Chapter II: Diary of an eCommerce Director

Volker Jaeckel, Digital Marketing Ambassador for ADP Digital Marketing

I can stand up now but only with a helping hand from my team – Chapter II “Diaries of an eCommerce Director”

So I got the optimization basics squared away right from the get-go…my website looks good; First to Second grade content (I will explain it further down what means) is in place, but what do I do with all my dealer website leads, website forms, 3rd party leads and so on.

What is the status quo on response, follow-up and long-term usage of these valuable leads, email addresses and phone numbers? I am getting with my team for of the purpose of finding out what they love and hate currently in their daily tasks. And “No”, I do not think that I always just have a typical “bitch session” occurring out of these meetings. It gives me more likely a 360 degree view of who in your team is “who”. Who is doing what? Who is “a sleeping” star? Who is “all words no action”, and so on…?

It further allows me to guide particular leads to the right team members in place. Like the ZAG leads. These particular customers, who do not like the hassle and haggle, and want to receive a more “exclusivity club member” handling of their inquiry, requiring a sales person with great customer follow up skills and soft, courteous manners.

Almost like the proverb – It fits like a Glove.

Match your people for the right job

Next…and I am sure I do not have to stretch this one any longer – Look at your response times of your crew. There can be no excuse for any sales person in the Internet world having response times of >55 minutes and letting the incoming lead sitting there until the next stone age.

Come on, everybody should know by now, the early bird will catch the worm and with research showing a 50% higher chance closing the lead into a sale, when having contact with the prospect first, your action should be clear with no questions to ask.

Last but not least during my transition from crawling and staying up to the walking phase one immense important question comes next. How do we handle our phone calls? First at all make sure that you have dedicated phone numbers for each individual lead provider and website, so you can track your ROI and conversion much easier. The most important feature these numbers should include is the “recording” function, which will allow you and the other members of your dealership management team to listen to the calls and how they were handled by the crew. I know we as dealers spending a lot of money on training and other ideas, but phone training is in my opinion the most essential training part you should allocate money to.

Listen to your sales people and service advisors phone calls – you will have a pretty good idea why your closing ratio and conversion rate is where it is – Good or Bad!

Phone and Lead Handling must be priority Number One

I saw during my digital marketing career that most of the Internet people love to email, even so that the phone should be their desired tool to get the customer in. As I discovered in my analytics backend tool of my website providers – >80% off the generated website leads were coming in via phone calls and not just by form submission.

Eighty plus percent – and I still hear sometimes my peers complaining about their “website is not performing”, I would have to ask “what do you mean?” – “Is it your form submissions?” “You’re not getting enough phone calls?”

Really, what do you mean?

Is it really the website? Or is it the response how we handle incoming leads not captured correctly and not crediting our web platform for incoming calls?

Nevertheless I would love to share one particular observation I made after a Manager decided to cancel a digital marketing package in one of my stores, which I had assured him provided excellent digital online exposure … retargeting, display ads, banner ads, PPC, SEM, designated landing pages, mobile, designated phone numbers – you name it.

The argument made for the cancellation was “it looks like that it is not doing anything for us and we did not receive any more leads through it”. We Internet Pro’s know that these statements can be “smokescreens”, the real reasons are almost always the same – budget cutting or some salesperson has sold them some new “shiny object”. But I knew this was the wrong decision for the store and I had to prove it.

I received a chart with numbers on leads, visits, etc. provided by my OEM, showing my competition and their (as well mine) lead counts during national ad campaigns – painting a clear picture. Every dealership in this chart, which had stuck with the Dealer Advertising Package during the national ad campaigns, had more than three times more incoming phone calls than my “sorry ass” store, with no ad package.

I reviewed the same charts from a quarter back, and when we had signed up for the OEM ad package we were in a very different position: phone calls up, new car sales up, more 3rd party website referrals were all much higher! I figured out if we would have stayed with the package we would have sold 10-18 cars off the OEM campaign, not the 4 we did.

