Cycles of the Auto Industry with Tim James

Travis Miller: Welcome to Straight Talk with Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller. I’m Travis Miller.

Jimmy Vee: And I’m Jimmy Vee from the Rich Dealers Institute

Travis Miller:

Thank you for joining us. For those of you who are with us for the first time who have never heard us before, of course, we are founders of Gravitational Marketing and the Rich Dealer’s Institute. And we’re also authors of the best selling book Gravitational Marketing: Science of Attracting Customers and the creators of AutoMarketingAdvice.com. Now, with us today is a very excellent guest.

Good information coming your way. Glad to be listening. The thousands of dealers who are listening to this nationwide, probably worldwide by now, are definitely gonna get a good dose of helpful information today from our guest, Mr. Tim James, who is director of sales for HomeNet. Of course, HomeNet is an internet marketing behemoth in the auto industry. And they work with 15,000 dealers nationwide. 45 of the top 50 dealer groups based on volume in the country. So, Tim, thanks for being with us today, and thanks for volunteering to share your wisdom and expertise.

Tim James:
My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.

Travis Miller:

Right. Good. Now, I know our guys like to get right into the meat of the information so we won’t do too much chitchat. We’ll just get into it. Okay?


Tim James:
Sounds good.

Travis Miller:
All right. Now, one of the big purposes of this call series is about predictions. You know? Now, nobody has a crystal ball of course, but veterans of this industry have seen the cycles time and time again. And, of course, you guys at HomeNet have some unique opportunity to see the automotive landscape through a unique lens, you know, which is internet marketing. And I’d like to know, from your perspective, what your thoughts and predictions are for the outlook of the auto industry in the next 12 months.

Tim James:
Well, that – you’re right. That is a – not just a tough question, but the question of the day. Right? It’s – I was just at NADA last week, and there’s no question the auto industry as a whole is hurting very badly right now. The economy is certainly depressed. Jobless rates climbing. Bottom line is people out there just aren’t spending money right now so there’s no question the buying cycle for automobiles has expanded dramatically. It could possibly be the slowest cycle that it’s ever been right now today.

So it’s gonna be a tough year, and I think every dealer out there knows that. But because of the consolidation that we’ve had last year, the consolidation that will continue unfortunately this year. Dealerships shutting down and going out of business and just pulling their cards off the table for a while. Maybe removing some inventory significantly off their lot for a while. This could be a pretty good year, a year of opportunity for a lot of other dealers if they’ll just step back for a minute and learn different ways to streamline some of their internal processes right now to maximize their ad spend, particularly on line.

Jimmy Vee:
So to sum it up if I hear what you’re saying correctly. Looking out over the landscape down the road a bit, you see opportunity?

Tim James:
I do, Jimmy. It’s – I think there’s a lot of opportunity out there for the dealers who are willing to look for those opportunities. It’s not business as usual out there right now. So this is a time to step back, bring everybody down, set ‘em down at the table, and say, “Let’s – I understand how we’re doing business right now today. Let’s go look for ways that we can cut.” Not just cut money, not just cut ad spend, but maybe cut some time. Maybe cut some internal processes, streamline some internal processes to not just save money, but ultimately end up in a maximization of the other money that they’re spending.

Travis Miller:
Sure. Yeah.

Jimmy Vee:
Gotcha.

Travis Miller:
What do you think’s the big surprise in store for dealers in the next 12 months? What’s the biggest hurdle they’re gonna face?

Tim James:
Well, I think the biggest hurdle is probably gonna be exactly what I was just talking about. Dealers, they’re being told from all kinds of places, all kinds of different sources out there, “You have to spend more money on the internet. Cut your traditional spend, increase your online spend,” so on and so on.

And, you know, I don’t – I’m not one of those people that believes traditional media’s going away. It’s not. And if used correctly, though in conjunction with your online spend, together they can create significantly more traffic to your showroom. And that’s one of the biggest problems. People talking about driving traffic to the website.

Driving traffic to online media like your online classifieds and things of that nature and spending money – increasing their spend to drive that traffic. But they’re keeping the same internal broken processes, and that’s probably the biggest hurdle is it’s – is not making this harder than it has to be. Stop thinking of the internet as technology, and start thinking about it as marketing.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
The same marketing –

Jimmy Vee:
Media. A different media.

