Rules of the Road: Best Practices for Pinterest

A Mini Series, Part 3

Now that we’ve gotten the creative juices flowing, here are some best practices before you start “pinning” away.

1)      Do not self-promote or blatantly advertise your dealership. Keep the content light and fun. The goal is to showcase your dealership’s character so people can identify with you and/or your brand.

2)      Make your images search engine-friendly by incorporating hashtags. However, avoid “overhashing!” A rule of thumb is to only use the two or three best hashtags that describe the image (any more than that and it will look like spam-gasp!) For example, some good hashtags would be: #CustomChevy #MuscleCar. #LittleRedCorvette

3)      Again, I must reiterate the importance of high quality photos. Car shopping is a very visual experience, so make your Pinterest boards into virtual candy stores for your dealership. The better the quality of the images, the more your brand will stand out. In addition to high-quality photos, use vehicles with bright or unique colors, such as pink, yellow or red, as well as images with contrasting colors to help the image POP in the Pinterest dashboard.

4)      If the vehicle is on your lot, place the image on your website or blog and then ‘pin it’ so you are the source and can drive traffic from Pinterest through the established link. (Note: “Pinning” directly from Facebook is not available at this time.)

 Here is a great example of a Lexus dealership building their brand on Pinterest.  

ImageThis GM dealer is using Pinterest by labeling their “Boards” after their vehicle line-up such as Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu, Camaro, Volt as well as Cadillac and Buick models too. In addition to the vehicles, they are using other “Board” as creative pieces to give their dealership some local flavor and personality by including “Boards” called GM Classics, Ontario (where they are located), Travel and so forth. 

Once you have created your “Boards”, users can interact and “repin” these images, thus creating greater brand equity in a fun new visual way.

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Getting Our Hands Dirty

You might think that working in the digital space means staying inside all the time, chained to our keyboards and cranking out code.  Read on, and think again.

Last week, over 70 Cobaltians got out of the office, into the fresh air and got their hands dirty…sometimes literally. Over the course of four days and at five different locations, we collectively spent about 388 volunteer hours packing carrots, planting trees, pushing wheelbarrows, and more. But don’t take our word for it! Here’s a few thoughts from the folks who got out there and did it.

Tending the Giving Garden for Solid Ground

Tending the Giving Garden for Solid Ground

Solid GroundApril 10

For Solid Ground, our volunteers  helped with Lettuce Link’s Giving Garden at Marra Farm, learning about food security, organic farming and food justice through hands-on work.

Lidija Kamansky remembered something said by Solid Ground’s on-site staff. “Sue spoke about the importance of supporting local farmers and what the Marra Farm does for the community.  It really brought home what we were doing there yesterday and also things we could do in our day-to-day lives.  Then grabbing a pitchfork and getting started!  Also, just looking around and seeing everyone from Cobalt hard at work throughout the day.”

Amy Nelson also enjoyed all of it. “We got the sustainability lesson and I spent the day planting, so there wasn’t anything not to like. There were a variety of activities for different interests.” Lidija didn’t want to go home at the end of the day, “leaving one of the beds that we had been working on unfinished.  So much more to do!“

Packaging meals in the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen

Packaging meals in the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen

Lifelong AIDS AllianceApril 11

Lifelong’s volunteers helped with tasks such as packaging meals and grocery bags in the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen and warehouse, and processing clothing donations in the Thrift Store.

Jessika Skipsnes said that “it felt great to be helpful – they are doing so much good there for people!”, while Nichole Murray loved “working in the kitchen and reading their board about how many meals they distribute a week. Over 3,000!”

Jessika also recalled a few of her favorite parts of the day. “We watched a video with the background on Lifelong, had someone that led everyone to the volunteer areas.  At each area (kitchen, warehouse, thrift shop) they had separate people in charge, leading the volunteers with each little project.  Most of the tasks in the kitchen and the warehouse were very repetitive easy things, so it was nice to get into an efficient groove.”

