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As we all know (at least I hope you all do!), you can never really have too many photos to help highlight and market your vehicles, right? Well, it isn’t just photos you need, it is good, quality photos that make your inventory “POP” and help market your vehicles effectively. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when photographing your inventory.

The absolute best natural lighting conditions for you to photograph your cars will be early in the morning or just before sunset. If at all possible, avoid shooting in harsh, glaring mid-day sunlight, or you will end up with color-faded paint on the car’s top surfaces and murky shadows on its lower regions. Your best shooting days are those that are overcast. Keep an eye out for any separation in the clouds, as this may cast unusual and uneven reflections on your vehicles and lead to unusable pictures.

To help get some of your best images, a basic rule of thumb is to set your camera to “Forced Flash” or “Fill Flash”, not on “Auto Flash”. It is really important to use the forced flash mode in bright sunlight. I know, I know, it sounds like you should do the opposite – but you are not actually “adding” more light to the picture, you are “redistributing” the light. This will illuminate the shadowy areas of your car and reduce the glare from the bright areas allowing you to capture a much better image of the vehicle.

As far as an automobiles color is concerned, the best time to photograph your darker vehicles is in the evening or the morning, when the sun is below the horizon. Bright cars are better to photograph when there is some sunlight present, but again, not harsh, overhead, mid-day sun.

For capturing your best interior shots, a white card, like a poster board, can be used to bounce some light off of the headliner to illuminate the inside of your vehicles. To best highlight all the bells and whistles in the dash, the white card can be propped on the backseat to reflect some light on the dash and show off its features

While shooting, be aware of your surroundings and all the extra distractions near your vehicle. Signs, telephone wires, trash cans, poles and customers wandering your lot are just some of the things in the background that can take all the focus and emphasis off the car you are hoping to sell.

A really simple trick for making your shots more appealing is to wet down the area where the car will be photographed. This will darken the pavement and provide a nice “highlight” effect. Remember my previous tip, though, and make sure you don’t leave a “distracting” hose or bucket lying around!

Unfortunately, chances are you are not going to be shooting your inventory in a comfortable studio with perfect temperature and lighting conditions. Don’t let this worry you! Even if you have to shoot your “subjects” outside, there are plenty of opportunities for capturing some fantastic shots on your lot that will “WOW” your customers.

While two friends were camping in the mountains, their conversation went something like this….

Friend 1 – Did you hear that??

Friend 2 – Sounded like a BEAR!!!

Friend 1 – Get ready to Run fast!!!!

Friend 2 – It’s not really that big a deal…

Friend 1 – Not That big a DEAL!!! We need to outrun that BEAR or it will EAT US!!

Friend 2 – I don’t really need to outrun the bear….

Friend 1 – YOU DONT NEED TO DO WHAT!!!

Friend 2 – I just need to outrun YOU!!

Friend 1 – (perplexed look on face) Hmmmmm

As I now approach the end of my 3rd month this year with at least 20 travel days jammed in each, I have been fortunate enough to have visited, met and trained with nearly 90 stores of a publicly traded automotive dealer group. During these store visits, I am thinking I might have learned more than I actually taught. In fact, It seems that most of my trainings focus on remembering my past mistakes and trying to teach others from them… So many times in the car business I hear those often used dreaded words… I, we or us will be the King of (Your text goes here)!! I also hear things like… I, we or us are the Best (Your text can go here too) you have ever seen or been around. In most cases, these words are generally right on the money… In fact, I have found that statements like these generally mirror the financial statement of the store…. The only problem is.. If the person who made those remarks has a higher perception of self-worth than the reality suggests… Well, let’s not go there….

I would like to step away from these words for just a second and share an interesting phenomenon with you. As a tenured 16 year Ice Hockey Coach, I see the “we’re #1 finger” after every game we won or lost by at least one player if not more on both teams. Now… I’m not talking the same “#1 finger” that the driver you just cut off on the highway flashed you… I talking about that “WE ARE THE BEST”…. Finger. As a Coach, we are driven and built to constantly raise the bar… Winning is never good enough… In fact.. No matter where we turn… I think it is safe to say that there will always be somebody bigger, faster or want it more than my players somewhere. When we win… I guess those people or that team that was better just wasn’t present. Now don’t get me wrong….. I like winning and love success even more!! I have always told my players… Until you lift the Stanley Cup over your heads…. There is plenty of room to improve…. Now follow me here… Ask any player that has won that cup and they will all tell you the celebration was short-lived. The reason why is this.. The next season starts the day after the old one ended… A team that gets to lift that cup suddenly realizes… a team that lifts it twice or 3 times would surely be better than one that just got to win it once…. Hence we begin a chase that has no end and contains an absolute certainty for disappointment…

Now how does that transfer to the car business…. It really is quite simple… Dealerships tend to only think in monthly increments. Each and every report we run always seems to have a field that pulls a date range… Year over year gain, Current month over last year’s same period gains and so on and so on…. Why does it have to be so complex. Why can’t we simplify the business to its easiest form..

Every day I wake… will have a clear easily attainable goal… To be better today than I was yesterday!!!

Whether that is business or personal, it is attainable. In fact, making that goal, that simple, will generally guarantee the results of those first reports we spoke of.

While not naming names!! (To protect the innocent of course) A dealer during one of my sessions made an absolute astounding statement… There was 30 or so dealership managers in the room and we were discussing Reputation Management. A gentleman from a tremendously respected online company was speaking and providing incredible information on managing a dealers online reputation… When I heard this come from the back of the room…

“Here’s a concept…. Take care of your customers… Do it ALL the time… and you won’t have to worry about your online reputation!!” It was a moment that aligned the moon and the stars for me and shaped my sessions going forward and truly changed my outlook…

This was a General Manager of no other than a Lexus Store.. Now looking back, it made so much sense. I will also add that several others in the room still missed the point. In fact, here came the Broad Objections… Sure, we could easily do that if we made 5K on every car we sold like you do… Then it dropped on me like a ton of bricks…. For months if not years.. I have been making statements like “The car business hasn’t changed, only how a customer finds you has.” Another that stuck out was, “Car dealers don’t sell cars…. They deliver a customer experience.”