Tim James:
It’s media. The same thing they’ve been doing for years and years and years in the past when times were tough, whether times were good or bad. On the internet, as we all know, more consumers can see a dealer’s ad for a car in one day than sees all of their other traditional advertisings in a week. But let’s ask ourselves who is creating that online ad? Is it somebody with a technology background or a marketing background?

Jimmy Vee:
That’s a good question. Great question.

Tim James:
Is it someone that they’re paying once a week to come out and take the same pictures of every car in charge of their ad that’s gonna be seen by more people in one day than all of their other ads in a week? You know, are they writing vehicle descriptions that sell the car, that sell what’s unique and different about each car? How many days does a car sit on the lot before an ad is ever even written for it and sent to the internet?

You know, these are all – but more importantly, how many consumers have visited their online media? Be it their website or an online classified that they’re paying thousands of dollars a month for. How many consumers have visited that media during the three, five, ten days that a car is sitting on the lot without an ad for it on the internet?

Travis Miller:
ow, let me ask you this. I mean obviously the internet gives you a new way to get leads and opportunities. And, you know, your leads and opportunities come through in a new form. You know? Now instead of a person walking up on the lot, you get an email. And what I’m curious about is what kind of recommendations you have for the internal process for handling that opportunity differently?

Tim James:
Well, first and foremost, and a lot of internet managers out there will probably shoot me for saying this, but I don’t think communicating with your consumers via email is the best way to communicate with an online consumer. The goal is to get them to the lot.

Jimmy Vee:
Absolutely.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
I view the consumers – you know, my personal opinion is before the internet ever existed, we had consumers who would pick up the phone and call us and shop.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Jimmy Vee:
Yep.

Tim James:
I think those are the same consumers that are sending us emails.

Jimmy Vee:
Sure. And when – in the old days when someone called you on the phone, the first – the only goal was to get ‘em off the phone and get ‘em in the door.

Tim James:
Exactly.

Jimmy Vee:
I think we’ve forgotten that. With the internet we’ve just gone to the – you know, we’ve gone to this concept that, “Hey, let’s do a deal over the internet.” Email doesn’t sell cars, and websites don’t sell cars unless it’s Ebay Motors or something. The deal gets done at the dealership so let’s get the people in the dealership, and let’s create a process that motivates them to do that.

Tim James:
And there’s no question about that. And we see, from talking with our customers day in and day out, that the huge majority of their internet leads walk onto the lot anonymously. They don’t – there hasn’t been email communication with ‘em. It’s because they’ve created an emotional ad. Because they have a marketing person creating those ads. Someone who knows how to create emotion get a consumer who’s browsing the internet, maybe not all the way down the buying cycle to the now buyer category.

The now buyers are ones who will send in inquiries about this, that, and the other. But as we all know, the now buyer represents about two percent of the population. What about the other 98 percent? What about those consumers who aren’t in – maybe they’re still 30, 60, 90 days from being in the now buyer category. In the past, we focused our traditional marketing on how to reach up into that cycle and get that consumer who’s still 30, 60, 90 days out emotionally charged so they’ll visit us this weekend.

Jimmy Vee:
Yeah. So accelerate that buying cycle.

Tim James:
Absolutely. But today dealers are just focused on giving ‘em information. Giving them information. Well, you have to give ‘em information. As a media source, absolutely the information has to be there. Specifically higher in the buying cycle. But as the consumer gets lower in the buying cycle, don’t just have a vehicle description talking about the year, make, model of the vehicle.

What would you say to the consumer if you were standing beside the consumer on the lot trying to sell ‘em that car? Say it. Get them emotionally attached to a vehicle earlier in the buying cycle so that you don’t have to wait for them to become a now buyer. You turn ‘em into a now buyer just like you have accomplished for 100 years with your traditional marketing.

Jimmy Vee:
Yeah. It sounds like what you’re saying to me is something we tell all of our dealers when they get involved with us. We try to help them understand that whether it be on the radio, in the newspaper, and on the web today; it’s just what you put there is salesmanship in print. If your guy wouldn’t say it when he’s next to the customer on the lot then it shouldn’t be said necessarily in your ad.

Tim James:
Exactly.

Jimmy Vee:
If you’re just blowing out features and non-emotional copy on your site, that’s not gonna sell anyone just like it wouldn’t really sell anyone in person.

