placed in place of the image. Search engines use alt text as a way to interpret what a page is about for indexing as well. 

 

One of the biggest SEO elements to pay attention to, and that Google will either reward you greatly for, or penalize you in a big way for, is 301 redirects.

 

301 redirects are important because what they do is keep your navigation from other 3rd party sites operational. For example, let’s say that a third party site – a motorcycle enthusiasts magazine – wrote an article about a particular bike and linked it to a page on your site of that unit. That’s really great for SEO for you, and Google will reward you accordingly in their rankings. Now, let’s say some time has passed, and you’ve either gone to another website provider, or changed the layout of your current site, so that particular page no longer exists, or is called something else. If people click that link on the 3rd party page to see the unit mentioned in the article, they’re going to get a 404 page not found message. That’s called a broken link, and Google hates those, and your rankings will suffer greatly because of them.

 

301 redirects keep you in Google’s good graces by forwarding those page requests to the new, redesigned or renamed page so you don’t get any broken links.

 

Now there are a ton of other SEO best practices involving things like site maps, robot.txt files, and data formatting but my point is really this: just like when you contracted to build your dealership, there were best practices regarding it’s construction, the same thing applies when it comes to your digital dealership. Not just that, but it should be included in your build out. In other words, your site provider should include good SEO practices as normal and customary and NOT charge you an additional SEO package fee as some do. When you built your dealership, it wouldn’t have occurred to you that you would have to specify that you wanted light switch covers or door locks, it was just a part of the cost of the dealership. The same can be said for SEO compliant site structure. Anybody with half a lick of sense is going to insist on it, and if you’re going to be in the website business, it by gosh ought to be so ingrained in what you do that it wouldn’t occur to you to think you should charge extra for it.

 

I mean, after all, are front wheels an ‘option’ on motorcycles?

 

If you want to talk more about websites, or how we can help you switch to a site that will increase the number of leads you are currently getting, give us a call.

 

Talk soon 

Brad

 

 

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What do you mean my baby's ugly?

Brad Cannon | 04/02/2018

 Having a good online reputation is no joke. 

 

Back when I was running dealerships, the internet wasn’t what it is today. There were no review, or social media sites for people to congregate on and share experiences. When you had the occasional psychopath that came into the dealership, had a bad experience, and subsequently lost his ever-loving mind, the “blast zone” that he created was relatively contained. You had the opportunity to talk him off the ledge, get his issue solved, and turn him back into a fan, mano y mano, as it were.

 

Sometimes that wasn’t possible, but in those rare situations, again, the “blast zone” was small, so it wasn’t usually catastrophic – just unfortunate.

 

Fast forward to today. With the internet being the huge influencer that it is now, and having Google aggregating reviews, your dealership is now on stage – for better or worse. Dissatisfied customers can now go online and have a serious impact on the financial health of your business.

 

According to a recent Brightstar study, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That’s a big deal, especially considering there’s no filter for crazy. 

 

Oh, and a fun fact: dissatisfied customers are 11 times more likely to give you a bad review than satisfied customers. So, there’s that…

 

Depending on how upset the customer is, and how tech savvy they are, you can have a real problem on your hands. One extreme example that comes to mind right away is that a dealer we know – who is a good dealer – had a run in about 10 years ago with someone who came into their shop with a problem while passing through town on a trip. Long story short, he accused the shop of causing a small scratch on the top of his tank, by the gas cap.  He wanted a paint job (instead of a very minor touch-up). The shop advised that they didn’t scratch it, and they wouldn’t be providing the free paint job he wanted.  They would entertain a touch up though. Now, knowing the folks involved like I do, they didn’t scratch the tank, but the customer wouldn’t settle for a touch up.

 

Unfortunately, the customer was an employee of a reputation management company – and unreasonable. He created a website in protest of the dealership, used some solid SEO practices, created tons of negative reviews, and best of all actually ran a Google AdWords campaign (with a small budget) for about 8 years.

 

Now, 10 years later, as I’m writing this article I Googled the dealership’s name and the first result is the actual dealership’s name, and the second is this clown’s site.

 

Online reputation management is important.

 

Now, not everyone has something that crazy happen – but every dealer who has been open for more than a week has some kind of unhappy customer story they can tell. 

 

Unfortunately, the first thing many of them do is go online to share their experience (justified or not). 

 

So, what do you do when you get a bad review?

 

First, you’re going to need to take a breather and let the emotions pass. It’s totally normal to get pissed off when somebody calls your baby ugly. Once the initial adrenaline surge is over, you’ll be in a better place to look at what was said more objectively. DO NOT fire off a quick response. Remember, on the internet the world is watching – and you want to be sure that you don’t come off looking bad. If you want to see examples of bad review responses, do a Google search of “Amy’s Bakery.” Don’t be Amy….

 

That said, you do have to respond. The only thing worse than having a bad review online is having a bad review online that didn’t get the courtesy of a response from the business trying to fix the problem. Crickets are a terrible response. Readers view that as you not caring.

 

So second, you want to take care of the issue. In most cases, there is at least some nugget of truth or place where something got sideways that could or should be addressed. So, when you’ve settled down, respond to the review in a non-combative way, and if appropriate apologize for the less than excellent experience – but most importantly, take the conversation off stage. Ask the reviewer to call you, email you, or swing by in person, so that you can resolve the issue. This accomplishes a few important things. First, you can actually resolve the issue. Second, you can do so out of the public eye. Third, you can win back a customer. Fourth, once resolved you can ask them to edit their review. You’d be surprised how many people will. Reviews that reflect initial dissatisfaction and then resolution add a great deal of credibility to you and your dealership. They show that you take customer concerns to heart.

 

Third, you want to bury the bad with the good. What I mean is that you want to bury bad reviews with tons of good ones. Anyone with even the smallest amount of common sense knows that nobody is perfect, and that everyone is going to get bad reviews from time to time. The important thing is that the good should far outweigh the bad, and that the bad should be handled professionally. 

 

Unfortunately, many dealers get the normal and customary number of bad reviews, but don’t have systems and processes in place to harvest the good reviews they need to put things in perspective. If you fall into that category, and find it a struggle to harvest good reviews regularly, we have a fix for that. Give us a call and let us show you how we’ve helped hundreds of dealers all across the country.

 

Talk soon 

Brad

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Looks Aren’t Everything

Brad Cannon | 02/23/2018

I once had a dealer come to me at one of our boot camps and ask me to take a look at his new site. It had been up and running for almost a month, and he was really concerned that the number of leads he was receiving had literally shut off like a faucet since changing to his new site.

I took a few minutes to look at his site, and to be honest, the site looked amazing. Some really cool (at the time) functionality, navigation, and look and feel. But it didn’t take too long to figure out his problem. In getting all caught up with the cool factor of the site, they had removed all opportunity to convert from the VDP pages. They had literally turned his conversion machine into a brochure. It wasn’t that the site wouldn’t convert – it couldn’t. This dealer had spent literally thousands of dollars to cripple his site. But, it looked amazing. 

 

For years, we’ve offered best practices and talked about the purpose of your website, and now that we’re in the business, well… we’re only going to talk about it more.

 

So as you look at your current site, maybe planning for a refresh with your current provider, or planning to switch to a new one, it’s important to keep in mind the purpose of your website. 

 

The purpose of your website is to identify visitors and generate leads. That’s it.

 

It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many ways we can get innocently sidetracked with the unimportant. Like looks, for example.

 

It’s extremely important that your website reflect WHO you are as a dealership and WHERE you are geographically, that’s a non-negotiable. When we design sites for dealers, our graphics team is told to create the site using a splash of info from the dealership Facebook page for personality, and a splash of local info for geography.  We don’t ever want to create ‘cookie cutter’ types of sites, where you could cut out one dealer logo and drop in another and nobody would know the difference.  Designing sites this way provides dealers with sites that are as unique as a fingerprint.

 

 While it’s important that your site look good, first and foremost it’s supposed to be a conversion machine, every page must have some type of call to action and conversion opportunity or it is a distraction. I know that sounds a little harsh, and maybe rigid, but if you want to maximize the potential of your site, that’s how it is.  Every page should have an opportunity for visitors to engage in some way to identify themselves and/or provide their information to cause them to become a lead of some type or department. This is especially important on VDPs (Vehicle Display Pages), for a particular unit. These pages typically represent 80% or more of page visits, and that makes total sense. Visitors WILL be on these pages, so there MUST be some way to harvest them as a lead available.

 

It’s frighteningly easy to get caught up in the look and feel of your site and lose focus on what really matters. You want to have an overall sort of theme to your site, but it has to be just that – an overall theme. The reason for this is because with all of the different devices, operating systems, browser versions, screen resolutions, and user preferences, no matter what you do your site is going to render differently in many different ways. That’s why having a responsive site is critical nowadays. Get the theme right, and don’t go nuts trying to get it exactly perfect, because it’s going to be different on other devices. Get the theme right, and let the responsive design handle the specifics across platforms and devices. 

 

Top tip: if you’re breaking out a color wheel and ruler for your redesign, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Focus on conversion opportunities and follow up, because cash in the bank is the truest measure of success.

 

Talk soon, 

Brad

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Why Facebook?

Brad Cannon | 02/09/2018

 

 

 As a dealer, it’s a legitimate question.

 

Why bother spending any time or energy on Facebook? For years, I wrote the social media site off as a total waste of time – and for years I was right to do so.

 

Then, not too long ago, Facebook went public. Things changed. Once you have investors, and a board of directors, you have to engage in the difficult task of making money and showing a profit. That makes you better at what you do in a big picture kind of way, but let’s look at some specifics.

 

The first ‘why’ is that the biggest demographic group that ride what you sell lives there; it’s where you find them. If you want to catch fish, you have to go where fish are.

 

The second ‘why’ is because Facebook has done an outstanding job of creating an excellent advertising platform. 

 

In the spirit of total candor, I used to hate how you advertised within Facebook. Now that money matters, they’ve really stepped up the game. They have a distinct advantage over Google, in the sense that Facebook is what I consider to be a relatively closed-loop universe. 

 

Once you log into Facebook, they have a wealth of information about you as an individual. Based on your interactions with their platform, they know your gender, age, interests, your friends’ interests, and a lot of other information that allows them to target marketing extremely effectively to you as an individual. It can be a little spooky sometimes.

 

Google attempted to do this unsuccessfully with G+ partly by pushing you to create a Google account and log in when you got on the internet, and by pushing businesses to create Places pages. They failed spectacularly, and frankly have left a lot of debris in the wake of it with confusion about Google+, Google Places, Google Maps, and Google My Business.  

 

Conversely, Facebook has seen a pretty smooth evolution that has become more consistently and accurately targeted, with results that have continued to improve over time. At this point, it’s possible to target your market in ways that are many times better than Google. We’ve seen increased (and impressive) success with Facebook when it comes to generating leads that we haven’t seen before. Facebook advertising is truly beginning to come into it’s own.

 

Third on my ‘why’ list is something I have been preaching for a pretty long time now. Many dealers try to use their websites to convey their dealership’s personality and build the ‘know, like, and trust’ factor with potential customers. This requires constant supervision of content on the site to ensure it is completely current, or you can really look bad. Because of online reviews, and sites like Facebook, people know about you before ever visiting your site in the first place. The job of your website is to identify visitors and generate leads. It’s painfully simple, so don’t overthink it. Keep it clean.

 

The job of Facebook is to tell the story of your dealership. Create a timeline that shows the personality of your dealership over time, by including pictures of events you host or attend, showing happy customers on new rides, showcasing pictures of your employees, etc. Your timeline will create a story that shows why your dealership is the place to shop in your area.

 

If handled properly, having a Facebook presence where your client base spends time, with a timeline that is populated with a variety of posts that show why you are the go-to place for fun in your area, and a Facebook marketing plan in place, you’ll see that Facebook can be a place that can generate leads that turns browsers into buyers. 

 

 

Talk soon, 

Brad

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It’s That Time of Year

Brad Cannon | 12/09/2017

 It’s the end of the year, and this tends to be the time that most people reflect back on this past year and begin to make resolutions to do new things this upcoming year – or fix what they were doing.

 

My suggestion is to evaluate and tighten up your digital presence. 

 

When you boil it all down, your digital presence is made up of three major elements: your web site, social media presence, and online reputation. All three are important and play a huge part in your dealership’s success.

 

Your web site: This is your digital dealership. You want your brick and mortar dealership to be friendly, engaging, and easy to do business with – and your digital dealership should be the same. It should be responsive, so that it offers a pleasant experience regardless of the device it’s viewed on. It should have a clear, short, easy to follow path for visitors to let you know what they are interested in – becoming leads you can follow up on to convert to sales. It should basically be all business, with a few banner ads and meet the team page. 

 

Remember – the purpose of your web site is to identify visitors and generate leads. I suggest you head home after work one night this week, kick back on the couch with your favorite beverage of choice, and a device other than a computer. Go through every page and menu option on your site. Take note of how it looks and feels to visit. A site that is too ‘busy,’ confusing, or has no calls to action is nothing more than a digital brochure and might as well not exist. In many of our marketing boot camps, we assign dealers to browse their own web sites as homework and report their findings the next day. Many show back up pretty pissed.

 

Would a visitor/shopper be drawn in the direction of providing contact information in some way, turning them into a lead?

 

Your social media presence: And by social media, I pretty much mean Facebook. Why? 

 

A couple of reasons. 

 

First, the demographic for our industry primarily uses Facebook for social media. If you want to catch fish, you go to a lake, not a desert. Second, Facebook is a sort of ‘closed loop’ universe, where you log in and they know all about you and your interests – which we have found to make for some amazing marketing results. That said, Facebook is THE place for you to put all of those social events like bike washes, customer photos, Sharp Shooter Events, rides, or whatever else you do at the dealership to draw folks in, have fun, and make sales. Social media is the place prospects can go to see more about you so they begin to know, like, and trust you – and people buy from people they know, like, and trust.

 

Over time, an interesting timeline of all the fun stuff you do at your dealership grows sort of organically, and people get interested in your dealership. It’s how Vengeance Racing here in Atlanta has managed to ruin my retirement. It works.

 

After you’ve visited your web site, pop open another beverage and visit your Facebook page. Scroll down your timeline. Is it interesting? Are there a lot of fun pictures, maybe a cartoon or meme or two? If so, that’s a win. If it’s just ‘salesy’ post after post – fix it. Starting now, take an 80/20 non-sales post to sales post ratio -your engagement will improve, and your “know, like, and trust” factor will go way up.

 

The last big piece of the puzzle is online reputation. This means reviews. And more reviews. And more reviews.

 

After you’ve visited your Facebook page it’s time for what can arguably be the most terrifying and upsetting part of your digital presence audit.  Might want to grab at least one more of those beverages….

 

Go to Google and type your dealership’s name and the word ‘reviews.’ This can be super encouraging or really upset you. Start looking at your star ratings. Read all of the reviews you find there. If they’re great – that’s awesome news. If they aren’t, it’s time to take an honest look at what’s being said, and see if there’s truth that needs to be addressed. 

 

There’s nothing worse than spending money and energy to create a web site, and maybe spend money on a digital marketing campaign like Google AdWords, only to have people find you and find out that everyone thinks you’re a jerk. Not good.

