Thursday, January 16, 2014

Great Quote About Business and Relationships

"A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships."

- Stephen Covey.







Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dealer Website Content: Who Is Responsible?

The ADM Community is lit up in response to a blog post by Timothy Martell titled "3 Reasons To Fire Your Website Vendor" in which he exposes multiple egregious examples of duplicated content, along with what appears to be rampant violation of copyright laws.  His furor seems to be the caused primarily by the negative SEO impact when a dealer has the same content on their website as other dealerships do. There is no doubt that at a minimum Tim has exposed some very shoddy content creation and publishing practices that have been going on for a very long time... 


Tim Martell squarely points his finger at OEM designated, approved or mandated dealer website suppliers. 


HOWEVER, without apologizing for what may very well be a systemic failure by dealer website suppliers to collect unique content from each dealer, I must ask your opinion... Who is ultimately responsible for reviewing and either approving a dealer's website content and text based business descriptions, "why buy here" messaging and mission statements, or changing them to better reflect the dealership's actual information? 


I agree with Tim Martell that the dealer website suppliers he cites have failed to serve their dealer client's best interest by insisting that each dealer provide unique and genuine content for such pages in the dealer's website... But while everyone is jumping on the band wagon of chastising the supplier, I know that ultimately their is a dealership manager who should have insisted that such crap be replaced with the dealership's authentic descriptions and statements. Who is responsible for the content that is approved and published on behalf of a dealership? When it is wrong, who should catch the errors and get them corrected?


I must ask this question because in my opinion, a dealer or GM who lets the templated and prepopulated examples of dealer description, mission statements and business policies stand "as is" on a dealership website is the competency equivalent of buying a new wallet and leaving the stock photo inserts in place, expecting people to think they are your actual wife and family. I have never let prepopulated generic website content stand as is for any dealer I worked for, and I cannot imagine the sheer marketing ineptitude of any GM or Internet Sales Manager who would. 


So, as bad as Tim makes dealer website suppliers look with his article... Who REALLY is responsible for providing the unique descriptions, business philosophies and "why buy here" value propositions that most competent dealers would want to publish on their websites? Who approved the obviously generic and stunningly dull dribble that was used as a content example and filler by the dealer's website supplier?


Here is a link to the blog post on ADM Community that I am referring to:


http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/m/blogpost?id=1970539%3ABlogPost%3A514931 







Saturday, January 11, 2014

Car Dealers Settle Deceptive Ad Charges by FTC

Car Dealerships settle deceptive advertising charges in FTC sweep

Many other investigations 'in the pipeline,' agency says

 .

The Federal Trade Commission said nine dealerships had agreed to 20-year settlements after being charged with deceptive advertising, adding that more dealerships will face similar charges.

"We have many other investigations in the pipeline," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, at a press conference Thursday in Los Angeles. "This is a priority for the FTC and you will see many other cases in the auto-related area going forward.

"There are many dealers who are honorable and want to treat their customers well," she said, "but we believe there are many more dealers out there who are involved in these deceptive practices."

The FTC's investigation, announced in a statement Thursday, focused on the sale, financing and leasing of vehicles. The sweep was dubbed Operation Steer Clear.

The dealerships that settled charges were:

• Norm Reeves Honda Superstore in Cerritos, Calif.

• Honda of Hollywood in Los Angeles

• Nissan of South Atlanta in Morrow, Ga.

• Infiniti of Clarendon Hills in Clarendon Hills, Ill.

• Paramount Kia in Hickory, N.C.

• Fowlerville Ford in Fowlerville, Mich.

• Southwest Kia, which owns New World Auto Imports in Dallas, New World Auto Imports of Rockwall in Rockwall, Texas; and Hampton Two Auto Corp. in Mesquite, Texas

• Two used-only dealerships -- Casino Auto Sales of La Puente, Calif., and Rainbow Auto Sales of South Gate, Calif.

The FTC is also taking action against a 10th dealership, Courtesy Auto Group of Attleboro, Mass.

The FTC said the dealerships in this case made several "misrepresentations" in print, Internet and video advertisements that violated the FTC Act, falsely leading consumers to believe they could buy cars for low prices, get low monthly payments through financing and/or make no upfront payment to lease vehicles.