Packing food for those in need at Northwest Harvest

Packing food for those in need at Northwest Harvest

Northwest HarvestApril 12

Volunteers joined John Holt to help sort and repack food that to be distributed to neighbors in need throughout the state. By the end of the day, volunteers had moved over 8700 pounds of food!

Erik Allen found a lot to like in the day. “Got my workout, got to help others, and got to work next to John Holt!” Hieu Pham also pointed out that it was hard work: “Most of the day was enjoyable – only thing is I’m very sore today from all the frozen carrots!”

Working in Treehouse's Wearhouse

Working in Treehouse's Wearhouse

TreehouseApril 12

Treehouse had our volunteers working in the Wearhouse, a unique store where foster children shop for free for new and gently used clothing and other essentials.

Karen Sherwin has volunteered for Treehouse previously. “What a GREAT organization…the store was open and it was so fun meeting the clients and talking with them.”

Josh Dand (no stranger to giving where it counts) was also a returning volunteer, and also really enjoyed “being able to be on the floor while the store was open and seeing the families who benefit from the services we volunteered.”  His only regret was when the day was over. “Each time I’ve been there, the natural inclination is to want to do more, go longer and come back soon.”

Keeping things moving at Camp Long

Keeping things moving at Camp Long

Nature ConservancyApril 13

More than 25 Cobaltians met on this sunny day at Camp Long to remove invasive plants, resurface trails and plant new native plants.

It was a rewarding day for Stacey Overturf. “I really liked the history of Camp Long, information about the Nature Conservancy, and the tour of the park. Really, it was the completion of our project though that was my favorite part of the day!”

John Stark agreed – the accomplishments made all the hard work worth it. “To be able to look around and see the impact we made at Camp Long was a really good thing.”

Volunteering for the community

That’s a lot of work, and most of the volunteers wanted to do more. As Erik Allen said, “Keep having these events, this is such an amazing part of this company.  I really love being able to help others and I love that I can be supported by the company that I work for in doing so.  Thank you Thank you Thank you.” Thank you for being a part of it!

To see more photos from last week’s community outreach, head on over to our Days of Giving Facebook photo album.

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Be a Keywords King (Or Queen:)

by The Cobalt Group:Jon Goad on Mar 8, 2011

How to Optimize your Dealer Website in Five Minutes a Day


John Goad is the SEO Quality and Process Manager for ADP Digital Marketing

We won’t mince words: If you’re a dealer still dragging your feet about keyword optimization, it’s time to jump in the game. In fact, a recent study from (you’ve heard of them, right?) just confirmed that shopping for automobiles online is less of a passing trend and more of a permanent reality. The study revealed that 71% of consumers use the Internet while shopping for new and used vehicles, more than double any other information source. It also reaffirms the importance of search engines, saying, “Search engines are…commonly used during the vehicle shopping process, with Google being by far the most prevalent. New and used vehicle buyers who visited a dealer site arrive at the site via search.”

Satisfied? Good. Now since we know that keyword optimization is not the average dealer’s idea of a good time on Saturday night (it’s not ours either, for the record), the experts at ADP Digital Marketing have provided you this list of clever keyword tactics that will help you trounce your competition in just five minutes a day. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to make your dealer website fully discoverable by customers dying to find that perfect vehicle-yours!