 

Google says that 80+% of people research a business online before doing business with them. They also say that of those people, almost 90% of them give as much credibility to reviews as they do word of mouth reviews from people they know.

 

This makes reviews critical. Another Google study has shown that increasing your star rating by one star can impact a companies sales by as much as 10%. That’s big.

 

The caveat though, is that the AGE of a review is also a major deciding factor in how much it influences shoppers. Over 70% of people say that they don’t consider reviews over 90 days old in their decision making process. This means you have to have an effective way to continually harvest new legitimate reviews.

 

Now, once you’ve taken an honest, objective audit of your digital presence you may feel that it’s a good idea to make improving it a resolution this year. If that’s how you feel, we’d love to help. Take a minute to give us a call (877-242-4472) and let one of our folks walk you through the specific solutions we have for each of these components. We make it easy on you, and can make a significant impact on your bottom line this year.

 

Talk soon, 

Brad

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Release the Beast

Brad Cannon | 11/16/2017

Just got back in the office from our latest Marketing Boot Camp, and as usual, it was a blast. We had a lot of great dealers from across the country in attendance, and there were a lot of great ideas shared back and forth. I had the opportunity to get to know some really great folks as well (Roger from Don Wood – import performance guru/ninja got me thinking about a new Honda sleeper, and Taylor from Big #1 has me planning a trip to Alabama for a UTV).

 

It was also my first opportunity to sit with dealers as they learned the full scope and potential of our Firestorm suite of products. They started learning about Firestorm Websites and how they are true conversion machines when used in concert with - what is arguably the most revolutionary bolt-on to web sites ever – Firestorm Onboarding. Throw Firestorm Email into the mix and you have a true conversion juggernaut that allows you to truly be a marketing driven dealership, experiencing predictable growth year over year while your competition wonders what you’re doing.

Shameless plug? Maybe a little, but it works so well it won’t be the last time I do it.

The Firestorm suite is a massive automated marketing engine, and like all engines, it needs fuel to run. Now, it will generate fuel on it’s own, but the process can (and should) be accelerated with fuel you already have.

 

That fuel? Data. Good, clean data is what you need to feed your automated marketing engine. 

In a nutshell, there are three data sources in your dealership that need to be populated and accurate. 

First is your mail file. In order to be able to reach out to that critical 3-6% of folks who ride in your area – and can bring in their friends and family – you need a clean mail file.

 

Fully filled out names and addresses are the rule. First name (one name only) Last name, accurate street address, city, state and zip info – ALL SPELLED CORRECTLY -are a must. 

 

Email addresses are becoming total non-negotiables. Think about it, your email addresses are linked to everything from your online banking, shopping accounts, investments, doctor’s office, and subscriptions. It’s important. Get it.

 

Phone numbers are critical as well. From a marketing perspective, call blasts are extremely successful ways to market, even given that politicians have passed restrictive laws to try and make it so they are the only one who can use them. But now, we’ve developed a new unique technology for cell phones that is just as effective without all the legal restrictions. It’s amazing. Get cell phone numbers (all ten digits).

 

Having good accurate data is a must, and has to be a part of the dealership’s culture - and culture always flows down from the top. Set the tone and inspect all the time. Let your staff see you inspecting. Reward folks who are doing a good job with lots of positive reinforcement – maybe even incentivize it. It’s that important. 

So, here’s the bottom line. The Firestorm suite of products is a beast of a system that was designed by motorcycle enthusiasts who spent time as dealers, FOR motorcycle dealers, with solutions for the specific marketing pain points that all of us have experienced. And it works.

 

If you aren’t already using our Firestorm products, now is the time to get started. Give us a call to talk about it.

 

Talk soon,

Brad

 

 

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Hocus, Focus

Brad Cannon | 10/05/2017

Let’s just be honest here, marketing can be difficult.

 

There are literally thousands of different channels to use, and all of them tout themselves as being the best thing since sliced bread. 

 

For years I’ve heard from marketing managers and read in trade magazines about all the virtues of different marketing methods – everything from billboards to television, radio, newspaper, twitter, Facebook, AdWords, Instagram, and now I’m supposed to have my chat snapped…?

 

But, how do you really know which work and which don’t?

 

That’s the problem.  The answer is easy – unfortunately, it’s usually not very much fun.

 

We found our “religion” at Powersports Marketing a long time ago, and it’s served us (and our clients) extremely well. Our religion is Direct Response Marketing, and it’s nothing new. Been around for decades. Not particularly flashy – but it’s the best way to make sure your energy and expense for marketing are doing what they’re supposed to – getting a return on your investment.

 

Knowing what works or doesn’t is determined by one of the 10 rules of Direct Marketing – there will be tracking, measurement, and accountability. In your dealership, you track money and hold it accountable. You see how it behaves on your P&L and balance sheet. When it’s not behaving as it should, you take steps to get it in line. This happens on a small scale, like a register at the parts counter (rang up so many parts – better have the cash to show for it) on up through every department. Money spent on marketing should be no different. If you spend $1.00 on marketing, it should generate more than $1.00 in profit. 

 

The problem comes in when we get caught up in the cool factor of some marketing method either because it’s really edgy, new, or simply feeds our ego. And, it happens all the time.

 

But, if you have the mindset that you will only market using methods that are trackable, measurable, and accountable, it makes it easy to quickly weed out methods that are a waste of your time, energy, and money.

 

When people are describing marketing and use words like “seems” “feels” “I think” “probably” “should” “believe” do yourself a favor and pass. These aren’t words that convey any certainty. They miss tracking and measurement, and are thus not accountable.

 

I have a great deal of confidence when someone can say you spent “x”, your response was “y” leads, which translated into “z” number of closes. At that point, you have meaningful information that you can use to make an intelligent decision about your marketing – using math. 

 

The alternative is when a marketing rep (or in some cases marketing manager) says “looks cool, huh?” Want to spend more? Based on what, exactly? It always boils down to feeling.  “I feel like it must be working.” Spend more. “I don’t feel like it’s working.” You didn’t spend enough. Spend more. 

 

Knowing what I know now, and seeing the data of tens of thousands of marketing efforts for thousands of dealers, there is no way I will engage in any marketing effort of any kind that can’t show me trackable numbers with measurable results. You shouldn’t either.

 

Once you commit to only marketing in ways that can be tracked, measured, and held to account, that’s when you hold fast to another of the 10 rules of Direct Marketing – Results Rule. Period.

 

In other words, if you can’t measure it, or if you can and it doesn’t give you the ROI that you need, stop doing it.

 

That’s where it gets sticky though, many marketing methods out there are fun – just not measurable. After all, it’s fun to hear yourself or your dealership’s name on the radio, or to see it on television or billboards. Makes you stick your chest out a little and is kind of an ego feed. Just can’t effectively track, measure or hold it accountable.

 

So, don’t do it.

 

And some of you are thinking I’m a crazy person for suggesting that. I can assure you that all across the country there are dealers who are doing EXACTLY that and have increased business. I know of one dealer who has gone from $11 million per year to over $30 million per year by eliminating everything except direct response marketing strategies.  

 

If you’d like to hear more about those dealerships (and we can name names!) or learn more about how to engage in those highly successful strategies call us: 877-242-4472 or email us at marketing@powersportsmarketing.com.

 

Talk soon,

Brad

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You've Gotta Mail…. Email, that is.

Brad Cannon | 09/07/2017

 There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you’ll remember the old “You’ve got mail!” quote from AOL years ago. That was back when email was new and exciting. When you opened AOL and heard that, you got a little excited… I mean only players got email back then.

 

Fast forward to today and email is an old hat. We’ve all figured out that the guy from Nigerian isn’t really royalty and isn’t going to make us a multi-millionaire. 

 

Fool me once…

 

Anyway, the internet is an interesting place, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost chasing the latest thing and losing sight of what is the most effective thing. And, there’s a big difference between the two.

 

As a dealer, it can be really easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of a well-meaning Marketing Manager who thinks that you’ll be able to rule your market with Snapchat, Instagram, or some other newly developed way of connecting with people on the internet. The truth is, the numbers don’t lie, and while it’s certainly okay to test the waters of new technologies, it’s important to invest heavily in time and energy on what we know has a track record of performance.

 

At Powersports Marketing, we talk about the importance of new customer acquisition (increasing market share) and retention (repeat business from customers) pretty extensively because they are foundational elements of something else we talk about a lot – predictable growth.

 

We’ve proven over and over in dealerships across the country that focused efforts using proven methods, allows dealers to take control of their business and grow, even when others are not. That’s big.

 

Email is easily the biggest hammer in that toolbox. This past year, Emarys & WBR Digital released a report on digital tactics that drive customer acquisition and retention in SMBs, and the results are very interesting. 

 

According to those surveyed, 81% replied that email marketing was the best way for customer acquisition, and 80% advised that it was the best tool for retention. 

 

For comparison, those same respondents ranked organic search at 62% and paid search at 59% for acquisition. Social media ranked 44% for retention.

 

This makes email the #1 way to acquire and retain customers. Combine that data with the hundreds of studies that show email has the highest ROI of any other marketing method, and all of a sudden what was old is new again.

 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m sitting in the driver’s seat at a dealership, there would be a whole lot of emails going out.

 

That said, shot gunning out emails non-stop can backfire. What’s important is to send timely messages using an email program that helps you by starting with a look and feel that is relevant to your audience and contains tools that allow you to personalize, segment, and schedule your efforts so that the recipients are more motivated to respond.

 

Well, call it a shameless plug, but so be it. Firestorm Email is the culmination of years of research and software development, and I can proudly say that if you are in the powersports industry and aren’t using it, you’re settling for less than the best.

 

Firestorm Email was designed by motorcycle enthusiasts, for motorcycle enthusiasts, and has pre-built themes and elements that are powersports specific – not generic graphics that are “cute” and clumsy across lots of business models.

 

Pre-built themes and elements also means that you don’t have to spend time trying to create or steal other graphics to create your email. It’s a quick click-and-go, which saves a ton of time.

 

Also, with the recent addition of Firestorm Onboarding to our arsenal, it’s possible to identify individual visitors to your website to see what they were most interested in, to follow up, and close deals. Oh, and we’ve also got the hook up on a new website platform.  It’s pretty amazing, too.

 

If you aren’t currently doing a lot of emailing, you need to be. If you struggle to come up with what to say, or how to make your emails visually engaging, please let us know. We have what just might be the perfect solution for you – and sending emails is really a non-negotiable. We can make it easy.

 

One last thing. As I said a couple of months ago, the digital landscape has really changed, and if you want to see what is happening, as well as new best practices given the latest developments, you need to sign up for our Fall Marketing Boot Camp. 

 

Everything is changing, and we have a new curriculum as well as a new speaker or two, so if you’ve never been – come, and if you’ve been before – come again. It’s gonna be great. 

 

Talk soon,

Brad

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How Important is a Website?

Brad Cannon | 08/01/2017

 The digital landscape is evolving and changing so fast now, it’s pretty hard to keep your bearings anymore. With all of the social media outlets, review sites, search marketing opportunities and everything else… it’s easy to get lost.

 

So where does your dealership’s trusty old website fall into this chaos?

 

Well, square in the middle. As your anchor.

 

Oftentimes, we get distracted by the next bright shiny flash in the pan opportunity to do something cool on the internet, and while sometimes that’s okay, we can’t forget our anchor.

 

All the cool review sites, social media methods, and search marketing opportunities are all avenues that should end up pointing people to your anchor – your website. Your digital dealership, if you will.

 

And what’s the purpose of your website? Make sales? 

 

Nope.

 

The purpose of your website is to identify visitors and generate leads. That’s it. Engaging in e-commerce as a powersports dealer is the best way I know of to generate a small fortune – but only if you start out with a big one. 

 

Back in the day, when I was running dealerships, I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of technology. I wanted our dealerships involved in e-commerce, and I wanted us to make a killing at it. I was determined. 

 

Before working in motorcycle dealerships, I headed up the eastern U.S. operations for the largest company in the world that sells products for homebuilt and experimental aircraft – and we did it through – you guessed it – e-commerce.

 

Turns out, the only thing that got killed was profits and my patience. The math was broken. And it hasn’t changed.

 

To be successful in e-commerce, your business model has to be purpose built for it. The standard brick and mortar business model simply isn’t, they are opposites.

 

Oh, and if you think it’s bad when you let a Parts Manager go, and then later stumble on the little “hidey hole” they all seem to have for mis-ordered, or never picked up parts that were ordered without deposits, just wait until you see the pile of parts you have lying around from e-commerce issues. It’ll give you a stroke.

 

So, if e-commerce is out, how do you leverage your website?

 

Good question. As I said earlier, the purpose of your site is to identify visitors and generate leads.

 

Let’s take a look at the second part of that description first. 

 

Leads are typically generated when forms of one type or another are filled out. 

 

Visitors see something and like it enough to act. It’s great when that happens, but even under ideal conditions, it only happens with 1-3% of visitors. Following up with these folks can make a big impact on sales, as many of you reading this already know.

 

That leaves a whopping 97% or more visitors who remain anonymous, leaving you to wonder if you could have done something more to get them to become a lead and buy.

 

That’s where the first part of the purpose of your website comes into play. 

 

Identifying visitors.

 

Using Google Analytics (and your site provider’s proprietary analytics) you can already see how many visitors your site had, and what they looked at while they were there. The problem is that you never get to put names or faces to those visitors, so that reporting is simply reflective of likely lost opportunities.

 

Frankly, that sucks.

 

That’s why we have developed a way to put faces and names to folks who visit your site – and let you know what they are looking at (interested in) while they are there so you can follow up and close the deal.

 

I’ll go ahead and answer your first two questions:

 

1. Yes, we can really do that.

 

2. Yes, we are the first and only ones who can.

 

This is huge. In our beta testing of the program, we had dealers who were able to follow up with website visitors in January in places where they were experiencing negative temperatures, CLOSING DEALS on units. Pretty amazing.

 

Sticking with our analogy of your website being your digital dealership, being able to identify visitors and reach out to them is the equivalent of being given the opportunity to greet folks who come into your brick and mortar dealership. 

 

Greeting them gives you the chance to present and close. Knowing who they are on your website gives you the chance to greet and close those folks as well.

 

Your website is hugely important. It’s the anchor of your web presence, and the place where you generate leads that once worked, lead to profits. That said, there’s a new tool in the arsenal available to you that can greatly impact your ability to identify previously anonymous visitors – turning them into additional genuine leads… and profits.

 

Give us a call at 877-242-4472 so we can show you how it works. And if you’re in the market, ask us to show you the newest highest converting websites on the market as well.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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You Don't Have to be Everywhere

Brad Cannon | 07/06/2017

 

Trying to understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be tricky, and frankly, a little intimidating as well. 

 

There is an incredible amount of misinformation that floats around from self-proclaimed experts that serves to confuse even the most tech-savvy folks, leaving the average dealer principal to sometimes view SEO in the same light as black magic.

 

Can SEO be complicated? Short answer, yes – but don’t make it harder than it has to be. 

 

We just came back from the Atlanta Digital Marketing Summit, where our leadership team was able to hear and see the latest “bleeding edge” digital marketing strategies available (or soon to be available). Part of what was discussed was what is important for SEO success nowadays. 

 

It used to be that in order to have a successful SEO program, you had to have a presence on every site and directory listing known to man. If it was a directory site – boom, you had to be on it. 

