The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode · 1 year ago

Erik Huberman: How to Develop a Strategic Marketing Plan


Erik Huberman is the founder of Hawk Media, the fastest growing marketing agency in the United States. He shares the ins and outs of what dealerships should consider when developing a strategic marketing plan. 

The retail auto industry has glorified marketing like it's the Savior to all business challenges. From websites and SEO to email and content marketing, there has always been a solution or provider that professes the solution.  

Marketing is more about human connection, and conveying the right messages at the right time in the buyer's journey. The tools available are just that; tools. 

Topics from this episode:

2:49 - What has been your journey like starting Hawke Media?

6:08 - If you want to grow a business - you need to be a good person and understand the importance of service.

9:10 - Marketing experts are setting businesses to fail to scale their businesses.

12:13 - What tools do I already have in my disposal I can use to it’s fullest potential?

13:40 - Filtering qualified leads over trying to sell to anyone.

16:20 - Mistakes businesses make when it comes to email marketing.

17:55 - Finding friction points in your sales process.

19:45 - Process to support buyers who will never purchase a vehicle online.

22:01 - How do you navigate everything you could do to grow your business to the things you actually should do?

24:28 - What leaders should focus on that can directly impact the business growth?


Support the show by checking out our sponsor over at 

They provide powerful resources that are helping dealers supercharge their sales volume. Whether you’re looking to increase market share vs. your competitors, turn inventory faster, increase ROs or expand reach.

PureCars is offering DPB listeners a free digital strategy analysis so that you can unlock your dealership’s true profitability potential.

Hey, gang, you know what's on my mind? More than deleting all the annoying kids shows that show up in my YouTube watch. History from over quarantine. Better marketing decisions. Yep, that's right. That's why I'm so excited to be supported by my friends at Pier cars who put the power of data and superior information into the hands of dealers where it belongs. Use peer car to make better marketing decisions and get better results. Visit Pierre cars dot com to get a free no risk, no obligation digital strategy analysis today. That's pure cars dot com. Well, hello there. Welcome to this episode of the dealer playbook. A podcast that explores what it takes to create a thriving career right here in the retail auto industry. I'm your host, Michael Cirillo. I am so glad you're here. Thank you. Thank you Were talking about how to develop a strategic marketing plan with my friend Eric Huberman. Over the years, we've glorified marketing as the savior to all of our business woes. 20 years ago, it was all about how websites would bring you more traffic leads and sales. Then it was all about how S E. O would bring you more traffic and then, of course, social media and digital advertising. But if we're being honest, each of those things right? Websites, seo digital ads, all those sort of things. Social media Those are just tools that must be used properly and in the appropriate sequence. If we want to get the results that I think all of us are after, right sustainable results like not to say, set it and forget it. But for lack of better words, to be able to create a machine that keeps paying us back dividends into perpetuity. Identifying or charting out that sequence is what I had the pleasure of chatting with Eric Huberman about. Eric is the founder of the fastest growing marketing agency in the United States Hawk Media and join me to share his thoughts about what dealers can do to develop a strategic marketing plan. So without further ado, let's dig in the fastest growing marketing consultancy in the United States now, Often when we read phrases like that, we picture some old dude, you know, he's been at it for 47 years, wearing a shirt and tie. He's like, What's that show? He's like Harvey Specter. You know he's wearing this herringbone suit double breasted. But, I mean, here we are, man. Like what? What has your journey been like starting Hawk media? I'm actually 89 years old. That has never really been care routine, so you just never sold. That's why you look so young. Yeah, exactly. Uh, yeah, it's been nuts. Um, and it continues to be its, uh I don't know. It really was born out of a pain point that I saw, which was pretty simple. And I So, yeah, it came from I built and sold to e commerce companies. I hated agencies. They all wanted long contracts, high minimums. Half of them didn't know what the hell they were talking about. And thankfully, I did so I could get them. And I just hated the agency ecosystem in the marketing ecosystem. In fact, I'm working on government regulation around it right now, which seems counterintuitive, but I'm so sick of the con artist in my own industry. I'm looking to try to negate that, and every business owner has dealt with a shitty agency that's going to be a thing. So I hated that and just hired a small team. It was like my little marketing SWAT team and made everything Alec Heart month to month, super nimble, really good talent. And that was the thesis. And I remember early on I went to hire someone and he asked me for 40% of the company and 100 and 50 grand a year in salary. When I was just getting started, I was like, Oh, wow, we're way on different pages...

