Single Model Monogamy is the Real Money-Maker

Inside the Mind of an Automotive Digital Marketing Analyst

After 7 years of working for Cobalt in a variety of roles, I am comfortable saying that I have fielded virtually every dealer request one can think of.   They all seem to have a couple of the same desirable outcomes in mind.  “How can I separate my dealership website from the competition?’ and “How can I  create more opportunities to sell cars” and “How can I fill my service bays?” One of the more common requests that I receive is for custom content and Flash design.  It appears, to me at least, that the need to be more spectacular than the competition drives dealerships to ask for flashier, shinier, and louder pieces of website content.

The Controversy Behind Custom Content and Flash Design

The use of custom graphical content and Flash design on a dealership website comes with a couple different schools of thought.  One on hand, there is a belief that custom graphics and Flash are the most modern and cutting-edge way of displaying content on a website.  On the other hand, the graphics and assets can be difficult to load and might not be compatible with everyone’s means of accessing the web.  iPhones, iPads, other mobile devices, internet connection speeds, etc. can all be variables and inhibitors to a user’s ability to load and interact with a website.  While use of this content is not necessarily right or wrong, it’s important to analyze the impact that specific types of content will have on website visitors and their browsing behaviors.

Sage Advice: Look to the Leaders in the Market

One of the best ways to get ideas on optimal content for your website is by checking out what major players in business and internet marketing do.  Take Apple for example. features one of the most simplistic website designs you can find.  A streamlined main navigation bar at the top; a giant featured product which drives customers to a specific area of the website; and typically two small featured products.  Apple is a company that has a much broader product line than a car dealership, yet they choose to blast visitors with their primary product and assume the consumer is savvy enough to use the main navigation bar to find anything else they might be looking for.

Amazon is another good example, but different from Apple as they feature a lot more navigation items on their home page.  Amazon is a reseller of a very broad variety of goods and services.  As such, they have molded a home page design that offers consumers a variety of ways to get to the information they are looking for as quickly as possible.  However, just like Apple they dedicate a very large portion of their home page to a very simple image of the Kindle.  Why the Kindle?  Amazon re-sells thousands of products, but their flagship product is the Kindle.  Of course it’s their featured item on the website, and it has been for a few years now.  Amazon makes money off the sale of the Kindle and even more money off every book purchased on the Kindle.  It’s a guaranteed repeat customer and brilliant home page design.  Why would you not feature your biggest money maker prominently on the home page of your website?

Are Bells and Whistles Your Dealer Website Bread and Butter?

When posed with that question of Flash content I have always asked the same question, “What’s your goal of adding this content to your website?”  Do you need an animated asset on your home page that offers 6 different calls to action?  Or is it reasonable to assume that internet consumers are savvy enough to use the main navigation to find what they are looking for, and instead dedicate a very large section of home page to a model you need to move.  Think about the make-up of your inventory and the model that your dealership relies on as its bread and butter.  Is there any reason it should not be featured the same way Amazon features it’s Kindle?

Yes, custom graphics and Flash content can be dynamic and can give a website a modern look and feel, but at what potential cost to the productivity of your site? If 60% to 70% of your vehicle sales are one specific model, is there any reason not to feature that vehicle, provide text information about that vehicle, and route customers to more information about it as quickly as possible? Try it for a month and then review your website metrics to see how it affects your visitors’ behavior.  You’ll find your specific model searches are up and you saved money by not having that Flash model asset created.

Ian Favre is a Sr. Marketing Analyst at ADP Digital Marketing with 7 years experience working directly with automotive dealers in the Cobalt Services Organization.  Ian was one of the first 3 Advocates working with customers when Procare Dealer Services launched at Cobalt in 2007 and spent time as an Advocate Team Lead, assisting Advocacy with website optimization fundamentals and execution.  When not helping dealers make the most of their internet marketing opportunities, Ian enjoys writing about golf on his website


Cobalt around town: The Jackson Plaza Re-opening

The new Jackson Plaza

The new Jackson Plaza

Paved a Parking Lot, Put up a (Zen) Paradise

This past Friday, the crowd gathered, the cameras flashed, and the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band struck up a jazzy tune. The occasion? The renovation of the all-new Jackson Plaza, the latest in the city’s urban renewal efforts.  The sun peeked out from behind the clouds just in time for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to hoist some giant scissors and cut the red ribbon to officially open Jackson Plaza to the public.

