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The Right Strategies for Communicating with Customers with Pete Petersen of Dealers United

  • August 13, 2021
41 min read
The Right Strategies for Communicating with Customers with Pete Petersen of Dealers United

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

Pete Petersen
CEO and Managing Partner, Dealers United

Pete Petersen is the CEO and Managing Partner of Dealers United, a Facebook Marketing Partner and AdTech company specializing in the automotive vertical. Pete sold his first company at 23 and went on to grow S-One Holdings Corporation and LexJet to a revenue of over $100 million in under 10 years. In this role, Pete’s expertise revolved around aligning technology, operations, and growth for all S-One companies, including Hewlett Packard, Kodak, and LexJet brands worldwide.

Pete has been covered extensively, with features in the Business Observer, AutoNews, and Inc. magazine. He has a Bachelor of Arts in business management and a Certificate in IS/IT project management. He lives in Sarasota, Florida with his wife and three children.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Pete Petersen explains how the name “Dealers United” came about and talks about his entrepreneurial background
  • Pete’s first business and the lessons he learned from that early venture
  • What led to the success of S-One Holdings Corporation and what Pete took away from that experience
  • The importance of shifting your focus to providing great customer service
  • Pete’s experience shopping and receiving customer support on Amazon
  • Pete shares his advice to dealerships on branding and micro-targeting
  • The utility of leveraging video marketing and the value of using referrals and influencers to drive sales
  • How Dealers United helps dealerships solve their business challenges
  • Where to learn more about Dealers United

In this episode…

Advancements in technology have brought about many changes in the way businesses communicate with their existing and potential customers. There are now many options to choose from, and according to Pete Petersen, dealerships should be lined up and ready to offer a variety of communication channels to their customers — based on their preferences.

Customers like communicating with businesses in a simple, natural way. Some prefer receiving calls, others prefer text messages, while still others prefer emails. This means that it’s important for dealerships to focus on what makes a great conversation with their customers — particularly, what platforms will make this possible.

In this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, Aharon Horwitz interviews Pete Petersen, the CEO and Managing Partner of Dealers United, about the strategies dealerships can use to communicate better with their customers. Pete explains how Dealers United helps dealerships solve their business challenges and talks about using video, referrals, and influencers to drive car sales.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Aharon Horwitz 0:14

Here we are, wow. Back on the InsideAuto Podcast. My co-host Ilana is not with us today but our guest is amazing. So we’re super, super excited. This is Aharon Horwitz here, host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. Before we introduce today’s guest, this episode is sponsored by The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful, it allows you to market, sell, and service cars as you would in the real world at scale and online making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform that is powered by scale, speed, and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing. Pete Petersen, welcome. How are you?

Pete Petersen 1:03

How’s it going? I love the pitch on there, too. I love the intro side of it. We’re doing awesome today. I’m really happy to be here. We’ve talked a lot in the industry excited. I’ve listened to the show many times. I think you guys are doing a bang up job. So happy to be here. Thank you. Thank you.

Aharon Horwitz 1:16

Yeah. So Pete, for those who don’t know, are from our listeners, I’m sure most of you know. But Pete is the CEO and managing partner of Dealers United. One of the I think the most interesting and innovative advertising, social media marketing, and many other parts of the funnel platform in the auto industry. Prior to that Pete has been all over the business world, including some very, very significant transactions, fortune 500 companies so we have a lot of things that we can talk about. He lives in beautiful Sarasota with his amazing family. three kids. lovely wife, Kristin. This is it, the life Pete. I see the Nolan Ryan jersey behind you. Right, that’s a lights out baby. strikeout King, very nice. Well, listen, we, as you know, like to learn a lot on this podcast about the person and talk a little bit about automotive. I will tell you, and I’m this, how you feel about this. But I think Dealers United is a very bold name for a company, meaning it makes me think of a picket line of a revolution of some level of just movement and, and statement. What’s the origin of that? What’s the concept? What’s that name imbued with? The name of your company?