 

Those days are now over. With Google’s algorithm updates, they have really cracked down on what they call “thin sites.” These are sites that exist but provide very little value to searchers either in content, information, or both. There are millions of obscure little sites that tout themselves as directory listing sites but no one really visits them, and if they do they find nothing really there.

 

Google understands this. Really well.

 

Google wants to provide the best search results possible, because by doing so they insure that searchers keep using them to find answers. This means that weak sites are finding themselves being weeded out. This has been happening for several years now, and the bar for quality is getting higher and higher. 

 

The important thing to understand is that Google cares most about your presence on what they call tier one and tier two type sites. If you have a consistent uniform presence across those sites, you are typically in very good shape SEO-wise in this industry.

 

So what are tier one and two sites? Well, tier one sites are big search type sites – think Google, Yahoo, Bing. Having consistent name, address, and phone info across those three sites goes a long way to getting seen on Google. Tier two sites are sites like YP.com, Yelp!, and automotive navigation listings. When you combine uniform tier one and two presence you can be assured that you have a very solid shot at showing up pretty high organically.

 

From there, trying to show up on every other smaller site yields very diminished returns (if any) for the effort involved. Some SEO providers will give you a laundry list of small sites that they can assure you you will be visible on and it looks really good to see so many icons for sites. 

 

Unfortunately, often many of those sites bring no value to you as a motorcycle dealer. For example, if I’m looking for a motorcycle dealership, I don’t give two squats whether you show up on urbanspoon.com. So what? That tells me nothing. 

 

And if I’m looking for someplace that has great pasta, your dealership is just about the last place I’d go. Correction: THE last place I’d go. I’ve seen some of your break room refrigerators.

 

All kidding aside, it’s only important that you show up on sites that it makes sense for you to. Google, Yahoo, Bing, YELP!, automotive navigation databases, etc. Google understands this, and their algorithm is weighted accordingly. The tier one and two sites carry a lot of weight with Google, and the little thin sites are showing up less and less every day.

 

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the sites that some of these SEO/rep management companies say they’ll make you show up on, then do a search for your dealership. You’ll see that most of those sites don’t even show up in the search results. That’s what zero value looks like.

 

The short story is this: you don’t have to be everywhere to be successful. Search has changed. You only have to appear where it makes sense and where searchers would logically expect to see your business. A motorcycle dealership on urbanspoon.com isn’t a fit.

 

Nowadays, SEO is much less black magic and a lot more common sense – don’t let anyone fool you.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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How Do You Rank?

Brad Cannon | 05/24/2017

Last month, we talked about the recipe for showing up in the Local Pack (map section in the middle of the page) in Google search results. Those aren’t the only results though, so let’s talk a little about what it takes to show up in the other organic results on the page.

 

Using Search Engine Land’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors study that was published last month as a guide, we can get a pretty good look at what makes up the top secret Google algorithm.

 

Link Signals play a big part in ranking, coming in first this year at 29% of your ranking factor. Think of link signals as Google looking at who else on the internet thinks your page is important enough to link to, or reference. The more important the site or sites that link to you, the higher quality/value Google interprets your site to be. 

 

For example, let’s say Google is looking at two sites and is determining which one likely has better content and should be ranked higher. One site has several inbound links from a blog that has almost no followers, with sporadic posts. The other site is linked to by a national industry specific review site with over 100 thousand legitimate customer reviews. The second one is going to rank higher – as it should.

 

The second big ranking factor is On-Page Signals at 24%. This is most commonly referred to as on-page SEO. Is your NAP (name, address, phone #) info present and correct, do you have keywords in titles, URLs, etc.? This is all the stuff your web site provider should be working closely with you to make sure your site properly reflects what you do. 

 

The third big ranking factor, coming in at 11% are Behavioral Signals. These reflect what people do when they see your site on search results. Things like click-through rates are important here. When they see you, are they compelled to take action by clicking? Another component here is click-to-calls. This is part of why mobile friendly sites are so important. When they see you on mobile do they click to call? That is a huge signal to Google that what you offer is relevant and compelling to searchers, and that is what Google is all about. Check-ins fall under this category as well, further emphasizing just how important a solid mobile site/presence is.

 

Personalization weighs in at 9%. Think of this as some level of uniqueness of content. While dealerships all sell the same makes and models on the whole, there can still be uniqueness of content on pages on your site. The home page, about us page, service page, as well as map and hours can all have unique content to set your dealership apart and provide clues to Google about why it is important that they show your site in their results.

 

Citation Signals are still a factor at 8%. This can be thought of as Google being able to match your info to info found in other places around the web. Your on-page NAP info is compared to NAP info around the web on various data aggregators and listing sites for consistency. A consistent, uniform presence around the web gives Google confidence that you are a reliable result.

 

Review signals round out the ranking factors we’ll be discussing, coming in at 7%. Reviews are hugely important in that consumers use them nowadays as a benchmark of whether or not they’ll even consider you as an option for a purchase. If you’ve got more bad reviews than good, or a low star rating, you often won’t even get an opportunity to speak with a prospect, much less sell them something. Google considers how many reviews you have, as well as how frequently you get them, in their ranking. The only thing worse than having no reviews or bad reviews is having old reviews. Reviews are considered expired (for lack of a better way to say it) after 90 days in the minds of consumers according to Google. You need to have a system in place to continuously, and automatically harvest authentic reviews – and that’s not easy.

 

As I said last month, the marketing world has changed, and is still constantly changing. It can be difficult to stay current and still pay attention to the main objective of a dealership, which is to move metal. In today’s marketing environment, which is truly turning into a hybrid of digital and offline methods, it makes good sense to partner with someone who can handle marketing and allow you as a dealer to do what you do best – sell. 

 

Yes, this is somewhat of a shameless plug, but having seen what our Local Web Dominator product has done for dealers of all OEMs all over the country, I am sold on how effective it is and know it can be a game changer for so many more dealers. If you want to find out how you can automate the 88% of ranking factors I’ve just explained above, give us a call.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

 

 

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It's All Coming Together

Brad Cannon | 05/05/2017

 

I’ve come to accept that I’m kind of an old guy. I have at least as much grey hair as dark, and that takes a while to happen. My youngest child graduates from high school in a month. I still have a rotary phone. Bright red. In a closet. I’m no spring chicken.

 

When I was a kid, I never could have imagined the technology that would exist today. It’s well beyond the kind of stuff that was in Star Trek  (which was a NEW show then). 

 

Fast forward from that time to now, and throw the internet, smart phones, and Google in the mix. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

 

To be successful these days, you have to have a presence on the almighty Google – and it better be a good one. At our marketing boot camps, I always joke about where the best place to hide a body is – page 2 of a Google search. It’s a joke, but pretty true. If you don’t show up prominently in a Google search it has a real impact on your business.

 

So what determines how you’ll show up in Google search results?

 

That’s a little bit of a complicated question, because Google does all they can to keep folks from gaming the system, they won’t come out and specifically state how they determine that. That algorithm is like the KFC 11 herbs and spices, but there are some extremely sophisticated SEO groups that work to deconstruct the formula, and do a pretty good job of hitting the high points. Search Engine Land just released the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey results from 40 of the best SEO companies in the business and the results are interesting.

 

First, looking at the Local Pack/Finder ranking factors (the results that show in the map window on the results page). What you see is that Google is placing a lot of stock in online factors, but are beginning to take offline factors into account now as well. 

 

For example: the biggest factor is My Business Signals. It’s weighted at 19%, and is made up of not just keywords in the business title, but proximity. In other words, keywords establish that it is a relevant result, but the searchers proximity to you is considered as well. Google knows where you are when your phone has location services turned on. You can also see this when your Google search results show a business’ busy hours. So they know what’s relevant and close. 

 

Another big factor is Review Signals.  This category is weighted at 13%. Good reviews are critical for a dealership. Studies have shown that dropping from 4 stars to 3 stars on average can impact revenue 10%. Customers can – and do – decide whether or not to do business with you before they ever come through the door. The two main criteria here are review quantity and velocity. 

 

This means they are looking at how many reviews you have and how frequently you receive them. This is where having an automated system for harvesting real reviews from real customers becomes a no-brainer. Reviews older than 90 days are considered no longer relevant by consumers.So for both credibility with buyers and Google, it only makes sense to have an automated way to keep filling that bucket in place. Plus, having an automated system successfully adds them at a rate that puts a check in the velocity (frequency) box as well.

 

The third big factor, weighted at 10% is Behavioral signals. This is another category that makes use of on-line and off-line signals. Click through rates are considered, but also mobile click-to-calls as well. A call indicates more interest and relevance than a simple click, it’s more of a buying signal or at least an intent to visit. Check-ins also fall into this category as well.

The last category I want to talk about is Social Signals. While it accounts for less than the others I’ve discussed (it’s weighted at 4%), it’s still important. This category is made up of engagement with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. While it’s not weighted as high as the other factors, it’s important because those social media channels (Facebook specifically) are great ways to engage with customers/prospects and show the personality of your dealership. This is where people begin to know, like and trust you before they come to the dealership.

 

The world of marketing is in some ways a lot more complicated, but can be made simpler. To successfully market your dealership, you need just the right recipe of digital and more traditional methods. The weighting factors I’ve talked about here add up to be 46% of Local Pack Ranking Factors for your dealership. If you look at them separately, trying to develop a plan to maintain or improve them can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to partner with a company that understands the big picture of what it takes to successfully market a dealership. 

 

I’m a little shameless in my plug for what we do, because our Local Web Dominator platform combined with Firestorm Email and the Sharp Shooter predictable growth program get a handle on the 46% of ranking factors mentioned above and more.

 

Automatically. 

 

If you want to see how, give us a call. Next time, we’ll talk about ranking factors for localized organic ranking (outside the map in the middle of the results).

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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The Holy Trinity

Brad Cannon | 04/04/2017

 

I love Cajun cooking. Gumbo, jambalaya, and e’touffee. If it’s Cajun, I love it. 

 

A common theme in Cajun cooking is the presence of what they call “The Holy Trinity.” The trinity is onions, bell peppers, and celery. You see them as the base of some of the best food you’ll ever taste. It’s a proven recipe for success.

 

In the same way that Cajun cooking has a trinity, digital marketing has one as well. In digital marketing, the Holy Trinity is your web site, paid search, and social media.

 

When all three of these elements are in balance, the results are amazing. The trick is to keep them in balance – which should be a team effort, not an individual one.

 

Web Site – This is the foundation of your web presence. As we’ve discussed in previous articles this is your ‘conversion machine.’ The idea is for it to be streamlined for conversions with no roadblocks or distractions from it’s main purpose of turning browsers into buyers. Your web site provider, marketing manager, and dealer principal should be responsible for the initial design, with the marketing manager tasked with keeping it lean. The sales manager will be the key stakeholder in making sure that inventory listed on your site is current, has good pictures, and is priced correctly. It’s also the responsibility of sales to be proactive and jump on every lead that comes in as quickly as possible.

 

Paid Search – Paid search is the fuel for your web site. AdWords is the 800lb. gorilla when it comes to search marketing because most people who are actively searching are doing so with an intent to buy – which your web site will give them the opportunity to do. While designing your site for organic results has its place, paid search is where you should spend your money. An up and coming subset of paid search that is becoming more and more relevant is Facebook advertising. The demographic of motorcyclists fits perfectly into the Facebook user demographic. The ability to effectively (and inexpensively) drive traffic to your web site based on the demographic info available in Facebook is pretty amazing.

 

Whether AdWords or Facebook (preferably both), your marketing person should steer whatever professional company you use to achieve your marketing goals. I can’t think of a time when having someone in a dealership managing either has been more effective (or cheaper) than having a professional handle the execution.

 

Social Media – In the past year or so, my feelings about social media with regards to motorcycle dealerships has changed a great deal. If you had asked me two years ago, my answer was that it was a necessary evil. Now, if used properly, it can be a powerful tool.

 

I’m speaking primarily about Facebook. Maybe even only about Facebook.

 

First, Facebook fits the rider demographic about as perfectly as anything could, and it has a tremendous number of users.

 

Second, because Facebook is somewhat of a ‘closed universe,’ they can see what you like, share, and post. Over time, they develop a real understanding of who you are. While that may seem a little scary to you as an individual, as a marketer it’s a gold mine. Pinpoint, surgical accuracy in advertising through them is possible – and in some cases less expensive than AdWords.

 

Finally, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. Facebook allows you to create a history over time. Facebook is where you post all those things that used to go on your web site, only to be forgotten and left to go stale and make you look like you aren’t paying attention enough to keep your site fresh. 

 

With Facebook, you can post all those cool pictures of events, specials, people who bought bikes, concerts, or whatever. And there’s no need to go back and remove anything from history, because over time it allows browsers to see what a great dealership you have and begin to – you guessed it – know, like, and trust you.

 

Nothing is better than searching a dealership in Facebook and finding all kinds of pictures of the cool things going on there. Nothing is worse than searching for them and finding nothing.

 

This is also the perfect place for your marketing person to thrive. Take and post pictures, share funny pictures or videos, show personality and warm up browsers to your dealership. 

 

The important thing is to remember the dealership ‘Holy Trinity,’ because it is the path to success for your dealership. 

 

Want to learn how to put this in to practice in your dealership? Give us a call.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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By the Book

Brad Cannon | 02/20/2017

 

Last month we talked about responsive web site design vs. adaptive design, what they were and how they were different. I’d like to stay on the topic of web site design again this month as well.

 

What we talked about last month was more the “mechanical” of a site, this month it’s more about “look and feel.”

 

Let’s start with a question: What’s the purpose of your web site?

 

I ask this question at every one of our boot camps. I used to have folks just stare at me, looking a little uncomfortable and kind of confused. They weren’t really sure, they just knew they were SUPPOSED to have one because everyone else did. 

 

That was years ago, and things have gotten better. The web has evolved, and people have figured out how they can use it. I usually get the right answer nowadays at the boot camps. The purpose of your web site is to generate bona fide leads and turn browsers into buyers. 

 

It’s that simple.

 

Anything that is on your web site that doesn’t advance the ball towards a browser making a purchase is a distraction that should be removed.

 

Internet marketers figured this out a long time ago, and they have a name for pages that are designed solely for the purpose of conversion – squeeze pages.

 

Basically, a squeeze page has one focus, or subject, and offers a very specific desired action. The browser is “squeezed” into performing the desired action on that page.

 

Rod loves to give the example of the best squeeze page on the planet – Google.

 

Google is hands down the most popular squeeze page (likely most popular page period) on the planet. When you go to google.com, you are squeezed to do the one activity they want you to do – search for something.  Not a lot of other visible options available (although there are some), the page is designed to draw you in to the desired activity. And it does an amazing job of it. I was surprised to hear several years ago that there is a person whose sole responsibility is the design of Google’s home page. Think about it, it’s a big white page. But it is the best converting squeeze page on the planet.

 

I’m not saying that to be really successful that your dealerships web site should be filled with white pages. It just needs to have pages that have a clear purpose, and that communicate that purpose in a way that move browsers down the funnel and get them to become prospects and ultimately, buyers.

 

So often, I see dealers that get caught up in having sites that are graphic heavy or full of non-conversion oriented content that it’s easy for potential buyers to get distracted, never to give the dealer their info before wandering off.

