9 Clouds Automotive Marketing Blog
Where automotive meets digital marketing.
At 9 Clouds, we focus on leading the industry in inbound automotive marketing.
I (Scott Meyer) had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Pasch of Auto Marketing Now recently at the CBT Network studios in Atlanta. We had a wide-ranging discussion on the future of digital marketing and how auto dealers can be more inbound-focused to build lifelong customers.
Our discussion included a look at the future of Facebook ads for auto dealers, how to track and personally communicate with customers, and even a little overview of the inbound automotive marketing services 9 Clouds provides for our clients.
Enjoy this video with Brian. If you prefer text, check out the transcript below.
Inbound Automotive Marketing Interview Transcript
Brian: Welcome to Auto Marketing Now. On today's show, we interview Scott Meyer. He's the founder of 9 Clouds Digital Marketing. We're also going to have our popular marketing tip and email grab bag. So let's get started with today's show.
I'd like to welcome to today's show Scott Meyer. He's the chief outreach officer from 9 Clouds. Scott, welcome to the show.
Scott: Thank you very much, Brian. It's great to be here!
Brian: Scott, you are a full-service digital agency for auto dealers coming highly recommended. Thank you for flying out. Where's your office located?
Scott: We're based in the lovely city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the heartland of America.
Brian: Great. So, Scott, why did you pick automotive as a vertical to serve with your team?
Scott: Sure, yeah. Our company is about seven years old, and about four and a half years ago, we started working in automotive. It's mostly because we have a passion to help people in rural communities be able to build their businesses there, because that's where we are. We need to be able to live in South Dakota and actually run a business. And we learned very quickly that every small town has a bar and a post office — and often an auto dealer.
Brian: That's right. And you and I have a similar path. Ten years ago when I started my business, I tried the restaurants, and the retail, and the lawyers, and the doctors. But every town had a car dealer, and every dealer needed to spend money every month to sell more cars.
Scott: Yeah. And I think there's such linchpins in the community. If you can get them to . . . so many of them are helping the community doing sponsorships, teams, and events. What we're trying to do is help those dealers share that message so that they're connecting with people — not just trying to interrupt and grab their business, but more be a part of the community.
Brian: And one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show is because dealers know there's mega-agencies and huge mergers that have been going on. Yet one of my friend's dealer principal, Tom Hawkins, recently shared a blog post that said, “Who's looking out for the small dealer?” The small dealer who doesn't have a full-time marketing manager, the small dealer who doesn't have $50,000 or $100,000 to spend. I love the fact that you work with small dealers and larger dealer groups.
Let's talk about the general approach that you take. Your website talks about inbound marketing. For dealers who are not familiar with what that means, how would you describe it?
Scott: We talk about inbound marketing as the opposite of interruption, or outbound marketing. We're used to marketing as a way to try to put our ad in front of someone. So whether it's a TV ad or a banner ad, it's interrupting someone either way.
Brian: Whether they want it or not, right?
Scott: Yeah, it's there. Inbound marketing is the opposite, where you're providing education, you're providing value, and people are finding you, coming to you, and then they end up working with you because they trust you. We know, from some of your research too, that people are using at least 10 pages to research before buying a car. And if they can learn from the dealer, they're going to go back and buy from that dealer.
Brian: And that's one of my biggest gripes lately. Most dealers are familiar with some basic marketing concepts — awareness, which moves to consideration, which moves to decision — but in that important consideration phase, dealers don't have any content on their website, nor in their email marketing, nor in their video marketing, to help consumers decide which vehicle type, class, and then eventually model fits their needs.
Scott: Yeah. I think about a lot of us, like myself; I ask my dad questions about cars. Everyone has the dad of Google. They're out there asking questions. And the questions that dealers get every day in the store, they should be answering those online.
When you are talking about those larger agencies, it's almost the same across every single website. The text is almost exactly the same — the titles, everything. So what we take is a much more hands-on, boutique approach to say, “You're not a number. You're going to get personalized service that talks about you, who you are, and your involvement in the community.”
Brian: And over the years, I've come to understand that there are some dealers — there's 17,000 franchise dealers — who are not embracing digital still today in 2016, and they're fine with a “set it and forget it” advertising partner because maybe they're spending $2,000 or $3,000 of Google AdWords, and they're not pushing the envelope. But for dealers who really want to feel more than a number, they'll call your company. How do you start that engagement process? What makes your company's approach a little different than a very large organization?
Scott: Sure. Well, we start everything with a free Inbound Marketing Assessment, and that's at 9clouds.com/ima (for Inbound Marketing Assessment). That's where we basically look at the website, because as a small agency, we can't take everyone on either. We need to find people who are a good fit. So we take a look and say, “Here's how you could improve. Take our advice and run with it. If you want to come back a few weeks later, or you don't think you can handle it, then we'll step in and help you out.”
Brian: And I found that that's how I built my business as well. I do a lot of writing, I give a lot of free information, and some dealers just say, “Brian, I don't have time to do it. Would you help?”
