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Technology or marketing, “To be or not to be” can you answer this question as it relates to QR codes™? Let’s take a look at these data matrix bar codes and try to answer this question.

QR code™ stands for Quick Response and is also referred to as a Data Matrix barcode or 2 dimensional code that is readable by camera phones (if equipped with the proper software) and bar code readers. The QR code™ can be encoded with text information, URL or other data and was created by Denso-Wave in 1994 a subsidiary of Toyota for the sole purpose of decoding data at a high speed, typically parts tracking. Denso-Wave owns the patent to the technology and the trademark to QR Code™ but at this time has chosen not to exercise their rights to both.

Here is an example of a 2D code versus a bar code:


Let’s start with some of the technology behind these codes. Now I don’t think getting into the application layer and established de facto standards will add any value to this blog so we will skip to the code capacity and restrictions that pertain to your potential uses.

QR code data capacity
Numeric code only Max. 7,089 characters
Alphanumeric Max. 4,296 characters
Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes
Kanji/Kana Max. 1,817 characters

The current applications for QR codes™ is limitless and include coins, grave markers to give more information for the mourners, libraries, printing where entire poetry books are a collection of codes, natural and historic points and believe it or not tattoos! Yes people are actually getting tattoos of their own personal QR code™ and linking it to their social media site such as Facebook.

To each their own but can you imagine if Denso-Wave exercises their patent rights WOW!

OK Terry can we get to automotive related information now! I hear you I just can’t seem to get the tattoo out of my head LOL. The main request we see for today’s car dealer is the desire to put a QR code™ on a vehicle window sticker. While technically this is fairly simple to do my question to those of you reading this blog is, “Where do you want the QR code™ to link or what information do you want it to display?” Do you only want it on your window sticker or on all forms of advertising?

Other industries that have been using these codes can give us answers. The real estate industry has been widely known for using and bringing the QR code™ to the forefront here in the U.S. as it relates to consumer marketing, and if we look at the success or failures they have had, we may learn what we will face in the automotive marketing segment.

I am the first to admit that as a vendor I have at times only looked at things from the vendor or dealer side and ignored the consumer side. With QR codes™ I have not and the reason is because I am in the process of searching for a new house and I see these codes daily. So as a consumer what do I think of QR code™ for real estate? I can tell you at first I thought it was great, we were not with our agent and happened by a house what a great way to get quick information to see if we wanted to add it to our list RIGHT? WRONG, after spending 10 minutes to find the application I wanted to download so my phone that would process the code, I scanned my first one and what most consumers don’t realize and I guess I did not think about it is once you scan that QR code™ you just gave them your cell phone number and here comes the calls and they are relentless! So while the idea of getting more information quickly is great as a consumer I will not be scanning any QR code™ in the future as my cell number is about the only form of communication I don’t get spammed on and I want to keep it that way. I would imagine other consumers will feel the same way.

There are numerous free QR Code™ builders a simple Google search will bring up sites like:
To each their own but can you imagine if Denso-Wave exercises their patent rights WOW!

OK Terry can we get to automotive related information now! I hear you I just can’t seem to get the tattoo out of my head LOL. The main request we see for today’s car dealer is the desire to put a QR code™ on a vehicle window sticker. While technically this is fairly simple to do my question to those of you reading this blog is, “Where do you want the QR code™ to link or what information do you want it to display?” Do you only want it on your window sticker or on all forms of advertising?

Other industries that have been using these codes can give us answers. The real estate industry has been widely known for using and bringing the QR code™ to the forefront here in the U.S. as it relates to consumer marketing, and if we look at the success or failures they have had, we may learn what we will face in the automotive marketing segment.

I am the first to admit that as a vendor I have at times only looked at things from the vendor or dealer side and ignored the consumer side. With QR codes™ I have not and the reason is because I am in the process of searching for a new house and I see these codes daily. So as a consumer what do I think of QR code™ for real estate? I can tell you at first I thought it was great, we were not with our agent and happened by a house what a great way to get quick information to see if we wanted to add it to our list RIGHT? WRONG, after spending 10 minutes to find the application I wanted to download so my phone that would process the code, I scanned my first one and what most consumers don’t realize and I guess I did not think about it is once you scan that QR code™ you just gave them your cell phone number and here comes the calls and they are relentless! So while the idea of getting more information quickly is great as a consumer I will not be scanning any QR code™ in the future as my cell number is about the only form of communication I don’t get spammed on and I want to keep it that way. I would imagine other consumers will feel the same way.