 

Even worse – a practice I’m seeing more now, is OEMs offering dealers gateways to shop for parts and accessories. Trouble is, they leave the dealers site and it’s the OEM that collects the prospects data. And the dealer isn’t guaranteed that they will get the sale or customer data later. What? Why would I spend money and effort to bring someone to my site, only to send them to a site I don’t control and give them the option to buy something and pick it up at another dealership?

 

Something else I have seen in the last couple of years, and was actually asked about by an OEM at one of our boot camps: an OEM exclusive web site for the purposes of co-op or because the OEM requires they have one. This usually shows up on a dealer’s main site as a side bar picture or slider banner picture that says “click here for our _______ exclusive site!” 

 

Now, I have the privilege of not being beholden to the OEMS, and Powersports Marketing has built our business on being dealer advocates – concerned about what’s in the best interest of the dealers, and not so much the OEMS (besides, if dealers are doing well, OEMs are by default). I don’t think the guys liked my answer, but it wasn’t candy coated.

 

I don’t like those sites.  A dealer’s online presence is critical, and dividing that presence on the internet over multiple URLs (internet addresses) is not in a dealer’s best interest. Yes, it accomplishes the OEM’s goal of having an exclusive site for their brand, but it creates a somewhat schizophrenic identity for the dealership online. We already have multi-line brick and mortar dealerships across the country known as “brand x of <city name>” dba as “dealership name.” We have a single unconfusing “umbrella” business name we go by so as not to confuse the public. The same should go for our digital storefront, so we don’t confuse people and for SEO purposes so we don’t confuse search engines either. But I digress a little, and have gone from preachin’ to meddlin’.

 

The point is, the best web sites with the highest ROI are those that are focused on their mission of turning browsers into buyers. I encourage you to do an audit of your site. Are all the pages clutter free, with a clear message and easy to follow conversion points (Contact Me, Request a Quote, Finance App, etc)? Are there unnecessary pages that won’t logically lead to conversions or that conversion options wouldn’t make sense if they were there? If so, get rid of them. Move that info to your Facebook page or other social media channels where they won’t get in the way of doing business. If you want to learn more about digital marketing in preparation of the upcoming Spring riding season, I encourage you to attend our next marketing boot camp in March. We’ll help you get ready to make the most of the season this year. 

   

Talk Soon,

Brad

 

 

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The Big Squeeze

Brad Cannon | 01/21/2017

Last month we talked about responsive web site design vs. adaptive design, what they were and how they were different. I’d like to stay on the topic of web site design again this month as well.

 

What we talked about last month was more the “mechanical” of a site, this month it’s more about “look and feel.”

 

Let’s start with a question: What’s the purpose of your web site?

 

I ask this question at every one of our boot camps. I used to have folks just stare at me, looking a little uncomfortable and kind of confused. They weren’t really sure, they just knew they were SUPPOSED to have one because everyone else did. 

 

That was years ago, and things have gotten better. The web has evolved, and people have figured out how they can use it. I usually get the right answer nowadays at the boot camps. The purpose of your web site is to generate bona fide leads and turn browsers into buyers. 

 

It’s that simple.

 

Anything that is on your web site that doesn’t advance the ball towards a browser making a purchase is a distraction that should be removed.

 

Internet marketers figured this out a long time ago, and they have a name for pages that are designed solely for the purpose of conversion – squeeze pages.

 

Basically, a squeeze page has one focus, or subject, and offers a very specific desired action. The browser is “squeezed” into performing the desired action on that page.

 

Rod loves to give the example of the best squeeze page on the planet – Google.

 

Google is hands down the most popular squeeze page (likely most popular page period) on the planet. When you go to google.com, you are squeezed to do the one activity they want you to do – search for something.  Not a lot of other visible options available (although there are some), the page is designed to draw you in to the desired activity. And it does an amazing job of it. I was surprised to hear several years ago that there is a person whose sole responsibility is the design of Google’s home page. Think about it, it’s a big white page. But it is the best converting squeeze page on the planet.

 

I’m not saying that to be really successful that your dealerships web site should be filled with white pages. It just needs to have pages that have a clear purpose, and that communicate that purpose in a way that move browsers down the funnel and get them to become prospects and ultimately, buyers.

 

So often, I see dealers that get caught up in having sites that are graphic heavy or full of non-conversion oriented content that it’s easy for potential buyers to get distracted, never to give the dealer their info before wandering off.

 

Even worse – a practice I’m seeing more now, is OEMs offering dealers gateways to shop for parts and accessories. Trouble is, they leave the dealers site and it’s the OEM that collects the prospects data. And the dealer isn’t guaranteed that they will get the sale or customer data later. What? Why would I spend money and effort to bring someone to my site, only to send them to a site I don’t control and give them the option to buy something and pick it up at another dealership?

 

Something else I have seen in the last couple of years, and was actually asked about by an OEM at one of our boot camps: an OEM exclusive web site for the purposes of co-op or because the OEM requires they have one. This usually shows up on a dealer’s main site as a side bar picture or slider banner picture that says “click here for our _______ exclusive site!” 

 

Now, I have the privilege of not being beholden to the OEMS, and Powersports Marketing has built our business on being dealer advocates – concerned about what’s in the best interest of the dealers, and not so much the OEMS (besides, if dealers are doing well, OEMs are by default). I don’t think the guys liked my answer, but it wasn’t candy coated.

 

I don’t like those sites.  A dealer’s online presence is critical, and dividing that presence on the internet over multiple URLs (internet addresses) is not in a dealer’s best interest. Yes, it accomplishes the OEM’s goal of having an exclusive site for their brand, but it creates a somewhat schizophrenic identity for the dealership online. We already have multi-line brick and mortar dealerships across the country known as “brand x of <city name>” dba as “dealership name.” We have a single unconfusing “umbrella” business name we go by so as not to confuse the public. The same should go for our digital storefront, so we don’t confuse people and for SEO purposes so we don’t confuse search engines either. But I digress a little, and have gone from preachin’ to meddlin’.

 

The point is, the best web sites with the highest ROI are those that are focused on their mission of turning browsers into buyers. I encourage you to do an audit of your site. Are all the pages clutter free, with a clear message and easy to follow conversion points (Contact Me, Request a Quote, Finance App, etc)? Are there unnecessary pages that won’t logically lead to conversions or that conversion options wouldn’t make sense if they were there? If so, get rid of them. Move that info to your Facebook page or other social media channels where they won’t get in the way of doing business. If you want to learn more about digital marketing in preparation of the upcoming Spring riding season, I encourage you to attend our next marketing boot camp in March. We’ll help you get ready to make the most of the season this year. 

   

Talk Soon,

Brad

 

 

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Mobile Sites: Adaptive vs. Responsive

Brad Cannon | 12/19/2016

Something that has really been interesting to see this Christmas season is that shopping via mobile devices has pretty much become mainstream. I’ve seen several reports on television in the past two months advising that mobile sales are up by as much as 30% over last year. That’s a pretty big deal.

 

With mobile beginning to play a big role in retail, a lot of dealers have questions about how the technology works, and how they can capitalize on it.

 

One of the biggest questions I hear is about web sites being “mobile ready” and what does that mean?

There are two main schools of thought: Adaptive design and Responsive design.

 

Before we get into those two design methods, let’s clarify who they actually apply to. 

 

 

Devices basically fall into two big camps: Desktop and everyone else. When you think about everyone else, that includes all of the different mobile devices out there, plus all of the different tablets, and anything other than a desktop. (Anything that browses the web.) As you can imagine, that’s a lot of different sizes, resolutions, and display capabilities.

 

The adaptive school of design takes the approach that the site has a specific design for each screen size for potential visitors. In other words, a layout is programmed for each device that could be used to browse the site: a layout for iPhone 6, 7, Samsung Galaxy 6, 7, Kindle Fire 7HDX, etc.

 

If a specific device shows up that doesn’t have its own layout, the site displays what it thinks is the closest. This means the visitor may have to do a lot of scrolling – both up and down as well as left to right. In any case, there is potential for a visitor to have a less than excellent experience on the site which could lead to people leaving.

Adaptive is not particularly ideal, in that it involves a lot of up front programming to try and account for all the different screens and devices that exist – and new ones are being added every day.

 

The responsive design school takes a different approach. Rather than creating screens of fixed sizes that correspond to a particular device, it can best be thought of as elastic. All of the elements that make up a page are based upon percentages of available screen size. 

 

When a visitor to a responsive site first arrives, the site checks to see what the visitor’s screen size and display capabilities are and displays the pages based upon what it finds. In other words, the code for a page might say that the header width equals 100% rather than 650 pixels. A screen that is 400 pixels wide would display the first header just fine.  But, because the width of the second is dictated to be 650 pixels wide, the visitor would have to scroll left and right to see the whole thing. If there were links across the entire header, the second would be pretty clumsy. 

 

This is the big difference between responsive and adaptive design. Adaptive designs pages for specific devices using fixed element sizes (like images, headers, borders, etc.), and if it doesn’t have the exact one required, it serves the closest thing it has.

 

Responsive sites don’t care what device you use to browse. It checks what is available display wise, and uses predetermined percentages to create the page drawing the elements according to what percentage of the screen they should take up. Other things may happen as well, like if the page has three columns, as the available real estate gets smaller (like viewing on an iphone instead of an ipad) it may display as two, or one column. (All dictated by the code up front.)

 

Responsive design really is the better way to design a web site, although it might take a little more up front planning to accomplish. The end result is a better overall user experience.  

 

The good news is that most of the major players in the web provider world are now designing using responsive design.  A big reason for this is that Google announced a few months ago that after the first of the year, sites that weren’t responsive wouldn’t be as visible in search results. In other words, if you aren’t delivering the optimal user experience you’re going to have a harder time showing up.

 

If you’re concerned about whether or not you have a responsive web site, or would like to talk about Google Adwords or Reputation Management give us a call. We have the best digital marketing department in the business and would be happy to help.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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Get Ready for the New Year

Brad Cannon | 11/28/2016

 

We just wrapped up our Fall Marketing Boot Camp, and we’re only a few days post-election.

 

I have to say, I couldn’t be happier with how both turned out.

 

The New Year will be starting soon, making this a really good time to reflect on this past year and plan for the next one.

 

At Powersports Marketing, we are always setting goals, targets, and making commitments to better performance. It’s what has led to the success we’ve experienced in the past and what will drive us to excellence as we move forward. 

 

I’d encourage you to do as we do here each year and do three things:

  1. Decide

  2. Commit

  3. Succeed

Decide that 2017 will be the year that you will determine the trajectory of your dealership through conscious action.

 

Commit that you’ll actively work to create and cultivate a positive culture in your dealership, making it both a great place to work, and as a result, a great place to visit and buy. Dealership culture flows down from the top, and over time, it can be difficult to maintain. Every dealer I have ever met got into the business because they loved motorcycles. It’s a passion-based business. Unfortunately, running a dealership can be tough. As you know, it can be really tough. That can take a toll. As I used to tell my GMs, it’s important to always remember that we work in a toy store. That’s what our customers think. Customers are looking for an excuse to come to your dealership. That’s what WE thought the first time we showed up in one, and even the first day we went to work there. Over time, that changes, and it isn’t as exciting as it once was. That can be reflected in our attitude, and that attitude is then mirrored in every department. And not only is it mirrored, it gets amplified. Setting a good tone lays the foundation for success.

 

 

Commit that you will take every opportunity to learn about how to work ON your business instead of just IN it. Decide to attend events like our Marketing Boot Camp (we’ll have two next year) where you’ll learn the newest (as well as time-tested) marketing best practices tailored specifically to a powersports dealership. Your interest and enthusiasm to make the business better will be noticed, and will continue to create a positive culture in your dealership. Not only that, but enthusiasm is contagious. Others will want to participate.

 

Commit that you’ll have a clear policy on good data acquisition and accuracy. This is the gold in your dealership that allows you to grab success by the reigns and make sales happen instead of hoping they do. The MIC has said for years that in any given market only 3-6% of people ride motorcycles. Knowing who they are is more than half the battle. The ability to target exactly the right audience with direct response marketing that brings them back into your dealership creates the path to success. 

 

Commit to using the data you will be harvesting to proactively market to your buying base, touching them 52-104 times per year through event based marketing, e-mail marketing, and online digital marketing. It will be hard. You will be tempted every month to just skip it this month, just this once – I’ll pick it back up next month…

 

That’s deadly thinking. Don’t give yourself an excuse to give up. It’s simple physics: objects in motion tend to stay in motion – objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

 

Keep moving, keep going – I guarantee the competition is.  

 

We’ve had the privilege to see dealers across the country follow the steps I outlined above and experience success better than they ever expected. It’s not the easiest path to take, but most things worth having don’t come cheap.  It looks like the political climate is going to be more conducive to small-to-medium sized businesses than it has been for a long time, and I’d like to encourage you to capitalize on the opportunities it will bring.

 

Here’s to a great 2017 to you and your dealership – and of course, we’d love to help be a part of making it great. 

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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Make Hay While the Snow Flies

Brad Cannon | 10/14/2016

 

We’re quickly approaching the time of year where business is happening so fast that we sometimes abandon our well-known business best practices because we feel that so much is happening that we just don’t have time to do things properly.

 

We make excuses. I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been behind the counter at Christmas time for more years than I care to think about. More years than some folks reading this have been alive. That last sentence actually stings a little.

 

The point is, we can’t abandon best practices out of convenience. What I’m talking about specifically is the best practice of having a good data acquisition strategy in place and following it. Having good, accurate name, address, email, and phone information is key to a dealership’s success.

 

During the Christmas season, traffic levels go off the rails the closer you get to the big day, and the temptation to just get people out the door can be huge.

 

If you’ve followed us for any length of time, or been to one of our marketing boot camps, you’ve heard us talk about the number one hidden asset that your accountant won’t tell you about: your customer list.

 

We also talk a lot about being a MARKET driven dealership vs. a MARKETING driven dealership. 

 

Market driven dealerships operate and are successful based on market conditions, which are fickle at best. They are affected (good or bad) based on any number of things that are out of control of the dealership owner – bad weather, local economy, national elections, etc. 

 

It’s like they unlock the doors and wish for the best. It’s a terrible way to run a business, let alone live. Talk about bleeding ulcers…

 

With good customer data, a dealer can have a marketing driven dealership. We are a niche, passion driven market. By having good customer data, you have the ability to target exactly the right people, using the right media, with the right message, at exactly the right time. You no longer hope for the best, you control your outcome.

 

Of course, this all starts with committing to the strategy – even when it’s tough. 

 

Average annual client value has been shown to be $675 gross profit. That’s per person. So, having the ability to reach out to those people and get them back into your dealership not only ensures that you get all of that $675 (and not another dealer), but gives you a shot an increasing that average value. And it doesn’t stop there – according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the number one reason people get involved in riding is the influence of friends and family. It’s been the number one reason forever. So it stands to reason that if you’ve got the ability to reach out to those interested in riding with a compelling message, as they influence their friends and family and those people will be coming to YOUR dealership, bringing their money with them.

 

This is what we call a predictable growth strategy, and we have seen it work hundreds of times in every state. 

 

The hitch is, you need the data to make it really successful. That’s why it’s so important not to abandon best practices when they get tough during the Christmas selling season. 