Scott: Yeah, and that's a huge part of what we do at 9 Clouds. We publish an article almost every day on our blog, and we have a huge resource library. So, anyone listening, dealers out there, just head over to 9clouds.com/resources; you'll see courses and eBooks and everything you need.
Brian: And that's why I wanted to have you on the show, because there are not many people who write. Each year we give out the Lighthouse Award, for the last six years, to recognize people who are educating, who are trying to help the auto dealer community grow in their knowledge. So it was really refreshing to see those resources.
Let's talk about marketing technology and automation. Many dealers are tired of silo-ed approach: one agency doing SEO, one agency doing SEM, one agency doing social, another doing video. One of the things I like is that you're bringing marketing automation technology from outside of automotive into the automotive space. For dealers watching today's show, how does that work?
Scott: I think the one thing that makes us very different from other agencies is we're able to see who's interested in buying before they fill out a form, before they call the dealership. And that uses something like you referred to called marketing automation. So, we not only know who's interested, but then we can market to them based on their interests.
So, if you're looking at a truck, you're not going to get the blast email about the Ford Focus, right? You're going to get an email about the truck. Or if you're on the finance page, maybe that'll go straight to the BDC, for example. There's a great example we can show here of what happens when someone comes to a site: we can look at what they're looking at, and then we can either send them specific marketing emails or social media messages, or we can send them straight to the sales team for follow-up.
Brian: And that's what I really love, that dealers know that mass marketing is dead. I might even want to say that soon, mass digital marketing is dead. Right now, dealers are advertising their cars using Google AdWords. They're advertising all their inventory, even though they know there's probably 20% of their cars that are going to sell very quickly. They don't need to push an ad dollar. Yet there's cars that need more love, more attention, and they're getting painted with the same brush. Same thing — dealers know that their marketing and advertising are driving people to the website, yet they're not personalizing the follow-up.
So let's just put it in practical terms. Maybe a dealer sends out a marketing email that your team creates; there's a link; the consumer comes, because you know who the consumer is; you send an email; they click on a link; they come to the dealer's website. And as you were mentioning, now they're looking at new Ford F-150s. With your marketing automation, not only can you tell the dealer, “Hey, Brian Pasch is on your website looking at Ford F-150s,” whether I submit a lead or not — you could then trigger a marketing event that could send them an email with specials on the Ford F-150; you could be maybe sending a special type of display or a customized page offer to them. Is this what we're talking about?
Scott: Exactly, yeah. Everything is personalized to the individual. The benefit of a comprehensive approach that we bring is that we're not selling a widget; we're just making all these widgets work together. Because you're getting data from all these different vendors, but they're not talking right now. So we take that data from third-party lead providers, if you have a Haystak or a display ad company; let's put all that together so that now we know that Brian is interacting with all these places, and I can decide is he worth calling, is he worth sending an email to, is he worth just leaving alone until he does some more activity.
Brian: And that's really important because I think dealers really are getting to the point where they were sold on digital marketing — it was going to be the great ROI, visibility — yet they're saying, “I'm spending money on AdWords; I'm not sure it's working. I'm spending money on SEO; I'm not sure it's working.”
Are we finally getting to a point where we're delivering on the promise of 10 years ago when dealers were told, “Hey, traditional marketing has no visibility. Come to digital. You'll have tons of visibility”? And they're saying, “Hey, Brian. Ten years later, I still don't know it's working.”
Scott: You have to move past impressions to conversions. And if you don't know the conversions, then it probably isn't working. And that's a hard pill to swallow for a lot of folks. But you should be able to get it to the point where we know how much was spent on Brian, and how many marketing actions went out. And we can learn from that. So we can see what actually got you excited so that we can do more of it, and we keep learning across dealers to do the best work for everyone we work with.
Brian: And probably one of the most shocking things that I still see this year is dealers not having goals set up in analytics, which I don't understand. Advertising agencies calling something a conversion that isn't.
To be clear, a conversion to me is someone who texts the dealership, chats with the dealership, completes a lead form, or calls the dealership. That's a conversion. A visit to the hours and directions page or a visit to a VDP are just events that hopefully lead to a conversion, but I can't track an ROI unless someone raises their hand or discloses a certain level of interest. Scott, how are you helping dealers understand what's really working?
Scott: We kind of look in the rearview mirror of those conversions to see what actually drove quality traffic. So it's not about how many people get to the VDP, but it's like, do those people actually end up buying, getting their car serviced? And where do they come from? Because if you're spending $5,000 or $10,000 on AdWords, and you're getting lots of traffic, but no one's buying, you can probably put that effort into your own site.
I think that's a big mindset shift, building your own base. For so long, we've been renting third-party lead space; we've been spending on AdWords; and if we build up our own database by creating interest and information, providing value, not spamming people — that's going to be the real value over the long term.
Brian: I think it's probably seven or eight years ago now, I spoke at a Digital Dealer conference, and I said that the most important investment that dealers could make would be to hire a content writer. And today, it's really a video content writer, or an informational or product comparison writer. Dealers need to get serious if they truly want to embrace the idea of providing value to consumers and letting the consumers engage with their brand.
