Auto Focus Fall 2014

Here’s a brief glance at what you’ll find in the Fall issue…

Pumping up profitability

Dealerships can sell truckloads of vehicles and still run into problems if owners lose sight of the bottom line — the overall profitability of the sales they’re making. This article discusses a number of ways to boost profitability, including moves related to managing inventory, choosing dealer management software, and joining an automotive dealership “20 Group.” A sidebar explains how dealers who are planning new facilities or improving existing ones can benefit from a cost segregation study.

 

Which retirement plan is right for your dealership?

Recent studies have indicated that many Americans aren’t saving nearly enough for retirement. Dealership owners can help their employees save for retirement by offering a retirement plan. Doing so also can yield tax benefits, serve as a valuable employee recruiting tool and help boost employee retention. This article discusses three of the most popular types of retirement plans: 401(k) plans, SEP plans and SIMPLE IRAs.

Selling your dealership

Earnout provisions may give buyers assurance

Businesses in some parts of the country remain difficult to sell in the current economy, even in an up market for auto dealerships. But, when negotiating a purchase agreement, adding an earnout provision — which commits the buyer to make additional payments to the seller if the business achieves agreed-upon financial targets after the sale — can smooth out a rough road and give the buyer extra incentive to “take the plunge.” This article explains the potential benefits, along with risks to look out for.

Try these four 21st century marketing tactics

In today’s always-on, wired world, having a digital marketing strategy has become practically essential. This strategy should focus on attracting new customers by showcasing inventory to buyers who are shopping online, as well as building long-term relationships with existing customers so as to remain top-of-mind when they search for their next vehicles. This article discusses four marketing tactics to consider, involving search engine optimization, e-newsletters, mobile apps and social media.

Click Auto Focus Fall 2014 to read more.

The Guide to Selling Online

Selling Online

Website built? Check. Social Media campaigns launched? Check. Marketing online? Check. So now what? Perhaps it’s time to take the next step, and begin selling online!

Step 1: Be prepared. You need to select ecommerce software or a service to run your site. When considering your options, ask yourself, do you have the technical know-how to manage on your own? If not, go with one of the more interactive hosting options, in which all technical intricacies are handled by the host site.

Feeling technically savvy enough to manage it on your own? Then prepare to build your own ecommerce site, from scratch. The most important decision at this stage will be which online transaction software (otherwise known as Shopping Cart Software) will work best for your business.

Explore your options – there are many. Read reviews posted by similar businesses and gather the most accurate information to make your decision.

Step 2: Research payment options. While most Shopping Cart Software incorporates payment options, with hosted services to guide you in a

certain direction; it is important to know there are many choices here as well.

Merchant options vary, though the majority of payments will be made via credit card, so again, conduct due diligence when choosing this critical feature.

Step 3: Ensure the safety of your clients and yourself. The major objection merchants and consumers have regarding ecommerce is the prospect of sending data into cyberspace, opening potentially dangerous channels or unwanted information sharing.

However, merchants must protect their customers. The most secure way is through the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TSL) portals. These act as encryption tools to protect and secure information being shared via your site. Clients will

immediately feel more secure when they see your site is supported either by SSL or TSL technology.

With these technical aspects handled, you should select the best techniques you can employ to encourage online purchasing.

Send out free samples to your most influential audience including bloggers, reviewers, and journalists – they are integral (and free!) in driving traffic to your site.

Host an event, create blog/vlog content, stage a PR stunt, publish a press release, run surveys, consider affiliate marketing – the list goes on. There are hundreds of ways to elevate your ecommerce launch and you’ll want to utilize as many as possible. Your successful launch often dictates the long-term success you find in selling online.

What Makes Your Business A Great Place to Work?

place to work

As with every other aspect of small business management, you want your business to be the best it can be in your field. Is your business currently a great place to work? Let’s explore how you can get there – it may not be perfect – but it can still be a great workplace environment!

Step one – building a great team, keep them motivated, fulfilled, productive and satisfied. It is a lofty, but reachable goal. Strive to make your team happy and satisfied, recognizing you will not make 100% of your employees happy 100% of the time.