Pete Petersen 2:33

Yeah, so originally it was my two business partners are Jesse Biter, who founded HomeNet, sold that to AutoTrader in 2010, and Matthew, a top 100 Ford dealer, located here at Sarasota Ford, and they were together and they saw the industry in 2010 kind of going through some turmoil after, you know, the 2007 great recession that we had. And they realized dealers didn’t have the same buying power as the big mega groups. And so they really set out to build the largest dealer group that came together for buying power. And so the company started out negotiating products and services, somewhat due to non-competes with the trade from autotrader. But really, the big side was, you know, Matt wanted to go out as his dad sold, he had about 26 dealerships at the time, he went down to two or three, as his dad sold them off and went into Congress. And he realized he didn’t have the same buying power. He wants it. And everybody’s like, Matt, we love you. But your CRM price has tripled, right? And he’s like, why he’s like, well, you don’t have 25 stores anymore, so you got to pay more, right. And so that single point started having a big cost disadvantage on operational costs. So his whole goal was to try to make operational costs the same for all dealers, leveling the playing field and giving everybody the ability to compete. And we feel like right now with digital, there’s this digital revolution. And that’s what we’re trying to help with right now is really go out there, find the right mediums for the customer to work with, and make sure that they’re not wasting money out there, so that they can level the playing field and go out there and reach their local buyer.

Aharon Horwitz 4:04

So you know, as you point out, we live in these, like changing worlds and changing landscapes, and right now things are changing a lot. I think the skills to handle that are different, maybe than what they were 10 years ago, 1520 years ago. So I’m curious about yourself and it’s great to learn a little bit about you on a personal level in this conversation. But you were actually an entrepreneur at a very young age. Is that correct? Yeah, I sold my first business at 23 so 21 I started the company so tell me even take you back before that because we’ll get to 21 your age 21 in a minute, but did you have that characteristic in your even younger life? Like how did that show up in high school in college? What is it all? Yeah, no, I definitely did. I mean, I was crazy in college not doing well.

Pete Petersen 4:53

Yeah, that too, but my dad was a professional fireman. My mom kind of bounced between jobs so they were very blue collar. I grew up, I never really went on family trips. And for me, it was like a big part. My aunt worked for United Healthcare. And I saw the wealth that she gained from going down this corporate path. And she had a beach house, and she had this and she would take me places. And that was kind of my exposure to like, What a life was like, like, I was like, Wow, that’s really cool. And I was always driven by that side. So I always had a job. You know, from the time I was probably 10, or 11. I think I started my first you know, landscaping, I had a paper route, I mean, but for those that are old enough to realize that I had a paper route, I literally was cutting the lawn, I had my parents joke with me, I had a lawn mowing and babysitting card, right? I would do whatever, it didn’t matter, right? When you need to pick up sticks, or you want me to watch your kid. If there was money involved, I was down for it. I was

Aharon Horwitz 5:41

I was your How was your paper toss?

Pete Petersen 5:43

Probably not good. I was really good at collecting money, though, on, you know, going around the neighborhood and making sure we got paid. So the rest of it, you know, the product side of it. At that time, I was still learning how to do product delivery. So it teaches you a lot. But yeah, I was always involved. I’ve worked on farms. I worked in a big, you know, masonry shop where I literally was loading cars up. So anything I could put my hands on and do but then I realized, like physical labor was not something I wanted to do for my whole life. So I tried to really pivot and learn business. And that’s where I started finding mentors. And they really helped me at like, 14-15 start, you know, becoming involved in like the business side of things

Aharon Horwitz 6:19

got in. So what did you do? What was that first company? So the base was, for what that I sold her that I worked? Yeah, really. And I wanted to go from age 21 to 23.

Pete Petersen 6:29

Yeah, so I moved to Sarasota, Florida, my parents had retired down here. And I realized it was a big gap for a technology company. So at that point, everything was kind of going to these little central office systems servers were going in racks. So I went to like lawyers and doctors, HIPAA was a big thing for doctors offices. So I was just getting them compliant, putting in printers and centralized systems and, you know, taking care of their workstation. So I was able to go around and kind of have a, you know, small business serving small businesses. And then one of my customers actually wound up acquiring me because they wanted to grow. And they were doing about three and a half million dollars, and they had a desire to be a $100 million business. And we were able to achieve that, you know, in under 10 years, which was great. So it was a great transplant.