There are numerous free QR Code™ builders a simple Google search will bring up sites like:
www.qrcode.kaywa.com
www.dakno.com/qr
www.dakno.com/qr
www.pressero.com

I used Kaywa to build the code below in about 5 seconds! Does it work? Try it below!

If you have a Google account you can get analytics on your QR Codes™ which will be vital to your programs success.

I have seen numerous tweets and blogs regarding QR Codes™ and advising them as a must have part of your marketing plan but I have not read a blog on how to use these codes to increase sales, conversion or leads. While I am sure they are out there and I can think of a few ways myself I would be curious to hear how you are currently utilizing these codes and what kind of increases you are seeing?

So is it a Fad or Technology? Well it is both, the technology is there and for manufacturing and shipping applications it is great. While marketing has taken this technology and is pushing these codes at all angles it will be up to consumer reaction here in the U.S. to dictate its future in B2C marketing. The fact that vendors, consultants or dealers may think it is beneficial or a must have or not the final decision will be up to the consumer.

Your thoughts and input are truly requested and please share any success or experience you have had with QR codes™.

Yeah, I said big bucks because that is what you pay for your internet marketing. Oh, who am I talking to? You know what you pay and will agree it’s not cheap to have all your vehicles listed on the most popular automobile websites. Hey, it’s worth it, right? The customers are there. You want to be as well. Then I have to ask why on earth you would not take advantage of your advertising dollars and showcase all your vehicles with photos and notes? Also if you are paying for a pricing tool, your vehicles should be competitively priced from day 1 online. Even if you are pricing your vehicles by the “I think, I feel” method, getting a price online will certainly help you on sites like Autotrader where you lose in both the high to low (which is the default search) or the low to high (which is probably the most common search) if they are not priced. If your vehicle does not have a price, you are at the bottom of the list either way. We all know the goal is to sell your vehicles as quickly as possible since the longer they sit on your lot, the less profit you will make as they depreciate and your cost of owning them rises. Remember 80+% of shoppers start online. You have got to get it right if you expect to get the most for your advertising buck.

I challenge you to inspect your inventory and see what percentage of vehicles are being advertised without photos, notes and pricing. I am not just guessing that many dealers have high percentages in these areas, I know they do. I review our dealers’ accounts monthly and send them a report so they can see where they can improve. There really are no excuses for neglecting these areas. With all the cool internet marketing tools out there, including ours, you can upload photos, use a description builder tool if description writing is not your thing, and price your vehicles without having to check several sites to see what vehicles are retailing for all in a snap.

A common excuse I have heard for not having pictures is the weather. If you live in an area that has a long messy winter, you may consider investing in a photo booth out of the weather or just reserving a service bay just for photos. If you do not have a photo booth, then you should have plenty of time to sit in the nice warm dealership and get your notes updated. If it takes a while to get photos, you can at least give a potential customer some good info on the vehicle to let them know why they should consider yours. Another common excuse for no photos is that the lot service company only comes by a few days a week. Everyone has a camera, so why not take a photo or 2 of the vehicle as soon as it is traded in and upload them into your inventory management tool so that photos are online until a complete set can be taken. At least you’ll show the potential customers that the car is in good shape and worthy of a call. No picture showing means I am moving on.

Really I could go on and on, but I will give you a moment to chew on this. If you do a great job (and there are many who have mastered this), you are probably too busy to read this blog (unless you are making time since you think I am really cool and just enjoy my rant :)) On the other hand, if you are a dealer not getting the lead return you expect from the sites where you market, then you should evaluate whether or not you are doing the things that have been proven to be effective. Internet Marketing 101: Show more, Tell more, Sell more. If you master it, you will get the best bang for your big bucks.

I know, I know, you are tired of your Internet marketing vendor telling you “Your dealership really needs a blog!”. You’re probably still trying to grasp the whole social media trend, and getting your head wrapped around Facebook and Twitter.

Well, in all honesty, and I am sorry about this, but…..your dealership DOES need a blog!

