Automotive Advertising Agencies Drop Conventional Media in Favor of Social Networking by Consumers

Old school wisdom like ‘the customer is always right’ have often taken a back seat to automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers who presumed to talk “at” customers rather than listen to them. Hard sell tactics built on that presumption may have sold cars in the past but with the rise of the Internet and social networking media — not so much!Today’s educated car shoppers are bypassing the auto dealer’s real and virtual showrooms in favor of visiting other online information resources. Auto dealers are being replaced by consumers in the formative stage of their buying cycle who turn to trusted friends in social networking communities. These online groups of like minded consumers share their car buying experiences before, during and after the sale and customers find that they are able to provide far more transparent and relevant information than any self serving auto dealer; real or imagined.Similarly, the reach and frequency of the best planned automotive advertising campaign can be trumped with the click of a mouse by a car shopper who can get the information they need to buy a car without having to listen to a sales pitch from a self serving auto dealer. The solution for automotive advertising agencies challenged by a shrinking economy and a consolidating auto industry is obvious — if you can’t beat them, join them.Social networking on the World Wide Web is an extension of an equally established wisdom that people like to do business with people that they like. The social part of this growing online marketing phenomenon is built on trust in friends which is an element of human nature that has survived on the Internet Super Highway. Networking references the value of word of mouth advertising that delivers a single message to a sphere of influence that used to be limited to close friends and family. The Internet now distributes that same message virally on channels like You Tube, My Space, LinkedIn, Face Book, Bebo, Twitter and too many others to list that are growing exponentially.Automotive advertising agencies have been challenged to monetize social networking with mixed results primarily because they attempted to apply best practices learned from their past experiences on conventional media like radio, T.V. and print. Initially, it was assumed that the only adjustment needed was to post the same retail messages that worked in conventional media on the social networks. That was accomplished through the use of banner ads linked back to the auto dealer’s website or with an invitation for the customer to call or visit their real world dealership to get the information they needed beyond the low ball price or payment that was often offered but rarely trusted. These banner ads were seen as an easily avoided nuisance by community members who opted not to play. However, evidence does suggest that they did/do provide a residual impression that adds to the auto dealer’s top of the mind awareness with the car shopper; although sometimes the impression was tainted by the dealer’s intrusion into the community of friends.When the R.O.I. of the banner ads did not meet expectations, automotive advertising agencies attempted to register their auto dealer clients as members of the community to promote themselves from within. Auto dealers were quickly discovered as the wolves in sheep’s clothing that they were and the unwritten rules of etiquette of these social networking sites drove them from the community with their tails between their legs.Automotive advertising agencies have since learned that the elements of human nature that drive word of mouth advertising are fragile and they require transparency to survive in social networking communities. As is often the case, the solution has been provided by the developing technologies that have matured along with the Internet as a marketing media.One such solution is provided by ronsmap.com, a game changing customer centric marketing platform with proprietary applications including vBack and SellersVantage that generate Intelli-Leads with market and consumer intelligence not previously available to auto dealers. vBack is a social media engine that is embedded on the vehicle postings on ronsmap as well as the auto dealer’s website and linked marketing channels with an Ask-a-Friend/Tell-a-Friend feature functionality that develops viral messages trafficked through the social networking communities that the customer belongs to and trusts. In addition, related comments from friends solicited by the customer are attached to the Intelli-Lead as part of their SellersVantage application that also accumulates data on comparable vehicles from the auto dealer’s inventory in accordance with the customer’s stated preferences as well as related real time product and pricing information from local competitive dealer inventories posted on the Internet. This added information is sourced from within the social networking community by the customer — not the auto dealer — preserving the anonymity of the dealer while providing the auto dealer virtually unlimited access to members.This method of C2C marketing from the inside out vs. the now dated B2C marketing from the outside in is unique to ronsmap and it promises to allow automotive advertising agencies access to this growing online media. Conventional media is, and will always be, an integral component of any comprehensive marketing plan, however access to leveraged viral messaging offered by consumer driven social networking channels is the best way for budget challenged auto dealers to sell more for less. After all, what are friends for!