Aharon Horwitz 7:12

Got it and what and when you what was the biggest lesson learned from that first business, from your perspective, oh,

Pete Petersen 7:19

man, it’s tough, you know, going at it alone, you know, that 21 you don’t know anything, which is your best, your best strength and your biggest weakness, right. But um, you know, mentors, trying to find those, you know, the biggest, the biggest advice is just, you know, you have to ask for help, you have to ask your customers for help. You know, we were bootstrapped. And I’ve always believed in kind of a bootstrap business, I know, you and I have taken kind of different approaches to life in some ways, but for me, it was, you know, it was realizing like, keep your expenses super thin, do a lot of stuff on your own. And I think it was that the hardest part was like, when to get your first employee how to what that first employee was going to be, you know, knowing that all that cash wasn’t coming into you to pay your expenses that you have to like to shell it out and kind of be in broke. But, you know, being 21, being able to live at home, and mom and dad really helps a lot in a bootstrap modal. So you know, now that I’ve kids, and I’m older, and a lot more responsibilities, it’s not easy to do that same model, you know,

Aharon Horwitz 8:12

got it. And then after that you moved on at some point to be part of being an S-One you were running, you’re working with some of the kind of, you know, most well known brands out there. What was the like, what, what kind of what changed there? Like, what did you have to learn in order to be successful at that level? versus say, where you were when you were more in an entrepreneurial mode? Yeah,

Pete Petersen 8:35

I mean, there was all about scale. So I was like, number 10. employee, and we took it to 200 plus employees. And so a lot of it was just understanding leadership. And, you know, really, at that point, you know, the one thing that relieved me is I didn’t have to worry about where the cash was coming from. Our founders were very well in tune with the banks. So we’re learning a lot. They were investing a ton in us. But it was really about how to build a strong culture, how to lead people, and how to build teams. Right, right. I think that was the biggest reason that we were successful is we built an amazing culture, we organized our teams very well. And we invested a ton into internal technology that allowed us to scale our business. And so we focused a ton on our culture, a ton on our systems, our business rules, I think business rules, planning, and really having a system to automate those. And making sure when we are focused on things, we’re always focusing on the customer experience and how the customer needs to be treated. And that allowed us to literally either acquire our competition or put them out of business in many cases, and it wound us up even allowing us to acquire an entire division of Hewlett Packard on a brand licensing agreement because we were running our business more efficiently than a fortune 500 company was. Got it.

Aharon Horwitz 9:44

Yeah, it’s so interesting with how customer service has really become this watchword, I mean, and somebody that attributes that to Amazon, right, that kind of, you know, Jeff Bezos sort of grabbed that. But obviously Amazon was The first company to focus obsessively on customer service. You know, this case study about nordstroms and other companies. And I just think that it always comes back to that doesn’t it and everything that, you know, the customer experience the customer, being able to communicate with the customer and give them what they need is just the most important thing. It’s 100%.

Pete Petersen 10:17

I mean, at the end of the day, they’re the ones who fund your business, right. And if you can’t get a customer to do it, you might have inflections of a bank or VC funding or something. But at the end of the day, your customer, if you’re doing things in the eyes of the customer the right way, right, the market will always tell you if you’re doing good or bad, it will support you or not. And, you know, if you’re not adapting to your customers, and you take COVID, for instance, I mean, look at how business has been interrupted and shifted and how people have either gone out of business or you watch the other ones booming through this time. Alright, just listened and started adapting their business to where the customer wants to transact or where they want to receive the data. So really interesting.

Aharon Horwitz 10:56

Yeah, I think a lot about how to, there just seemed to be companies in very rigid framework for interacting with customers. And there’s a good reason for that, right? A ticket has to come in the end, once you have more than one customer, or 10, or 20, or 30, whatever it is, you do need to be able to track in a very organized way. But I find that frustrating as a customer being, if I’m a customer, I just want to be the only customer. And I would love to just be able to interact with the company in the most natural way and not have to like, you know, I’m saying this is a company that has all the things that I’m talking about the ticketing systems and all that. I often think about that, like what could we do? And what can we innovate in this company, or in any company, but to really just get the customer interactions to be entirely natural fast. Phone is obviously great, and just letting customers call you dealers in particular, I think they’d love to pick up the phone. Yeah, you there’s also like to text, right, and there are dealers that text me, right. Yeah, there’s like, some dealers like to leave you a voice note. Right. Other dealers like to, it’s just, it just should flow in the most natural way for every individual customer. And there aren’t really systems that do that. And give you the back office to manage it. Well. Yeah, I think about that a lot when it comes to things like, I don’t know what you guys use for all your customer management stuff. But I think we use something called Zendesk, which is a very common platform. I wish there was more there around the customer facing side that was just easier to flow.

