Dealix’s Anna Zornosa is Awarded 2009 Market Leadership Award from TARGUSinfo

AnnaZornosa4_3x4lowWe at Cobalt are extremely excited to announce that our very own Anna Zornosa, executive vice president of Cobalt and general manager of its Dealix division, has been awarded the 2009 Market Leadership Award for her role in leading Dealix to the forefront of automotive lead quality and innovation. Congrats to Anna and Dealix for amazing work!

Anna received the award last week during a ceremony at the 4th Annual Online Lead Quality Summit, the premiere event for senior executives in the interactive marketing industry.

“The Dealix team is committed to providing our customers with access to active car shoppers who are using the Internet to determine what car to buy and where,” said Zornosa. “During 2009, Dealix built new supply relationships and brought on technology innovations that improved our ability to reach this goal.”

The most recent innovation from Dealix, the leading supplier of sales leads to dealers from independent auto sites, came in September 2009 when the company announced the Dealix Quality Pledge, backed by a feature set called Hassle-Free Lead Return. The essence of the Dealix Quality Pledge is that the company promises its customers that every lead it charges for will represent an in-market consumer and a real sales opportunity.

In the event a lead fails to meet one of a defined set of criteria that characterizes a quality lead, the customer can return the lead, hassle-free. The charge is then removed from the customer’s bill, and the lead is replaced with a new one. The program helps Dealix customers to maximize their sales opportunities throughout the month instead of waiting until month’s end to process credits. In addition, the program helps Dealix to quickly correct any lead quality issues that arise.

The Market Leadership Award is a huge accomplishment which demonstrates Anna’s strong business acumen, dedication to innovation, and outstanding leadership, as well as, the hard work and efforts of everyone at Dealix!

The Cobalt Group
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The Cobalt Group

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Cobalt Mobile is Now Optimized for BlackBerry

bb_storm_front_leftCobalt’s mobile solution now includes support for the newest Blackberry models. Cobalt Mobile is a premium feature that is quickly growing in importance. It gives dealers a competitive edge, extending the dealer’s showroom to in-market consumers who are ready to purchase; providing the shopper with access to real-time inventory or service and sales contact information at any time via their mobile device.

Serious shoppers and higher conversion rates. In addition, consumers who use the supported mobile devices (iPhone, G1 or Android, Blackberry) are typically high-tech consumers, with more discretionary spending money. These consumers tend to be more task-focused and less price driven. While mobile website visitors make up less than 2% of all dealer website visitors, they are serious shoppers with high conversion rates. On average, mobile sites see double or triple the conversion rates of regular dealer websites.

Rapidly increasing mobile traffic. Mobile traffic across the Cobalt network has increased by 111% in the last 18 months. In August, mobile traffic made up 1.7% of all web traffic to dealer websites, up from 1.1% in January 2009 and .4% in January 2008.

How does traffic vary by device? The devices supported by Cobalt’s mobile solution represent the majority of mobile visitors across the Cobalt network. In August, iPhone and Blackberry devices handled the vast majority of all mobile traffic on Cobalt’s network. iPhone is the leading mobile device, with 60% of all mobile traffic, while Blackberry captured 29% of the traffic. Overall, iPhone traffic has increased by 134% since January 2009, with 21% of this increase occurring in the last 30 days. Blackberry traffic has also increased by 154% since January 2009, with 16% of the growth happening in the last 30 days.

Who should have mobile? Mobile is a must-have for dealers in high-tech metro areas or large volume dealers. Mobile can help any dealer looking for a competitive edge with tech-savvy consumers.

To learn more about Cobalt’s Mobile solution click here.

 

The Cobalt Group
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The Cobalt Group

Cultivating Leaders for Cobalt’s Continued Growth

Pyramid1024In the second half of 2008, Cobalt faced an exciting challenge; the need to hire approximately 400 new employees. As recruiting challenges go, this was a big task that raised some interesting questions about how a company can significantly grow its employee base quickly, while maintaining its core values and guiding principles. How do you find 400 people that will support and carry on the values that have been in place for over fourteen years? And, how do you hire and nurture leaders that have the skill set needed to take the company to the next level?

That was the challenge Julia Pizzi, vice president of HR, and her team were tasked with last year. To support the growth and to prepare for the continued growth that lay ahead, Julia and her team worked with the company’s growing executive leaders to create a Culture Model that was uniquely Cobalt. The model was a labor of love that set out to incorporate the key values that have been a part of Cobalt’s culture since it was founded in 1995, as well as the aspirational characteristics and traits needed to take Cobalt to the next level.

The result is a Culture Model that details four overarching key values; creativity, achievement, stewardship and accountability. It also defines the detailed traits that Cobalt will be looking for in new team members and in developing leaders. Some of these are traits are universally sought by companies; others are more unique to Cobalt.

“Many companies have successful leadership models, but we wanted Cobalt’s to be organic and meaningful to our organization,” said Julia Pizzi. “We wanted it to reflect our history, but also where we want to go. With growth like ours, there are skills and values that matter now more than ever and there were others that no longer apply.”