Cancelling it was just ”a bad business decision” or should I call it plain and simple “dumb”? So I am asking now, why would a dealership take money out of a proven program like that to save a buck or buy leads from 3rd parties, that close at 6% when everybody in the dealership world knows, that phone calls and website leads have 2-3 times the closing rate?

When we as eCommerce Directors or Internet Sales Managers know about these scenarios, we need to open up our mouth and discuss that with the executive leaders in the dealership. When she or he is giving you an ear and the time, I guarantee you will have success to close more deals when implementing the sources I just discussed. It is on you to be an advocate for these stats and to take your time to explain the findings to your GM or President, in case he is not digital marketing savvy.

You are the Marketing Expert and its Advocate

When you find too much of road blocks and the same old same old in your dealership, find a partner who will trust your expertise and that you can deliver a turn around.

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.

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One for the Pensieve

Last night was just a little case of “mischief managed.”

Fans have been ready for this for months, and on July 14, they lined up outside their favorite movie theatre hours before midnight, to be the first to see the final chapter in the story of a certain young wizard: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Cobalt Audience at Cinerama

Who's ready to see Harry Potter? Put your hands up!

So it was just a little bit of a guilty pleasure when 680 Cobalt employees and their families and friends got to walk right by those waiting on the sidewalk outside the historic Cinerama Theatre in Downtown Seattle.  Thanks to a special arrangement through ADP, Cinerama, and Warner Brothers, these lucky Cobaltians were able to sit down hours before to see the movie event of the 2011 summer.

John Holt was still gushing about it the next day. “Wasn’t that so cool?” he asked before an all-hands company meeting on Friday morning.  Holt brought his wife and daughters with him to the movie, and many others did the same – wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters were all in attendance.

Those attending were also treated to free popcorn and a giant balloon dragon made just for the event, with photos being taken courtesy of Fire Eyes Photography.

Senior Product Manager Andy Largent, a longtime Cobaltian and a diehard Harry Potter fan, brought his wife too.  They both loved the movie and are already making plans to see it again.

Mischief Managed

SEO Specialist Kaylani and her sister sporting her handmade Hogwarts ties.

It’s Cobalt, so of course costumes were encouraged – some of the kids dressed up in full Hogwarts regalia (choosing their favorite house, of course!) and SEO Specialist Kaylani Shipley even made special Hogwarts ties. She went with her sister, feeling “important” as she passed those waiting for the midnight show and describing the ending of the movie as “epic.”

The verdict? It’s a bittersweet ending, as it is the last of a series loved by so many.  But in the words of John Holt, “It’s a really good movie.”

A great movie, free popcorn, and excellent company to share it with – can’t ask for much more than that!

Photographs provided by Trishann Couvillion –

Red, White, and (Cobalt) Blue: Why we Sponsor Seattle’s Fireworks

Fireworks at Lake Union

Family 4th Fireworks at Lake Union

The Family 4th at Lake Union, organized by One Reel, has come to be an integral part of the Fourth of July celebrations in Seattle for more than twenty years. At Cobalt, we know that the Fourth of July just would not be the same without the “ooos” and “ahhhs” the Family 4th has given us and our children for so many years. More than that, we work to support it.

It began last year, when one Cobalt associate heard that the Family 4th was at risk, and sent a concerned email to Cobalt CEO, John Holt. He fully supported the event with some special reasons of his own – over twenty years ago, after the Fourth of July fireworks, a younger Mr. Holt knelt down on one knee and proposed to his wife. They were married after the same show a year later.

Family 4th

Cobalt joined many local Seattle businesses in supporting the Family 4th in 2010. This year we’re on board again.  As John Holt said in an email to the company, “While this may not be as noble as some of the other things we support via our charitable contributions, it does contribute to the quality of life in Seattle.”


Guest author: Nikita Pitkar

Cobalt and ADP together have always been aimed at making their communities a better place, which is why we continue our support  of a central part of our city’s culture.

We hope to see you at the show!

Happy Fourth of July!