The FTC said one dealership sent out 30,000 mailers to consumers, saying they had won prizes they could collect at the dealership. But "not a single consumer, not one," won any prize, Rich said.

Fowlerville Ford was the only dealership cited for advertising prizes.

The dealership said it agreed to a settlement with the FTC over allegedly deceptive ads because "the cost of appealing" the FTC's conclusions "would have been prohibitive."

"Fowlerville Ford has prided itself on maintaining the highest possible standards in treating its customers and in complying with all laws and regulations in conducting its business," the dealership said in a statement e-mailed toAutomotive News.

'On notice'

Under the settlements, the dealerships concerned will be barred from deceptive advertising practices for 20 years. Any violation of that agreement could bring a fine of up to $16,000 per day. So if a dealership runs a deceptive ad for 10 days anytime until 2034, the potential fine is $160,000.

"We hope that these actions," Rich said, "really put all dealers on notice" that violating the law will have "significant consequences for them."

Rich said third-party vendors who help create these kinds of deceptive ads could also be subject to liability depending on how involved they were in creating the content.

Rich declined to say how long the FTC had been investigating the dealerships, but noted that typical FTC investigations run "several months to over a year."

Norm Reeves Honda

Norm Reeves Honda Superstore, which was the top-selling Honda store in the United States in 2013, and Honda of Hollywood allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could pay zero money upfront to lease a vehicle when in fact the advertised amounts excluded "substantial fees and other amounts," the FTC said.

The ads also allegedly violated the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M by not disclosing certain lease-related terms, the FTC said. Norm Reeves Honda Superstore's ad also allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by not disclosing certain credit-related terms.

Norm Reeves Honda Superstore in Cerritos, Calif., said in a statement that it cooperated with the FTC during the agency's investigation.

The dealership, which was the top-selling Honda store in the United States last year, also said it will seek to ensure transparency in every aspect of its business.

The dealership said that it committed an oversight when it used, in an advertisement that ran last March, a standard disclosure template that made the lease offer unclear to consumers.

In the statement, the dealership said that the settlement with the FTC has led to enhancing the dealership's advertisement review process.

"We applaud the efforts of the FTC," the dealership said in its statement, "and sincerely believe that their actions will ensure a level playing field for all dealerships."

Phone messages left seeking comment from most of the other dealerships involved in the settlements were not immediately returned.

One dealership, Rich said without naming it, made "deceptive lease trades" with zero down. "But guess what? There were fees, down payments and taxes, in one case totaling more than $5,000 all buried in the fine print," she said.

Dealerships can avoid violating the law by simply posting accurate prices available to all consumers and avoiding fine print, Rich said.

"Dealers think that if they put the real price of something in really fine print, that's not deceptive," Rich said. "That is deceptive and it violates the law."

Here are specifics of the charges against the other dealerships, according to the FTC.

Georgia

Nissan of South Atlanta allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could finance a vehicle purchase with low monthly payments when in fact the payments were temporary "teasers" after which consumers would owe a different amount. The ads also allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by failing to disclose certain credit-related terms.

Illinois

Infiniti of Clarendon Hills allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could pay nothing upfront to lease a vehicle when in fact the advertised amounts excluded substantial fees and other amounts. The ads also allegedly violated the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M by failing to disclose certain lease-related terms.

Infiniti of Clarendon Hills told Automotive News today that it cooperated with the Federal Trade Commission during the agency's investigation and a settlement unveiled today regarding deceptive advertising by nine dealerships nationwide.

The FTC's investigation focused on the sale, financing and leasing of vehicles.

"We committed an oversight when we used the term 'no money down' in our ads, when the FTC does not consider collecting licensing, taxes and other fees to be no money down," Infiniti of Clarendon Hills Executive Manager Peter Korallus said.

"We have since changed the ad and will be more diligent in the future. We applaud the FTC for their efforts and believe that they will ensure a level playing field for all dealerships."

North Carolina

Paramount Kia allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could finance a purchase with low monthly payments when in fact the payments were temporary "teasers" after which the consumer would owe several hundred dollars more. The ads also allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose certain credit-related terms.