The plaza is located directly in front of Seattle’s historic landmark and transportation hub King Street Station, only about a block away from Cobalt HQ. The plaza has been under construction for more than a year, and now it’s an ideal spot for Cobaltians to take their lunch for a relaxing break in the sun.  There’s no vendors or businesses there yet, so it’s like a small oasis in the middle of one of the most bustling sections of the city.

Just a small part of life in the big city!

Jackson Plaza Grand Opening

Diary of an Internet Sales Director, Chapter 1


Volker Jaeckel, ADP Digital Marketing Ambassador

After almost a couple of  years of working with a leading Internet marketing vendor and working the speaking circuit Volker Jaeckel (aka “@VJnator”) returns to the dealership world as an Internet Sales Director.  Here is my story of rejoining the store and the steps I took that made my website the best performing in my group and achieved “#1 CPO Dealer in the state” status six months in a row.  Let me share how I believe a new Internet Manager can quickly make their store a success as well. (Stay tuned for my  upcoming workshop “Internet Marketing Cliff Notes -short, sweet and successful.”)


Chapter I – It hurts to crawl on my knees again. Luckily it is only temporary.

Don't forget to always crawl first when evaluating a new situation.

This is it….I am back into the dealership world. I missed you, the world of shiny showrooms, the smell of rubber and the so-distinctive new car smell. And yes, I missed the challenge of helping a store achieve its full potential as a 21stcentury dealership embracing the Internet.


Tip #1: View your site through your customer’s eyes


Where do I start? Personnel? Process? Lead Providers? – No, I decided that shouldn’t be priority #1.  What is most important is getting an idea of how your dealership appears to your prospects. I needed to first put on my “consumer-glasses” to understand what they are seeing, and then I can determine the path forward that will get the consumer to buy at my store. What did I do? Let’s crawl and see.All of us in the dealership should know by now that at least 90% of all car shopping starts somewhere and somehow online. Shoppers “Google or Bing around” search phrases related to the model desired and the city they live in. This initial search generally leads to reviewing 3rd parties like Edmunds or AOL.Autos for test results and independent car experts’ advice. After that, they most likely end up on the OEM’s manufacturer website, lured by whatever seasonal offers or events are taking place right now. From the OEM website, the customer drills down to find which dealership is closest to their zip code.So, taking this roadmap of typical automotive buying behavior, my first action should be clear: “CHECK YOUR DEALER WEBSITE(s)”. The things I will be looking for are pretty straightforward.Does my website has the same advertising messaging my OEM is portraying on their site? For me as an eCom Director it is mandatory to have events like “Autobahn for all” or “Sign then drive” event on all my dealership websites. I am not speaking just about having the graphics but also written content of these national campaigns on my site(s).


Tip #2: Make sure shoppers responding to OEM advertising and programs find them on your site.


Adding OEM promotional content assures that local prospects looking for those campaign deals will find familiar territory and verbiage on my site. They know immediately that “VJ Motors” is participating in these well-known manufacturer deals seen on TV, Radio, Off- and Online. As a dealer, doing this will guarantee me a fraction of the millions and millions of dollars spent by my OEM. I get my piece of the huge advertising campaign pie – and everybody knows….I love pie.


Here was my first plan of action:

  • Determine my OEM’s current ad campaign (In this case the “Going Going Gone Event”)

  • Update all new car specials shown in the website with the particular “Going Going Gone” phrase

  • Main URL page showed as first slider Going Going Gone event participation, linked to the New Car Special page

  • SEO Content was modified and “Going Going Gone Event” as well “Autobahn for All” slogans were weaved in on homepage, New Car inventory page, New Car Special page and various model pages.

Because we all know that SEO results do not show up overnight, the written content placed on the described pages is here for the long run and should be not taken down when the OEM campaign stops – most likely you will see the same named event taking place again a few months down the road and in the meantime your content pages hopefully left some impactful results in the SERP.


Tip #3: Leverage all your content in social media and see SEO results soar


Post promotional content in your social media, such as a photo montage on your blog captioned “VJ Motors in Motorville enjoys the hundreds of customers stopping by customers during the VW Going Going Gone event.” The reason for doing this is that search engines love news updates through social media streams. By optimizing these channels with your dealership name and the event name in the post, you are supporting your organic SEO piece by piece. Try it – it has worked for me!