Your dealership has a website, right? A sharp, spiffy website that hopefully you are very proud of. Well, a nicely-done blog does 2 very important things for that sharp website of yours.
1. It makes it easy to add and update content, so there is always something fresh and interesting on the site.
2. It helps establish a relationship with visitors, which are potential customers, and build a climate of trust with them.

Yes, a blog does require some commitment, but it isn’t nearly as big-and-bad as most of you make it out to be. I will give you the “blogging basics” of what is required of you and hopefully you’ll realize that yes, in fact, a blog on your site would not only be do-able, but a benefit to your dealership.

Post to Your Blog Regularly
Blog search engines value consistency and rank fresh content over older content. The search engines will find you based upon your content and users will come to your blog and read what you have to say when they begin to pick up your posts on a regular basis. People will only continue to visit your blog if they get something new every time they visit your site, so reel them in!

Post on Other People’s Blogs Regularly
You need to get out on the Internet and find related automotive blogs and forums, read these posts and make interesting and intelligent comments. Make sure you link back to your own site, or better yet, directly to relevant articles on your own site. This builds the association between your blog and the other blogs in the automotive field. The more you comment on blogs, the more people will notice you.

Share Your Content
Share your blog across your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Help your audience share your content as easily and quickly as possible by including the social sharing buttons, “like”, “share” and “add this”, on your blog post pages. Include your blog URL in your email signature and on your business cards. Get your dealership
blog out there!

Make the Search Engines Aware of Your Blog
Registering with the top blog search engines and blog directories will help get your dealership’s blog noticed in the right places. This is as easy as visiting the websites and filling out the forms. Some of the major directories to register on include Technorati, BlogCatalog, BlogHub and Globe of Blogs. Some important blog search engines to be noticed on include Google Blog Search, Digg, StumbleUpon and Bing. There are countless more that you will want to register your blog with, they are simply a Google search away!

Set up an RSS
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML-based format designed to share headlines and stories from your favorite websites. The best way to create an RSS feed is to use a blogging program (such as Blogger, Movable Type or WordPress, which is what Liquid Motors uses) to automatically create the headlines, links and descriptions and the HTML for you. In order to receive RSS feeds, you subscribe to the websites from which you want to receive content. When those websites update their site, the info will be delivered automatically to your RSS reader (Google Reader, NetVibes and Bloglines are a few) and by clicking the headline link you will get the full article. The bottom line about RSS is that it adds to the places your blog can be listed and found, which means more traffic for your site.

Now, be patient! With persistence and good, solid content on your blog, you will build your online brand and pick up leads, which will eventually lead to customers and profit.
Your blog is the gateway in promoting YOUR dealership and YOUR inventory. It is an incredible tool for sharing information and expertise….so, sorry, but……

Your dealership really needs a blog!

I hear this question all the time, and I answer it with another question, “What do you consider success on eBay?” I find that the answer is typically, “Selling my vehicle on eBay.” I agree that selling your vehicle on eBay is one way of measuring your success, but you should consider this, eBay is just another online site where you market your vehicles. eBay should be thought of as another way to generate leads with the intention of selling any vehicle in your inventory. I am going to explain how this can work with some proven make-sense tips.

First of all, you have to consider the vehicles that you are going to list. Granted, you probably will not have much luck selling those mainstream vehicles that everyone can find in their own market, but listing some of those vehicles that you know are very popular can get you some leads. What you should consider is vehicles that are unique. Under $10k vehicles sell well on eBay, so you should consider some vehicles that you typically would wholesale. Other vehicles to consider are late models with low miles, those with aftermarket adds like lift kits, and those vehicles that are common in your market, but are not common in other markets.

Here is list of the top vehicles sold on eBay in the last 30 days.

ebay

Once you have the right inventory, you have to choose a listing style that will generate the most leads, because we all know that you typically talk to an average of 9 people before you find a buyer. This is why I recommend you use a Reserve/No Buy It Now auction and start your bidding very low. Once you have bidders, you have contact information. I get a lot of resistance when I tell a dealer he should start the bidding low. For some reason they do not want someone who is online, shopping for a vehicle, making them a “ridiculous offer” on their vehicle. I will explain in my next point why that is not the best attitude. For some reason, I find that dealers expect a different customer online than they do in their dealership. Hasn’t there always been those customers, even those that visit your dealership, that make you a ridiculous offer? Are you never able to sell those people a vehicle? They are probably driving something, so someone has. It may be how that other dealer handled the customer that made the difference.