Pete Petersen 12:27

Yeah, I think it’s always tough, because technology’s constantly iterating. And now you’ve got like, in platform like messenger that starts, you know, having conversations and even,

Aharon Horwitz 12:37

you know, an intercom or something like that. Right. Yeah.

Pete Petersen 12:39

So, so having that, and then you’ve got online chat. So yeah, there definitely is, I think a lot of people are trying to solve for that right now. There’s a lot of technology. You know, at the end of the day, I think it comes down to, you know, one of our customers who’s a third generation Ford dealer, set it really great. He’s 28 years old, and he goes, Hey, Pete, you know, my grandfather sold cars, my dad sold cars, I sell cars. And in the service based business, the questions haven’t changed at all right? They still want to know, can I afford this? What’s the right car for my family? where people are having the questions and where people are asking, the questions are changing, right. And you saw it back, you know, in the like, late 2000s. It started in online forums, right. So if you were present there, you could win that game and chat with people. Now they’re having, you know, in conversations, obviously, you know, if you’re in the friend or friend side of it, if you can be listening all the time, and a friend says, Hey, you know, where’s the best place to buy a car? And you can be right? They’re always saying, oh, right here at my dealership, you’ve won it, but they’re happening all over. It’s just when and how are you interjecting yourself into those conversations? And when the customer wants to communicate with you? Are you offering them the choice on how they want to communicate? For that experience? I think I was just talking to one of my friends who just sold his business to one of the largest private equity companies around Plumbing and Air can air conditioning and stuff like that. And he was having the same struggle. He’s like, man, we’re getting, you know, I used to call and confirm all of our appointments via phone. And then now we’re starting to text everybody on and I feel like we’re losing that customer experience a simple Look, I’m one of your customers, actually. And I prefer to get a text message when someone’s on the route. Because if not, you’re calling me while I’m in the middle of hosting a podcast with my buddy in the middle of it, you know? And then I’ve got to answer the phone to make sure that you’re going to show up. If I just know you’re coming. Great. I know you’re coming. Everything’s good to go. That’s the right time to use text messaging. So I think it’s about us reevaluating our process and saying, Okay, what entry points how do we start these conversations? Where can we pick them up? You know, and not forcing that process where you know, if it starts on text or phone or here, it always has to go back to a phone call. I’m usually a big fan of it starting with a text message. keep that message going until you say hey, you know what, it makes sense to jump on a call real quick and just talk about it and then get them over.

Aharon Horwitz 14:52

So it’s about those handoff protocols, I think absolutely. I mean, I think that that’s the way I and some of the platforms. Again, thinking b2b here not talking about Yep, dealer to customer unnecessarily. But from a business to a dealer, there are some really good platforms. And there’s some good platforms that can handle those handoffs. It still feels clunky. I think that I find the most challenging, by the way, Amazon’s also clunky. I mean, after I returned this thing didn’t calm or whatever it was. I guess it’s great. But it’s not easy to do that. It’s not just like, oh, here, a voice note I need to solve and, you know,

Pete Petersen 15:26

yeah, they’re getting less friction full. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, my kid just broke his little fire tablet that he has, and they have that, you know, worry free guarantee. And I went on there on my other iPad that I had, or whatever, and I started a message with them. And, you know, they must have a rule engine. I’ve never done a return before. I told him I had a cracked screen, he asked me to read it, or they just approved it. Yeah. And it was like, like, two days later, I had a brand new one, they sent me a return label. And it was a great experience. Right? And so you look and go,

Aharon Horwitz 15:54

Okay, I know there are, that is true. 100%. But even there, tell me if I’m wrong. Did you just go chat? Or did you have to interact with the forum at any point?