Tim James:
That’s exactly right. I mean we know the dealers do an excellent job of training their salesmen to sell what’s unique and what’s different about a car. How do you overcome a price objection when somebody’s discussing the price on a vehicle? “Why is this one $5,000.00 more than this one? $2,000.00 more than this other one?” It’s because of what’s unique and what’s different and you sell it as the value.

And that’s what really creates that _______ in the consumer. Takes price off the table. The same concept exists on the internet. You have to sell what’s unique. You have to have your photos. Instead of paying somebody to come out once a week and take the same 9, 12 pictures of every car, you need to have pictures, photos of what’s unique and different about every car.

Travis Miller:
I love that.

Tim James:
You have to have your vehicle description talking about what’s unique and different about the car. And with emotion, and that’s why you really need someone who either has marketing training or skills or you need to – you know, if you’re a dealer out there listening, get ‘em some tapes. Get ‘em some books. Help them educate themselves on how to use marketing words and marketing spin in these vehicle descriptions to get the consumer emotionally charged.

Travis Miller:
Well put. Well put. Tim, if we were to sum it up here, what are the three concrete recommendations you would tell a dealer, in terms of their internet marketing right now, things to do this year to get better results and to start turning the corner?

Tim James:
First and foremost you have to become the best media source that you can be in your market. You’re in the media business now. Just like radio, newspaper, television; it’s their job to drive traffic to them. It’s their job once that traffic gets there to satisfy that consumer with their information or entertainment that they provide so that that consumer will keep coming back. And as that consumer keeps coming back, then your ads that you pay a lot of money for can have an impact.

Travis Miller:
Right.

Tim James:
Same exists for your website. All – look at your website simply – first and foremost simply as a media source. What are you doing for your local market to not just get a consumer one time? You pay a lot of money in SEO, search engine optimization, Web2.0 marketing, things of that nature to drive traffic to your website and that’s great. What are you doing on your site to make sure they come back?

To make certain that you satisfied them in their quest for information. Because as a consumer, you know – we all know this. When we start looking for information, if we visit a website that doesn’t satisfy that search, we’re gonna go to another website and another website until we find a website that does.

Travis Miller:
Okay.

Tim James:
Once we find that website that does, the next time – we’re still very early in the buying cycle now. Your ads don’t have an effect on me yet. But the next time I get ready to look for similar information, I’m gonna go back to the last place that satisfied me.

Travis Miller:
You know, I gotta tell you, Tim, it’s amazing to talk to you because sometimes we feel like we’re two thirsty, hungry, stranded men walking in a desert.

Jimmy Vee:
Alone.

Travis Miller:
Alone. And very rarely do I talk to anybody in the car business who – well, I would say – I would use the phrase “gets it”. But meaning – otherwise known as agrees with me in the things that you’re saying here, which is exactly it. Being – you know, I mean you say – you use different words than we use to describe it, but I agree with you 100 percent. We say, “Listen, sell a car not to sell a car, but to get a customer,” right? And, you know, your marketing should position you as a trusted advisor not just a product pusher.

Tim James:
That’s exactly right.

Travis Miller:
And –

Tim James:
Without question. And – I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Travis Miller:
What you’re talking about here by being a media, you know, think about your average ordinary dealer website. You know, how is that a media channel that anyone would choose to come back to? You know, the most popular button clicked on an automotive website is, is the back button.

Tim James:
The back. Yep.

Travis Miller:
You know? And so – and we’ve got this mentality that is just, “Hey, come to my site, and it’s a listing of all my inventory and that’s it.” And it’s – you’re right on the money here. I really appreciate these tips. Okay. There were two more. I didn’t want to interrupt you, but I had to interject that.

Tim James:
Yeah. There are. And just to expand on that concept of it just for one more quick second. And it’s most dealerships are trying to find ways to spend less money on their website.

Jimmy Vee:
Yeah.

Tim James:
Getting rid of this website provider or that website provider because it’s not driving traffic. And when – and trying to put as little time and as little effort into any of it, yet you go to – how many pages do you go to when you click through their website and you see blank pages. You see stale information, outdated information. And then they wonder why they’re having to change website providers again. [Laughter] You know, after –

Jimmy Vee:
Well, you know, I often say these dealers they have to BYOB. They say, “What does this have to do with tailgating?” I’m like, “No, no. It has nothing to do with tailgating. It has to do with be your own buyer.” You have to –

Tim James:
Yeah.