That being said, being respected as a great place to work boosts morale, increases productivity and highlights your strengths as a leader to those outside of the business, be it clients, vendors, competitors or potential new employees.

Perfection aside, there are things well-liked businesses have in common when it comes to satisfied and happy employees:

  1. Treat your employees like the grown-ups they are – with respect and fairness.
  2. Take an active interest developing and improving your employees’ career goals.
  3. Recognize employees have a life outside of work and maintain appropriate boundaries.
  4. Promote humor and fun in the workplace.
  5. Clearly define goals and how each employee’s role works towards achieving those goals. Personalize their involvement in the company.

Recognize that as a leader, you have a direct impact on the workplace. Being an interested, active, and well-respected leader engages and inspires employees – two things that cultivate a good working environment.

Curb your annoyance and frustration in public; and strive to be a more connected and invested leader to each individual whenever necessary.

A rock solid Human Resources team is another trait that the ‘great places to work’ all display. Employees must feel

like they have back up, someone standing up for them in those difficult situations. HR must balance the culture that exists between “them” and “you” (employees vs. executives) and play for both teams in order to ensure a positive environment.

Other experts recommend using recognition to reward positive performance and valuing ideas over position. These strategies develop a workplace that challenges and inspires employees to be the best, which in turn, inspires and motivates others.

Minimizing the “Bounce Rate”

When a visitor hits your website, and exits after viewing only one page – this defines your bounce rate. The higher your bounce rate, the less likely your website is actually working for you. A website doing steady business strives to keep their bounce rate between 60 and 70 percent. Some simple techniques to lower your bounce rate include highlighting convenience, injecting brand personality and creating relatable content that speaks directly to the user about how your product or service

How to Build Your Personal Brand

Brand

Building a business brand is necessary as you develop and grow your business, but have you considered your own personal brand? It is a must in the digital world, making it imperative to ask these questions: What are you associated with? What do you stand for? What do you represent? With the answers to these questions you can build your personal brand.

Entrepreneur Magazine puts it best: “A strong personal brand that dovetails seamlessly with a business has the power to turn customers’ perception into profits.”

Big businesses often shirk the responsibility of managing a personal brand but small business owners can’t afford to; this is a crucial step in developing sound business strategies. By defining yourself as the face behind the business, your business creates greater brand loyalty and builds more meaningful customer relationships, thereby growing your business.

The building of your personal brand begins by defining your core values and goals – as an entrepreneur, not as a business. Build your personal brand from the ground up, using these values as the framework.

Identify your talents, expertise and passions and find ways to promote these alongside your business image. Consider building a personal website, or contributing a personal blog post to your company’s website. Never underestimate the importance of the “About Us” or bio sections of any promotional channel.

When it comes to social media networking, like LinkedIn and Twitter, remember to be purposeful with what you share. Each and every post is identified with your personal and business brand. Be selective and seamlessly tie personal and professional goals when developing and sharing content.

Do your research and find out how others currently perceive you. Ask co-workers and colleagues to define you with a few adjectives. Take notes and keep track of these terms – examine them. Are these accurate with the brand you are building? If not, how might you change this to give a clear picture of your personal brand that complements your company brand?

Monitor your progress regularly throughout the year, noting changes and making the adjustment necessary for your brand’s enhancement.

In building your personal brand, it is critical to manage the assets that represent you, those tools being used to communicate your brand to your audience.

These assets are both in person and online. Online assets include your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, Facebook page, website, blog and bios. In person (offline) is simply traditional mediums – business cards, brochures, newsletters or company profile information. Manage your assets and ensure they complement one another to assure your long term success.

Once you have established a personal brand, continue to grow and change it as you grow personally and professionally. Continue to develop your personal brand in the same way you would your business plan.

3 Tips to Improving “Your Work/Life” Balance

Work-Life Balance

It sounds clear and actually quite simple – balancing work life and personal life should be something everyone is capable of doing, right? In reality, the work-life balance is an intense and personal process, one that each business owner must define in their own life.