The only answer to these Broad Objecting statements targeted at the Lexus GM was…..

WHY NOT!!

It really was that simple… Now these words are surely easier to type than accomplish in reality, this blog entry, and those that come after, will be dedicated to that simple philosophy.

“Becoming better today than yesterday” Then REPEAT!

You don’t have to be the BEST!! You just have to be better than the people you will be compared to!! Or simply…

You don’t have to be faster than the bear…. Only faster than the others running from it!!

Thanks for reading and please write me back.. Add to this or just tell me I’m crazy!! Tell me you like it!! Tell me I’m Stupid!! Just tell me something!!

Running from the BEAR,

Mark

I heard about this company recently and laughed when I went to the website. I love how upfront and transparent they are and how they tell you prior to even getting a chance to scroll through the website that they DO NOT HAVE TECHNICAL SUPPORT and should you want it they DO NOT HAVE IT and if you require it then you SHOULD NOT ORDER IT. I know the capitalization I just used might be overkill but that is exactly how they have it on their website, in big bold letters, basically telling you to not buy their product but if you choose to you are on your own and good luck! I wonder how many people still buy the product without technical support. Do you think that technical support is that important that should a company NOT offer it that a customer would not buy the product? “>this company recently and laughed when I went to the website. I love how upfront and transparent they are and how they tell you prior to even getting a chance to scroll through the website that they DO NOT HAVE TECHNICAL SUPPORT and should you want it they DO NOT HAVE IT and if you require it then you SHOULD NOT ORDER IT. I know the capitalization I just used might be overkill but that is exactly how they have it on their website, in big bold letters, basically telling you to not buy their product but if you choose to you are on your own and good luck! I wonder how many people still buy the product without technical support. Do you think that technical support is that important that should a company NOT offer it that a customer would not buy the product?

I was browsing through the latest delivery of one of Dealer Communications eNewsletters when an article caught my eye – “Consumer Reports Index: Sentiment Plunges To Lowest Level Since December 2009”. Being a person who likes to look at surveys and statistics, I began to read through the article. The article contains survey data and analysis conducted by Consumer Reports around various categories including consumer outlook, financial troubles, employment, stress and purchase behavior. Besides being an interesting read, at least to me, the article also got me thinking about how this information could be used to help increase the marketing effectiveness of a business.

The overall findings in the Consumer Reports study are a bit depressing:
• Consumer sentiment dropped to 43.4 a 5.1 point drop in only one month – this indicates a more pessimistic consumer attitude toward their finances.
• Financial difficulties were reported 10 points higher than the previous month at 60.6 – indicating many more households are experiencing problems paying bills.
• The Employment Index fell to 49 another drop from the previous month and reportedly the largest monthly drop in 2 years.

So what got me thinking about marketing in the midst of all of these woeful numbers? By reading between the lines and looking at the secondary points within the article, you can find data on which categories are faring the best. While the overall consumer outlook is bad, the report indicates the most optimistic consumer groups are ages 18-34 and households with $100k or more income. Consumer retail behavior was actually up from the previous month despite the negative outlook. Vehicle purchases remained static month to month and forecast for new car purchases are expected to increase in following months. Looking at these points, it is possible to see where your marketing efforts and money might best be spent.

So how flexible are you in your marketing efforts? Are you able to review data such as this and make changes based on your analysis or are you locked into doing the same things month after month. I am not suggesting you should make a massive change to your philosophy based on a single article or report but imagine how much more efficient capitalizing on current situations would be. The phrase ‘throwing good money after bad’ comes to mind; being locked into committing time and money pursuing markets that are returning less and less results or are predicted to do so is counter-productive.

So take a look at this study and let us know what you think. How flexible are your marketing efforts and have you seen a return on investment from being flexible? If you wish to see the article in its original post, it can be found here: Consumer Reports

What would you think if you opened a mailer from a local dealership and you saw an offer for the new 2012 Chevrolet Malibu along with an offer for a discount on a haircut?? Would that seem strange to you? For most yes but for people that live in the Dallas area, specifically the suburb of McKinney might not. Why you ask? Because El Dorado Motors not only offers service to keep your vehicle in tip top shape but they also offer services to keep YOU, the customer looking your best. I saw this story yesterday and thought, “What a great idea!”. I love it when a dealership thinks outside of the box and offers their customers something other then the norm. I used to work with a dealer that offered pedicures in the service department so customers could get a pedicure while they waited on their car getting serviced. Another great idea! Its little things like these that make a dealer stand out. What can you do different to stand out??

In case you haven’t heard Google made a change a few weeks back to the Google Places page and decided to remove all 3rd party review “snippets” and only allow Google reviews to be seen, see this blog and this blog. For dealers this was a major blow considering the popularity of 3rd party review sites such as Dealerrater.com, Yelp, Yahoo, Google places reviews and the newcomer Cars.com. Now out of the main players I know for a fact that majority of dealers focused on Dealerrater.com and had a good number of reviews on that site so to remove those reviews from their Google Places page is huge. Now Google wants everyone to focus on Google Places reviews written by Google users. So if you are a dealer that was focused on 3rd party review sites that did not include Google reviews how do you plan on shifting the focus to get reviews there?

Let us know your Google Reviews Plan!

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