Killer Keyword Tips For Your Car Website


  1. Think locally. The average dealer may dream of being number one for “Chevrolet” or “Chevy Malibu,” but you know better. You know that bidding on global terms is pointless because most consumers won’t drive more than 20 miles to pick up a new car. While it would be nice for your ego to be number one for “Chevrolet,” it would be unbelievably expensive and an ultimately fruitless effort. Instead, it’s better to pre-qualify the consumers that will actually convert by optimizing your site for local keywords like “Chevrolet Seattle” or “Chevy Malibu Seattle.” Not only do you have an infinitely better chance of ranking number one, you limit your traffic to consumers you could actually serve. Winner, you.
  2. Go  beyond vehicle keywords. Sure, your business is selling cars, but that’s certainly not your only sales opportunity. Attract a greater array of customers by including keywords like “Detroit oil change,” or “Mazda shock absorbers Santa Barbara” or even “bad credit auto financing Houston.” Savvy keywords like these will allow you to attract new customers, even those who are not in-market for a vehicle.
  3. Spice up your urls. Believe it or not, that little www address in your browser is one of the first places search engines look when ranking a site, so it pays to optimize them for key terms. The easiest recipe for optimizing your dealer website url is: brand name + subject matter. For example, if your page features your Service Sign-up sheet, a url like would be perfect. Updating urls takes literally five minutes and can do wonders for your site’s rankings.
  4. A picture is worth a thousand keywords. Well maybe not a thousand, but at least a few juicy ones! When optimizing your site, don’t forget about photos. When you upload a photo, you can include what is known as “alt-text.” Alt-text is basically an SEO caption; it tips off search engines to the photo content, therefore giving them yet another great opportunity to send relevant traffic your way. By taking a few minutes to add keyword-rich descriptions like “Seattle Chevy Dealer employees at a winter barbeque,” or “Seattle Green Infiniti J30 shining in the autumn sun,” you can give your dealer website a more competitive stance in just a few minutes.
  5. Think links. A final quick keyword trick is to optimize your site links. Search engines treat links with added importance, so give yours some extra punch by incorporating key phrases. Instead of copy that reads “To view used Seattle BMWs, click here,” have it read “Check out our great selection of Seattle used BMWs.”  Why? Because, of course, no one is searching the phrase “Click Here.” They are searching phrases like “Seattle used BMWs.” This type of “link-thinking” takes a little while to get used to, but once you get in the mindset, it becomes second nature.


Needless to say, these tips work best when you combine them all together. Don’t settle for making your site a little easier to find by in-market consumers – make it a  dynamic car-selling destination by following all these tips for a powerfully optimized digital automotive website.

Last but not least, remember this isn’t about keywords; it’s about customers. ADP Digital Marketing SEO expert John Goad reinforces this maxim. “The best SEO tip isn’t an algorithm or some gaming technique. It’s about simply putting yourself in your customers’ shoes so that they can find what they’re looking for,” Goad says. “They’re doing a great job of pre-qualifying themselves; it’s up to you to make that connection by optimizing your site for those key terms. They’ve already told you what they’re shopping for. It’s not like a billboard on a freeway. People are actually telling you exactly what they want, down to the details. It’s your job to make sure they know you’re the one that can give it to them.”


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Become a Relevance Rockstar (Sexy Dealer Website Part 2)


by Paul Nagy & Andy Largent on May 18, 2011

Digital Automotive Marketing Maxim #2: Place First in the Fingertips Race

sexy dealer website means serving the customer the right page at the right time. To avoid, “fingertip fatigue,” minimize the number of clicks it takes for the consumer to reach their desired content. A rockstar site isn’t just about delivering the content that’s most aligned  with the customer’s desiresall your competitors are doing that. Relevance means delivering it in the least amount of time.  “ Relevance is all about making that quick  match between the customer’s goal and what your online experience delivers,” Paul Nagy, Vice President of Core Products said. “If a consumer searches for “Mazda oil change Seattle,” don’t settle for having them land on the home page and then click-through. Maximize your chance of conversion by having them land on the best-match page, the Services page, by optimizing that page for those key terms.”