Pete Petersen 16:03

No, I just chatted, I just did straight chat. I went into my order history, I clicked on it and said there was a problem with it. And then it brought me right into a chat and said, Is it a cracked screen? I must have been one of the ones that knows that it goes quick. And there must be some again, I think it’s about planning the business rules, has this customer returned five of these before? Okay, you might ask questions for me, because I’ve had no problems with them, I probably show up on a low score. And I’m sure that they’ve got scores on every one of our other customers, I don’t think the average cart value might be part of it. lifetime value, whatever, you know, return ratio. So these are the things again, in my last company, we spent a lot of time as you get to scale like that you’re planning on and seeing, okay, what’s the risk assessment and then trying to make sure that your frontlines are enabled to make those decisions without the customer getting pissed that you go, Oh, I gotta call a manager, I’ve got to get someone else involved. Right before and they’re asking to return just return it right? If they do it every single month, you know, that cuts that person’s problem, you have to have a big, big-person conversation with that, or say, Hey, we’re not taking this back. I know, we have 30 day, but you’re constantly doing, you know, this to us. And, you know, I think that’s where a lot of these retailers get hurt if they don’t have enough business rules and you know, autonomy in those business rules to make good business decisions happen.

Aharon Horwitz 17:17

Right? Absolutely. I think the whole idea of analyzing any friction with customers is, that’s just the number one most important thing in any business today. And if you can, you can see friction and get rid of it. That’s just everything. Absolutely. So let’s talk about Dealers United, what you’re what you’re thinking about right now, as you guys interact with dealers, and you provide services you provide marketing services you provide, I assume? Not exactly consulting, but partnership, you help them think about strategy. And really, what’s the thing that’s most interesting to you right now, what’s on your guy’s mind? What’s that conversation that’s going on with the dealers? That’s most relevant, most interesting, most top of mind for you and your team?

Pete Petersen 18:07

Yeah, I think you know, dealers are in such a an amazing opportunity right now, if they really start understanding the ability that they can have direct to consumer conversations without middlemen, right, I think when you look at this ability to truly, you know, take your brand to your local market, and put your brand on everything, not not a third party or some some other you know, provider, but everything you put out there has your logo, your name, your analytics, and when you’re building a data warehouse around what your what your local market is doing, and you’re becoming more powerful around that, I think when you get that the game changes completely for you. short and long term, I think long term, you are constantly building Top of Mind awareness, and you are the go to. And you know, at the end of the day, when you’ve got a consumer that you can reach and communicate with, they’re the ones who solve your business problems, right? They’re the ones that you know, can buy the new car, buy the used car come service from you, they might even be your future employee, right, going and finding, you know, employees without using you know, indeed and stuff like just directly going out and saying, Hey, we have a job opening and you look similar to my technicians I have I have a technician job open, would you be interested, we have awesome benefits. Here’s our culture. And I think the power of storytelling, your brand, and dealers are the best right? At the end of the day, when you look at things like these are great people running great small businesses in every single local economy. And the worst thing that they’ve had is they haven’t been able to really tell their story in multiple ways, right? And the story is not the same for the soccer mom living there, right or the baseball dad or the people and so I always tell dealers, they have an opportunity just like they did in the 50s and the 60s where you had a you know, a sales rep that would hang out at the bar and you’d have one that hang out the church and when they would hang out at the little league field would that’s all micro targeting now and all you know finding people who are interested in that That thing that you do so let’s say the baseball, Little League Baseball, you sponsor a little league, it’s really pompous to go on TV and be like I sponsor the Little League, you know, this year, but it’s really easy to go in and tell people that are already like the little league around you, their kids play and they’re looking for a new vehicle that you know, in showing a team photo, let’s say, with your with Sarasota, Florida, all over it, right, and then going, Oh, my God, they sponsor my kids, you know, my kids Little League competitive team, I should go take a look at that deal are they they’re involved in the same community I’m involved in. And I think, a really cool opportunity for any small business at this point, especially a local brick and mortar, I think the power of the technology that’s at these folks hands now gives every business the ability to go directly get their customers, and really make it scary, because there’s a lot to manage, right. And I know your software really helps a lot of that as well. But it’s also an amazing opportunity, once you understand it. And if you educate yourself and you educate your team, you are going to separate yourself by light years to your competition in the next few years. And I really truly believe it’s going to be the thing that separates you from what combines with your culture, internally, your training culture is going to be the big separator.

