1. D IGITAL Dealer COVER STORY
Angela Martin, the 32-year-old Internet director for Feldmann Imports in Bloomington,
Minnesota, says she didn’t plan a future that included selling cars over the Internet, but after
nine years having success using the best online technology to move Nissan and Mercedes-Benz
units off the lot, she says she wouldn’t change a thing about her accidental career. As the lone
Internet sales manager for the family-owned dealership in 2006 she was moving about 25 cars
a month. Today, with two additional Internet sales people on board, Martin’s team sells about
67 cars a month. Martin says she’s constantly experimenting with new technology. She credits
her management for its willingness to be quick adopters of whatever works and says thanks to
that, online sales now account for about 30 percent of the dealership’s business; and that
number is still growing despite today’s challenging market.
DD 22 November 2009 DigitalDealer-magazine.com
2. ANGELA, TELL ME WHAT FIRST a month from our three-person depart- Was the business using technol-
ATTRACTED YOU TO BE AUTO INDUSTRY? ment. As technology and the Internet ogy smartly when you arrived?
I moved to the West Coast after department advances there is a great In 2001 when I began my automo-
college without a job or any money. I need for someone to be able to focus tive career, there was not much
was down to $200 and was about to solely on that area of the business. I technology available other than e-mail.
give up when I decided to make some truly believe that this department is as I would say that the automotive busi-
quick cash selling Hondas. I ended up important as any other in a dealership. ness was definitely ahead of other
in the Internet department after a short It is the one area that came in strong businesses at that time with even
time on the sales floor. This is where it 10-plus years ago and continues to gain having a dedicated department.
all began for me. This was 2001 and the more and more momentum everyday. I joined Feldmann Imports when
Internet department was relatively new. It is an exciting place to be. technology really began to explode. We
We basically responded to inquiries by are a very technologically advanced
e-mail that was famous for the upfront company and always looking for the
pricing and saving the customer from a next great thing to arrive. We began
lot of negotiation time. “As technology and the SEM and pay-per-click advertising
The attraction to the Internet aspect before any of our competitors and were
of the automotive business is what has Internet department able to dominate that area for a while
kept me involved for nine years. It is before everyone else jumped on board.
constantly changing and I learn some- advances there is a We worked with AutoMotion in their
thing new everyday. After a four-year developmental stages of video test drives
stint in Oregon I decided to move back great need for someone and were the first dealer in this area to
to my home state of Minnesota. That is provide that to our customers. Most
when I landed with Feldmann Imports, to be able to focus recently we have added online negotia-
almost five years ago. What initially tions to all our new and used vehicles
attracted me to Feldmann Imports was solely on that area of that is provided by Widestorm. This has
that they had a dedicated BDC for the been one of our best investments.
Internet department, incoming and the business.” The technology changes from 2001
follow-up phone calls and service to 2009 have been amazing and
department. The smaller family-owned —Angela Martin Feldmann’s continues to be a leader in
dealership was the other factor that this market. I do spend time research-
brought me here. After being involved ing and seeing what is successful for
with a large dealer group, I wanted to other dealers.
feel involved and the Feldmann family is Can you describe what that posi-
very involved in the dealership and tion entails? It’s a tough market. How are your
dedicated to their employees. I would Feldmann Imports consists of stores performing now?
choose to be with a dealership of this Mercedes, Nissan, smart and pre- All of our stores are performing well.
size over a large group because of the owned. All the dealerships are located We have maintained the same amount
involvement and true passion of the in Bloomington, MN. My position of units as the previous year. We have
Feldmann family and the employees includes managing our three Internet actually had an increase of sales in a few
here. It is fun to come to work everyday managers and a part-time assistant. I areas, which has been very gratifying to
and know that you are making a differ- also review leads, incoming phone calls, all of us at Feldmann Imports. Our
ence in the dealership and providing our reporting of our sales and percentages, increases have been in the sales of pre-
customers with a unique experience. keeping our web sites updated with owned vehicles, primarily certified
current specials, updating new and Mercedes-Benz. We are on track to sell
How did you land as Internet sales used inventory, preparing our monthly 220 additional pre-owned vehicles this
director for Feldmann Imports? newsletter, producing mass e-mails, year; new Nissan and Mercedes sales
Becoming the director of the Internet reviewing site statistics and conver- have recently started to pick up. We
department has been something that sions, special events and much of the expect to surpass our 2008 total units.
