In this blog post, we have transcribed the UCDP interview with Bob Lanham in written format. You can listen to the original podcast here.
Zach: Hello, Zach here, and we have an awesome guest on the podcast today for episode 20, Bob Lanham who's the Head of Automotive Retail at Facebook, and he's joining us from the great state of Michigan. How are you doing Bob?
Bob: Dude, I'm doing fantastic. Thanks for having me.
Zach: Let's get everything started for those listening, what is your role as head of automotive retail at Facebook encompass, and how did you get into the auto industry?
Bob: I have a number of roles here at Facebook as it relates to automotive retail. I have a team that handles the top 10 dealer groups in the country, a team that handles the largest resellers mainly for the franchise side of the house, and then I've got a team that also manages our co-op programs between the manufacturers and the franchise dealers, but I'm also responsible for working with our product teams and working with our teams internally to ensure what we're building or hopefully what we're building is what dealers, independent or franchise, would want to use and not only just use it; hopefully in an easy fashion, so it doesn't become complicated.
How I got into the industry full disclosure, I always tell everybody I dated a woman in college whose parents own a number of dealerships. One of my first jobs right out of school was selling cars on the showroom floor. I give them a lot of credit, they treated me just as if I was any other employee. I was commission only, I guess the benefit was they fed me dinners on weekends when I went to their house. But that's how I started this was in the ‘90s and the mid-’90s, and then digital started to come out, as you well know and then I got into the digital space with Car Point, which ended up becoming MSN autos, Yahoo autos, and then here I am at Facebook.
Zach: And it's been a roller coaster of a year, it's not even finished yet. Talk to me about what you've observed from your lens on Facebook when it comes to used car sales during the pandemic?
Bob: In general, what I observed from the dealers is they've gotten really smart with their second or third largest expenditure, which is advertising and marketing. Having to evaluate their top expenses advertising and marketing, is one of them. One of the things that I've learned or I observed from them is as they learned more about their expenditure on advertising and marketing they started to ask questions, what am I spending it on? What is my return on investment? Why am I buying this? And you know, when you had many states closed, and you had some states by appointment only, you had some states open, they had to truly change how they did business and then, more importantly, they had to truly market to where people were and I think what they learned in my opinion and what we observed at least here at Facebook is dealers, independent or franchise, got smarter on their advertising and marketing and they learned more about how media works in understanding media and how media drives sales. That's what I've been saying a lot and I'm still seeing it. I'm still getting really good questions media-related, which is exactly what they should be asking.
Zach: What's the latest for auto dealers in terms of Facebook offerings?
Bob: We have a number, and I always get, Hey, what are the latest and greatest? And before I get to things that we're working on, I do want to just take a step back and let's talk about what we already have. Cause a lot of dealers don't realize what we already have, first and foremost, about a month and a half ago, we launched this vehicles tab on a dealership's Facebook page. Hopefully, everyone that's listening has a dealership Facebook page. Well, if you market on the marketplace or you put your listings on marketplace, that inventory automatically gets transferred over to a vehicles tab on your dealership's Facebook page it's about a month and a half old, maybe two months.
Facebook jobs. People don't realize Facebook offers one of the largest job boards out in the marketplace. So anytime you post a job description on your Facebook page, it's going to reach one of the largest audiences, out there and then you have the ability to put some small money behind it if you're looking to reach people I learned this two years ago when I was doing a Ford roadshow and the gentleman that followed my presentation was with Ford and he was presenting to the dealers, how they have programs to help get technicians to go out, find and train technicians, because technicians are hard to find and I got into having a conversation with them and said, Hey, you know, we have Facebook jobs and it's quickly become one of the largest job boards out there. So if any dealerships looking for an employee, make sure you use our job board.