Aharon Horwitz 21:11

Yeah, I think that that’s a really good point. If you look at the way that we’ve come full circle on that, it’s a very deep insight. Because the dealers have gone through this. I mean, we’re past it now. But it was really a 15 years, 20 years, where they were almost entirely disintermediated from their customer, right, as things moved on the internet. And dealers weren’t necessarily not everyone was seeing around the corner and understanding where it was gonna go. You, you as a dealer really just became like a phone number, a price. Going from being the hub of the community, to essentially being just like data on the internet, where your name barely ever showed up, because someone had to submit a lead, you have to pay them pay pay a classified site to show your name, I just think there’s such a closing of the loop now, or dealers can go direct again with their own brand. And that’s a huge, it’s just a huge difference.

Pete Petersen 22:09

Yeah. And I think again, at the end of the day, you get to showcase, you know, and what we try to do is we layer in training, like what useful conversations you shouldn’t be having, we teach like a thing called bring your own video. So you know, we had bought a video company, and then we kind of unraveled it. And one of the reasons was we’re like, Look, why are we sending a video crew to try to do this, when we have everybody’s got a smartphone in their pocket, you teach someone a couple quick techniques on how to hold the camera vertical, if they’re going to shoot natively for Instagram, or Snapchat or tik tok, let’s say and you turn it sideways, if you’re going to go for YouTube, and you might have to create similar content, but designing for the designing for the the intended audience is going to be critical, right. So taking these short, you know, snippets of content and feeling native in that platform is going to allow you to have higher engagement, higher click through higher watch rates, right. And at the end of the day, if you could get someone to watch a 62nd walk around, you know, on your website, you would think that’s great, well, you have the ability to go take that and put it out and see 20,000 people seeing that now and see who’s watching it and who’s not and taking further insight from it. So I think it’s a huge opportunity for people to start understanding and then I think too like a lot of argument I get from dealers as well I don’t want my sales guys out on camera doing that kind of stuff I might be well then they might not be the best salespeople for you because eventually your customer is going to have to interact with them right so I think it really changes the ability for us to see who’s camera ready all the time. You should 100% if you’re in the sales job, be ready to take a sales call at any given moment and you should always be presentable ready to go doing your job right and so this makes people better because they get to learn how to be on camera and let’s face it now with with COVID people want virtual walk arounds I’m looking at buying a potential second home where I’m from and I’m having the realtor send me walk around videos I don’t want to go to the house I don’t have the time I’m just busy right she sent me I’m like okay, now I really like that one the pictures stunk from it but the walk around was amazing and she did a phenomenal job telling me about why this would be a great fit for my family it was personalized man now it brought me so much closer and I’m probably going to make a very large transaction never even seen the house you know 1000 miles away from where I live right now which is crazy

Aharon Horwitz 24:18

totally yeah that that really is a very great example because there’s just so many transactions happening off of a friend doing a walk around with a with on WhatsApp or on you know just just shooting a video and it really is incredible how much commerce is essentially transacted off the radar through friend to friend videos right and we were not even try I mean we’re tracking virtual buys of cars but there’s so much involved in in so much happening right now in that like peer to peer network around recommendations and word of mouth and just videos everything in that way. Totally Good point.