That leads me to my third point–how to manage the leads. You have to assume that every bid you get on your vehicle is from a serious buyer, after all they did make a cash offer to purchase your vehicle. Though the bid may be low, you have no idea what their proxy bid is. You may be looking for $20k on a vehicle, received a $1500 bid, but the proxy bid is actually $15k. This bidder only has $15k to spend, so they are hopeful. But, it is your job, to communicate with that person to find out what they are thinking, what they are needing, and then cross-selling them on another vehicle in your inventory that better suits their needs and their budget. Yes, you will encounter those people that are not realistic, but if you think everyone who bids low on your vehicles is not a buyer, you will miss opportunities. I was asking one of my dealers recently if he was having much luck on eBay, and he told me that he was not selling any cars that he was listing, but because he started calling all the bidders, he was actually able to sell other vehicles. He knew what he should be doing all along, but he made an assumption in the beginning that these low bidders were not buyers.

It all comes down to what makes sense. The right inventory, the listing style you choose, and the way you handle your leads can all determine your success on eBay. I do not believe that anything I have mentioned in this blog is a revelation. It is really just common sense, and I believe that anyone who takes this approach with eBay, will be successful. The reason I believe it is because I work with many dealers that are selling cars on eBay. Just remember, too, that if you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. If you are not selling any vehicles on eBay, why not try the above. Who knows, you might sell a car or ten.

Please be sure to leave your comments, feedback, re-tweet or just add valuable information to this blog as our goal is to educate car dealers so they can be better today than they were yesterday. Make sure you follow Liquid Motors on Facebook, Twitter and our blog for a variety of information for car dealers.

Accurate information – everyone knows how important this is. Dealers especially know how important this can be for their online vehicle listings. Inaccurate information leads to missed opportunities, angry customers, or even hefty fines and penalties. There is no mistaking how important it is to make sure what you represent online matches reality.
There are several methods of making sure you are covered in this area. You could theoretically go out every day and check every one of your vehicles on every site where you list. This is obviously inefficient and mind-bogglingly boring. The better solution is to have your inventory processed through as few intermediaries as possible. If your inventory is delivered to destination sites via five different distributors, you have five different places to validate along with potential issues at the end site. But, if you can knock that down to a single distributor, you simplify your efforts greatly.
Also, by working through a single point, you gain a more personal interaction with that provider. You, your dealership, and your inventory become known to them and they can provide superior service. You also gain the ability to use any integrated tools they offer to validate your inventory has been successfully distributed. This greatly reduces the chances for potential errors as well as the amount of leg-work necessary to check for accurate listings.
There is still the potential that something may be lost in translation. Occasionally it happens that information which is correct in one place gets misinterpreted when transmitted to another. That is why occasional spot-checking on your listing sites is important.
This spot-checking is particularly vital when you know a major change has occurred in your data such as changing lot services or DMS providers. Recently, one DMS offered an upgrade in their software. After dealers upgraded, everything seemed fine to them, the DMS itself worked just as it always had. Unfortunately, what the dealers could not tell was a change behind the scenes affected how their data was labeled. This led to a ‘loss’ of vital information everywhere their inventory was distributed. A quick fix was available but unless the dealers knew there was an issue by checking their listings, they would not have known to implement the fix.
We live in a digital world. While this offers us great benefits and amazing features, it also presents new and ever-changing problems. A slight change in one area can have totally unexpected results in a seemingly unrelated area. A few minutes each day verifying your online information is accurate can save hours of headaches.

When it comes to internet marketing, the main concern is driving traffic to your website, and ultimately to your showroom. A lot of time is spent on search engine optimization of your website, making sure it is user friendly, and has the most up to date inventory at all times. This is great, because you want someone to find you first of all, but then when they do, you want to make sure they can find what they are looking for. Beyond this, a lot of money and effort is spent on getting and maintaining a lead handling process whether it be with a CRM tool or some other process. Either way, the lead is what you hope to get and should be handled as quickly as possible. I am shocked to see that with the effort, money spent, etc that goes into getting a lead in the first place, there are some that go unanswered. I cannot tell you how many times I see as I am reviewing a dealer’s account that a customer has sent a 2nd or 3rd request for information citing that no one ever answered their first request(s). I have also seen where dealers have received messages from customers through eBay where the only way you can respond is through eBay, and it is evident that the customer was not responded to. How can this happen? Salesmen are sitting by the computer waiting to pounce on the next lead that comes in, right? That’s at least what I see them doing at the dealership for their walk up traffic. Hardly anyone walks on an auto dealer’s parking lot, that they are not greeted immediately by someone. The internet customer should be treated the same way.