has evolved over time and growth. marketing and advertising for the
About a year and a half ago it became Nissan and Mercedes store. There is How did you manage to get these
apparent to the management staff that a definitely a lot of responsibility with results?
director was needed for this growing the director position, but the manage- We have continued to try different
department. ment and Internet team provide great advertising and marketing plans as well
I started at Feldmann Imports as the support and encouragement. The as developing microsites with ADP
only Internet manager selling around Internet department attributes to about digital solution to drive more traffic to
25 vehicles per month. We gradually 30 percent of the Nissan Mercedes and our web site. We have placed our adver-
began adding people to the Internet pre-owned sales; and that percentage tising dollars in the right places that
team. Now we are averaging 67 vehicles continues to grow. have produced new business for us.
DigitalDealer-magazine.com November 2009 DD 23
3. Our clients are very loyal to necessary decisions and continue to approach. They don’t have the amount
Feldmann Imports. Many have allow it to grow. Feldmann Imports has of volume or sales staff that we have at
purchased numerous vehicles from us been involved in the Internet aspect for Nissan and Mercedes, so they distribute
and continue to do business with us many years; it was very refreshing to be the leads to all the sales staff. If the
because of the way they are treated able to step in and have the support of Internet departments continue to grow
here. For example, we provide an everyone from the beginning. as rapidly as they have in the past few
airport shuttle to all customers. We years, there could be a time in the
store their cars for free and provide a What’s the process for receiving future when all sales staff will be trained
ride to and from the airport. We also and distributing Internet leads? to handle internet leads providing tech-
offer weekly massages, manicures and All of our leads are routed into nology and the consumers continue to
shoe shines to all our clients. Most of Higher Gear and are assigned to utilize it to make purchases.
these are unheard of at a dealership. Internet managers from there. All three
First-time customers are always of them handle the pre-owned leads. I Do you have one or several web
surprised with these unique services we have two designated to Nissan and one sites?
offer. Everything we do here revolves to Mercedes. The Internet managers all We have one main page that includes
around making sure our customers are work very well together and are some of all our brands. Then we have an indi-
pleased and remain loyal to us. the most dedicated and determined vidual site for each store; so we have
individuals I have ever worked with. four web sites in all.
Give me an overview of the Because we work out of the BDC, the
importance of Internet sales for Internet managers work very closely What lead-generation tools work
your business. with the sales floor staff as well. We best on your sites?
Like I mentioned earlier, Internet utilize a select group of salespeople to The best lead-generation tool that we
sales contribute to 30 percent of our assist with appointments. These indi- have right now is the ‘negotiate online’
business and continues to grow. It is a viduals have to sell a certain amount of tool. On each vehicle listing there is an
vital piece of this dealership and we are vehicles and maintain a high CSI in icon that says, “negotiate now”, the
so lucky here to have the opportunity to order to receive appointments from our consumer is able to submit the exact
continue to grow the department. Our Internet staff. vehicle they want along with any trade
general manager, Joe Feldmann has information. The system then produces
placed an enormous amount of trust in Does it differ at individual stores? different financing quotes or lease
me and this department to make the Our smart store has a different quotes. Widestorm is a relatively new
DEALERSHIP PARTNERS IN PROFIT:
Dealership name: Vehicle video vendors:
Feldmann Imports AutoMotion
Web site URLs: Online lead generators
Feldmanns.com, FeldmannNissan.com not including the OEM
Web site provider/host:
Web site vehicle photos ZAG
and videos taken by:
AutoUplink Third-party sites where
inventory is posted:
Vehicle Marketing: Autobytel
Digital Motor Works Cars.com
DMS provider: Vehix
Reynolds and Reynolds Vehicle history reports:
BDC software/vendor: Experian Auto Check
Higher Gear Other vendors
Contact at once not listed:
DD 24 November 2009 DigitalDealer-magazine.com
4. company, but they obviously under- We don’t really have a budget. If As far as the online upkeep, our used
stand how consumers prefer to do something is going to give us a car manager and I work very closely on
business. This style of sale produces an competitive edge in our market, then keeping ourselves competitive in the
immediate response to the customer we will give it a shot. We track our market. We look at it daily and adjust
with detailed information for them to marketing efforts very closely to ensure where needed. We are very lucky to
base their decision. that we have the correct systems in have such a great management staff that
I believe the third-party leads are place. Over the last few years the is so versatile.
becoming less effective and the leads majority of our marketing expense has
coming directly from our own web site shifted to online means. What else, technology or sales
provide us with the best leads. philosophy, sets you apart as a
Are you big in the social network- dealer group?