Even when considering the personal nature of the work-life balance, there are some general tips everyone can employ when seeking the illustrious state of balance.

The process begins by setting boundaries. Determine the time you will leave the office each day; then stick with it, regardless of what arises throughout the day. Set your outgoing message on the weekends so your clients know you will not be taking calls or answering emails until Monday morning. You can also note a time each evening in which you will no longer be available.

The key to these boundaries is they must be realistic. The goal here is longevity in both business and life; and in order to keep yourself

motivated and committed – your boundaries should be built into your daily routine seamlessly, reducing stress, not introducing more.

Next, you must understand your own expectations. More specifically, you may need to lower your expectations! You cannot and will never be able to do it all; once you realize this, you can move forward successfully.

Utilize calendars and color coding for work, family and personal time – this will provide a clear view of where you are spending the majority of your time and then you can organize your schedule according to your priorities. Create daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists to accompany the calendars and keep you on track.

Remember to schedule breaks and actually take them – short breaks during the day as well as time on the weekends dedicated solely to family and personal time. Always take your vacation!

Build flexibility into your plans. Studies show those who are given the freedom to work when and where they need to will be more productive. Even the best

to-do lists and schedules can be turned upside down by unpredictability. To stay balanced, you need flexibility.

Lastly, create your personal version of success. By listing the things you want to achieve both at work and in your personal life you can be successful in both places. List your desires, define why you want them, and then determine how to achieve them. Monitor these goals regularly to find out where you might be lacking the focus needed, and then you can redirect your time and energy toward success.

Work-life balance isn’t about finding a way of completely separating the two – it is about allowing them to intertwine and complement one another. Discovering what will work for you personally will increase productivity and reduce stress, both at home and at work.

The Cheapest Way Is Not Always the Best Way

Ask yourself this question: Would you be cheap when considering doctors to perform your open heart surgery? Never! And for exactly the same reason this is the thinking that should apply to small business growth.

Much like that failing heart, a small business will not survive if low cost is always the priority when it comes to decision making. Being cost-effective and being cheap are certainly not the same thing. Don’t ever confuse the two.

Consumers will always be looking for a way to pinch pennies and small businesses will need to match that demand. This is what we call simultaneously instigating growth and generating revenue. Whilst being economical should always be a priority, knowing how, where, and when to cut corners is really the key to longevity.

Always remember that in the consumer’s eyes, price is the validation of quality. The cost is a feature of the offered product or service and it will be an indicator of its own worth, in comparison to the competition.

When you compare a $4 cup of Starbucks coffee to the bottomless $1 cup offered by some, you cannot simply end at price alone. Sure, the price begs us to investigate further in order to draw conclusions such as, ‘the quality of the Starbucks’ beans must be better.’ We use these assumptions to justify the cost difference.

Remember that these conclusions speak volumes about your product and knowing how to determine their direction will bolster your marketing strategies. Do you want your product or service to be associated with ‘better quality’ right off the mark? Yes; you do! To do this, you will need to carefully consider your price points.

Have you ever tried a product only to think ‘well that was not worth the money’? We all have. This pretty much guarantees that the client will not return, and that could be a

huge loss for your business in the long run. This is what you want to avoid at all costs – no pun intended!

Author Steve McKee puts it frankly in an article for Bloomberg Business: “Sending a quality signal via higher pricing is an undervalued and often overlooked, tactic.”

You know that price is a feature and higher cost implies higher quality; this is obvious. So why is the cheapest route not always the best way to go?

Easy: When a startup begins to flourish, it will feel the demand at a much harder and faster rate which means the business will not be able to keep up with the production of the products/services it needs to supply. One of the smartest ways to manage an explosion of growth is to raise price points.

By doing so, your business will generate additional cash flow which you need to invest in more support staff, additional inventory or upgraded facilities. You may lose some clients but these bargain hunters were not likely to remain loyal in the long run.

Multi-Channel Marketing

According to data collected last year, 72% of consumers prefer businesses to employ a multi-channel marketing approach. So what does this mean, exactly?