Sexy Dealer Website Checklist

  • Killer Keywords. Go through your site and think carefully about what kind of terms a consumer would search to get to each page. What terms can you add to help consumers land in the right place with the minimum clicks? For example, optimize your Parts page for “Seattle Chevy Shock Absorbers.” Try optimizing your Finance page for “Bad credit auto financing Culver City.” Don’t assume every customer needs to land on the homepage; reduce click fatigue by optimizing each and every page for its own key terms.
  • Shining Specials. This tip relates to the Relevancy Golden Rule: one topic=one page. Create a more focused funnel by creating and optimizing individual pages for each topic your site covers-no need to cram everything into one page. This is especially important for specials and promos. “You wouldn’t have a Valentine’s Day promo next to a Veteran’s Day promo on your showroom floor, would you?” Andy Largent, Senior Product Manager at ADP Digital Marketing, asks. “The same focused selling should apply to your website.  Don’t saturate the customer, steer them toward a singular purpose: conversion.”
  • Defeat “Dealer Speak.” While it is fun and convenient to use abbreviations, industry slang and inside jokes when chatting with your lot buddies, avoid the temptation to use industry terminology on your website. Keep in mind the types of phrases that consumers will be searching for, and remove any that are too technical or industry-specific to be helpful to the consumer. For example, say “Used Mazda” in your website copy rather than “Pre-Owned Mazda.”

Stay tuned for part 3 of our Sexy Dealer Website Series, coming next week!If you’re ready to try out thesexiest new dealer website platform in automotive history, go check out our new Dealer Command Centerand make your competitors bow down today!


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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Profitable Fixed Operations Marketing

by Chuck Tilton on Jun 11, 2009

The following is based on an article I wrote for the March 2009 issue of Fixed Ops Magazine.


The Fixed Operations staff has many challenges not very different than today’s floor salesperson.  They have the same goals of building their business “funnel” to create a continuous revenue stream. They also face the challenge of maintaining relationships with previous and current customers to ensure repeat business and referral business.


Here we discuss three key ways for your Fixed Ops organization to survive and thrive in a tough economy: 


Optimize your website

You must be optimizing your website to drive traffic to both sales and service within your dealership. All marketing and sales efforts should be directing traffic to your website, including offline ads, online coupons, etc. Promote your site and tools like your website’s “Schedule a Service Appointment” through your display, e-mail and search marketing.  


If you have a page on your website dedicated to service and parts coupons and specials make sure you that consumers see your business when they search by optimizing your website for terms related to your specials.  Organic Search Engine optimization is one of the most cost-effective measures that you can take to generate traffic to your website and ultimately your service bays.


The next step is to make sure that your website is addressing what the customer is searching for. If you have service specials running, you must have them listed on your website’s homepage or the landing page the offer directs the prospect to. Make sure that your site has relevant, accurate, current Fixed Ops content and offerings.



Implementing an integrated search engine marketing program in order to leverage your parts and service business is critical in these economic times. According to Yahoo, a full 25% of all automotive searches on Yahoo are from consumers looking to buy parts or service for their car.


And, according to Google, over 90% of service customers are influenced by their online experience. These consumers are searching for such things as ‘oil change’, ‘brake pads’, ‘transmission service’, ‘cheap alternator’, etc and having your dealership website listed when in-market prospective consumers are searching on these keywords is important for building your brand presence and driving more local traffic to your dealership service bays.


Optimizing your website for search engines means having a landing page or multiple landing pages on your website that talk about the automotive services you offer. In addition, it requires that you keep this information up-to-date with weekly specials and “why us?” value proposition for your dealership. Another great way to ensure that your dealership appears on top search engines such as Google and Yahoo is to buy paid search advertising. Identifying the right keywords and integrating ad copy with your website pages helps increase your return on your investment.



E-mail is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to remarket to your existing customer base. It should be the responsibility of every service advisor to get a current e-mail address from every service customer. How do you get the customer to give you their e-mail address? Let the customer know “what’s in it for them”, such as quarterly e-mail specials and coupons that they will receive, as well as important notices and recalls that could affect their vehicle.


One of the biggest issues we see today with most DMS systems is the number of duplicate records and the amount of outdated information in the system. The database has to be cleansed and updated to have the most effective marketing results. With accurate consumer information, your marketing efforts can be targeted to specific customer segments. The importance of delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time cannot be overstated.