Michigan

Fowlerville Ford allegedly violated the FTC Act by sending mailers that deceptively claimed consumers had won a sweepstakes prize when in fact they had not. Some of their ads also allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by failing to disclose certain credit-related terms.

Texas

Southwest Kia companies allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could buy a vehicle for specific low monthly payments when in fact consumers would owe a final balloon payment of more than $10,000.

The companies also allegedly deceptively advertised that consumers could drive home a vehicle for specific low upfront amounts and low monthly payments when in fact the deal was a lease and they would owe substantially more upfront. The ads also allegedly violated the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M by failing to disclose certain lease related terms, and the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z by failing to disclose certain credit-related terms.

California

Casino Auto Sales and Rainbow Auto Sales allegedly violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers could buy vehicles at specific low prices when in fact the price was $5,000 higher. Both dealerships used a mix of English and Spanish in their ads.

Prohibitions

The settlements -- which are not final -- involve proposed consent agreements that prohibit the dealerships from misrepresenting in any advertisement for the purchase, financing or leasing of motor vehicles, the cost of leasing a vehicle, the cost of buying a vehicle with financing or any other material fact about the price, sale, financing or leasing of a vehicle.

In some cases, the proposed consent orders also require the dealerships to clearly and conspicuously disclose terms required by these credit and lease laws.

Fowlerville Ford also is prohibited under the proposed order from misrepresenting material terms of any prize, sweepstakes, giveaway or other incentive.

Public comment

The commission voted unanimously to accept the packages containing the nine proposed consent orders, the FTC said.

The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Feb. 10, after which the commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final.

The FTC's administrative complaint against Courtesy Auto Group also was approved unanimously by the commission.

It alleges that Courtesy Auto Group violated the FTC Act by deceptively advertising that consumers can lease a vehicle for no down payment and specific monthly payments when in fact the advertised amounts exclude substantial fees. The ads also allegedly violate the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M by failing to disclose or clearly and conspicuously disclose certain lease-related terms.

The issuance of the administrative complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations against Courtesy Auto Group will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story had the incorrect name of the FTC sweep. It is called Operation Steer Clear.

Sean Gagnier and James B. Treece contributed to this report.

[Sent from Ralph Paglia's iPhone]

NADA 2014 iPhone App Download

NADA 2014 Convention App by a2z, Inc. Is a must have for attendees...
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nada-atd-2014/id772288672?mt=8

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why Would Automotive Marketing Pros Want a To Know HTML?

7 Times You'll Kick Yourself for Not Learning HTML

by Ginny Soskey

html_code-1I don't know about you, but when I travel, I'm terrified of leaving something at home. I obsess over making sure I have enough T-shirts, jeans, shoes, travel-sized shampoos, earrings, books, magazines -- because what in the world would I do if I didn't have them, but needed them? And even if I over-pack, I know I'm prepared for any situation vacation will throw at me -- a random fancy dinner out, a day at the pool, or just an afternoon out shopping with the family.

In the same vein, knowing HTML is like making sure you're fully prepared for a vacation. You may not end up using it every single day, but the times you do end up using it, you are so grateful that you had the foresight to figure it out. Knowing HTML can save you hours of frustration, precious time with your design team, or even money dealing with an external contractor.

HTML has always been nice-to-have knowledge, but it's becoming more than nice-to-have for the marketer trying to save a buck. (And that sounds like every marketer I've met.)

In fact, there are a bunch of situations I've caught myself in in which handy HTML knowledge saved the day ... and thus, this post was born. If you're not quite convinced that you'd benefit from knowing basic HTML, keep reading. Here are seven* scenarios you might find yourself in that can be fixed with just a bit of HTML know-how. 

1) When Formatting in Your Blog Post/Email/Landing Page Goes Awry

Sometimes, I swear my content has a life of its own -- and a mean streak. That blog post that I worked on all day will suddenly have images with funky spacing, no text wrapping, and outrageous sizing, and, of course, all looks okay in my WYSIWG editor. Luckily, with some HTML knowledge, I can dig into the post to remove and tweak code that is causing the problem.