Tip #4: “But I have no time to do any of this”


As a busy dealer, aligning with OEM’s may sound like a lot of work and too much of a hassle. I felt this way too.There are two main ways I’ve found to alleviate the hassle issue: Choose an endorsed website provider and work with their professional account strategist.If your dealership has an endorsed website provider with OEM-coordinated advertising campaigns, the work you need to perform on your end will be a little bit less, thanks to perfectly timed and “ready-to-go” websites and landing pages at the start of the national campaigns.Another thing that helped me was that I could speak to my account advocate at the website provider to assist me in my efforts to tweak my messaging to my taste. So, if you’ve signed up for this type of service – use it, bring up your ideas, and let them do the main frame work. That way you can focus on the other things you need to do, making a dealership or dealer group successful – as I will show you in my next chapter.

Volker Jaeckel works as a speaker, coach and educator in digital marketing. “VJ” is a frequent speaker at industry events like Digital Dealer Conference and NADA; he is also a fixture at NCM 20 Groups and OEM seminars. When he’s not dazzling others with his digital marketing know-how, VJ enjoys vintage Mercedes Benz cars and spending time with his wife and five kids.

The Cobalt Group

PCG Pitstop Chicago Video is Here!

This past month, we had the honor of co-sponsoring Brian Pasch’s PCG Pitstop in Chicago. It was an action-packed event featuring seminars with top industry experts, cutting-edge vendor showcases, and  fabulous opportunities to mix and mingle with our customers at Chicago’s stunning Palmer House Hotel. Check out the video to hear live reactions to this brand-new conference series:

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New Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Electrify Qwest Field

Mayor Mike McGinn talks shop with ECOtality Regional Manager Rich Feldman

Mayor Mike McGinn talks shop with ECOtality Regional Manager Rich Feldman

Yesterday, a few lucky Cobaltians got to attend a proud moment in Seattle history: Qwest Field unveiled six new public ECOtality Blink charging stations, the first in the Northwest. These stations are the result of an ECOtality project, and are installed immediately below Cobalt’s new headquarters in Seattle.  Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, film director Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?), and our very own Chief Marketing Officer and proud Chevy Volt Owner Chris Reed were there to share in the excitement.

Quietly stealing the show

It was a great crowd, but the real stars of the event were softly humming as they charged themselves next to the speakers – three Nissan Leafs and one shiny red Tesla. The speakers made the point that EVs are even cleaner here in the Northwest than elsewhere since almost all our electricity comes from no-carbon Hydro and Wind power.

Qwest and Cobalt are kindred spirits in their passion for sustainable vehicles. Cobalt has two known Volt owners on-staff, the aforementioned Chris Reed and John Stark, Director of GM Interactive Marketing Services.

If you missed the event, don’t despair. There are many fun sustainability events in the works at Qwest Field, including a stadium-wide screening of one of Chris Paine’s films and plans for a record-breaking hybrid car meetup, so stay tuned!

Sexy Dealer Website Rule 4: “Avatar-ize” Your Automotive Website

Paul Nagy, Vice President of Core Products at ADP Digital Marketing

A Rich Digital Experience Leads to More Money in Dealers’ Pockets

Welcome to the final chapter in our sexy dealer website series.  The final quality of a sexy dealer website is that it makes online shopping as real and dimensional as the experience on a showroom floor. “Think Avatar,” Paul Nagy, Vice President of Core Products at ADP Digital Marketing said. “Think about something so rich and dimensional, the consumer could almost reach out and touch it. That’s the goal. That’s where we’re headed.”

Sexy Dealer Website Checklist

In-Depth Inventory. To offer that rich consumer experience, exploit your user inventory showcase to your fullest advantage. “Don’t just put up a few perfunctory images and call it a day,” Andy Largent, Senior Product Manager at ADP Digital Marketing advises. “Get intentional about creating an immersive experience. Incorporate multiple views of each vehicle and ensure a quote request form is always displayed so consumers can take that next step while they’re still captivated.”

Genuine Representations. While you want to put your best foot forward, an important part of creating a “real” online shopping experience is accurately marketing your inventory. As you write your vehicle description, be sure to accurately represent the condition, appearance and history of your vehicles. The buyer is going to find out when they arrive anyway, so it’s best to honest up front. There are plenty of consumers who are in the market for well-worn, affordable vehicles, so it’s best for everybody to be honest and straightforward.

Vivid Video. “They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but that was before Youtube,” Nagy joked. “Videos of inventory are another great way to enhance a consumer experience and get them enthralled by your merchandise before they even arrive at the dealership.” Video drives highly targeted traffic.  The more they know before they arrive, the easier your job is when they get here.