We have Facebook groups and this is something that is evolving and I would actually challenge the listeners to explore, we'll get to our Facebook group at the end, but Facebook groups is the ability to create a group of people that you know and that you want to talk to, or continue to talk to. Think about, creating a group of all your customers and why is this important? Because customers actually follow your dealership or want to stay in touch with your dealership because they want to remain a customer, they want to know what your specials are, what your updates are, what you're up to as it relates to their vehicle that they purchased from you. Facebook group is a great platform to start to test and utilize as a retention strategy as a loyalty strategy. I truly challenged dealers to start looking at that if you want to get into some of the newer stuff that we launched, I can talk about that, Zach, but I didn't know if you wanted to wait for the end on that one.
Zach: Another Facebook question. A lot of used car dealers, they're familiar with Facebook marketplace, their DMS sends a feed to it, but they're less familiar with Facebook ads. Talk to me about some ways successful dealerships are leveraging Facebook ads and what sort of campaigns are they running?
Bob: It's true and I hate to say it. I still hear dealers say, Oh, I didn't know. I could run advertising on Facebook or what advertising should I be running on Facebook? And you know, that's on us, we need to do a little bit of a better job in the marketplace. But, first and foremost, if they have inventory and that's what they want to sell, they should 100% be listing on marketplace and then they should 100% by taking advantage of our automotive inventory ads, which is our dynamic ad that are rendered or created out of a catalog feed, or an inventory feed and one of the newer things that we'll talk about here in a little bit is we're going to be making it easier for anybody, no matter how big or small you are to create a catalog to not only list on marketplace that then will get transferred over to the vehicles tab, but also instantly execute our automotive inventory ads. So, first and foremost, I would ask anyone that's researching automotive inventory ads, no creative as needed it's dynamic, it's based on an inventory feed and once you have a catalog in our system, it will refresh and automatically run. But the second most important campaign, and you might be reading a lot about this you know, in a lot of different places is the value or the experience that the dealership is going to deliver. There's a lot of research out there that is stating that the majority of people now purchase vehicles from a dealership or a company like Carvana or Vroom because of the experience, more so than the price of the vehicle and that's really important that's a mindset shift for many dealers, which is, Oh, wow I should be marketing my brand, my experience, why you should buy from me, we call it the why buy here strategy in our playbook. I would really, really push dealers no matter again if you sell one car a month or 5,000 cars a month that you start to focus on why someone should buy from you over maybe a different vehicle down the street or online, which has now become, you know, a major competitor, because your experience is now more important than, than the price of the car.
Do your catalog, do your brand, and then third, which is in our playbook, CRM remarketing, which is your wheelhouse. We have the ability to take databases, have them load it into Facebook and that actually can be automated through some systems, but have it pushed into Facebook and that now in audiences created that only that dealership can target against because it's their CRM database as they know who they sold to, as they know what they sold to start creating audiences and deliver very, very relevant messages against them. Those are our three strategies, we call it "Why Buy Here" the brand "Ready to Buy", which is VIN specific catalog "Customers for Life", which is CRM remarketing.
Zach: I couldn't agree with you more on customer experience and talk about the importance of being responsive on Facebook marketplace and Facebook in general and how that contributes to the best in class customer experience.
Bob: This is where, in my opinion, the independents or those that are listening right now can really differentiate themselves and I'll explain what I mean with messaging when someone engages via messenger or via text, or whatever that they experience, but when they engage with your dealership, they're interested in your dealership. It doesn't matter if they're not physically there or not; they obviously have an interest in a product or service that you're delivering. Why anyone would outsource their response to that? I don't understand why I've heard many dealers say,” I don't have time to respond to messages,” to me that's saying, well, when someone walks into your dealership, you don't have time to actually talk to them and sell them a car. In my strong opinion, and we've seen the results in the close rates dramatically increase when dealerships respond quickly and, you know, I think there's a difference between how quick you need to respond, whether it's in 24 hours, whether it's an hour but I think if you respectively in a timely manner respond, but you respond from the dealership versus outsourcing you're going to see greater close rates. Yes. You have to work the lead a little bit they're going to have a lot of questions, but I call it digital up it's no different than the physical up in the store they just happened to be on their mobile device and they figured out how to connect with you on via messenger. So long story long here, make sure you respond and what I say is a respectable, timely manner, and respond yourselves. Don't have to like pass the leads to 16 different people to finally get an answer, you know, you want to quickly be able to respond.