Romance in the Law Office

We’ve all heard tales of office Christmas parties that ran amuck. Coworkers get caught making out in the copy room or a storage closet. Reports of after-hours office frolicking run like wildfire through the halls and floors of businesses. These shenanigans occur in all types of companies.Office romance isn’t only the tipsy pawing of revelers. Coworkers date. They even marry.Does office romance negatively affect office atmosphere and the service provided? I’d like to share a work story, and you can tell me if you think office romance is detrimental.One time, at band camp…no, not really, but it definitely left me feeling LIKE I was at bamp camp…For a time, I worked for a satellite office of a large law firm. I was the legal secretary for a husband and wife team. Being assigned to two attorneys married to each other was…interesting, to say the least. The entire staff could tell in the first two minutes on Monday mornings how their weekends went. If it had been a bad weekend, I was offered condolences.The thermostat which controlled both of their offices was located in husband-attorney’s office. My desk was conveniently across from their doors. One particular “bad weekend” Monday morning, Mrs. Attorney came out to my station and said, “Would you tell HIM to turn up the heat, I’m cold,” and returned immediately to her office, shutting the door firmly behind her.I stopped typing, fully aware that our close proximity created the strong likelihood that Mr. Attorney had already heard what she said. I was also aware that the secretary behind me had stopped typing as well. The day’s antics had begun.I stood up, smoothed my blouse, and ventured into Mr. Attorney’s office. He was typing and didn’t immediately acknowledge my presence. Finally, he said, “…yes?” I dutifully delivered the message. Silence reigned. Well, silence reigned in those four walls. I heard shuffling and whispers as staff began clustering near my station.Mr. Attorney swiveled his chair to face me, peering at me over his glasses. “Do tell, if you will, my lovely wife that if she had dressed appropriately for the weather, she wouldn’t now be complaining that she is cold.”Silence reigned everywhere.I walked out of his office. Exchanging glances with my coworkers who were poised to scatter but too curious to immediately beat a retreat, I veered right and knocked on Mrs. Attorney’s door. I gained entrance, and dutifully delivered the quoted reply. Silence reigned again. Coworker shuffling had ceased at that point. All ears were at attention.Mrs. Attorney said, in a voice an octave higher, “Will you please inform him that my state of dress is none of his business and that if he ignores a reasonable request it will not bode well this evening.”I returned to Mr. Attorney’s doorway, repeating Mrs. Attorney’s words. His response was, “All reasonable requests are considered. It is the unreasonable requests that are denied, in toto.”I updated Mrs. Attorney and announced that I was going back to my desk, to work (while wondering if emphasis on “work” filtered through).My fingers typed senseless words on the screen as the thermostat dance began. She walked in his office, flipped the control and went back into her office. The sound of the heat kicking in muted the return of coworker shuffling. They backed away but remained a rapt audience.His chair squeaked as he got up, turned the heat off, and sat down with more squeaking.Heels clicked (which was pretty amazing since the floors were carpeted) as she made another control-flipping appearance.I chose to take my morning break earlier than usual that morning.Yes, I believe office romance definitely affects office atmosphere. Based on my personal observation, it affects client service as well.

Commercial Real Estate – Valuing The Cash Flow

Many investors don’t understand the power of commercial real estate. I too had reservations until I understood the power and safety commercial real estate can provide. Commercial real estate is similar to trucks. Trucks come in all sizes and all shapes – a Ford Ranger to an 18 wheeler. Commercial properties come in all sizes and shapes – a standalone building that houses a small restaurant to the Empire State Building. People read in the newspapers that commercial property prices are crashing. People notice the strip malls have a lot of vacancies and it scares them away. Let’s take a look at the power of commercial real estate and a quick note about market cycles. Commercial real estate is a business and is priced based on current cash flows. For simplicity sake, commercial property pricing is based on 10 x annual cash flow, not including debt service (loan). So a property that yields $10,000 in cash flow is worth $100,000. Regardless of the type of property, if you increase rents by 1% ($100) the value goes up a $1000. Decrease expenses by $100 and the value goes up $1000. So what? Let’s look at a simple apartment example.A small apartment complex (10 units) has an annual cash flow of $50,000 and is for sale for $500,000. It has a lot of long-term tenants paying below market rents. You put down 20% or $100,000 (there are ways to make it someone else’s money). We’ll assume it is a positive cash flow property even with the debt service (loan payments). First a storage area is made into a laundry facility that provides $5000 on annual basis. You just increased the value $50,000. Next rents are raised the first year to market rents. Raising rents $50 per unit increases cash flow $6000. You just increased the value $60,000. That means you have doubled your original $100,000 in the first year and you get to keep the $11,000 cash flow. There are many more ways to increase the cash flow including: separate utilities and have tenants pay utilities, decrease vacancy, work out a deal with dish network and get paid, reduce maintenance costs, and more. Just by raising the rent $10 a year increases cash flow $1200 a year and increases the value $12,000. In three to five years you’ll have cash flows of $70,000 to $100,000 (less debt service which remains constant) and you can sell the property for $700,000 to $1,000,000. Now you see the power of commercial real estate.Just like single family homes, not every property is a good deal. First you look for commercial properties in areas that have improving rents, increasing employment, and areas where the entire area is going through gentrification. Next you look for properties that have a value proposition – rents too low, poor management, ability to install laundry or some other measure to increase cash flow. You would be surprised how many buildings are poorly managed or have below market rents.I’ve used an apartment as the example; however this same model works for office buildings, mobile home parks, strip malls and more. All types of real estate (all types of investment) go through cycles. When the economy is booming for example, the vacancy in office buildings goes down significantly (prices go up). Of course the opposite is true during an economic downturn. During economic downturns more people move to apartments, mobile homes and need storage facilities. By observing these cycles one can move in and out of various positions to minimize risk and increase portfolio value.
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