Business Online. Even with a sexy website, buying a car today remains a fairly tedious process. Being able to transact as much of the buying process online as possible is becoming a reality now. Finally, it is possible for the consumer to get a quote for a specific vehicle, get a precise value for their trade, complete a credit application and apply everything to the customized quote – leaving only the last step for the dealer to close and transact the deal via the standard process – shortening the process from half a day to less than 1 hour. Let your dealer website do the work- make sure you offer as many online capabilities as possible so that when a customer walks into the showroom, all you have to do is close the deal.

We hope you enjoyed this four-part series on Creating a Sexy Dealer Website. In case you missed them, here is part one, part two and part three. We’ve certainly enjoyed chatting with all of you and hearing your comments and insights, so if you didn’t get a question answered, don’t be shy; sound off in the comments below!

Paul Nagy is Vice President of Core Products ADP Digital Marketing (formerly The Cobalt Group). Nagy brings over 12 years of technology management experience to the role, including senior management positions at Apple, Metreo, and Selectica. When he’s not crunching technical problems, Nagy enjoys fly-fishing in the great outdoors.

Andy Largent is a Senior Product Manager at ADP Digital Marketing, where he works on the core website platform and services.  With 10 years of automotive website expertise, Andy uses his experience to build high-performing solutions for dealer, dealer group, and OEM customers. Andy hopes to turn the hundreds of pictures of his kids into an amateur photography sideline someday. Until then, his favorite new social media/photo app is Instagram.

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Social Media Buzzkill: The Ballad of Joe and Bob

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Bob: “Hey Joe, it’s GREAT to talk to you. How are you on this OUTSTANDING day? How is the weather where you are, old buddy?”

Joe: “It’s hot and humid here, thanks for asking. How is the weather in Kansas?”

Six months later.

                                                Bob: Also hot.

How to Ensure Your Dealership Social Media Program is a Huge Waste of Time

Of course, this conversation doesn’t sound at all familiar. It’s absurd.

Unfortunately, the scenario I’ve just described paints an exact picture of a common social media problem. It’s what I like to call the “popcorn approach” to social media, and its killing many dealership social media programs in their tracks.

The popcorn approach goes something like this: The social media program is announced. Accounts are created. Everyone starts off hot and heavy, posting up a storm to all their new best friends for life. Two months, two weeks, even two days pass. The real world intrudes. Daily duties pile up. The interest wanes. The posting stops. The program fizzles out, rendering all that initial effort worthless.

Sound familiar? It may seem funny, but as a social media professional, it honestly makes me want to cry. The reason why is because if you’re doing social media like this, you’re wasting your time.

I know what you’re thinking: “What is this guy’s problem? I am not wasting my time. I totally have a social media program. I have a Facebook account with 231 friends, a WWF wrestler as my Twitter avatar, and a blog with a name and everything! What else do you want from me?”

Dealership Social Media Magic Rule: Consistency is Currency

What I want from you is the one thing that sets a successful social media program apart: consistency. Consistency is defined as a regular cadence between your business and your target audience. It means regularly posting on Facebook, blogs, Twitter or whatever other social media channels you’ve identified as valuable to your business. It means when someone asks you a question on Twitter, you don’t take six months to respond. It means when someone leaves you a glowing review on Yelp, you don’t thank them three years from now. You respond exactly the way you would in a real conversation, because at the end of the day, that’s what social media is: a conversation. Not a checklist of accounts to create. Not a marketing campaign you can set and forget. It’s a real, genuine conversation-meaning it depends on regular back-and-forth repartee to work.

In social media, consistency is currency. With consistent social media efforts, a customer rapport is built. With consistent social media efforts, that customer rapport blossoms into a changed perception of your business. With consistent social media efforts, that changed perception inspires customers to refer you to friends, to write nice reviews about you, to buy something from your company, or whatever else your business goal may be. It works, and it’s the only that works.

Consistency is the key to social media that meets business goals. Don’t end up like Bob and Joe. Meet your business goals, keep the popcorn in the bowl, and remember; no one likes awkward silences, online or off.

P.S. Lest you think I’m too much of a buzzkill, stay tuned for my follow-up series on tips for creating a consistent social media program in your dealership. You can do it!

Matt Muilenburg, Vice President of Social Media at ADP Digital Marketing

Matt Muilenburg is Vice President of Social Media  for ADP Digital Marketing (formerly The Cobalt Group), where  he has been working closely with dealers and OEMs to identify new ways to improve automotive retailing and marketing effectiveness.  When not sitting in front of a gadget, you’ll find Matt volunteering at the YMCA, attending his kids academic, musical and athletic events, or releasing stress by working in his yard and garden. You can reach Matt at or call him at 206-219-8259.

The Cobalt Group