Simply put, multi-channel marketing means sharing your message across a variety of outlets, both on and offline. Think radio, TV, social media, print and mobile.

As consumers themselves typically use a minimum of two channels, they expect businesses targeting their dollars at them to do the same.

The time of day, the target audience age and demographic heavily influence which channels pair best with which client. Based on these parameters, there are five most effective pairings:

1. Computer and Mobile Device

2. Mobile and Television

3. Computer and Television

4. Mobile Device and Radio

5. Computer and Radio

These one-two combos amplify your advertising reach while encouraging diversity in your market. When employed correctly, these pairings

also stretch marketing dollars, incentivize new campaigns and measure their effectiveness. Win-win-win!

These pairings should aim to encourage customer engagement, drive traffic to the website, draw in new clients, generate referrals and of course, boost revenue. It always leads back to the sale!

When navigating multi-channel marketing, remember to do your research and select the channels that make the most sense for your business, product, and audience. Always enter these markets with a purpose, and always maintain confidence knowing that you will be meeting the needs of the market.

You should always remember that multi-channel marketing aims to level the playing field between small business owners and the big guys. Previously the big guys had the upper hand, with the resources and ability to dominate the market.

However, times have changed. This layered approach offers a means to expanding reach.

Before entering multiple channels, ensure that your message is clear, intentional, and most importantly, consistent- a united front!

Groupon Globalization- helping or hurting small business?

With hyper-connectivity on the rise, the purchasing power of consumers is increasing swiftly. Our ability to discern on a deeper level is assisted by the same global connectivity that seemingly threatens small brick and mortar businesses. In reality, embracing this globalization is the smartest thing for these mom and pop shops to do. It may drive prices down, but it also works to allow small businesses to achieve ‘economies of scale’, lowering production costs by increasing the scale of the orders. This cannot be done alone. It calls for small business owners to work together; joining forces against those big box stores, and eventually creating more ‘perfect competition’.

Using Technology to Build a Great Loyalty Scheme

The key to loyalty is using digital technology to burrow into customers’ histories to ‘Surprise and Delight’ them

Hmm, are we encouraging stalking, you ask? YES! Stalk away! The more you know about your client, prospect, or audience, the more you can tailor your message, product or service to suit their needs. Isn’t that what these sales are about? Identifying the market need and filling it? They are, so why aren’t you stalking?

Budding technology is very well the catalyst in the shift of power from seller to buyer. It is imperative to realize the potential goldmine of information that lies at your fingertips and to use it to your best advantage. Technology is your best friend when it comes to a little background building, which can be used to boost loyalty.

Business analytics software is a great place to start; it removes the painstaking guesswork and provides accurate, simplified data.

These analytics can be used to determine what type of campaign

or strategy would best fit each niche, and therefore provide the most streamlined approach. When clients feel the message speaks directly to them, they are more likely to become return clients.

Engaging with new technologies can also provide simplicity. Clients desire a frictionless transaction. Your clients do not want to feel like they are taking a school exam when making a purchase; so make it easy for them and make the transaction process simple. You will see return business as a result.

Mobile apps and payment options are some of the best ways to bolster smooth transactions. Mobile transactions do more than simplify the transaction process; they do some ‘stalking’ for you. It’s true that mobile transactions are a superb gatherer of information. Merchants have access to what other products their clients are buying, how they are buying, where they are buying, etc.

Targeted, customized deals and offers are what will appeal to the most discerning of clients, which is why both historical and predictive data analysis will pay off here. Deals are often time sensitive; therefore, mobile and digital technologies play a major role in the ability to reach clients quickly and without hassle.

While you may have a loyalty program in place, if it is not digital, it is not enough. Digital-based loyalty programs, incorporated into your existing IT infrastructure, will continue to generate the necessary data collection which you need to remain on top of a constantly changing market.

Launching a loyalty initiative may end up requiring you to make a decent investment – but rest assured that the ROI will be well worth the money spent. Consider testing your program on a small elite group. This will allow you to keep costs down while gathering intelligent statistics.