 

Sure, there are times that the lines get long at the parts counter. I’d advise getting extra staff, and adding impulse buying options at the registers so that people have something to look at as they are waiting the extra few seconds while employees are ringing up folks properly. It works at grocery stores, it’ll work at your dealership too. I’ve done it.

 

Engage your staff in the effort to harvest good customer data. Help them understand that being able to market to customers and bring them back in is good for everyone. Good sales equals good job security – it’s especially easy to get buy in if they are on an incentive based pay plan (the best kind of pay plan). 

The only time there may be more folks coming to your dealership is at the start of spring – and that may or may not actually be the case depending on your geography. The point is, that while you have the opportunity to get good customer data it’s imperative that you do so.

 

I encourage you to make proper customer data acquisition a hill you’re willing to die on through the Christmas season. If you do, you will be locked and loaded to have a very successful 2017.

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Somebody bring me my sammich!

Brad Cannon | 09/20/2016

 

Last month, I told you about my sushi guy – Alvin. Great guy who really knows how to take care of his

 

customers who inadvertently has left a serious vacuum at his previous employer’s restaurant since leaving to start his own.

 

Let’s talk about the opposite…

 

I like to hunt. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to really pursue it like I want to. This year will be different. In years past, I’ve always hunted with my rifle, but this year will be different. My son has taken an interest in going hunting with me, and last year I got him a bow for Christmas. He’s pretty good with it, and we’ve had a good time practicing together. Unfortunately, my bow of almost 20 years finally gave up the ghost. Time for a new one.

 

And our story begins…

 

I did some research online, since it’s been a while since I’ve been bow shopping. I narrowed my options down to a couple of different bows that I wanted to take a look at, and saw some of the places they were sold.

 

My son and I hopped in my truck and headed out to a very well-known ‘big box’ sports store so that I could see them in person and decide what felt best. It bears mentioning that I was prepared to spend close to $800 to get what I wanted. I don’t buy bows often, so I’m not scared to spend what it takes to make me happy.

 

We get to the store, and go to the archery section. There’s a modest selection of bows (a little disappointing), but enough that I might find what I’m looking for.

 

About 15 feet away from the display (and me) is where the sales counter (and sales guy) are. He is assembling bows for display on the bow press.

 

He does not look at me.

He does not greet me.

He does not acknowledge my presence in any discernable way.

 

I start talking to my son about the bows on the wall. I start pulling different bows down off the wall, holding them up, looking through the sights. I wonder out loud about which bow might be best for me, what accessories might be best for each, all kinds of things that a sales guy would interpret as BUYING SIGNALS.

 

After about 15 minutes, I have had a chance to pull down each bow in the department, look at what I wanted to see, and since the “salesman” had still not seen fit to act like there was even anyone there besides himself, my son and I left.

 

We went across the street to another ‘big box’ sports store to try our luck there. They only had 4 bows in stock – none of which were what I wanted. Frustrated, we went to a 3rd sporting goods store that was just up the street. They also only had a couple of bows available.

 

At this point I’m pretty aggravated. It shouldn’t be this hard. Against my better judgment, I go back to the first store. They had bows I was interested in, if the employee would just speak to me.

 

I’m back at the back wall again. Same guy is still there, perched on his stool like a buzzard on power lines. Still doesn’t speak to me.

 

At this point, it has become a weird little game for me. I decide to throw enough buying signals his way that any reasonable human being would feel obligated to speak to me. I pick up arrows, a release, broadhead tips, and several other accessories and hand them to my son to hold. I say in a ‘little too loud’ of a voice “I’ll need this stuff to go with a new bow.” Then we wait as I pull another bow off the wall.

 

A few seconds later, I hear the “salesman’s” voice for the first time. What did he say?

 

As I heard him begin to speak, I turned around to face him so we could FINALLY start the process of getting a bow.

 

Only it didn’t go down like that. As I turned around, I saw his hand on the intercom button of his walkie-talkie, and what he said was, “Somebody bring me my Jimmy John’s sub!”

 

That this man is still breathing is evidence that there is a God.

 

At this point, I took all the accessories we had picked up off the shelf put them on the counter and advised my son in a voice that a Southern Baptist Hell-fire and brimstone preacher would have been proud of, that these people weren’t interested in selling ANYTHING and we’d buy from someone who appreciated our time and money.

 

Side note: it’s at times like these that my wife usually won’t walk near me as I leave the store – and I get in trouble in the car for ‘being embarrassing.’ My son stuck his chest out and walked next to me all the way to the truck. Never been more proud…

 

The next day, I went to a local gun/archery store that’s about 40 minutes from my house. I knew of the place, but hadn’t wanted to drive that far. I sucked it up and made the drive. The front of the store is a gun store, and then there is a big hallway about 15 feet wide that takes you to the back where the archery section is. There are about 200 animal head mounts on the left wall (not an exaggeration) and all kinds of gear on the right wall. When you get to the back, there are at least 200 bows on display. There are 4 bow smiths on duty and they are VERY busy with customers. Stacked deep. Nobody is upset. There is a shooting lane for testing bows there by the counter. It becomes clear pretty quickly that these guys know their stuff, and folks are happy to wait to get helped. As a matter of fact, everyone is talking to each other the whole time. It’s a happening place.

 

I wander around for about 20 minutes, just trying to take in all the bows and narrow down what I want. Eventually, things slow down enough that one of the guys behind the counter comes around and starts talking with me about bows. He asks all kinds of questions, including a lot of things I hadn’t considered, and eventually I settle on a really nice PSE Brute Force bow. At any of the big box stores, my story would have ended there at a cash register. Not here.

 

Doug (my new ‘archery guy’) takes me up to the shooting lane and measures my arms for my draw length. He then sets the draw length on the bow to match me. I pull back a few times to make sure, and then he measures me for the peep sight. And goes back and installs that. Then he has me shoot at 20 yards to make sure the peep and draw length are correct. Check. Then he sets the draw weight, and I shoot 5 more arrows. Adjusts accordingly. Then I shoot 5 more arrows and he adjusts the scope. Repeat three more times to get the 20 scope peg sighted in, and I am hitting the bullseye consistently. Feel like a rock star.

 

He walks me through picking out a release, giving me the benefits of each. We then choose some broad heads for the arrows. It’s at this point that he explains that it will just be a couple more minutes, they are almost done cutting me 5 custom length arrows to go with my new bow purchase. They made 5 arrows SPECIFICALLY tailored to me.

 

Last week, I bought a brand new bow and left two online reviews. The takeaway here is that people will do online research to find what they want to buy, and will find where they want to buy as well. I researched bows, found what I wanted, and used the internet to find the closest place to get it. When I went there, it was a miserable fail.

 

In my article last month, a great employee and no owner/customer affinity led to a HUGE loss in revenue for a local business. This month, a big box company spent a lot of time/energy/money to build an online presence that led me right to their door – only to make a horrible impression, piss me off, lose a sale, and harvest a really colorful bad review that I crafted with great enthusiasm. I took equal pleasure in writing a good review for the other guys. Don’t be the first guy, whose company spends huge amounts of money and energy online only to have folks find out they’re jerks.

 

 

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Be the Guy

Brad Cannon | 08/23/2016

 

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for any length of time, you know that I’m the guy who’s “got a guy” for everything. You need a haircut? I got a guy. Need clothes? Got a guy. Looking for a car? Got a guy. Best sushi in Atlanta? Got your guy.

 

I get a lot of friendly joking about that, but that’s okay. I get asked for recommendations a lot. 

 

An interesting thing happened this past week that really made me think, and I want to share it with you.

 

It started about a year and a half ago. I found out about this sushi bar here in town, and heard it was pretty good. Tory and I are both sushi fans, so one day we went there for lunch, sat at the bar, and struck up a conversation with the sushi chef, Alvin.

 

Turns out, Alvin is a really great guy and an amazing sushi chef. Like, really amazing. He worked as a chef in South Beach for 19 years.

 

On top of that, he’s extremely personable, provides over the top customer service, and seems to never forget anything. We dragged Rod up there (he wasn’t a sushi guy at the time) and Alvin made him a ‘Trust Me Roll.’ As the name implies, you order it and trust him to make it. It’s never the same thing twice. Rod mentioned he doesn’t like cucumbers or mayo, and the next time we went, Alvin made him another – mentioning that he wouldn’t use mayo or cucumbers.

 

Over time, it’s come to the place where Alvin and I are friends on Facebook, and when he gets something really good in (like Bluefin tuna or Sea Urchin) he’ll text me pictures – and I come spend money. And I’m not the only one who has that kind of relationship with him. Sometimes the texts I get have 20 other people on copy.

 

There are three companies here in Peachtree City that are Japanese and who bring folks overseas here to work for extended periods of time. All three have had him cater large business functions for them and their employees eat there for lunch all the time.  This guy is good.

 

We also have an interesting ‘California crowd’ because Pinewood Studios is located a couple of miles to the east of the restaurant (they film all the Marvel movies) and just to the south of the restaurant is the main filming location for The Walking Dead. Both of those crowds visit Alvin twice per week for dinner.

 

The bottom line is that the place is a real hot spot, and it’s just a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place that is really easy to miss. 

 

Now, Alvin isn’t the owner – but I thought he was for a long time. I mean, he deeply cares for what he does, always greets me by name and asks about my family (by name), he has my cell phone number, texts me, Facebook friended me, and messaged me there, I mean who does that that isn’t in an ownership position?

 

He has an ENORMOUS following. It’s amazing. From Hollywood stars to much humbler folks, everyone seems to like Alvin and his sushi skills.

 

Here is where it gets interesting. Alvin is so good, that when he takes a day off for vacation, family emergency, or whatever, people will come in, see he’s not there, and walk out. Tory, Rod, and I have done it on several occasions – walk in, Alvin isn’t in today, walk out. And we aren’t alone, it happens a lot.

 

Well, there are two owners of this restaurant, and long story short, there was a little dust up over Alvin taking time off. The guy works literally all the time, but when he’s gone its crickets, and the owners don’t like it.

 

So there has been a little friction, but Alvin is a stand up guy and continues to work for several months. Then one of his good friends, a producer for The Walking Dead, asks Alvin if he wants to open his own place. After a lot of soul searching, Alvin decided to do it. He joined with a couple of investors, has left the restaurant where he was working, and will be opening his restaurant in a month or so. 

 

He hasn’t been ugly about his old restaurant, hasn’t bad-mouthed them or anything, but based on what I am seeing on Facebook – and the parking lot – business is WAY down. A lot of folks (myself included) have kept in touch, waiting for the new restaurant to open. 

 

Okay, so what’s the take away here? As Rod and I were driving by the empty parking lot (which we used to struggle to find a spot in) something became pretty clear.

 

The owners of the business had built no affinity whatsoever with us – but Alvin had. When Alvin left, we left too. This situation really highlights how important it is as a business owner that you build affinity with your customer base. Your customers need to know who you are, because people buy from people they know, like, and trust. If they don’t know you, they are susceptible to being lured away by employees who leave, other dealerships who build that relationship, or friends and families who may do business elsewhere. The number one reason people quit doing business with a company is feelings of apathy.

The sushi restaurant lost our business because they never built a relationship with us, so when the person who did do that left, so did we.

 

 

A motorcycle dealership can be the same way. I remember times where an “A” level tech left, and we lost customers because in their mind he was the only one that could work on their motorcycle. I also remember having to fire a Parts Manager, who then went to work at another dealership, and took some customers with him.

 

Same with Service Managers and Salespeople. Back then, we didn’t yet have the understanding of marketing best practices to minimize that effect – now we do.

 

By building affinity with your buying base, you will make them immune to other offers. This happens when you touch that buying base 52-104 times per year, making you the go to guy when its time to make purchases.

 

52-104 sounds like a lot of touches and a lot of work, but it’s really pretty easy to do, especially with the done for you programs that we have for you. The combination of Sharp Shooter campaigns and our Local Web Dominator packages builds that relationship with your buying base for you, allowing you to be much more in control of your business growth and less susceptible to outside influences.

 

If you haven’t yet been involved with either of these programs, it’s time. I encourage you not to wait any longer. We have the data to back up what I’m talking about and are happy to share it with you. 

 

One last thing, if you haven’t yet registered for our Fall Marketing Boot Camp, hurry and do so 

(www.PowersportsMarketing.com/boot-camp). Space will be limited, but we will be going over marketing best practices and sharing case studies that show how you can be more successful and profitable. 

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The Thing That Wouldn't Die

Brad Cannon | 07/16/2016

 

Last month I wrote about my trip to the Atlanta Digital Summit, and how we saw and learned quite a bit in the short time it lasted.

 

One of the things that struck me was the important part email is playing in digital marketing. 

 

 

Every year for at least the past 7 or so, there are critics who come out and say that e-mail is officially dead, and being replaced by (fill in the social media du jure). 

 

It never happens. And I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon. As a matter of fact, the opposite is actually true.

 

Email remains one of the most effective tools in your dealership’s arsenal of marketing tools, and a lot of dealers aren’t using it, or are not making the best use of it.

 

Here are some interesting stats about e-mail:

 

72% of consumers say that email is their favored conduit of communication with companies they do business with.  -MarketingSherpa

 

61% say they like to receive promotional emails WEEKLY, and 28% want them even more frequently. -MarketingSherpa 

 

53% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. -Campaign Monitor

 

23% of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later. -Campaign Monitor

 

92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it daily. -Pew Research

 

For every $1 spent, email generates $38 in ROI. -Campaign Monitor

 

Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social. -Monetate

 

I could go on a lot longer, but it’s pretty easy to see what I mean. Email marketing is stronger than ever, and can be a pretty amazing way to generate sales and profits if executed properly. 

 

The challenge is, how do you execute it properly?

 

At Powersports Marketing, we believe that email marketing works, and we also believe in living what we preach. That means that if you ever hear us telling you that you should be doing something, you can rest assured that we are doing it ourselves.

 

When it comes to email marketing, we do it. A lot of it. If we have your email address, you already know that. 

 

We use email marketing because it is a proven winner. It’s a great way to get a direct response marketing message directly to a prospect. According to a Forrester Research study, better than 90% of emails get to an intended recipient’s inbox, vs. 2% in a Facebook feed.

 

But back to the how…

 

Frankly, it can be very intimidating. I remember 7 years ago when we made the commitment to consistent email marketing. I’d sit down in front of my computer, looking at a blank screen, trying to come up with something meaningful to say. It was tough.

 

As time went by, we all got better at it, and it’s turned out to be a really great way to communicate with our regular clients and prospects. We send out emails and the number of replies we get is pretty cool to see. And yes, many of the responses are folks saying they want to participate in campaigns we are running, or sign up for our LWD program. 

 

I’m being transparent here, but that’s how it’s supposed to work. And it does.

 

I’m saying that because it can and will work that way for you as a dealer just as well. In a passion based industry, people WANT to hear from you. Let them.

 

You also have an advantage that we didn’t have when we got started. You have the ability to use Firestorm, the first email program designed specifically for the powersports industry BY industry experts and enthusiasts.

 

That’s a big deal, because the only thing as bad as staring at a blank screen to try and muster up your mojo, is trying to figure out how to make some generic, somewhat feminine, non-awe-inspiring, lukewarm template look “powersports-ish” AND get some mojo going. Am I right?