The Culture Model is intended to be a tool for hiring managers and employees of Cobalt to help them understand what is expected of them to succeed and move ahead on their career path. The new model, which was first launched company-wide at an all hands meeting in June, is being incorporated into the appraisal system, the quarterly goals and evaluation process. The department managers are being encouraged to define what the leadership model means to their team members and how it looks when it’s in practice in their work environment.

“When the new Culture Model came out, our team sat down together and created our own mission statement in support of the Model,” said Peggy Byus, Billing Team Manager at Cobalt. “It was one of the best team meetings we’ve ever had. We all discussed what the traits mean to us and our team. The Model not only showed us what is expected of all Cobaltians, but it really outlines what all employees should expect from their managers and supervisors, and that’s exciting.”

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Settling the New Wild West

MSteckler_f1Max Steckler
Vice President, Advertising Products

As a child, I remember being consumed by the adventurous themes of Wild West TV shows. I loved the stories about discovering and developing untamed lands to create a future full of growth and opportunity. Sure each gun fight was fun, but the real excitement was in knowing that the next episode would take the story farther West to greater lands of opportunity. Today I see the automotive industry as getting ready for its next big Wild West episode.

In the past, the auto industry had been on a consistent wagon train to sell large volumes of cars. In fact, up to 2008, annual new car sales were north of 16 million units for many years. Unfortunately, the industry experienced a forest fire while it was trying to expand and settle more land. The industry sales rate was slashed, resulting in significant financial impact on dealers, manufacturers, and the vendors that serve them. Companies closed, bankruptcies were filed, employees were laid off, and dreams were put on hold. Here we are now, more than year after the beginning of the downturn. As I look around, I’m beginning to feel that familiar anticipation and excitement for the next big episode. Like in the aftermath of a real forest fire, I see automotive industry green shoots rising up from the ashes.

Building New Settlements

During the pre-forest fire days, Cobalt invested heavily in innovation, working to create new solutions in local, digital advertising to help dealers and manufacturers spend their marketing dollars more efficiently. We internally developed new products and services and acquired best-of-breed companies to meet the future needs of the market. I was fortunate enough to be a member of the remarkable teams that pioneered four new product lines within Cobalt – paid search, email marketing, display advertising and re-marketing advertising. Each one of these new “settlements” enabled Cobalt to help the industry adopt and leverage Quote 2digital advertising as an extremely effective option for automotive advertising. Cobalt was clearly going in the right direction with its product portfolio. Remember the hero that always saved the day in the Wild West shows? I recall that strong relationships and trust were always at the core of that character’s success. Just like a Wild West hero, Cobalt has also focused on its industry relationships. During our 14 years of history, we have made significant investments in building strong relationships with the majority of the industry’s dealers and manufacturers. With these relationships comes a responsibility to support them in all times. This became increasingly true as the downturn of 2008 unfolded.

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Dreams that Drive Vision and Possibilities – Part Two

In June and July of 2009, John Holt, co-founder and CEO of The Cobalt Group and his fourteen year-old daughter Gemma climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is a dormant stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania rising 15,100 feet from its base and approximately 16,700 feet from the plains near Moshi. It is the highest peak in Africa at 19,340 feet, providing dramatic views of  Tanzania and southern Kenya.

Can you give us an overview of the route you and Gemma took?

Western Approach RouteJohn Holt: Western Approach Route (9 Days)

Day 1 – Londorosi Gate to Forest Camp: 3-4 Hrs. to 9,261 Feet
Day 2 – Forest Camp to Shira 1 Camp: 5-6 Hrs. to 11,439 Feet
Day 3 – Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp: 3-4 Hrs. to 12,795 Feet
Day 4 – Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower Camp: 4-6 Hrs. to 15,213 Feet
Day 5 – Lava Tower Camp to Karanga Camp: 6-7 Hrs. to 13,340 Feet
Day 6 – Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp: 5-6 Hrs. to 15,331
Day 7 – Barafu Camp to Crater Camp: 8-10 Hrs. to 18,802 and 1-2 Hrs. to the Summit at 19,340 Feet
Day 8 – Descent to Mweka Camp: 5-7 Hrs. to 10,065 Feet
Day 9 – Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate: 2-3 Hrs. to 6,000 Feet

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Fostering Teamwork: Cobalt’s Annual Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Project – Part 2

Cobalt VolunteersThe end of August marked the close of this year’s Cobalt and Habitat for Humanity community project. With great efforts from Cobalt employees and Habitat team members, a four-family building has been completed with the second structure underway! Ultimately, the site will have three four-family buildings.

Promoting Teamwork
Cobalt counts the Habitat volunteer days as workdays, meaning employees can take a day off (not a sick or vacation day) in order to volunteer on the project and still get paid. One of the reasons why Cobalt encourages employees to volunteer for Habitat is because of the company’s strong emphasis on community, teamwork and the opportunity for employees to connect with Cobalt colleagues and the community at large.

