In this interview, Kristen Judd, CEO & Co-Founder at 3 Birds Marketing encourages business leaders in automotive to invest in themselves and partner with agility. Watch here as she describes what that means and powerful steps they can take now to prepare for what's next.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE THEN AND NOW
I realized that the last time we spoke in the early days of the COVID pandemic. We were talking about some of the adapting that dealers were having to do; dealing with so much uncertainty, getting communications out, and trying to find a good way to keep their customers informed about what was going on. So it's interesting that we're sitting down again to talk about something that is so related to that topic today.
Let's take a step back. 3 Birds Marketing recently received global recognition for your work during COVID-19. It was called the, "In This Together" campaign, developed in response to helping dealers pivot their marketing strategy at the onset of coronavirus shutdowns. How this is significant to the work that 3 Birds does on behalf of its clients overall?
It's always a big honor to receive awards like that, especially this one. It's really a testament to the good work that our team did, and it's nice to be recognized. But the fact of the matter is what we did was note worthy, but it wasn't really that special or different from the way that we work with our clients on a daily basis - to provide high quality messaging and communication, and to use data to get the right messages to the right customers, and to do it in a dynamic way. We're leveraging data, continuing to enhance their data, and delivering smarter messaging based on what people are indicating that they're interested in and the intent that they're demonstrating.
The idea was that we were looking for areas of opportunity that might be a little bit more unique, or in this case of COVID, to adapt to a change. In the past, it was rising to the challenge of uncertainty in the marketplace and in the world in general. We were hearing things in the industry like "What's gonna happen?", "Are businesses going to be shut down?", "Am I going to be able to go to work if I work in a dealership?". And consumer were asking the automotive industry, "Am I gonna be able to get my car serviced?" and "Am I gonna be safe when I do that?" or "How am I gonna get there? Can you come to my house and pick it up?", and of course, "What if I need to buy a car?" So we really worked with our clients to help them get out in front of challenges.
I think that having that kind of a partner provided such a tremendous amount of peace of mind to our clients that it was one less thing to be worried about in the midst of so many things to be worried about. Just to know that there was a partner there that was ready to say, "Hey, we've thought about this, we have some great messaging, let's talk about it, let's get it out quickly so you can do what you need to do to be managing the other parts of your business." That's really why we were recognized.
We have built our platform to be incredibly configurable, we have a team that produces high-quality content, and we have Digital Strategies that form amazing relationships with their dealers so that they can anticipate their needs and help look for those opportunities. It all allows us to be very agile and to pivot, to adapt and respond, to whatever challenge a client might be facing - from something as simple as needing to sell a particular model, or needing to acquire a particular model, or dealing with a world pandemic. The unique challenge that might not be realistic now, but in the near future, might be a Honda dealer telling us that he has too many orange Insights on a lot and need help coming up with a strategy to sell some of the cars to which they have over-stocked. We can act quickly to provide a proven solution to maximize every opportunity then, now, and for what's next.
GETTING AHEAD OF WHAT'S NEXT
As the automotive industry seems to find themselves with new challenges as yet another aftershock from the pandemic, how have your Digital Strategist and your sales team been able to help dealers get ahead of what's going on in the world today?
Our sales team and our Digital Strategists are the front lines. They are our client-facing people working with dealers and spending time with them in their dealerships, talking to them, pouring over their websites, and looking at their inventory supply. Not surprisingly, it became clear that we were going to have supply chain issues pretty early-on. There has certainly been a lot of conversation and coverage about that since then and it's impacting a lot of industries in automotive. The chips are a big issue, but it's also rubber and other supplies, and it's not just automotive. So many industries are impacted too.
That's the latest challenge, but it's something that, because we keep our finger on the pulse of our clients and are working with them and collecting feedback all the time, we see the challenges when they're out on the horizon. So we want to respond, get out in front of them, and help our clients get out in front of them, because when you see those dark storm clouds coming, you want make sure that you're ready for the storm that you might have to weather. That's what we've been working on with our clients as it relates to some of the supply issues and the impact it's having on inventory.
"When you see those dark storm clouds coming, you want make sure that you're ready for the storm that you might have to weather."