 

The cool thing about Firestorm is that it has totally customizable premade templates designed specifically for the powersports industry that get you inspired just by looking at them.

 

You won’t have to worry about what to say, because the graphics start the conversation for you. It’s awesome.

 

Even better news is that Firestorm is currently being offered at no additional charge for LWD clients, so if you are a current client – try it! If you aren’t a current client, now is the perfect time to become one and get one of the greatest marketing tools in our industry at no additional charge.

 

Do me a favor, add me to your email list when you give it a shot: bcannon@powersportsmarketing.com. I’d love to see what you come up with.

 

I’d love to hear (and see) your success stories. Another great time to tell me how it works for you is at our Fall Marketing Boot Camp. It’ll be a great time to share with me as well as with other dealers from across the country, and learn more about marketing strategies that work, backed up by real world stories and data.

 

See you this fall.

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Dedication to Continual Improvement in Business and Life

Brad Cannon | 06/28/2016

The past two weeks have been very busy. I attended two events that relate to the two main focuses of Powersports Marketing (digital and print) and was able to see what other companies are doing, and where things seem to be headed. 

 

The first was more of a mastermind group related to the printing industry. Rod and I attended, and it was the first time either of us had been to this particular event. 

 

We had the opportunity to visit two of the largest and oldest print houses in the southeast during one of the outings. One has been in business for over 125 years, and the other close to 90.

 

They have huge facilities, and are in the third and fourth generation of family owners. 

 

 

What wasn’t impressive was that overall, it appears that much of the industry is using technology and thinking that is 50-60 years old, and doing things “the way we always have.”

As you should know, that kind of thinking is deadly in business – and it was really highlighted for me in the visits we made. Both companies had better than 150,000 square foot facilities, but much of that space was filled with empty work spaces and old workstations that were no longer being used. It was a gross waste of space. 

 

The problem, as I see it, is that they have failed to adapt to new technologies (like variable digital printing), and now they simply deal in commodities that are about as exciting as trying to sell post-it notes or #2 pencils. 

 

What was pretty surprising to me was that both companies actually had digital variable printers – which are the latest and greatest in technology, allowing for ridiculously fast turn times, and a “sky is the limit” ability when it comes to custom tailoring a specific mail piece to an individual for maximum response. The problem is that they, and the other folks attending the event, have very little in the creativity bucket, and their sales team have nothing in the tank when it comes to understanding the technology or even basic sales ability. 

 

It was tragic, but that’s what happens when you get in a rut. There’s a saying that a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out. After that event, I get it. 

 

After having our souls sucked out at the first event, I attended a very different event here in Atlanta – the Digital Summit.

 

Chad (our Senior Digital Marketing Specialist) and I attended this one, and it reignited my hope for humanity. This event was attended by marketing agencies (large and small), and hosted by some real thought leaders in marketing best practices and “next big things.” 

 

We spent two days getting the latest info on everything from creating ideal digital experiences for clients, to website and user experience best practices, data management, digital variable print, email, the future of Google and SEO… you name it, we got it.

 

It was an amazing time, the excitement and optimism were palpable, and it was impossible to leave without a boatload of great info and takeaways that we’ll be implementing as quickly as we can. 

So why am I telling you about all of this? A couple of reasons. 

 

 

One is to be transparent with you. It’s important to us that dealers understand that our Company Core Value #5 “Dedication to continual improvement in business and life” isn’t just a phrase hanging on our walls here. We live it. It would be easy to just come to the office every day and “do what we’ve always done,” but then we’d be like the folks at the first event we attended. That future isn’t so bright.

 

The second reason I’m sharing is because when you are choosing a company to partner with to market your dealership, you want a partner that is committed to providing cutting edge services that keep you ahead of your competition. That takes work. That takes study. That takes coming to work every morning with the “productive paranoia” that pushes you to do things just a little better today.  Is it a shameless plug? Yeah, but we’re that kind of partner.

 

The last reason is that I want to push YOU a little bit. I’d like to encourage you to adopt our Company Core Value #5 for yourself. It’s something that will make an enormous difference in the quality of your dealership and your life. We spend more time than most companies in training and education, and the payoff has been better than I could have imagined. I’d like to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and make a commitment to attend our Fall Marketing Boot Camp. I promise it will be worth your time, and it’s a great way to make a significant impact on your dealership’s profitability.  

 

See you at our Boot Camp,

 

Brad

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Don’t Trust Me.

Brad Cannon | 05/22/2016

I used to think that TV and radio were pretty disingenuous, and to be fair, I still think to a large extent that they are. They adopt a “spray and pray” mentality. You broadcast your message out into the world and hope for the best. And, while I believe that both media methods are EXTREMELY inefficient and ineffective for our niche, you can at least say they are up front about what they are doing.

 

What I DON’T like is what I see as a relatively common practice among companies providing pay-per-click services. Many of them are playing what amounts to a shell game with client’s money in one or more ways. 

 

What I am talking about is transparency. 

 

Transparency is a huge hot button for me. A lack of transparency in what you are doing tells me that you’re doing something that you think isn’t right or in my best interest. Doing business with someone who operates that way isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

 

Doing what we do with AdWords and reputation management, we are in constant competition with, and being compared to, companies who provide similar services to ours. We get to see what other companies are doing every day, and in many cases it’s pretty frustrating to see what sometimes happens.

 

 

The biggest foul I see on a regular basis is a failure to disclose what is adspend vs. management fees. This is usually presented as a “for ‘x’ dollars per month” lump sum type of service often focused on a monthly budget that is all-inclusive. 

 

While this is an easy model to understand on the face of it, what you aren’t seeing is how much of the money you give them goes to Google, and how much they pocket as management fees. Typically, the reporting from most companies using this model show impressions and clicks, without getting into the specifics of cost-per-click or discussing conversions. I’ll stop short of saying that this model is crooked, but it sure has the potential to be. It’s pretty easy to get a lot of impressions and clicks that don’t convert to anything inexpensively and pocket more than you’ve spent. If you’re not transparent on adspend, and not accountable for conversions, it’s not just easy, it can be tempting. At the very least it’s a great way to be hugely inefficient.

 

Let’s compare two companies just for the sake of argument. 

 

The first company bills you an agreed upon amount per month for pay-per-click services. At the end of each month, you are given reporting that shows impressions, clicks, and maybe where they came from in some nicely laid out charts and/or graphs. You ask how much your average cost per click was, and the answer is a little evasive. You ask how many conversions you got, and you get another bypass. Then you ask what your actual adspend was – not how much the bill was, the actual adspend. Frankly, some reading this article right now don’t have the answers to the questions I just posed. I suggest you ask them of your provider, and if the answers aren’t immediate and straightforward – fire them.

 

The second company in our comparison bills you an agreed upon amount each month. The invoice itemizes exactly what services are being provided, and documents how much adspend with Google will be. This invoice doesn’t add that amount, simply documents it as a comment. You receive a statement from Google that shows exactly how much was spent with them. At the end of each month, you receive reporting that shows how much you spent, how many impressions, clicks, and conversions you had, along with how much each click and conversion cost you. If your OEM offers co-op for Adwords, you find that this company did the submission for you. Maybe you call them up and want to see what your search ads look like, or what keywords are being used, or want to see the strategy employed for targeting. They show you. Maybe you want to see what percentage of impression share you are getting for your budget (how often your ads are being shown vs. how much they COULD be shown for relevant searches with a bigger budget). 

 

 

You may decide a bigger budget makes sense based on that information.

 

This is what I mean about transparency. A company that is totally transparent with clients has total freedom. They become a part of the team rather than an expense. I’m sure you can see how the first company wouldn’t be motivated to do their best work for you, and likely wouldn’t. Accountability results in performance. 

 

This is when the magic happens.

 

Yeah, Powersports Marketing is the second company, and I could put a dozen names in as the first. And while the plug here might be a little shameless, I welcome you to bullet-hole my logic. 

 

The bottom line is, when it comes to your digital marketing, dig in. Ask uncomfortable questions. Get answers. If you find that you can’t seem to get straight answers – or answers at all, go somewhere else because you have identified that your goals are not the same as your marketers.

 

Yes, I want your business, but don’t trust me.

 

Talk Soon,

Brad

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Your Phone Just Made Search More Interesting

Brad Cannon | 04/27/2016

 

On Friday, February 19th Google made an announcement that search results pages on desktops will no longer show paid ads in the right sidebar.

 

The new format for paid ads is that for “highly commercial searches” (everyone in powersports) up to 4 ads will appear at the top of the results page, with an additional 3 at the bottom. Historically, Google showed up to 3 ads at the top of the page, and up to 8 in the right sidebar. Where there used to be up to 11 paid results, now there are 7 at best. 

So why did Google do this? Google has been working to standardize the advertising experience across devices for several years now. They’ve also made a significant move towards standardizing that experience with mobile in mind – which doesn’t support sidebars.


According to Ginny Marvin at Search Engine Land, Google began experimenting with this layout back in 2010 on mortgage queries. Since then, they’ve tested it in various ways, apparently with good results. Then, on February 17th, search marketers began to see the rollout of the new layout before the confirmation by Google.

 

There are a lot of conspiracy theorists in the search optimization/marketing community, and feelings about how exactly this is going to impact search marketing in the long haul are mixed to say the least. 
I’m not too worried about these changes, but there are a couple of things to think about. 

 

First, there are fewer overall slots for advertisers to appear in. Available spots went from 11 down to 7. That’s almost a 25% reduction in available spots. Of course, if your ad actually appeared in spots 7-11 studies showed that it almost never got clicked and your advertising efforts were probably wasted. You weren’t paying for clicks, but AdWords accounts don’t set themselves up, and whoever set one up like that was wasting money.

 

Second, Google used to only show a max of 3 ads at the top of a search results page. Studies by Search Engine Land, Moz, Google, and every other search marketing group show that those three spots get roughly 85+% of all ad clicks. Google just added a 4th “hot spot” for search results. Common sense tells me that’s a win.

Third, it may cost more to advertise using AdWords. Maybe. My feelings are that any increase caused by dropping the number of open advertising spots is going to be negligible. What we have been seeing over the last two years here at Powersports Marketing, is that the number of dealers who are beginning to understand digital marketing and engaging in its use is surging, and competition is increasing. So, in some markets, AdWords clicks are starting to cost more. When we first started managing AdWords accounts for dealers years ago, it was not uncommon for us to have accounts that averaged 15 cents per click. At the time, most dealers thought AdWords was either black magic or a waste of money and time. Competition was low, and as a result, so was cost.

 

That has changed pretty significantly in the last 24 months. Competition is greater, and supply and demand has kicked in a little. The days of having accounts that average 15 cents per click are pretty much history, and somewhere between 50 cents and a dollar have taken their place depending on population density and competition. That said, let’s all be glad we aren’t advertising legal services (clicks average $150-$175) or anything to do with mesothelioma (Highest cost clicks last year on Google at $850 EACH).

 

One thing that is important is that given the new layout for Google ads, it is becoming more and more important that dealers work with AdWords Partners to insure that they are getting the best exposure, value, and return on their digital marketing investment. Just like the days of the 15 cent click are gone, so are the days of trying to manage online marketing campaigns in house.

 

If you need help understanding how online marketing works and/or how we might be able to help you with yours, give us a call, or visit powersportsmarketing.com and fill out a contact form.

Talk soon. 
 

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The One-Two Marketing Punch

Brad Cannon | 03/23/2016

Last month we talked about reviews, and how critical they are to a dealership’s online success, and subsequently their brick and mortar success. The successful dealers now are those that understand that the battle for customers and their dollars is a digital one, and can be won or lost before they even leave their homes.

 

In a previous article, I talked about the Brightstar 2015 search report that highlighted the importance of having both a lot of positive reviews, and recent reviews – because 68% of searchers reported that they believed that reviews older than 90 days were no longer relevant. 

 

The big takeaway is that to be successful, your dealership needs to have a system in place that is constantly harvesting legitimate positive reviews from past and present customers so that when searchers find you online, you are the logical place to go.  Of course, my shameless plug is that we offer a done-for-you system that has proven to do this flawlessly, but whether you use us or not, you need a good system.

 

Once you have your reputation maintenance plan in place, the next step in the parade is to drive traffic to your site, and ultimately, to your dealership.

 

This is done in two basic ways, through SEO efforts, and SEM. SEO (search engine optimization) is an organic way to make your site rank better in the search engine results by having good content that is well structured and easily ‘crawled’ by search engine spiders. In addition to having a good site, having consistent name, address, and phone information (referred to as NAP info) on sites across the web also boosts your rankings. When Google sees a lot of other sites linking back to your site, they look at you as a more credible business and rank you higher in search results. 

 

Having solid structure on your website, good navigability, and lots of good content is important, and your web provider will (or at least should) be handling a lot of that for you. I don’t suggest you spend a lot of extra time and money on SEO services outside of what is on your site. 

 

Many people will disagree with me on this. Your web provider will probably disagree with me. Keep in mind that most of the folks who will disagree with me sell SEO services.  They have an interest in being able to bill you monthly. 

 

So why do I say not to spend a lot (or any) money on SEO services like link building, article writing, custom landing pages, and the other bells and whistles that a lot of SEO services offer? Because we are in a niche industry, and the OEMs and lots of national companies compete there, and have a lot more money to throw at those services than you do. 

 

When you search for your dealership name, you’re always going to show up in the search results. If you haven’t tried it, do it. When you start typing in the names of particular models though, like when someone is researching a bike to buy, the organic results are populated by the OEMs and national sites like Cycle Trader and others. These are huge sites that get a lot more traffic than dealership sites, and have a lot of money to throw at them. Don’t take my word for it, fire up Google and do some model specific searches and see what I mean. The amount of money and time that a dealer would have to spend to compete at the organic level with these sites isn’t reasonable, practical, or in most (if not all) cases, possible.

 

So how do you compete? Take your budget and spend it on SEM, Search Engine Marketing. While there are a lot of ways to spend money on search engine marketing, I recommend spending it on AdWords. Google is the 800 lb. gorilla in the search engine game, and AdWords is how you market with them.  

 

Using AdWords, you can cut through the clutter and appear on the first page of search results immediately, right next to the national sites – and ahead of your local competition. If you use a professional company to manage your campaigns for you, it can be the most economical way to advertise outside of email. 

 

AdWords levels the playing field, and it is a VERY quick way to get results. We have managed campaigns for dealers that increased their monthly website traffic by as much as 50%, and created hundreds of new leads. Done properly, AdWords just works.

 

I like to think of reputation maintenance and AdWords as a sort of 1-2 punch for online marketing success. AdWords gets you in front of the specific people who are actively looking for what you sell so that they know who and where you are, and by guarding your reputation (reviews), they find that you are the best place to buy from.

 

If you want a clearer picture of how this can work for your dealership, give us a call, or go to powersportsmarketing.com/local-web-dominator.

 

Talk soon. 
 

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Let's Review Reviews...

Brad Cannon | 02/29/2016

A few years ago when we were conducting boot camps or speaking at Dealer Expo, when we talked about online reviews folks were a little skeptical as to their significance.

 

Fast forward to today, and it’s pretty clear that business (and product) reviews are to be taken very seriously, they have become a part of our culture.