How do you use SEO? ing arena? Our motto is “Service, sales and
We actually switched to BZ Results I am a fan of social networking service” and that is truly what we are all
about a year ago mainly because of because it is a very important way to about. We pride ourselves on the way
issues with SEO on our previous web communicate with many of our we serve and treat our customers. I
site. So with this in mind we built each Generation X and Y customers. With think our customers feel that the
page to contain relevant information that said, we are working on setting up minute they walk in the door. I actually
about that portion of our business. a few different social networking sites hear from customers very often how
ADP has worked very diligently with us and putting together a plan to get different it feels when they enter our
to make sure we have good results with ourselves into this area. I see this as a dealership.
the search engines. We review reports great opportunity to brand our dealer- We are also a technology-advanced
constantly and work to make sure the ships and the best part is they are free! company that strives to be involved
content of our pages is relevant and with the latest advances. We utilize a
consistent with the results we are What new technology trends are few different tools that help us with
looking to achieve. you spotting? inventory and customer retention.
I have always been a big fan of
How are you finding those ‘better’ mobile web sites. The amount of What’s your typical workweek like
keywords for SEM? growth in mobile device capabilities and what do you do to relax out-
The review of weekly reporting of over the last few years has been side of work?
keywords and phrases gives me a great amazing. People are using their mobile There is never a dull moment. My
snapshot of what is working and what devices as their computers much of the day usually starts with checking sold
isn’t. Over the years we have identified time. If this continues, all web sites will units from the previous day and
the keywords that get us conversations need to be mobile-ready. I see this tran- reporting which were Internet sales.
and continue to add and take words sition similar to when the Internet Then I review used inventory and
out. We have actually been able to departments started, some dealers were take the sold units off our web sites
decrease costs in this area due to just on board immediately and others took and re-price used inventory that needs
tailoring our keywords and phrases to their time. The dealerships that were to be adjusted. Next, I will listen to
those that are most effective. willing to make the changes were incoming sales calls from the previous
successful with it long before the day. Then I review our web site
How do you use e-mail cam- dealers that thought the Internet was reports and statistics, update the web
paigns? just a phase. The mobile switch will be site with changes and specials. There
Our strongest campaign is our another interesting change for dealer- are days and weeks that I focus on the
monthly newsletter because we are able ships across the country. newsletter or special events and
to pack so much information about promotions. Throughout the day,
sales, service, parts and specials into one Do you stress pre-owned sales and every day, I am working with the
mailing. We usually see a big increase of how does the group manage the Internet managers and sales managers
web visitors in the days following the inventory? to help put deals together. It makes
newsletter. We are able to track what We definitely have a very strong for a busy, yet exciting day.
articles are viewed most, which allows pre-owned department. It is an area Relax? I haven’t had much of that
us to focus on the areas that our that has continued to grow rapidly for since my son was born three years ago.
customers have the greatest interest. us. We have an outstanding pre- My time outside of work consists of
We also use e-mail campaigns when owned inventory. At this time our playing trucks and riding bikes to the
a new program or special is announced Nissan and Mercedes dealerships park with Blake, my son. It is actually
or if we have a great service special share a pre-owned inventory space. the most fun I have ever had. We have
going on. I try to limit the amount of Because the stores are right next to a blast together and there is never a dull
e-mails to two or three a month and each other, we are able to keep the lot moment from sun up to sun down. I
target just the customers that the in between the two stores. All of our love every minute of my life. I wouldn’t
particular special pertains. desk managers are trained to work on change a single thing about it!
both new and pre-owned vehicles, so
What about your marketing they are able to rotate between loca- amartin@DigitalDealer-
expenses? tions and brands. magazine.com
DigitalDealer-magazine.com November 2009 DD 25