Pete Petersen 24:55

Well that’s where I think another big opportunity will probably come in. You know, you talk about influencers and stuff, but it’s really the people that are buying from you or the influencer, right? It’s all about making sure that when someone says, Hey, I’m looking for a vehicle, well they step up and say, Oh my god, you got a call. And then hopefully they say, call my sales rep, right? Because what I did is my friend who lives in this town out of my hometown, I know he bought like, 10 pieces of real estate. So he’s probably one of my more active real estate friends that I have. I just called him and I said, Hey, who’s the person you use? And he’s like, Oh, yes. And then all that he gave me her contact information, had a bunch of notes in the contact card, I called her directly, and now we’re doing business right? In a day. And so all of the digital signals I put out there, and it’s great, you know, we could do the ads and stuff. And she did it, she did a good job, because she’s been doing local branding and ads, and she’s like, oh, you’re gonna see her, when you come up here. She’s everywhere. Everybody knows her. I’m like, cool. That’s what I’m looking for. I want to make sure I get a realtor that’s out there, that is gonna open the door and know that it’s a serious buyer coming in, right? So I think it’s a lot of these taking the organic side of what happens and where we don’t have to spend and spend, right? And I’m not talking about social media posting on your page, I’m talking about What can your employees do that tier for the marketing side of things, all the way over to, you know, what you can do from an advertisement. So if you get some really great content pieces that look natural, and again, the best pieces we see are not the OEM driven incentives for 0% APR, they’re the ones that look native of someone standing by a car that says, I love this from, you know, XYZ, and the old school stuff and getting your license plate frame into certain neighborhoods so that the Jones effects happens, right, so we all know, like, you know, the next door neighbor gets a brand new car boys looking and going where they go, and where they get that from targeting certain pockets of a community and putting your license plate frame into certain driveways, that whole neighborhood will eventually buy your brand. If they’re going to your brand, they’re not going to buy from the further dealer as a whole. So and then at that point, they’re going to ask, Hey, where’d you get that from? Oh, Joe, at the XYZ dealership, and then they directly exchange connections. So doing this, it’s all got to be connected, right?

Aharon Horwitz 27:01

It’s all a part of one framework. And on the other hand, sometimes we over prioritize, like, connecting everything. I mean, my company is premised on the ability to build a single data layer where everything is connected. But on the other hand, sometimes, you know what, this just works?

Pete Petersen 27:26

Just do it, you know, so I can see, it’s always tough. I mean, how many times have you been fired? Right? And me, me as well, because they don’t feel it’s working. Right? That feeling side of it’s a big and as a business owner, your gut is a big part of other divisions, right. And at the end of the day, I think, quantitative side, so it’s, but again, this is where strategy is important. And us as vendors or partners, hopefully we get considered instead of a vendor is about strategy and understanding. Okay, what are your pain points? So, you know, we like to use DigitalMarketer, we’re good friends with Ryan Deiss and the team over there, we’re a partner of DigitalMarketer, and they have a thing called customer value optimization. It’s nine parts that a customer flows through from being a complete stranger to a raving fan. And these are frameworks that HubSpot teaches and others if you look at the inbound strategy, and so we’ll look at this from an automotive buyer journey and try to help dealers understand Okay, cool, like, we’re probably not going to be really good at the value ladder, we call it like when someone comes in, and they want to buy the car, because we don’t really build tools around the CRM or anything around that. But we can definitely help you. Again, if you’ve missed a service opportunity or, or a an opportunity to sell gap insurance to go back to all the people who didn’t buy gap insurance, put them in a custom audience, and then start talking on video about that and give them a call to action to a phone number from someone on your team that handles gap insurance add on in the first 60 days of post purchase, but you should still be dropping email, you should still hit them up on. But again, someone might not open that email, but they might see the video on Facebook, or they might see it on YouTube because you hit them with a custom audience. And that power of being able to transfer that message to someone I think is the critical part, right? Whether it’s me physically talking to them, or it’s a pre recorded message that I put on there, right. And that’s why I think things like even ringless voicemail, they’re super effective. It’s like, Hey, I’m the general manager, I noticed that you didn’t buy gap insurance, I just wanted to tell you if you you know XYZ and by the way, I’m going to I’m going to send you a quick follow up email and having two triggers of a ringless voicemail and a and a follow up email with a link to the landing page that talks about gap insurance which adds X amount of additional revenue or gross to the cost to the to the dealership are very critical things that that dealers you know need to be thinking about so that they they are able to transfer why it’s important that a customer thinks about this and then present the opportunity to let the customer choose. Is it really for them or not?