Zach: Moving onto another topic. What do you think about new models like subscription and the way Tesla sells EV vehicles online?
Bob: Well, let's just talk about the online piece, I think we're going to have mostly independent dealers listening to the podcast. I think we're already learning what Carvana and Vroom can do, you know there are already others in the works; I've already known of a few others that are in the works, other marketplaces that will solely be able to sell online. I keep hearing, “Oh, I have to have a very expensive digital retailing platform. I have to have this and that in order to do it,” and that is absolutely false. Selling online can simply be responding to messages and working the deal over messenger or text. Selling online is, is, is simply, “Hey, they connected to you online and you have to email stuff back and forth or texts back and forth.” I know a number of dealer groups who have claimed, “Hey, we don't have a very expensive digital retailing platform, but most of our sales are occurring online.” Selling online or at least being accessible online is extremely important and you've got to be personal, it goes back to my messaging conversation. You gotta be personal when you're responding. I have a huge passion and on the selling online piece, and it's not trying to sell you a fancy expensive software it's something that you can just do with the tools that are already in place even your CRM platform, that has integration, everything is logged right then and there. You can create audiences from that, you know, go to the first part of the question about subscriptions and I'm a big fan. I do not have a vehicle that I currently am on a subscription to, but I would 100% look into it. When my lease is up here next year, I am 100% going to look into what the subscription services have the offer. I have heard and maybe, you know, better Zach, but I have heard because one of my first value propositions, I thought on a subscription model was the ability to trade out your cars sooner than, maybe a three-year lease or a 24-month lease. But from what I heard, it's that's secondary to just the fact that through our subscription, everything that I need about the car insurance, maintenance, even car wash and oil change is all in one and to me, that's convenience. That's an experience, I'm going to be looking at. I heard General Motors just announced they're gonna be selling insurance now. How great would it be if you go buy a GM vehicle and you're literally doing your insurance in your car right then and there you don't have to call your agent like, “Oh, can you fax over and prove that I have proof of insurance?” Convenience, experience, that's the biggest takeaway. It's all about the experience, I know we all think we have diamonds in the rough with our used car lot like ,”Oh, someone's specifically looking for this specific vehicle, this specific mileage,” and that's going to hold true for a certain percentage of people, but people will choose to buy a car from you if you offer that experience, Carvana improvement and Vroom have proved that out. We can't deny the fact that they haven't proved that out.
Zach: Give me a peek ahead into 2021. And what Facebook has coming down the pipeline?
Bob: I obviously can't go into too much detail. However, here in the next couple of weeks, you're going to hear an announcement where let me just give you the theme or the summary of what type of products and partnerships, that we're looking for and it goes back to what I said earlier about building products and tools that may get easy to do business with us. So that's exactly what we're looking to do you're going to see easier ways for dealers to be able to list their inventory and manage their inventory on Facebook. You have the listing part, which is great, but now I want to on a daily basis, be able to go in and manage it, look at insights, edit it if I need to do so. Look for more tools that enable listing to be easier and then followed by listing is being able to take that list or that catalog or that feed, and instantly turn it into one of the most powerful ad units digitally, which is our automotive inventory ads. It's almost like a one-stop shop once I get my vehicles on Facebook, I can now use that for marketplace, the vehicles tab, and now automotive inventory ads all by going into an area that I can manage all of that possibly through my page.