Someone at the dealership should monitor the internet leads to ensure they are handled properly. Periodically, test leads should be sent from the various sites where you market your inventory using unidentifiable emails, so you can see how leads are being answered. Be sure to call the phone numbers in your listings as well to make sure the phones are being answered promptly and are being routed properly. A while back we did some secret shopping of some of our dealers and were shocked by the results. Over 50% of the leads we sent were never responded to, and we made sure to send requests that would certainly seem that we were very interested in purchasing a vehicle. Why did they never respond? Did they even get the lead? These are things you will know if you are sending test leads periodically.

Again, a lot of money and time is spent on getting those leads. Will they be handled properly at your dealership, and will you even know if they were?

I am often times amazed that the amount of smoke that companies blow up car dealer’s tail pipes when it comes to search engine optimization. After speaking with a dealer I work with the other day I was absolutely amazed at some of the techniques

that certain companies claim will increase their rankings on Google. Without going into too much detail I can assure you that the strategies being presented to this particular dealer were of ZERO benefit. At any rate they did leave an impression in my dealer’s mind which did take some work to remove in order to get them thinking in the right direction again.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is really no mystery as to how Google goes about ranking websites. In fact they even go out of there way and publish exactly what you can do to help get your website to rank higher in the rankings (you can find more on that here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769). By doing the right things over and over again you will begin to see positive results. I understand the urgency to achieve a top ranking for all of your targeted keywords; after all you have spent a lot of time and money getting your website where it is today. I cannot urge you enough to remain focused and play by the rules as you will be on the path to longer lasting results.

We are certainly in an industry that is ever changing. Just when you think you have a nice computer, it is obsolete tomorrow. The second a new version of a phone rolls out, there is already talk about the release of the next version. Hey, the iPhone can almost take your trash out! We are constantly looking for what’s new and fresh. I have found in my own experience with other things non-technical related, that sometimes newer is not better. Ever heard the phrase, “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to”? This is kinda veering off the path that I intend to take here, but it will give you some idea of my train of thought.

You hear everyday about some new product that is out that is the latest and greatest thing. We all want better, so we are interested. But, we should stop a minute and ask ourselves the question, “is it really time to make a change?” Sometimes what’s best for US is right in front of us already. The real question should be whether or not what you are using is working or not. Try not to get caught up in the wrapper so to speak and look at what the product truly has to offer that YOU need. Before you just run and get the latest trend, consider a few things.

Am I currently using what I have to its fullest potential? If I have not used it effectively, how can I expect it to work properly?
Am I measuring the effectiveness of it? If you do not know where you were, then you will not know how far you have come and probably don’t even know where you are going. We hear all the time, “Inspect what you expect.”
Are the features of the “latest and greatest” something I really intend to use? For example when the George Foreman grill came out, I thought I had to have it, and granted, I used it a lot in the beginning. But as time went on, I realized it was a pain to clean and found other ways of cooking my chicken, so I went back to what already worked before (baking it in the oven or cooking it on the grill outside.) Oh, guess where my Foreman grill is now. It’s buried in the back of a cabinet and will probably go in my next garage sale.
Is there real value ($) in the new feature based on the answers to the questions above?
Do I really like what I already have? Does it work when I need it, and can I get the help I need when it does not?

There are indeed times to consider a change. When you know you have used something as it was intended to use, and it just simply does not meet your needs, then it’s time to start shopping. But before you can say it doesn’t work, you should take a look at your process and evaluate whether or not you were the problem and not the product you were using.

So, for all my digital marketers out there this is really important for you as your options are unlimited. When that next vendor is in your office showing you what they have, if you have done all the above, then you will be better equipped to know if what they are selling you is worth it.

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