“The work Habitat for Humanity does is really important; and it is something I believe in. I appreciate the fact that Cobalt makes this opportunity possible for us,” said Lyda Hawes, Manager of Dealer Advocate Services at Cobalt. “One of the things I valued most was being able to interact and work with people in other groups within Cobalt. I liked participating as a part of the company. We could do this on our own, but it is a great opportunity to volunteer with coworkers.”

“Sweat Equity”
Cobalt Volunteers eating lunchAn interesting aspect of Habitat for Humanity’s method is that all families are required to help build the home where they will be living. These work hours are commonly known as “sweat equity.” In the Seattle area, families with more than one adult must accrue a minimum of 500 hours. The goal is to help the future homeowners gain dignity, self-worth and a sense of ownership through their work alongside volunteers.

“This was my first time volunteering. It gave me an appreciation for the amount of work the families have to do in order to receive this housing opportunity. It was also great to be able to represent Cobalt in a positive way,” said Sarah Morrison, Executive Assistant to CEO. Morrison has also helped organized this community project for Cobalt for the past two years.

Helping the Community
Cobalt Volunteers working hardOne of the families that will be living in the building is a family of ten members, including one who is a stroke survivor. Cobalt employees worked collectively and with pride at being able to help in the efforts to build a home for families such as this one. Doing construction after being used to a desk job is no easy feat; however, Cobalt employees were willing to push aside their computers, roll up their sleeves and work as a team.

“It was cool to make a difference in somebody’s life. Cobalt has definitely inspired me to put in more days as a volunteer. I was always curious about volunteering for Habitat, but never gave myself the chance to try. It is good work to do and a nice change to be outside and work with your hands for awhile,” said Rich Stoehr, Interactive Marketing Manager.

Working Together
Cobalt employees often collaborate within their divisions and locations, but during the course of the project they all had a chance to team up with other employees who they may not interact with on a regular basis. Still, all employees on the project worked hard and worked together, creating a positive environment for themselves, their company and their community.

Alyse Speyer
Contributing Editor
The Cobalt Group
www.cobalt.com
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The Cobalt Group

Cobalt Services Team Saddles Up for First Annual Picnic

Cobalt SpringsIn August, Cobalt’s Services Team hosted their first annual picnic. A committee of 25 people, headed by Dealer Advocate Services’ Team Managers Karen Bachmann, Denise Vangeystel and Marie Voetsch, organized a western themed picnic in Carkeek Park, just north of Seattle. The committee “built” an entire town for the event that they named Cobalt Springs, complete with a General Store, Casino, Jail and Sheriff, and Saloon. The day before the event, the committee passed out invitations and cowboy hats, and posted Wanted fliers all around the office to generate excitement.

Funny Money
The day of the event, around 350 Service employees arrived at the park at 1pm where they received raffle tickets, $200 in funny money, and an Funny Moneyall-you-can-eat barbecue buffet. Throughout the day there were two raffles with 60 types of prizes donated by local businesses. The goal was to have every attendee leave with a prize or a smile (or both).

“We have two floors of staffers that don’t often interact because of our busy work schedules. At the picnic, people cut loose and had such a wonderful time. It really brought the team together,” said Team Manager, Marie Voetsch. “Being a part of organizing such a successful event was incredible. We’ve got a really great environment at Cobalt.”

Water Play
The guests had a choice between blackjack and roulette at the casino to accrue more funds, while the main events centered on the fiercely competitive Tug-of-War tournament and a water balloon toss. Appropriately, the day was as hot and sunny as the Wild West, which resulted in a spontaneous fun-filled water fight.

Tug-of-War“Some folks were better armed than others. People began throwing water balloons from the water balloon toss, and the fight escalated to dumping buckets of water on competitors. I felt like a photojournalist in a war zone,” joked Michael Villanueva, Learning and Development Instructor and picnic photographer. “Fortunately, I escaped unscathed.”

Locked Up
Many employees took part in sending coworkers and colleagues off to jail where prisoners were unable to speak for five minutes. Managers and executives were frequently arrested. The only way to free yourself from jail was to either bribe the sheriff or be lucky enough to have a get-out-of-jail-free card given out at the picnic’s Saloon.

“It was a really great interactive time, and I got to hang out with people on different teams that I don’t normally interact with,” stated Karen Bachmann, another Team Manager. “Cobalt is very community focused and has such a warm culture that really makes you want to participate.”

A New Approach to Recruiting?
Slingshot Target Practice
Other activities included ‘Pin the Hat on Mark Dunn,’ the Vice President of Services, piñatas, and slingshot target practice. The General Store had hats, bandannas, pony sticks and other western related items available for purchase with funny money.

“Because it was a public park, there were other people there. By the end of the day, I had about three people come up to me asking what event this was, and they all said they’d like to work at Cobalt because we were having so much fun,” said Denise Vangeystel.

The unanimous statement among Cobalt employees is “we work hard and play hard,” which could not ring truer than for those who attended this year’s Services Picnic.

Alyse Speyer
Contributing Editor
The Cobalt Group
www.cobalt.com
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The Cobalt Group