Aharon Horwitz 29:42

Okay, anyone listening to this who was a dealer, if after this, you do not want Pete in your corner with Dealers United you were listening to a different podcast. I think from a strategy perspective, the ability to really think holistically about what the dealer is trying to accomplish and you know, to bring to bear frameworks and, and connected strategies. It’s fantastic. So number one everyone should check out Dealers United and check out learn more about Pete but really his team because I know he spends an enormous amount of time, not just his own team but really in Sarasota driving, just mentorship and, and I’ve met his team as some of his team members and they’ll

Pete Petersen 30:24

and you guys while you’re building, I mean some of the best tech I see out there, I tell everybody I’m like, you’re not on AutoLeadStar, they definitely should be there. But then we definitely take more of a strategy. And you know, we do put software in as well. And we do recommend partners and stuff. But at the end of the day, it is about finding, you know, figuring out what your real pain points are. That’s why we say we you know, we solve dealerships challenge using Facebook and Instagram and other online mediums because we have the ability to go have the consumers that you need to reach, help solve your business challenge, you know, you need more revenue, or you need to lower defect rate, you know, these are all things we have to know what the problem is. And then we can go figure out what the data tells us. And then we can plug it in, because we can buy the data, we can get directly those eyeballs, we can usually download the data from your system in many cases, right? Like a CRM is got a lot of the stuff in there. Or you might be using an equity mining software. So it’s definitely not. I don’t think we’re necessarily lacking tools. I think we’re lacking a lot of strategy. And then I think it’s a lot of it, when we have the tools we are training to make sure that dealers are doing the things and the tools like your toolkit have a ton of stuff in there. The dealer should take time to understand what they just bought and make sure they’re investing in it. So we just overhauled everything internally at HubSpot. And we were on Salesforce and like 16 other different software stacks, including Zendesk but we just said we’re gonna we feel that HubSpot is at a point we’re gonna go 100% all in. So now we’re getting our team certified on it. We’re sending people in, we brought a consultant in for HubSpot, that, you know we’re paying a lot of money to, but we got to live breathe and like trust that partner at this point that they’re going to take us and make us a better organization following some of their their tools and framework that they have.

Aharon Horwitz 32:03

Very nice. I really think that this has definitely also been a good conversation for people who are trying to do the types of things you’re doing, build the types of companies that you know, Pete and I admire and look at so folks that listen so Pete This is great. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for having me on. I appreciate it. I I enjoyed it from a call perspective, one learning more about you but also getting that view of how you see a dealership and how you guys add value to a dealership how you think about building a business. Again, there’s lots of good facets of this conversation for people to learn from, in our audience. If people want to learn more about Dealers United, what should they do? What’s their best bet?

Pete Petersen 32:44, obviously, follow me on LinkedIn. You know, I don’t I’m not as big on social media as I should be. But is a great place to start and take a look there. And you know, obviously if there’s recommendations, even if it’s not with us, we’ll be more than happy to, you know, make recommendations or just talk to you about you know, we’ve we have a lot of people ask us, hey, what do you think about this or that or take a look at analytics. At the end of the day? Those are all good starting points. But I would just encourage dealers to start, you know, on what are the challenges you’re trying to solve? What are you facing in the next, you know, 30 60 90 days and hopefully beyond right over the next six months or 12 months or three years? What do you want your dealership to look like? And then work towards reverse engineering that experience through using technology and strategy and partners and really giving a partner a chance to kind of work through that. I think that’s what a lot of us are in automotive, there’s a lot of great tech, there’s a lot of great people out there. You know, you kind of have to find the folks that you like working with and go deep with them. And hopefully they’ll take you to another level. I know you guys are doing great work out there. We see a lot of our customers sharing customers as well that we have that you know, definitely admire what you guys are doing. I think you guys have built some sick tech.

Aharon Horwitz 33:52

Thank you. Thank you. We really appreciate it. Okay, that’s it. You can find our podcast on by the way. This is the party line. I usually do. I’m gonna get it wrong here but our podcast anywhere that you listen to your podcast on Apple podcasts you find on Spotify, Stitcher, podcast Republic, I don’t know wherever you get a podcast, go find us and listen to great conversations like the one we just had with beat. This is Aharon from InsideAuto Podcast signing off. We look forward to getting back with you all soon. So have a great, great week. And Pete, Thank you. Thank you.

Pete Petersen 34:26

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. Happy selling guys.

Outro 34:32

Thanks for listening to the InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

  • Automotive

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