Through automotive inventory ads we did launch the ability to as an opt-in, instead of going to a third party dealership's website, we can go on Facebook, which Facebook essentially creates a VDP for your listing, like marketplace. Why do we do that experience? Two primary forms of communication between buyer and seller on marketplace and on Facebook destination for automotive inventory ads, click to call and the primary message there is no form lead and we did that on purpose right now because the experience when people message or call is greater than the form lead experience. I think the industry a hundred percent agrees with that. We wanted to push the users into that experience and then also look for platforms to integrate into Facebook for messaging for the push of CRM audiences to be able to create with one click of a button remarketing against a segmented CRM audience sales match by Facebook has the ability to match back an ad campaign to sales so now we're low pushing that data from the DMS or the CRM platform, and then matching it back so you can get your real return on investment. Look for more integrations with platforms to once again, make it easier for the dealer to click a button and run a very strategic and profitable marketing campaign.
Zach: For independent dealers, what is the Facebook auto marketing collective group and why should they join it?
Bob: About 6 or 7 months ago, when the pandemic hit and we realized people still needed to communicate with each other, still run ideas past each other, still ask for help from each other, but where we used to do it physically at events and multiple events throughout the year we couldn't do that anymore. Having a platform like Facebook, and as I mentioned earlier, Facebook groups, we created a group for dealers to be able to help each other out it, it truly is not a sales tool for Facebook and for anyone that's been on it, or once you do go on it, you'll see that we're not selling, constantly selling on within that Facebook group, the same way a dealership shouldn't be constantly selling it's about the brand. We created the automotive collective group, 6 months ago. Please join it, you can simply read and watch if you choose not to participate, but we would love for you to participate. We have dealers ask questions about their business. We have dealers ask questions about Facebook. We've even had dealers ask questions about Google and Pinterest and SnapChat like we're not here to censor it, the only thing that you have to follow is our community standards we're asking people not to sell products and services, we're asking people, obviously to be respectful of each other but we've seen it grow from zero to almost 3000 dealers and people related to the auto retail space within the first 6 months. And I tell you, I approve the people that go in the list in the group and it's, we're getting quite a bit a day, it's been great. So please join! What I love about automotive retail and I said this on LinkedIn the other day is the community aspect of it I love watching dealers help each other out. They'll post something about an issue they're having with Facebook and I'll just watch and I'm like, okay, should I jump in or should I just see what? And then boom, dealers are just helping each other out and it's fantastic. I'll correct. If something was incorrect, but I'll watch dealers, help each other out. Please join the group, Zach, I know you're going to put the URL and the name of it on the screen. Please join and we'd love to have you
Zach: To close things out, what advice do you have for dealers when it comes to their online presence whether it's across Facebook, Facebook marketplace, Instagram, and social media as a whole?
Bob: Take pride in it, take your time in taking a picture, take your time and adding an overlay or have someone having do it. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes, if they were going to be looking at your dealership's website, the vehicles listed on your website, like where is the car positioned? Is it positioned in front of a garbage can? Is it a position in front of potholes? Where is the car positioned? What angles are you taking? How many pictures are you taking interior, exterior? Just take some pride in the experience that you want to provide and people can see that from researching the vehicle online. Just stop for a second, think about where you want to position the car before you take it. They do not have to be highly produced, I always get that question. Oh, I don't have the money to pay for it. Your iPhone works just fine this iPhone is better than probably most cameras out there. Now it's just, where am I going to put the car? Did I clean the car? How many should I take the front, right, back? The more you can do the more people have the ability to truly see the type of experience you're going to offer, and I say take pride, but don't be afraid to list out your experience, your value proposition, what we call brand promise when you buy from me, here's what you will expect.
Put that out there, when you do the research on those who sell online and they ask. Why did you buy from this particular dealership versus another one? It's the experience, take pride in your experience? Don't be afraid to market your experience and then your vehicle, the old saying of the star is the car if that's true, take some pride in how you market the vehicle.
Zach: You've had some great advice for dealers on Facebook today, and I really appreciate you joining the podcast today, Bob
Bob: Dude, anytime I'll be back as often as you ask.
Zach: Awesome. Thanks.