Every customer purchasing a vehicle – new or used – should receive a special email promotion for their first scheduled service within 90 days of the vehicle purchase. If you can get your customer to return for regular service, 86% of them are going to purchase another vehicle at your dealership at some point. Owner marketing programs can make this type of targeting easy to accomplish and can even help scrub your customer data to make your Fixed Ops marketing efforts more effective.


The fact is that in the current economy more consumers are holding onto their vehicles longer and that means that the need for parts and service on those vehicles is increasing. Every Fixed Ops manager needs to focus their efforts on finding and capturing as much of these dollars as possible and the best way to do that is to find consumers where they are searching for that information: online.


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Getting the Most from Your Phone Leads

by Anna Zornosa on Jun 16, 2009


(This post is based on an article I wrote for Dealer Marketing Magazine’s March 2009 issue.)


In working with thousands of dealers, delivering tens of thousands of leads, and studying 1,000 calls to dealers from used car prospects, we came up with some key findings that will help dealers optimize their success with phone leads.


Our research found that nearly half – 43% – of the callers from our study actually purchased a vehicle within two weeks of making the phone call. And according to Cobalt’s 2007 Dealer e-Business Performance Study, most shoppers want to know two simple things: “Is the car still available?” and “How much is it?” Dealers who have a good follow-up process, including answering their prospect’s basic questions, will have good odds of selling the car, and doing so quickly.


 Three Key Things to Do to Optimize Your Phone Leads


<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.      <!–[endif]–>Ask for the appointment. In the calls we reviewed, 72% of the dealers who had an interested buyer on the phone did not ask for an appointment. Here’s one way to ask: “Yes, we have that car in the lot. I’m here today until closing and would love to show it to you. Does either 3 or 5 pm work for you?”


<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.      <!–[endif]–>Suggest an alternative if the vehicle is no longer available. In over one-third of the calls (35%), the dealer did not offer an alternative vehicle to the prospect if their first choice was not available. Offer them a similar vehicle and then ask for the appointment.


3.      <!–[endif]–>Keep your voicemail system up and working. With calls placed when the dealership was closed, one-fourth reached voicemail systems that could not record the call, typically due to the fact that the voicemail boxes were full. This is an easy fix: Get a bigger voicemail box and check it regularly.


 What to Look for in a Phone Lead Provider 


 Using a quality provider also plays a key role in your success. Here are some things to consider:


 <!–[if !supportLists]–>1.      <!–[endif]–>What is the time duration for a call to be “billed”? The vast majority of phone calls from serious prospects are over one minute in duration, while some shorter calls come from serious buyers who simply want directions to the dealership. If your provider charges for all calls, even those under 40 seconds, you should be wary.


 <!–[if !supportLists]–>2.      <!–[endif]–>Are calls from phone leads available as audio file for later review? Reviewing your phone calls can give you great insight into how effective your sales person’s dialogue with the prospect is, and what needs some polishing.


 <!–[if !supportLists]–>3.      <!–[endif]–>How does your provider ensure phone number quality? Unfortunately, toll-free phone numbers are often recycled, and you can get “junk” calls meant for the previous “owner” of the number. Make sure your provider doesn’t assign phone numbers until they are “ring free” for at least one month or longer.


 <!–[if !supportLists]–>4.      <!–[endif]–>Can phone leads be integrated with your LMT or CRM system for easy tracking and management? Whether they are form, email, or phone leads, you should be able to monitor all your leads in one central system. This helps with follow-up and in identifying which lead sources are high quality and which should be cut.


 <!–[if !supportLists]–>5.      <!–[endif]–>Does the vendor have lead “enrichment” capabilities? A provider that is able to append a phone lead with the caller’s address and send it to your LMT or CRM system is offering you a far superior lead than one who is not.