You are prepared not only for the storm that's coming, but it's something that you've always done, so you're not scrambling to kind of come up with a response or being reactive. It's a very proactive approach to just business continuity.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
You mentioned this idea of investing in yourself the other day, and how that carries through to business continuity as a whole. Many businesses have had to take a sharp look at their vendors in order to find ways to cut budget over this past year. Do you have any insight or thoughts into this?
We think a little bit differently at 3 Birds. Pandemic or no pandemic, the industry is always a challenge. Dealers are tough and adaptable, and they weather them. We want to support them and help them with that adaptability. So the way that we've always looked at things is that it's never a mistake to invest in yourself, if you will.
Investing in yourself has to do with your organic presence. How are you holding yourself out online? Are you investing in your website and quality content? Are you investing in your first-party data?
"It's never a mistake to enrich your first-party data."
I think that there's often a tendency to want to charge hard and to put money out against something; to conquest and to get more. That that is not necessarily a mistake, and there's always a place for it, but if that's your only strategy, you're missing out in terms of opportunity right there at your fingertips. A lot of people spend a lot of money on Google and Facebook. There can be a great return there. But Google and Facebook make a lot of money already, so let's invest in things that are going to help you to enrich your own first-party data and enrich your organic presence.
Investing your customers and your team are also a big part of it. Give your team better tools to capture that low-hanging fruit. There's so much opportunity and if you're not fully harvesting that, you're missing out and making things harder than they need to be. This is a philosophy that we've had for a long time, and the way that we try and set up the data within the system.
The advice that I would give to dealers is...
- To stop struggling and start strategizing
- To invest in themselves and their team
- To keep a quality communication with your customers and make sure that it is tailored to what they are interested in
- More than anything, to partner with agility
That's what we want to do. We want be the partner with agility who's able to help dealers respond to whatever challenge is coming down the pike, big and small. Hopefully the next challenge will be "How do we sell all of this inventory that we now have?" But right now, the challenges are a little bit different. So our current focus is - how can we make sure that you have enough inventory - and we have great tools and programs that were beefed up just a little bit more to respond to this current challenge of organically acquiring inventory. Our Virtual Car Lot™ is just a more cost effective way to do so.
A REAL-WORLD VISUAL DATA STORY
I've seen that Virtual Car Lot™ performs better. I see in the data that I see, in the data you have pulled, and the research that I've done online. The visualizations on your virtual car lot has made it so easy. It's not just another list dealers have to pull or another dashboard they have to manage. It's literally so visual and so easy. Tell me about that.
When you're using data in a smart way, everybody wins. I was speaking with our VP of Sales this morning as she paying a visit on one of our clients. They were looking at some of the data together on the Virtual Car Lot™. They, like many other dealers, are trying to find used inventory to make up for some of the shortages in new car inventory right now, and our VP was pointing out some of the places that you can go in the VCL dashboard to find it. She continued to tell me about they were looking at some of the lease expirations coming up. There was a customer that was in a penalty position; her lease was going to be up in two months and she was going to owe about $2,600 in penalties for going over her mileage amount. They literally called her on the phone while our VP was in the dealership and scheduled an appointment for her to come in that afternoon - and the customer was delighted because the dealerships being helpful to her. That's a win-win situation.
"When you're using data in a smart way, everybody wins."
They were able to show that that they are paying attention to the data. They're paying attention to it and we help them to pay attention to it. The dealership gets a car and the customer avoids the hefty penalty. Virtual Car Lot™ is just one easy place where you find these opportunities. I think that, especially in automotive, everybody wants to throw the Hail Mary pass, but it's really a game of inches, not miles, Times like these are when you have to dig deep and you also look at what you have already at your fingertips to go and find every one of those deals. They're in there, you just need to look at the data.
Do you have any last thoughts? More importantly, are there any exciting things on the horizon for 3 Birds and your dealership partners?
They are always exciting things on the horizon. We continue to invest in our technology and our team. Our team is continuing to grow, and we are very focused on marketing for our clients. We don't toot our own horn enough, but there is going to be more and more exciting news coming out of 3 Birds with respect to new partnerships and new product releases. I'm gonna tease those a little bit. I encourage everybody to stay tuned. We already have so many exciting things happening with Virtual Car Lot™ that we are thrilled to be bringing more of our ideas and our vision to fruition with what's coming in the near future.