Jimmy Vee:
Go to your website like you were a customer actually shopping it. I mean would you want – I mean you’ve shopped – everybody’s done some browsing on the internet looking for information, looking for something. If you landed on your website and it wasn’t yours, would you stay there for any length of time? I mean and the answers no on most of these, but it’s just like you don’t mystery shop your own dealership.

Well, you don’t mystery shop your own website, but you need to. You need to get a really – like see what they’re seeing and then think about it from the customer’s perspective, from that being your own buyer.

Tim James:
And, you know, most of the website companies out there today offer the dealer the tools they need to have a successful website, to be a successful media source. The dealers just don’t buy them because they cost extra money.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
So you have to have those tools. You have to have the functionality to keep your content fresh and up to date, entertaining for the consumer, informational for the consumer. Anything the consumer can do at the manufacturer website, they need to be able to do on your website. Yes, your manufacturer can push you some good leads and can drive you some good traffic, but any consumer that goes to the manufacturer can also end up at your competitor.

You become the trusted source of information for that consumer in your market. And that’s step one. I think before you can really do anything else, you have to be willing to spend the money and the time, the resources necessary to be a – to not just a, to be the best automotive media source in your market. So that’s step one.

Step two would be to develop a process. Now that you’re a trusted media source and you have consumers coming to your website because they trust you and trust your information. Now create the best process that you can create for creating those emotional ads for your vehicle, for each and every vehicle on your lot the day it hits your lot, and get it on the web that day. If you’re gonna drive traffic to your website, if you’re gonna pay thousands of dollars for a website and be that media. And if you’re gonna pay that kind of money for online classified, maximize that dollar.

They’re open for business 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you’re letting – you know, if you have somebody coming out four days a month to update your inventory for all those sites, how many days – you know, how many visitors is the more important question, have been by those sites who could have seen a car that you just brought in from auction. But they’re not gonna see that car for another five, seven, ten days. So that would be step two.

Travis Miller:
Okay.

Tim James:
What were you loookin’ for, three recommendations?

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
I would say –

Travis Miller:
The pressure’s on, Tim. [Laughter]

Tim James:
You know, the next generation, it’s – more people are, I would venture to say, are accessing the internet via their PDAs and their cell phones today than possibly even their computers anymore.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
I mean – and it’s the future. Yeah, it’s certainly a younger generation predominately right now. But they are the future.

Travis Miller:
Yeah.

Tim James:
And we see the demographics of the people using PDAs and web enabled PDAs, texting and things of that nature growing and getting to a more mature age level every single day. So I would start looking for, start embracing, looking into mobile marketing strategies. Learning now to tie those strategies in with your traditional marketing and your internet marketing. They’re all the same. It’s just another media source.

Jimmy Vee:
Yeah. You’re right on with this. And I think there is – I think this is an – you know, I think this is a future pacing trend here with the mobile website. I mean on our Rich Dealers discussion forum right now we have guys who are having this discussion today about, “Hey, what are you doing to build your website and make it more web enabled device friendly?” You know? More mobile friendly.

Tim James:
Absolutely.

Jimmy Vee:
“How are you using SMS marketing in your marketing campaign?”

Tim James:
And it’s new just like – you know, we – remember those days when the dealers got their first or their second website that wasn’t manufacturer sponsored and they didn’t put the URL anywhere? They were paying, you know, $1,000.00; $1,500.00 a month and saying, “Okay. Where’s my traffic?” When there’s no URL on their hold music. There’s no URL on their billboards. There’s no URL on the newspaper ads or anything of those natures.

So it’s still new. We still see that happening out there today with the mobile marketing. It’s new to the consumer. It’s new to the dealer. The content – just like in those days, the content wasn’t necessarily great for the consumer. And that still exists on the mobile side today, but it’s getting better every day.

And I think it’s going to accelerate the level of reliability. The level of confidence that the consumer has in the mobile content, I think will accelerate significantly faster than it did for the level of confidence on the website. And it happened fast for the website so I mean if it happened in a matter of two or three years for websites, we’re talking probably 12, 18 months on the mobile side.

Travis Miller:
Yeah. Excellent. Excellent. Okay, Tim, let me ask you this. Guy is listening to this call saying, “Give me some more Tim James.” Or, “I want more from HomeNet. These guys are brilliant.” What do they do? What do we give ‘em? How do they find you, and how do they get more?