 

I thought I’d share some key points of the results of the BrightLocal.com 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey that show just how important business reviews are in the minds of your customers.

 

BrightLocal reports that 92% of those surveyed indicated that they read online reviews for local businesses. That number is up from 88% last year, and 71% back in 2010 when we first started talking about them. The point here is that almost everyone who looks for a business looks to see what others experience with that business has been like. To quote Mr. Trump – “It’s Huge.”

 

Another interesting fact is that of those who read online reviews for businesses, 80% trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation. The stipulation for this was that the review needed to be perceived as authentic. Fake reviews are usually pretty easy to spot. That said, this statistic is a really big deal. 80% of the people that read reviews about your dealership trust them as much as if one of their friends said it. 


What is the biggest influence in getting someone involved in powersports? The influence of friends and family, according to the MIC. Reviews carry comparable weight in whether they do business with you or your competitor.


Quantity of reviews and star rating are the two things that will grab the attention of a searcher the fastest. Lots of reviews with a high star rating is always going to be a winner. Kind of a no brainer. Here’s another interesting stat that BrightLocal found – 73% of searchers will form an opinion after reading 6 reviews. I’ve never seen a review site of any kind anywhere that didn’t list reviews from the most recent to the oldest, so the 6 most recent reviews need to be good. If one or more of them isn’t, they need to be replaced with good ones in a hurry. That’s what I mean when I say you want to bury bad reviews with good ones. A large number of reviews and a good star rating can get stung if the most recent are not good.

 

Here’s another stat that is a real eye-opener: 69% of consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. What this means is that even if you have a lot of good reviews, if they are over 90 days old (specifically the last 6 reviews) you could miss out on an opportunity if your competitor has a much lower number of total reviews that are positive and current. 

 

These findings really highlight the importance of business reviews, and how important it is to properly manage them.

 

I encourage you to look at your year-end P&L statement and see how much you have spent on all forms of advertising in the past year. Think about how many potential customers you reached with that advertising. Get a round number in mind, and then Google your dealership and look at the reviews that come up. 92% of that number in your head did that too. What did they find? Did that money you spent lead them to a search that shows current reviews that shine a positive light on your dealership, or to old reviews no longer perceived as relevant, or worst case scenario was money spent only for searchers to find bad reviews? I’ve lost count of how many times dealers have spent significant amounts of money on advertising only to have searchers find terrible reviews.

 

One of the things we talk about in our boot camps (the next one is in March and you should be there, by the way) is annual/lifetime customer value. That number varies based on brands, but it’s safe to use $650/year in gross profit as an average annual customer value. Based on what we’ve looked at regarding reviews and the huge percentage of people that rely on them as much as a personal referral, it’s easy to see how not effectively managing them can cost your dealership dearly.

Very few reviews, bad reviews, and old reviews perceived as no longer relevant all equal lost opportunities and wasted marketing dollars.

 

So what do I mean when I say they need to be effectively managed? How do you do that?

First, it’s important to have positive reviews. Lots of them. Lots of positive reviews will cover a multitude of sins. If you’re constantly getting new, positive reviews, you will have solved two of the three big review challenges you face. The third is bad reviews. Unfortunately, studies show that unhappy customers are at least 11 times more likely than happy ones to leave you a bad review. In other words, if unmanaged, it’s a lot more likely that searchers are going to see something negative.

 

What if there was a program that automated the process of harvesting authentic reviews from your past customers? What if that program was able to take those customers that had a less than excellent experience, and rather than getting them to leave a review, had them tell you directly exactly why they thought their experience was less than excellent so that you could correct the problem and save them as a customer (retaining that annual client value)?

 

Simply looking at what you spent last year on advertising, combined with potential missed opportunities based on few, bad, or old, reviews, it’s pretty easy to see how valuable that program would be. At a few hundred bucks per month, it would easily be the cheapest, most valuable insurance you could buy. 

 

Can you think of a reason you wouldn’t want to have it, or why you would ever stop doing it? 

 

Me either. 

 

Give us a call to see how it works, or go to 

 

www.powersportsmarketing.com/local-web-dominator.

Talk Soon.

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Pick Your Partner

Brad Cannon | 12/01/2015

 I just got back from our Fall Marketing Boot Camp, and it was at least as good as I had hoped it would be.

 

We had a room full of dealers, as well as a couple of OEM reps and that made for some really good back and forth during the sessions. Don’t take my word for it though, head over to www.powersportsmarketingreviews.com to see what the attendees thought. You can see reviews of previous Boot Camps there as well. 

 

If you haven’t been to one, keep on the lookout because we’re doing it again in March and you won’t want to miss it.

As I mentioned last month, the search marketing (AdWords) session is always pretty popular and there tends to be a TON of questions every time I lead it – both during the session and after. 

 

AdWords is an interesting marketing method because the IDEA is very simple, but the EXECUTION is extremely complex. 

 

There are so many variables to take into consideration, from keyword match types, bidding strategies, geography, time of day, day of week, conversion strategies, and a host of other things, that in a dealership environment it just makes sense to find an outside company to partner up with to handle it. Not doing so can be very expensive.

 

Trouble is, as one attendee said to me, “This stuff is like black hat and magic wand kind of stuff, I don’t really understand it and it’s hard to get good explanations.”

 

So how do you find that partner you can trust with a form of advertising that is difficult to understand? Interestingly enough, this is how many people feel when choosing a mechanic.

 

One of the things we do in our dealerships to show potential customers that we are qualified is to hang our mechanics certifications on the wall in the service department for people to see. It’s always good to have a wall full of certificates, right? Look for those certifications with potential AdWords partners as well. You can look up Google certifications through the Google Partners Program. If the company you are considering is not a Google Partner, cross them off your list. They have not exhibited the skills necessary to successfully understand and set up Google AdWords.

 

 

See how many Google certifications they have. It gets really easy to see who is working in their mom’s basement. 

 

Also, take a look at other certifications they have, this speaks to how seriously they take staying current in an environment that is constantly changing. Ask how much they spend annually on training and how much they manage in Google ad spend. This can be very telling as well. How many clients do they have? How many of those clients are in the powersports business – remember that this is a niche industry, and not everyone understands the lingo and culture.

 

If you research Powersports Marketing, you’ll find that we currently hold 13 Google certifications (they have to be re-tested every 12 months), and at least twice that many certifications from SEMPO (Search Marketing Professionals Organization) and Cardinal Path (the only company to be officially endorsed by Google for AdWords and Analytics training in the world). We spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on classroom training, and manage over a million dollars per year in ad spend for hundreds of clients in powersports. It also helps that all of our leadership either ran dealerships or came from OEMs.

 

Additionally, it’s a little difficult to reach our digital marketing team on Thursdays between 3:00-4:00 EST. That’s when we have our weekly conference call with Google to discuss new strategies, features, and tactics. We began them after Google paid to have two of our team members fly out to Mountain View and visit the Googleplex.

Once you have established that the company you are considering is qualified, you then need to make sure they are a good fit. What I mean is, you need to work together on a month-to-month basis to monitor your results, start new initiatives, and stop ineffective ones.

 

To do this, there are a couple of foundational elements that need to be in place.

 

First, your partner has to be transparent. They have to help you understand what they are doing. Too many AdWords management companies allow clients to believe that campaign management is black magic. If you get the vibe that your AdWords company has an attitude of, “you wouldn’t understand” or, “just trust me”…don’t. Cross them off your list.

 

A good partner will take the time to make sure you understand the logic of what they are doing – and sometimes why they don’t want to do what you might think is a good idea. They have to be able to explain the WHY of what they are advising – you are paying them for the HOW. Going back to our mechanic illustration, when my check engine light is on, I want my mechanic to be able to explain that it’s because of a vacuum leak in my emissions system, and that he can take care of it for me. I am paying for his expertise.

Another trait of a good partner is that they pursue you to discuss results. Accountability. There are an awful lot of companies who are happy to send you a monthly report with lots of charts and graphs that look really important, but often simply hide lukewarm performance, who are happy to never speak with you. I guess the idea is that you are supposed to look at the reporting with your eyes glazing over, think it must be working, and just keep signing the checks. I call B.S. on that.

 

What you want is a partner who will contact you monthly (something we work hard to do each month with clients – if we don’t talk to them it wasn’t because they weren’t called) and walk you through any part of the campaign you have questions about. This is simple month-to-month accountability. It’s a “here’s what we talked about doing in our meeting last month, here’s how that went, and here’s what I recommend this month” kind of meeting, much like you might have with any of your in-house management team. Your partner has to be an extended member of your team, who you work with on initiatives and who you trust to carry them out for you.

 

There is no black magic involved in AdWords, just a lot of hard work. In the spirit of total transparency and maybe a little bit of a shameless plug, I’d like for us to be that partner, give us a call – but if not, you know what to look for. 

 

Talk soon.

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Adwords or SEO?

Brad Cannon | 11/01/2015

Adwords and SEO are always really great topics at our Marketing Boot Camps, and I am sure this Fall Boot Camp will be no exception. As I write this article, Boot Camp is two weeks away and I am looking forward to my presentation because there are some new things going on with Google that I feel are real game changers.

 

On Google, there are two basic ways to get your message to potential customers: Organic search results (a function of SEO) or Paid search results (AdWords).

 

 

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid (organic) search results. There are roughly a bazillion different things that make up good SEO, from proper setup of your website architecture, to correct business listings, citations, social signals, etc. A lot of time, energy, and money are often spent to improve visibility in this way.

 

AdWords can be thought of as a “pay-to-play” kind of model. You set up campaigns, ad groups, and ads, and when relevant searches occur, you bid to jockey for a good position on the result page in an effort to get prospects to click on your ad and come to your site. 

 

Over the past few years, there has been a murmur in the digital marketing community that SEO is dead (or dying). I have never bought into this philosophy (still don’t), but the digital landscape is definitely changing, and we need to pay attention.

 

Google is in the business of providing the best possible results for a given search because doing so translates into user trust and PROFIT. Google is in the business of making money – and they are VERY good at it.

 

Historically, the layout of a search results page consisted of two or three AdWords ads across the top, organic results beneath them (usually 10 to 12 results), and 6-8 more AdWords ads down the right side of the page. This layout worked well for a long time, and it was pretty easy to see how SEO and AdWords were both pretty important. You want to be on page one, because everyone knows that the best place to hide a body is on page two of a Google search result.

 

With the rise of smartphone use over the past several years, the nature of search has changed pretty significantly, and consequently, so have search result pages.

 

 

Searchers are now looking for more immediate results. As in, I’m in my car going to look for a “________,” so I pull out my phone and do a quick search. Now they are looking for directions, hours, and/or click to call option – all for someone who is local.

 

The increase in local search focus has led to a restructuring of the typical Google search result page, along with a major change that they began rolling out in August. All searches, desktop or mobile, now look pretty much the same.
 
Instead of the historic layout, what most searchers will see is 3 AdWords ads across the top, then the new “Google Snack-Pack” (yes, they really call it that), and 6 more AdWords ads down the right side of the page.

So what is the “Snack-Pack?” It’s a group of 3 Google Maps-type listings. I say they are maps-type listings, because they are different in a couple of interesting ways. They don’t have a click to call option, the actual address doesn’t show up in the results, and there is no direct link to the web site. 

At first glance, the snack pack has some serious shortcomings. Hopefully, by the time you read this, they will have made some corrections.

Now, given the new layout, in most cases what searchers will see is all paid ads and 3 map-type results.  Any and all typical organic listings will be pushed below the fold. You’ll have to scroll to see them.

 

In essence, when you search your immediate results are Google products. Granted, at this point the map results aren’t paid, but there is some speculation about that in the future. 

 

So why worry about SEO? A couple of reasons. First, SEO best practices make it easier for search engines to understand who you are, how credible you are as a business, and if your site is of high quality. These are the things that help you rise to the top organically. These are also the metrics that will help you appear as one of the three map results. Very important.

 

Just as important, SEO will affect your AdWords performance. Using AdWords in today’s business environment is a non-negotiable. One of the things that AdWords does, is look at the quality of your site, the content of your site, and your online credibility. All these things (and over 100 more) are put into their algorithm that eventually help them determine how much it costs you per click in AdWords. 

 

Adhering to solid SEO best practices leads to a quality web presence, which bumps your organic presence and helps you save money on each click to your site from AdWords. 

 

With a good AdWords campaign, you drive quality leads to a quality site that (because of good SEO practices) is well structured and leads to more conversions and a higher ROI.

 

It’s really not a question of which is more important, SEO or AdWords, because they work together. Both have to be good. So even while it might seem like an exercise in futility to pay attention to SEO practices given the way that AdWords results are 9 of the first 12 things you see on the average search result page now, it’s how you can appear in one of the other three spots and lower the expense of appearing in the first 9. 

 

Talk soon.
 

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Impressions and Clicks and Conversions, Oh My!

Brad Cannon | 10/01/2015

 

This month, I want to go back to basics a little and review the three basic fundamentals of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

 

When you have a PPC campaign (or campaigns) running, there are three basic things that happen that can help you determine your success when everything is all boiled down. Think of them as three stepping stones on the path to success.

 

First, you have impressions. An impression is when your ad appears on the search results page when someone types in a query. In the PPC world, your ad could appear at the top, right side, or sometimes bottom of the search results page. Kind of like a little billboard on the Google results page for your dealership. If the searcher takes no action on your ad (doesn’t click on it), then this is recorded as an impression. They saw your ad, and now they know you exist, even though they didn’t go to your web site.

 

There is some “branding” value associated with impressions, but it isn’t very high. After all, they only saw your ad, but they didn’t do anything else.

 

On a side note: some dealers like to bid on their dealership name, and/or variants of it. The reason is because in some cases their competition also bids on the dealership’s name, and bidding on your own name will have higher quality scores and the competitor’s ad can be pushed farther down the page (or off the first page entirely). While there is some validity to this, I’d consider the circumstances before moving forward with that approach.

 

The next step on the PPC path to success is a click. Once a searcher has seen your ad (impression), if the ad/offer is compelling enough, they will take action and click on it. At this point, the searcher is sent to a page on your web site that is relevant to the content of the ad they clicked. For example, I search for “Indian Dark Horse,” I see an ad about the Dark Horse and click on it, and am taken to a page on a dealership’s web site that is all about the Indian Dark Horse. It should contain a good description of the bike, several pictures, and maybe an editorial type review by someone at the dealership. 

 

Clicks have more value than impressions, because “clickers” have taken action and visited your web site. These guys are interested enough to check out your dealership web site and click to visit it. 

 

And because we want our web site to act as our digital dealership, and not just be an electronic brochure, there should be “Contact Us,” “Request a Quote,” “Schedule a Test Ride,” “Trade-in Value,” and “Finance Application” buttons on that landing page as well.

 

Which leads us to the third step in the PPC path to success – conversions. Conversions occur when a web site visitor engages in a desired behavior on your site. This can be anything from downloading a file, signing up for an e-mail newsletter, calling the dealership, watching a video, or what is most common in our business – filling out a form like those I just mentioned.

 

Conversions are the highest value visits we can get for non ecommerce sites, because we can actually associate an ROI with conversions. Different types of conversions have different ROI values, and this can be tracked when PPC campaigns are properly linked with Google Analytics. 