...with what? We're expectations here. My bad like No, I was thinking like 36 grand a year and no equity. Um, and he was angry. So he reached out to what? He didn't know. It was a mutual friend of ours and said, Hey, check out this website, Hawk Media. I'm going to build a competitor. I copy everything they're doing and this person reached out to me like, Hey, he's trying to copy your business model. And like business model. I hired some good marketers, and I made it easy to work with what fucking business like there's nothing proprietary about what I'm doing here. It's just doing it like sure and you know, seven years later, that guy is still running his four person agency, and we've made it to 200 people. And apparently he copied my business model. So, um yeah, it really that's that. So the journey came from, like doing a lot of things that people in the industry said couldn't be done. You can't run a marketing agency without long term contracts. You can't bootstrap this. You can't do it without debt. It will never be sustainable, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I just I took what they said to heart, but then I just watched it like I I think like with the criticism of the outside world, no matter where it's coming from, you have to understand their context versus yours. You have to pay attention to it. But you also have to see do I have different information that allows me to do something they don't think can happen. And I came from the consumer world where I didn't get to sign someone up for a contract to buy my pants every month for a year. So when I went to this, I was like, I'm used to just, you know, sort of tacked LTV model, which is more standard for consumer, where it's How much does it cost me to get a customer? And on average, how much money do I make off them? And if we get that model right, that we have a good return there, we can scale this. And that's how I built this business. And so it became, you know, a game of numbers of statistics play out and then doing good work. I go figure by doing good work and, you know, being transparent and communicating. Well, we keep our clients a long time without a country. Yeah. Yeah. What a novel idea. I mean, I mean, we've experienced something similar in that it was shocking to us to hear our client partners constantly say things like, We still just can't believe you guys answer the phone when we call you. You're like what? Yeah, you know, And to that end, a lot of copycats in my thesis, I think similar to yours is if you want to grow in business, you have to be a good person. Like you have to actually care about other people over yourself, or or at least have a certain understand the importance of service, not services. A buzz. Yeah, I've been at this for seven years now and, like the guy is my competitors. Their CEOs that are actually really like the big competitors, the agencies that are crushing it, their CEOs are all good guys or girls like I hang out with them even though we're competitors, because they're good people, the people that don't make it, that are assholes, the small agencies that just turn through everyone that are the ones I have to watch out for two because they'll try to screw everyone around them. They don't end up succeeding in the long run, but they'll hurt some people in the short run. That's that's the truth. So most of the better agencies out there when I meet their founders, I'm like, Oh, you're you're a good person. This is your let's go grab a drink. Yeah, yeah, I mean, it's funny you say that to I remember, especially in the car industry. It's such a shark tank. Yeah. Sidebar. I've met some of the most amazing people I've ever met in my entire life. But this this like vendor concept, like it is a shark tank. And I remember coming onto the scene probably around 2012 doing the speaking circuit and just throwing people for a loop because I was always like, Look, maybe we're competitors and that we offer a similar or same product. But at the end of the day, you're a dad. You're a husband, you're a son, you're a brother. And that's how I'm choosing to look at you as well. Like you're just another human being that has a vision for success. And so, mazel tov, man. Let go for it. And business isn't a zero sum game people treated as such. But it's not. There's plenty of business here around. We'll all be fine. It's just the truth. I hate people that give the industry a bad name, so that's what I look for. But people that are doing great work that compete with me good...