Scott, your company offers SEO and SEM. One of the exciting areas is social media advertising. What is your agency doing to help dealers connect with consumers, say on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram?
Scott: The last two years, I'd say the biggest change at 9 Clouds is the success of social ads because of the ability to do exactly what we were talking about before, which is targeting based on interest. Facebook has recently launched Lead Ads, which basically means I can now convert without filling out a form. Facebook already knows my name and email; I just have to push “Give me a quote,” and then that name and email can go straight into the dealer's CRM.
So we're really excited about connecting leads from Facebook right into the CRM so that you get that exact ROI measurement. And that's something that people have come to us asking about. We're finally offering that as a one-off service. Everything else we do kind of comprehensively, but we're doing Facebook ads. So that's 9clouds.com/facebook, where you can learn all about that.
Brian: Great. And Scott, one thing: just recently Mark Zuckerberg announced at their conference that they're focused on the Messenger platform. What it looks like is Messenger is going to be the preferred communication platform for major Fortune 500 companies. I foresee Facebook integrating Messenger into their ads so that an ad campaign that attracts a consumer — they'll be able to message directly with the dealership using Facebook Messenger. It's an exciting time.
Scott: It's really exciting. The stat that blows my mind: the average American's on Facebook more than 40 minutes a day. So just imagine that live chat from your website, but instead living on Facebook. They don't have to leave, and they can talk to the dealer.
Brian: That's right. And now with the new articles that can be published on Facebook, dealers can be putting out really good content; they could promote that content, and the consumer can read it. Instead of going to the dealer's blog, they can read it inside of Facebook. The consumer can engage with the dealership with Messenger. It's really cool how quickly Facebook has become a primary advertising channel for dealers to connect with in-market shoppers.
Scott: Yeah. And I don't think a lot of dealers realize that the Polk data is built into Facebook. And so when I write an article like this one, I can show you here — about service for, say, Toyotas — I can show that to everyone in my town who drives a Toyota, whether or not they've been to my dealership. So you can write content for all these tiny, tiny slivers of markets, show it just to them so that they feel like you're talking exactly to their needs
That's really the difference between advertising and marketing, in my mind. Advertising is trying to sell someone something they don't want. Marketing is trying to find people who want what you have.
Brian: It's also being prepared, Scott. Right?
Brian: I just saw on Facebook one of my friends holding a golf ball-, like, softball-sized hail. And in certain parts of the country, like in Texas, cars get pelted, and thousands of dollars. So I'm wondering, if we wanted to really bring home inbound marketing, wouldn't it be great to have some curated content on hail damage, and what to do, and best practices?
And as soon as a hailstorm comes, push that out to in-market shoppers, to car owners, to people in their DMS on social media. You know what that does? It converts the dealership into waiting at that third step of a decision to bring that brand awareness that this is the local expert on cars; this is the local company that's helping me maximize my vehicle investment. This is a shift, as you mentioned.
Scott: Yeah, you want to be the master of your domain, and you have to be doing that all along the way. When we write, it's all in-house writers right in South Dakota. We're not pulling generic articles. Everything's written for that specific dealer because of exactly what you said — if I want to sell cars in Sioux Falls, I want to be writing to that community. That's a great example, whether it's hail or service or an athletic event. If you're talking about the community, the community's going to respond.
Brian: Right. We don't get hail like that, and thank God that we don't, because the damage it does is crazy. Scott, I am really excited for your agency because the automotive industry is in desperate need of choice. Meaning, there will always be a role for the mega-platforms, but there's also the need of dealers who want a personalized, engaged agency that's listening, that's talking clearly, delivering ROI to their marketing dollars.
If dealers want to sign up with your agency, do they have to make a long-term commitment, month-to-month? We ask this of all our guests so that dealers really have complete transparency on what they're buying into.
Scott: Yeah. For dealers, when they work with 9 Clouds, if they're willing to take the automation software on, then we do six months, and that's because everything we do takes time. If you're writing articles to show up on Google, it doesn't happen overnight. Everyone we work with is long-term relationship, so we really vet our clients well. So we're slowly growing, learning, and helping them learn as well. So anyone can come over to 9clouds.com, and I would suggest starting with that Inbound Marketing Assessment. It's free, and they can learn about their site.
Brian: That's a smart thing. Dealers do appreciate great insight. I'm excited for your approach to online marketing. I'm excited that you're bringing in marketing automation to make it simple for dealers to have more effective ad dollars. And of course, we have a lot of shared dealer friends that have said you've done an excellent job.
Scott: I appreciate that. Lots of fun that I had.
Brian: So Scott, would you do me a favor? Come back in a year from now. I want to see the growth of your company. Obviously, I started 10 years ago as one person, and today have grown my business, but we need more passionate entrepreneurs like yourself serving the 17,000 dealers. I'd love to hear what new things you found to help dealers sell more cars in a digital age.
Scott: I'd be happy to. Thanks for all your work.
Brian: Thank you.
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