Rachel Choy and Kat Pecora of DealerSocket answer questions from students at UW-Oshkosh during a panel session on digital marketing Friday.
Three members of the DealerSocket team visited their alma mater Friday to showcase various elements of the technology they use and the ways in which they apply digital marketing effort for car dealerships throughout the country.
Rachel Choy, Kat Pecora and Wes Lungwitz work at the Oshkosh portion of the company (which used to be known distinctly as DealerFire). The company helps build, oversee and market digital content for automotive dealers all across the country. Their panel presentation, “Digital Content Development and Analytics,” and the subsequent Q and A covered a wide variety of topics ranging from cutting edge SEO techniques to measuring key analytics via up-to-date digital tools.
Between the explanations relating to the impact voice search is having on the industry to the analysis of PPC and CPC, the students who watched were enthralled with the possibilities available to them in the digital marketing realm. As important as those things were, I noticed that underlying the tech talk were several non-digital rudiments that these folks said made their efforts successful.
Here are four takeaways I pulled from their panel that matter a great deal to journalists of all stripes, regardless of if they’re digital geniuses or working with old Commodore 64s:
WRITE FOR THE AUDIENCE: The key distinction between media writing today and media writing of the past comes down to who’s in charge. In the days in which media professionals ran the show and readers had limited outlets, it was about journalists telling an audience what they thought readers should know. Today, the model is exactly the opposite: Readers have more choices than ever before, so it’s more about writing for the readers, based on what they want to know.
The DealerSocket approach is a good one for all writers: Do research about your specific readership, find out what matters to those people and then write about those things. This is often difficult for news journalists, but it can be even more frustrating for clients who want to see direct results. In other words, the people paying the web folks just want to tell the audience, “Buy a car!”
Instead, the staff writes content to make the readers happy and entice Google.
“Content is a really great way for people to find you,” Pecora said. “Oftentimes, you don’t have a lot of content on your website, so you’re going to show up really low on search terms. It’s a very competitive area and a tough market so the best they can do is create content.”
Lungwitz mentioned that content isn’t just about cars, but things people care about, like a post a staffer wrote for a site about trick-or-treat times in a given area. The post wasn’t helpful in selling a car, but it was helpful in drawing people to the site where the dealer sold cars. The staff then monitors things like bounce rate, to see if people just came in for that one thing and left or if they transferred into the site.
As Pecora said, the goal is to develop an audience that wants to hear what you have to say.
“The more Google is seeing your search terms, and your content is meaningful and useful (to the audience), the more Google is going to send people to your website and that will boost your domain authority.”
BECOME DISTINCT: In most cases, the team at DealerSocket starts working with car dealerships at ground zero of their digital build. With that in mind, they have the opportunity to create both the content for a variety of digital platforms and the general persona the company wants to express publicly. The goal is to understand what the client has that no one else has and then communicate that effectively.
“We try to dig something out of them,” Lungwitz said. “‘How are you different?’ We take our cues from journalism. It’s like any of the interviews you’ve done.”
Like most sources in journalism, people tend to have problems talking about themselves or seeing things about themselves that are unique. It’s the goal of good journalists to find ways to access those things and then showcase them to the readers in a valuable way.
“We take a white-glove approach to customer service,” Pecora said. “What does the customer need and what is unique about this customer? We take the time to really find that out and dedicate energy and time to doing what’s right for them. It really pays off.”
Choy noted that she would research her clients to find the things that made them different from other dealers within a geographic area, as well as what made them different from others dealers within the market segment. When she would discuss these things with her clients, they were often impressed with how a person in Wisconsin could know so much about a dealership in California or Texas or North Carolina.
This not only helped her sharpen the focus of the site for her clients, but it also helped with the next main point…
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS: Advertising has moved far from the old “Eat at Joe’s” billboard days, but the underlying premise still remains the same: A client needs people to buy or rent or believe X and the marketing professional has to build content to make that happen. Unfortunately, the line between ad and sale isn’t as direct or as clear as it once was, so trust becomes a huge part of making this relationship work over time.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” one of the folks noted on the panel.
As much as DealerSocket is building custom landing pages for dealers, publishing press releases and managing reputations on social media, the folks who work with the dealers also understand it’s about building trust. To earn this trust, the staff members do their best to explain not only what they are doing with a dealer’s website, but also WHY they are doing it, in the context that makes sense to the clients.
“I explain that your website is like your car and your digital marketing is like the gas,” Choy said. “If you don’t continue to put gas in the car, it’s only going to go so far.”
“Some clients say, ‘I’m not getting enough contact on the website.’ We ask, ‘What are you doing?’ and they say, ‘Well, I have the website!’” Choy added. “Google likes sites that are continually updating… We explain that you need to be proactive to be sure you are the resource for the people… There has to be some kind of proactive action so that your car has gas.”
To some clients, this could sound a lot like a “trust me story,” where a company asks a client to keep throwing money into a hole with the idea that it will eventually lead to something good. Lungwitz said the relationships between the clients and the staff lead to actual trust and eventually the outcomes the dealers want to see. He mentioned this in discussing the trick-or-treat post noted earlier.
“This kind of thing isn’t directly tied to a sale, but we have to explain, ‘Let’s look at these other things,’” Lungwitz said. “It’s lifting all boats, it’s lifting your home page… Organic marketing is the long play. It’s not a direct response plan. It’s building over time.”
Just like most good relationships.
NEVER STOP LEARNING: The field of digital marketing, like most parts of journalism, is continually changing. What made sense six months ago might not make sense now. What works in one part of the country or with one brand might fail elsewhere.
As was the case with most panels involving professionals and students, the students asked for tips and hints on how to get a job and become proficient in this area of the field. Lungwitz had the answer that professors dream about when we hear that question:
“You try to further your knowledge every chance you get,” he said. “I read a lot of social media and SEO blogs. We get certification (on digital media tools) each year and we have to continue that.”
In other words, you should never stop learning.