...for them. That's sincere, really. Look at it. Let me ask you this, because I mean, that's that's really rapid growth, like you're not lying when you say fastest growing marketing agency. But if you look at seven years to go to from, you know, starting to 200 employees, what would you say beyond this thesis, we know, be good person deliverables etcetera. One of the challenges that I think plagues any businesses. Um, how do we find people that can do the thing and stay focused, for example, biz development Or because, especially in this day and age, and I don't know how it's looked for your business, I'd love I'd love to be able to crack that open. But this day and age especially, we hear it all, all all about it. On clubhouse. I started this AECOM company and we sell jewelry. And but I'm not getting any sales. Hey, does your community know that you exist? No, But does that have to do with anything? I built it online, and so therefore, it should all be inbound. Run Facebook. That's how it works. Yeah, And you've You've been in a lot of these like we've been on these stages together in clubhouse. And you hear the resident Facebook ads expert who's like, Oh, yeah, you're running. Add your cost to Ronnie adds 10 bucks. You make 20 bucks in return, you keep you take the $10 profit, you're on another. You keep running the ad, Do you think, though just kind of peeling back the onion layers do you think that's setting up people to kinda fail in that they think that that's all it takes to scale a business? Yes, I absolutely think it's setting up to fail. I think that we're actually gonna be publishing a book later this year, called the Hawk Method around, like how to actually look at a marketing plan and actually dissect it. And people focus like marketing. We look at it as an awareness, nurturing and trust awareness meeting. How do you introduce yourself to new customers nurturing? What do you do with that awareness to actually convert them to it? Sorry. Introduce yourself to a new potential customer and then convert that customer. Keep that customers and nurturing impatient trust is when you don't have an established brand. That third party validation that says people they can trust you or once you have an established brand maintaining that trust through consistency. So if you're doing again with car dealerships, an example like GM has a certain level of trust. But getting you know the what is a JD Power and associates whatever getting those awards continues to validate that trust. That's why that's important. Nurturing the follow up email marketing, you know, continuing to stand contact and the awareness piece of TV ads advertising general etcetera on a small medium business level. Most companies miss this, So if you're a dealership, you know you're let's say you're even, uh, existing dealership. But you haven't reached everyone in the area. Your people. They spend all their money on radio ads, TV ads, billboards, whatever. But then they don't do anything with that awareness to actually keep in touch with people, like get their email address so that you can keep reaching out. It is incredible to me, like we just returned my wife's lease and she didn't get a single note or anything from the dealership saying, Hey, your lease is almost up. You want a new car? And if they had pushed her slightly, she was looking at their car versus another one. They didn't do anything we want to test, drove both. She went with the other one because he had no, there was no personality. There was no nothing to tell her that I should go with this, and all it could have taken was a phone call and email saying, Anything we can do for you. Instead, When we went to turn it in, they gave her shit because I think it's supposed to be like your tire has 4 mL left and it had, like, 3.8. It was like, Dude, we fought five cars were at least five cars here in a row. Like relax. And that was enough, like we'll never go there again. And it was just like that, nurturing that idea of like keeping customers, retaining customers, converting customers. Most companies mitts on the marketing side. Alright, Before we get any further into this conversation, I want to tell you about an incredible resource to supercharge your sales volume. Now, as many of you know, unless you've been living under a rock, there are lots of marketing companies and services out there who claim to be able to deliver buyers to your online or actual showroom. But I've seen Pierre cars up close, and I...