4 Questions That Increase Your Sales

One thing every business owner needs to know is that rather than selling being about talking, it is actually about listening. If you can do that, you are off to a great start. You need to not only be an active listener but to know how you can utilize active listening to your best advantage.

Don’t worry; it is not as hard to do as you may think. In fact it’s pretty simple: you need to ask the right questions, making sure they are smart questions.

The line of questions below is aimed at the prospect and the strategy that follows is to help you close the most lucrative deal:

Do you want fries with that? While fries do accompany most hamburgers, this is not just a commonly heard fast food phrase. It is a surreptitious attempt at up-selling. You are offering what would be perceived as a perfect pairing – a product or service that works to

compliment the initial buy, without stating it is your marketing plan.

When you introduce the pairing you must entice and excite the prospect, ultimately leaving them feeling as if Product A just cannot be without Product B. After all, who doesn’t like fries with their burger?

Up-selling is an art form – never forget this. It should always:

• be related to and compliment the original offer;

• be viewed as invaluable to the customer;

• be (just about) impossible to turn down.

Employ the Rule of 25 – the up-sell product should not add more than 25% overall value to the proposed package. Consider using a “people who bought this also bought…” type of strategy.

How about now? You should always remember that in sales, timing is truly everything and getting the deal locked down at the table is what it’s all about. With competition continuing to grow, you can be certain that your prospect is going to shop around. One way to out manoeuver this process is to literally ask “why not now?”

The good news is when you have a positive sales closing the ball is pretty much in your court, not the prospect’s. The best way to gain this advantage is to place some pressure on timing.

Would you recommend me, this service, or this product? Recommendations and referrals don’t come automatically – you must earn them. Ask specifically – would you refer me? How about this product/service; would you refer it? Why? What would you say?

Get all of the details because you will need them to make positive changes that will lead to the referral, which could lead to a sale.

How about bundling it up?   Inherently, people believe that package deals – also known as bundles – are a better ‘bang for their buck’. Bundling also increases your market reach and opens your services or products up to a wider audience. Get creative and consider cross-promotional packages with other companies or even with your competition. Create custom made products that only compliment your existing inventory in order to offer something unique.

4 Steps to Writing a Great eBook

We are all coming to terms with the hype on in-depth content and the importance it holds in driving your business’ web reputation. A useful way of achieving this is by way of the eBook.

The perceived complications and expense of publishing hard copy has practically made this traditional medium obsolete. Today it has never been easier to wax philosophical on industry topics of your choice which allows you to share your opinions with the world (wide-web that is…).

Step 1: Brainstorming. Think of this as your old-fashioned word cloud based on your areas of expertise. Make a list of all the topics you feel confident enough to write about – this will help narrow down the options and determine where your most in-depth knowledge exists.

Struggling to come up with that long list? Ask yourself, what do others often ask you for advice on? What do people turn to you for? What do you spend time researching? Now choose the one that makes you the most excited, as passion will be a driving force in the completion of this task!

Step 2: Research the gaps. Now that you have identified your topic, search far and wide to see how this expertise may already be in play.

eBooks are a numbers game- identify a market niche in which your topic would be filling a gap. That niche should relate very closely to the target market you focus on with your marketing collateral. Purchase and read some of the similarly-themed books to get an idea of what works and what does not.

Step 3: That’s right- write! Begin with a detailed outline; this is the best way to determine your flow and pace of the book, as well as nailing down the essential content.

Some writers find it beneficial to begin by creating a list of titles for both inspiration and direction. Others find that firstly creating the table of contents provides structure.

Step 4: Edit, design a cover and get published! As your eBook will represent your brand, we suggest you hire a professional editor and designer to ensure the highest standard.

Once it is ready to go leverage all that hard work! Promote it on your website ensuring that prospects provide some of their details in order to download it for free. You can then add those details to your marketing list. Include a link to the eBook in your newsletters or included within any proposals that you email to prospects.

A well-researched and nicely presented eBook can really highlight your credibility, improving your chances of converting more prospects into clients.