HTML Pro Tip: If you find a bunch of funky tags you want to remove, copy the raw code and paste it into a raw text editor. Then, choose the Find and Replace option -- you can search for offending snippets of code and leave the "replace" box blank. Once you're done, you can paste it back into your HTML editor, and poof! De-bugged formatting. 

2) When You Paste a Blog Post Into Your CMS From Word or Google Docs

Lots of people don't know that writing a blog post in a typical word processing program -- like Word or Google Docs -- and then copying it into your CMS will give you lots of HTML headaches. Sometimes, when you do that, your CMS will add extra snippets of code to your piece that will mess up formatting.

With some HTML knowledge and the pro tip above, you can easily remove any offending snippets when transferring content from Word or Google Docs to your CMS.

3) When You Need to Tweak an Email Template

I'm going to take a wild guess that you don't want every email you send to look exactly the same. While sending consistent emails is a great thing most of the time, there will be specific campaigns you're going to want to customize emails for. This could be as simple as right-aligning your images instead of left-aligning them or changing up the color of your text to stand out in your subscribers' inboxes.

With HTML knowledge, though, you can make these changes yourself, instead of relying on an in-house designer or hired development shop. Seriously, it's empowering to make the changes yourself and move on to more pressing marketing matters. 

4) When You Need to Make Your Content Easy to Read

One of your top concerns when creating content is to make it easy for people to consume. This means using formatting (bold, italics, headers, colors, etc.) to make your content scannable and digestible. And while most WYSIWG editors will let you easily apply those formatting options to your content without touching code, not all will. So take control of the way your content looks by souping it up with some <b> and <h2> tags. 

5) When You Need to Make Your Content Easy to Use

With long-form content especially, you need to make it easy for people to find the content they want. An easy way to do that? Use HTML to create internal links. See them in action in our glossary of website optimization terms -- isn't it easy to jump to the letter you need? This is an easy hack to do yourself, if you know HTML.

6) When You're Embedding Content on Your Website From Other Sites

One way to easily spruce up your blog posts is to use embedded content -- you know, posts from your social media accounts that can supplement your blog content. We're talking embedded YouTube videos, tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest boards, and SlideShare presentations.

If you know HTML, you'll know how to embed content in the first place, not to mention troubleshoot any issues if the content isn't appearing correctly. It's been a lifesaver more than once for me!

7) When You're Pitching Guest Posts

Almost every guest post we receive in a Word or Google Docs format. And while that's a great way to judge whether we'll accept the post or not, once we've accepted the post, those formats are time-consuming to format in our CMS (because of the reasons mentioned in bullet point #2).

To save your new guest post editor time, attach a Word and an HTML plain text document to your guest post pitches. Trust me -- they'll be grateful, and maybe want to invite you back to post more often. 

*Bonus Scenario: When Your Internet Goes Out and You Want to Save Your Team Time

Okay, I know I said that there would only be seven scenarios in this post, but I couldn't help but include this little tidbit. This isn't something you'll run into maybe ever, but this happened to me last week so I had to share.

My internet went out the afternoon I was on deadline for the next morning's 8 a.m. slot (yeah, we're a pretty agile team) and all of a sudden, it happened: MY INTERNET WAS GONE. Cue panic attack ... until I remembered that I could write the post -- and format it with the correct HTML snippets -- in my computer's text editor to save my teammates time.

And that's the story of how HTML saved my life and the post I was working on. I wouldn't recommend doing this every time you blog, but it can come in handy when you're in a pinch and you know what you're doing. 

So really, think about learning HTML as one of your New Year's resolutions. It could be something that ends up saving the day on that random day in June when you need to make one little formatting tweak. 

When has knowing HTML come in handy? Share your stories with us in the comments!

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Written by Ginny Soskey

Ginny Soskey is a Staff Writer for HubSpot's inbound marketing blog, where she loves to create written and multimedia content day in and day out. Say hey to her on Twitter @gsosk.

| Website


[Sent from Ralph's iPad]

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Check out my Inbound Marketing slideshow!

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Ralph Paglia
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Inbound Marketing

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