Tim James:
Well, I would say people who use the word brilliant and HomeNet in the same sentence don’t – we don’t get that often. Nah, I’m just kiddin’. [Laughter] We’re very reachable. We’re at www.HomeNetInc.com. Our direct line into the sales market is 610-738-3313. And sales team at HomeNetInc.com.

Travis Miller:
Outstanding. Well, check it out. Get some information. Get in touch with these guys. That would be my recommendation. ‘Cause, Tim, you’re right on the money. We would call you a gravitational marketer.

Tim James:
Well, that’s good to hear. I get called a lot of other things too, but I’ll take that one. [Laughter]

Jimmy Vee:
Well, I may call you a few when we get off the phone, but that’s a different thing. We won’t talk about that now. That’ll be private.

Travis Miller:
Tim, I really wanted to thank you for sharing your time and wisdom and expertise here with the listeners to this. Really valuable stuff. Great tips. And, of course, I want to thank you for listening and being one of the thousands of dealers around – I don’t know if it’s the country or the world now listening to this thing, Jim.

But remember, if you need help attracting more customers to your dealership and getting a higher ROI from all of the marketing you do, please contact one of our Rich Dealers advisors and request a hidden wealth evaluation. It’ll help you uncover some untapped potential in your dealership. And as always this is a free services that we gladly provide. You can learn more about getting a free hidden wealth evaluation and hear other interviews just like this one all at AutoMarketingAdvice.com. This has been Straight Talk with Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller. I’m Travis Miller, the big idea guy.

Jimmy Vee:
And I’m Jimmy Vee, the five-foot high marketing guy.

Travis Miller:
As always, we are looking out for you. Talk to you next time.

Jimmy Vee:
Bye-bye.

Travis Miller:
All right, Tim, nicely done, man.

Tim James:
Hey, thanks guys. I appreciate it. You guys are doing some good things out there.

Jimmy Vee:
Thank you. Thank you.

Travis Miller:
Thank you we appreciate it. Hey, Tim, I want to just get your contact information and address. We’ll send you a link to this when it’s up and keep in touch with you.

Tim James:
You got it. It’s just Tjames@HomeNetInc.com

Travis Miller:
Okay.

Tim James:
And what else did you need?

Travis Miller:
What’s your phone number?

Tim James:
It’s 484-357-7822.

Travis Miller:
And might as well just give me your address, mailing address.

Tim James:
220 Willowbrook Lane and that’s in West Chester, Pennsylvania 19382.

Travis Miller:
19382. Where are you out of, Tim?

Tim James:
I work remotely. I’m either in Texas or Iowa most of the time. But I’ll travel around the country and visit with my sales reps.

Travis Miller:
Oh, I gotcha. Okay.

Tim James:
On a pretty regular basis.

Travis Miller:
Oh, that’s good. So you guys have a lot of people out on the ground?

Tim James:
We do. Well, it’s not near as many as we’d like. Right now I have ten working various markets around the country. But we’ve got some exciting things over here. We’re actually – you know, just inked a partnership deal with Auto Trader. I can go ahead and talk about it now since it’s finally done. And we’ll actually have the Auto Trader – 600 Auto Trader sales reps out selling for us.

Travis Miller:
Oh, that’s nice.

Tim James:
Yeah. That’ll be real nice. We’re looking forward to –

Travis Miller:
You gonna try and visit with each one of those guys each month?

Tim James:
I will visit with them about twice a year. We’ll fly into Vegas and let ‘em – I think we’ll do half and half. I’ll do half of ‘em in one session and half of ‘em in another about twice a year.

Travis Miller:
Oh okay. That’s cool. Did you get a copy of our book?

Tim James:
She said she was going to send to that me, but I haven’t received it yet.

Travis Miller:
Okay. I’ll follow up on it to make sure you get it.

Tim James:
It’s very possible ‘cause things – I always have things shipped into the home office and then they turn around and –

Travis Miller:
Oh. That’s a possibility.

Tim James:
Find me and ship ‘em to me so it could usually take an extra day or three.

Travis Miller:
Sure. Sure. Okay. Well, Tim, thanks so much. We really appreciate your time.

Tim James:
You got it, guys. I enjoyed it. Good talking to you.

Travis Miller:
Okay. Thank you. Take care.

Tim James:
You bet. Bye.

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