 

Analytics track everything that happens on your web site – whether as a result of online advertising, or simply from folks visiting your site via other means, like typing your address straight into their browser, or a referral from another site. 

 

To say that having Google Analytics set up properly on your site is important is an understatement of Biblical proportion. If you can’t see what is happening on your site, you can’t capitalize on what is working or correct what isn’t. You end up working on guesses instead of data. That’s a fail.

 

Now I’m going to get on a soapbox for a second. I normally try to stay neutral on a lot of what happens in our business, and that’s usually pretty easy. Today, not so much.

 

In our industry, there are three major providers of web sites, and I have historically made no pitch for any one of them over another, because they all pretty much had all of the basic bases covered when it comes to providing a reasonable web presence. I no longer feel they are equal, and I’d like to share my thoughts as to why.


We work with hundreds of web sites every month, and as you can probably guess we deal with many, many web sites from each of the big three providers daily. This isn’t a big deal, as we normally don’t need to do anything more than put Google Analytics tracking code on each of the web sites pages so that everything that happens on the site can be tracked for improvement. This isn’t a big deal, hundreds of millions of web sites use Google Analytics code, and have done so for a very long time now.

 

What I find troubling, is one of the big three providers is now advising that they can’t use Google Analytics code on many of their pages (specifically inventory pages – where most conversions happen), and not just that. In some cases, this provider has advised clients that they shouldn’t use Google Analytics because that code can cause their site not to function properly.

 

I won’t speculate as to why they might not be able to add Google Analytics to their web pages (when literally hundreds of millions of other web sites can with no problem), or why someone would say that the code could cause their site to crash (which based on my experience for the last 15 years is total hogwash). I’ll simply say that it is a bad business practice to engage in any marketing effort that is unmeasurable. Especially when there are so many site providers that have no problem providing the normal and customary service of allowing you to track your web site’s performance. If your provider can’t help you track your site’s performance – get a different provider. FAST.

 

Impressions, clicks, and conversions: these are the steps in the path to web site success. Each has value, which increases with the level of engagement they represent. 

 

If you’d like to talk more about how you can get a done for you AdWords/Analytics solution for your dealership, give us a call: 877-242-4472.

 

Talk soon,

Brad
 

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Of the Two Paths to AdWords Reporting, Pick the Third.

Brad Cannon | 09/01/2015

It’s always fun for me when I have an opportunity to get out of the office and get in front of dealers. There’s so much to be said for eyeball-to-eyeball communication. 

 

Such an opportunity just happened recently, and there were dealers present representing every one of the major OEMs, so it was a good forum for me to throw out marketing questions on lots of topics and get a lot of good (sometimes interesting) feedback as well.

 

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I love AdWords* and love to talk about AdWords as a marketing tool because it just works so well when executed properly.

 

Naturally, a lot of discussions ended up being about AdWords…

 

It seems as though companies who provide AdWords account management fall into one of two major groups based on the 150 or so dealers I spoke with. 


The first group of providers seem to have a very interesting business model. They sell you on an AdWords program, provide you little to no reporting or communication, and send an invoice (or auto bill a credit card) each month hoping you just pay and don’t notice. It’s a weird relationship between client and provider, kind of like when Baptists run into each other in the liquor store – don’t make eye contact or speak. Not a particularly healthy relationship and certain not to have quality results.
  
The second group of providers does what Avinash Kaushik (recognized as one of the leading Google analytics gurus in the world) refers to as a monthly “data puke.” They bolt on some kind of reporting tab (if done by a website provider) or give access to a report, or send over a report that has so much information that the readers eyes almost immediately glaze over. These reports are fun to look at for a few seconds – maybe even for the first two or three times they are received, but getting data for data’s sake isn’t beneficial. We want MEANINGFUL data – data that tells us something, and helps to point our efforts at making our websites do what they are supposed to do, become an online showroom and generate leads/income instead of act as an online brochure.

 

This model results in a really interesting phenomenon that is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. 

 

 

When probed about the value and results of the campaigns, most of the responses can be boiled down into something along the lines of, “There’s a crazy number of charts and graphs, lists of numbers and words, so I feel like it must be working.” “Also, there’s so much information here that it’s intimidating to try and ask questions to sort it all out.” 

 

AdWords is a big animal, and running campaigns is complex if done properly. Because of this, you can generate a seemingly endless parade of reports that can show you more dimensions of what is going on than most people can imagine. 

 

But that’s not the magic of AdWords. 
The magic happens when you sift through the irrelevant data and are able to pull out actionable nuggets that give insight needed to improve website results.

 

With good actionable reporting, it’s possible to see how (and when) people are getting to your site, where they came from, where they are going once they get there, and where they are leaving. Using this info, it’s possible to make changes to the content or layout of a page, increasing conversions (and dollars). Properly bolting on Analytics with solid conversion/goal reporting allows us to see the ROI generated by your web site so that you know the money you are spending on BOTH AdWords and your website are dollars well spent. 

 

The point is, as I’ve always said, your website isn’t supposed to be a set-it-and-forget-it static brochure. It’s a living, breathing, entity – just like your physical location that changes when the market does. AdWords (and Analytics) allows you to supervise your digital showroom and see what traffic is doing (like you do in your physical dealership), what they are interested in, what products they linger on or avoid. And with properly set up AdWords and Analytics, you can make the same kinds of adjustments in your digital showroom that you do in your physical one.

 

If you feel as though you might fall into one of the two groups I mentioned above, we can show you a different approach that can raise the bar on your website performance, just give us a call – and also plan to attend our Fall Marketing Boot Camp in October and spend three intense days with dealers from all across the country learning about and discussing marketing best practices for your dealership.  Get more info about the Boot Camp at PowersportsMarketing.com/Boot-Camp.  

 

Talk soon,
Brad


* AdWords (Google AdWords) is an advertising service by Google for businesses wanting to display ads on Google and its advertising partners. This is also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.
 

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She's the Complete Package

Brad Cannon | 08/01/2015

If you’ve read this newsletter for any length of time, you know that we have very deep convictions about training here. Incredibly deep. Training happens every single morning, and for some departments again at the end of each day – no joke.

 

It was during one of these training times that we were discussing our Local Web Dominator program, going through the features and benefits and comparing them to other programs on the market that the title of this article went through my mind.

 

We were dissecting a call that one of our Business Development Reps had made, and going through the different objections she heard. As we listened to each one, and the responses we gave outlining features and benefits, it highlighted why the program is so good, and why so many dealerships are taking advantage of it.

 

I won’t get into the specifics of the call, but it’s worth talking about some of the features and benefits that make this program great.

 

First, let’s talk about the current marketing landscape. There are a ton of different media methods that dealers use to advertise their businesses - everything from newspaper, radio, T.V., direct mail, and billboards in the offline world, to hundreds of digital methods available today. I have some strong opinions about what methods work and what don’t, but that’s not really important right now. What IS important is what happens almost every single time one of those methods catches the interest of a potential customer. According to the latest studies by Google and a few other companies, somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of people will go online to research a product and/or company before buying. 

 

So what?

 

Well, what if they go online and don’t find you because your online presence is so fragmented, incomplete, or contradictory from one listing site to another that Google isn’t really sure who you are, and because of that you don’t show up on page one of search results? Search engines rely on N.A.P. (Name, Address and Phone number) information from directory sites and listing sites as one method to verify businesses and give weight to who they say they are. Google is all about providing accurate information quickly. If your web presence doesn’t match up from one directory or listing site to the next, or it’s incomplete, Google won’t be sure who you are, and they aren’t in the business of ranking based on guesses.

 

If you have recently physically moved your dealership, renamed your dealership, just purchased a dealership, or just opened a dealership, I can tell you with nearly 100% surety that this is going to be an issue with your dealership. If you can check more than one of the items I just mentioned, odds are right at 100%. You need a way to check and correct listing information for your dealership to make sure accurate information is available anywhere you might be found online, and that it matches all other sites that mention you.

 

The LWD program has a dashboard that shows your online listing information for all of the most important directories and search engines so that you can build a uniform presence online. This is huge, because you can go to one place to see and correct your info rather than having to try and tie a string around your finger to keep track of each one.

 

Okay, so what else?

 

How many online reviews do you have? What is your star average? From a statistical and human nature standpoint, unless you are very actively engaged in acquiring reviews, you’ll have a handful of reviews at best and more from upset customers than happy ones. That’s just how it works.

 

Google studies have shown (as does common sense) that the more reviews a business has, the higher the likelihood that someone is to do business with that company.  These same studies show that an increased average star rating from 3 to 4 can actually increase revenue numbers by 10%. That’s significant.

 

The LWD program ACTIVELY harvests reviews for a powersports review site as well as Google reviews in a totally legitimate Google approved fashion. It’s not unusual for clients to have more than 100 reviews and a 4+ star rating in just a few months.

 

What about people who are really pissed off? It happens. As part of the review acquisition system, customers who have had a “less than excellent experience” are asked to provide details rather than a review – which are then sent in an email directly to the dealer principal (or GM) who can respond and save the relationship.

Angry customers are dealt with privately, rather than “on stage” in the review arena for the whole world to see.

Sounds pretty good, what else?

 

 

AdWords is huge, that’s what. In the online arena, there are some really big players and unfortunately dealerships aren’t. In many searches, OEMs show up high in the rankings, as do larger commercial sites like cycletrader.com, etc. These are national (international for OEMs) sites that are huge, been around for a long time, have tons of links to them, great optimization, and will outrank an individual dealership every time. It’s the nature of the beast. AdWords levels that playing field. 

 

There’s no way an individual, local dealership is going to be able to do all of the optimization necessary to outrank the big boys organically, but with AdWords you can still show up on page one of search results, giving you the same visibility and odds of getting that lead that the big boys have. Now, AdWords is a complex animal, and it can be really easy to spend way too much to achieve results so you have to be careful.

 

Or you have to be on the LWD program. At the Gold level, you have a team of certified Google and Bing experts who manage over 1 million dollars annually in ad spend specifically in the powersports industry actively managing your account to achieve the best ROI possible for you on your web site. You won’t get that anywhere else.

 

The bottom line is this, when it comes to marketing today, all roads lead to the internet – no matter what media method you use. Because of this, you have to have your digital house in order. I’ve given a 20,000 ft. helicopter view of the Local Web Dominator platform (that quite honestly really doesn’t do it justice because I barely scratched the surface of what it does) but even from that high up it’s pretty obvious that it’s an incredibly powerful program that can significantly impact the success of a dealership. If you aren’t on the program already, I encourage you to give us a call and get the full picture of what it can do for you. And make sure you ask about the new component that’s in beta testing now, it’s a game changer.

 

Talk soon… 

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It’s Not Just a Box You Check and Forget

Brad Cannon | 07/01/2015

I’m talking about your website. 

 

In the powersports industry, we are a pretty spoiled group when it comes to web sites. There are three big players in the industry, and they all have a pretty much ‘done for you’ solution. A dealer can open a dealership, call a web provider, provide a logo, and in short order have a functioning web site up and running. 

 

And that’s where a lot of dealers stop.

 

Therein lies the rub. The landscape of business is not what it used to be. Now, any business has two locations that have to be maintained: 

1. It’s physical, brick and mortar location, and 
 

 

 

 

2. It’s digital presence.

 

The online world can’t be ignored or overlooked. Studies have shown that well over 90% of people research products and businesses online before making a purchase. 

 

So how much time and effort does the average dealer put into their web site on a monthly basis? Very little, actually.

 

If you are one of those dealers reading this now who thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing, let’s take a closer look and see why the ‘set it and forget it’ strategy for a web site might be a bad idea.

 

Take a look at your physical location. Is everything in your location set up exactly how it was the day you opened? Of course not. Sure, your parts, service, and sales departments probably occupy the same physical space, but they don’t look the same. Things change, different products are emphasized, parts are added and discontinued, all kinds of things happen. In the same way that your physical dealership changes, so should your digital dealership. One of the goals of your web site is to get folks to revisit it when they are looking for something. If it never changes, visitors get the feeling that it’s stale, dated, and probably not worth revisiting. 

 

Am I advising to redesign your site every month? No. I am advising that slider banners get updated regularly, offers get changed up, and that when visitors hit the site a month or so later, it looks like something changed, just like the feeling they get in your physical dealership when visiting from time to time.

 

Chances are, what I’ve said so far is probably not super surprising to anyone, so let’s take a deeper look and get into territory I’ll bet you a beer you haven’t thought about.

 

Not editing, changing, or customizing your web site can cost (and probably is costing) you money. 

The reason I say that, is because many (most) dealers are bolting on AdWords campaigns to their web sites. This is a fantastic thing, because I can’t think of a better way to spend online advertising money. Here’s the thing you want to think about though: how much clicks cost are based in part on the quality of your site.

 

Now, an AdWords campaign is almost never going to direct traffic to the home page of a dealers web site, because AdWords is focused on conversions – generating leads that turn browsers into buyers, and that doesn’t happen on the home page. It happens on individual model pages, service appointment pages, and parts request pages, and that is where AdWords campaigns land people – farther down the sales funnel. 

 

Where do dealers spend most of their energy and time on their web site? The home page.

 

That’s not all bad, but what happens typically is that all of the individual product pages for all the units gets overlooked, and the only content on those pages is whatever the site provider puts there, which typically amounts to a simple spec sheet that is not too compelling. 

 

So what is my advice? Take the time to put some content on the individual product pages. Each page doesn’t have to be the length of a novel, but there needs to be some content there for a couple of reasons.

 

First, your web site is supposed to help turn browsers into buyers. If there is nothing more compelling on the page than a couple of pictures, seat height and engine specs, you are missing opportunities, and that is costing you money.

 

When I was working the sales floor, I always had something I would say about each model if someone came in looking. Sort of a 30 second elevator pitch about each unit that could then turn into a real presentation as the client showed interest. That’s what should be on each unit page. Take the time each year as the new models come out to do this and you’ll be ahead of the game. Sell the sizzle to get the conversion and then the sale. An online brochure won’t get it done.

 

The second reason is that to make the most out of your AdWords campaigns you’ll want content there. There are two main factors that play into what makes up cost-per-click charges with Google, bid amount and quality score (on a scale from 1-10).  

 

Bid amount is how much you are willing to bid for a click (not how much you will actually pay), and quality score is made up of over 100 criteria. Content on your landing pages helps your overall quality score in several ways. Google looks at the keyword you bid on, the ad you show, and the landing page you go to, to determine the relevance they have to each other. If they are in alignment, you get a better quality score. Content on your landing page helps Google understand what the page is about, and when they understand it, your quality score goes up and your costs go down.  Additionally, with good content on your landing pages, your bounce rates will go down (that’s when someone lands on your site and leaves without viewing any other pages), your visitors time on your site will increase, as will conversions – all of which increase quality scores, reduce click costs, and – oh, by the way – result in more dollars in the register.

 

The takeaway here is that you don’t have your sales staff walk around your physical dealership handing out brochures and waiting for people to buy, you expect them to sell. Your digital dealership should sell too, and it gets the conversation started with good content that causes visitors to respond.

 

Oh, and if you need some help pointing people to those pages to get those conversations started let us know. We have the best folks in the business ready to give you a hand.

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PSM Marketing

825 Highway 74 South
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Tel: (877) 242-4472
Int: (770) 692-1750
Text: (770) 692-1750

Questions?