The combination of a rock solid phone lead handling process coupled with a top notch provider is the perfect formula to generate the highest closing rate from your phone leads.




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Meet the New Rockstars: Customers, Klouters, and Posterazzi

by Jade Makana on Nov 29, 2011


A Maverick (VJ) Says, Maven (Jade) Says Edition

Maverick Says: Customer service has been around since the lemonade stand, but many business innovators are elevating the definition to all-out rockstar levels. We approve!

 From DSES Keynote Speaker Gary Vaynerchuk’s “thank you economy” to Bob Burg’s and John David Mann’s“The Go Giver,” today’s hot and  up-to-date  thought leaders are reexamining customer service and thinking “outside the ballpoint pen” on how to really  rock their customer’s world. The cool thing about this trend is that it is completely accessible to the automotive digital marketing community. Anyone can take an innovative approach to treating customers like royalty and give them a unique Red Carpet Event (and no, I am not referring to Ford and Lincoln’s Red Carpet Lease event). Let’s get you on the A-List and provide you with a peek behind the velvet rope to see how it’s done.

Cultivate Your Big Players with Bananas Customer Service

For example, Vaynerchuk shared a rockstar customer service story during his keynote speech at DSES. The customer in question was a true “VIP,” having just placed a $1000 wine order from Vaynerchuk’s business The savvy entrepreneur realized that such an elaborate purchase deserved more than the standard old thank you note with a 15% off coupon and a branded pen. (We all know such canned displays of “gratitude” hardly make a dent into today’s relationship-driven business economy.) Instead, Vaynerchuk went above and beyond, doing his homework to find out more about what could turn this casual customer into a die-hard fan. His tool of execution: Twitter!

Vaynerchuk learned that the customer was a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, posting rave after rave about his beloved Bears and rants after rants for his so hated Packers. From these “traces of evidence” Vaynerchuk saw what made this new valued customer of his “tick.” He realized “This guy just loves his Bears, possibly more than his family.” Vee’s plan of action was clear. He sent “Mr. $1000” an autographed Bears Jersey – of his all-time favorite player Jay Cutler.

Now before you choke on your coffee at the thought of spending close to $300 on a fancy sports jersey for a single customer, keep in mind that the story doesn’t there: The perplexed and dazzled customer called Vaynerchuk up, dying to know how the wine CEO could have possibly known that the autographed Bears jersey was the perfect gift. The customer then went on to say how over the past few years he had ordered over $100,000 worth of wine from one of Vaynerchuk’s competitors and had not once received the rockstar treatment that Vaynerchuk had so generously shown. He is now (and trust me I am right on this) a customer – or let me call him “a converted Vaynerchuk Evangelist” for life.  And YES, the jersey cost around $300 – but the marketing message and impact among the clients social circle of influence is considered “priceless.” Rock on.

Maven Says: I agree with VJ that delivering rockstar experiences to your inner posse is totally hot right now, but I think it spans beyond just customers to your entire entourage. Just as rockstars have fans, journalists, and music critics to satisfy, we in the digital automotive industry have our own “posterazzi”: bloggers, journalists, thought leaders, and customers.

For example, I noticed many Digital Dealer 2011 speakers touching not just on the concept of rewarding top purchasers, but also top social influencers. The reasons why are obvious: when it comes to today’s rock stars, the Klout score has replaced the sports car, your number of Twitter followers matters more than the number of zeroes on your balance sheet, and  Radian 6 has replaced Bungalow 8 as the hip name to drop. Schmoozing takes place in retweets, not restaurants, and industry power has taken on a whole new digital gleam. Moreover, the public is catching on. I’ve heard of several forward-thinking companies (some hotel chains in particular) who are now strategically checking their customer’s Klout Scores when they check in. They then reward this customer with white glove VIP service. This practice is known as “Klout Comping” and I expect it to absolutely explode over the next year or so. Bottoms up, power users!

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