...gotta tell you, I was super impressed. It's the real deal. They connect the dots between your marketing and operations. Pure cars tools are powerful, and simply put, they work whether your goal is to grow market share versus your competitors, turn your inventory faster. Increase Roos or expand your reach. Go to pure cars dot com to get your free digital strategy analysis and unlock your dealerships. True profitability potential again. That's pure cars dot com. I love that you brought up email marketing because that's you know, we I think, especially in the industry, the marketing industry in particular. While any industry we we there's a lot of hype around shiny object, right? Like there's shiny objects. And look at the new software. Look at the new tool. Look at the new this and that. And then we we I'm not saying we like you and I because I don't really believe in this. But, like as an industry, we kind of go and present those and say, Here's the solution that's going to solve all of your problems. And most often it comes down to No. What? What tools do I already have at my disposal? My website. I have social platforms. I have ad platforms. I have email marketing. What am I gonna do with those? Because I don't think I fully explored everything I can actually do with those email marketing. Somebody said it the other day when somebody says that a certain method is dying. That's an indication that it's not dying 100% whether you're saying that because I've said this a lot, and I totally agree. Email marketing. So I've been doing this for a decade. A little more, actually. An email marketing stats are exactly as the same as they were a decade ago, meaning it's not better. It's not like it's skyrocketed. It's just not worse. It hasn't declined. The average open rate on an email is 15% in e commerce. The average click through it is 3%. It has been that stat in terms of averages for probably 15 years. Before that, it was probably hired was probably better. So it declined at some point a long time ago. But then it just kind of steady state. And even to this day, like I'm an investor in an SMS platform, you would think it's competitive, but no do both. An SMS is 10 times as effective as email marketing. It's just harder to get a phone number, but still, it's a lot more effective. But both because different people responded different modes of communication. Yeah, it's kind of like the It reminds me of the hubspot method. Everybody thought it was controversial. It's like I just want the e book. Why do I have to put in my name first? Name, last name, email, Phone number. Best time of day to contact you. What's your biggest marketing challenge? How big is your organization? And you just said something that triggered that thought process. And it was It's harder. Fewer people will get through, but the ones that get through are likely to be much, much more qualified, so that when I do speak to them about that topic, they're more likely to take action when it's a balance. We have a pretty big sale. At this point. It is always a balance between filtering out qualified leads and keeping the funnel open. But you start to realize as you scale early on, you want to take any way you can get and figure it out. But you get to a point where you realize how much at scale time is wasted on shitty leads that you do start to want to filter those out. Even if you filter with some of the good with the bad, the efficiency makes you so much more money. Yeah, amazing. Now let's talk about email marketing for a minute. Because especially you were just talking about your wife's leasing experience. We I was in a room yesterday with an individual from one of the O E M s. Um, it happens to be the vehicle that we bought. My wife loves her SUV, but the process to get that SUV, and by the way, I am a complete and total lay down. I want that one. That's how I buy cars. I want that one right there, you know, uh, well, hold on, let's bring you back into the No, I see. I want that one. Well, how soon are you looking to buy? Well, I have to pick my kids up from school in two hours, and I'd like to do it in that one. You know, like, that's how I got it took 18 days to get delivery of this deal because, oh, we have to order the exact one from this store because you want the eight CR the seventh seed or not the eight cedar. And oh, actually, we ordered the wrong one, but we forgot to tell you so Now...'re wondering why it's been a week and I haven't heard anything about this vehicle that I bought. So it's this sort of thing. But then what happens? Robotic email marketing? Yeah, we take delivery. And then the next day it's like, Would you please leave? Consider leaving us a high rating on? Yeah. And I'm like, I'm not even gonna touch this. Um, but then and then you're into this thing. And what's interesting about it is now any time I get any sort of communication from this dealership because nobody took ownership of the poor experience I made everybody know when I picked up the car, I told the sales rep who demoed it for me. I told the finance person who told me that I point I looked straight at the manager That screwed the whole deal up. And I'm like, You know how this could have been like everybody knew to this day, though, because nobody acknowledged and took ownership of that experience. Any time I get a communication from that store, I'm like, uh and then you can't unsubscribe like it's a weird It's not easy to unsubscribe. And so doing email marketing in a robotic way and certainly on the back end of a poor experience just puts you in the opposite direction of loyalty and ascension. This might make you feel better, because we we ended up sticking it back to them. We had a dealership. We ordered a car. They told us it would be. You know, we want to make some changes. They're like, Oh, no, it's already shipped. It hadn't shipped. So we're like, Okay, well, then when you begin to get it there, like mid January what day they said January 15th, 15th. Roll around. Nothing. Last Monday, whatever the day was rolled around Nothing. And then they're like, Well, it's going to be here on the 25th. And is it like we'll let you know? I didn't hear anything until Saturday. In the meantime, we realized, Oh, covid, we're in L A. We don't need to be in l. A. Why don't we go to Utah for the month? Actually, And so we decided to look at. Then we went. It is actually a cool little game we could play. Don't go to Mexico for the month of April. It is actually that easy, right? Right. now. My company is only fully remote. We can be where everyone. So now we're going to number sitting here. Right? So we haven't got this car yet, but we're gonna be gone all of February. Gone all of April. I'm gone all of June with my wife home already. Have a car, and we're going to be home together for two months where there's not really that much to do in l. A. And we could probably have one. So we called them and said, You know what? Cancel it. We're not buying the car. We're gonna wait till later this year. So they just lost a sale. Have now a piece of inventory. I also asked to sign for it. Can I get the paperwork? So I can just get this done so we can just get delivering? Go. And they wanted to send it to me. All right, so now they just launched the sale completely. Now, listen, Dpb gang. My beloved gang. We're not saying this just to dog on you all. And I mean, if you're listening to this, what I'm hoping is you, it's triggering you to go look at the friction points in your process exactly. Because that, for example, if the and they when I said never mind, please cancel The order was a week ago. They haven't responded. They haven't answered me. If they had said, Oh, sorry to hear that. Can we talk about this? When are you going to need a car? Next et cetera? And now what's going to happen is I'll probably need a car again in July or August as well, because we're not. We're traveling back and forth a lot, so we're just going to go find the best deal now again and go to somewhere else. If this dealership had actually built a relationship with us, we would have gone right back to him going yet? Sorry, we're going to hold off. If they had let us sign, we would have had a car right now, But they didn't. So then it was like, Okay, well, we're going to hold off, but we still need to buy a car in a few months, so I will just come right back to you. And now we don't even have that. There's no loyalty, because why we don't even have a relationship. I have been taking care of us. Haven't responded to my last message. Wow, what's your take on to this end? Kind of segue weighing into a shiny object. Yeah. What? What's your thoughts on emerging trends like car purchasing online? The rooms, the carbon knows the, um what am I missing? There's another one that I'm missing. This this idea of you can just buy it online and the car shows up in your driver. Kind of like the Tesla model.

Now, dealers are scrambling, especially with covid where they're like, we have to be able to digitally retail a vehicle. And so now they're Focus is all on this. This tech. My opinion is that's fantastic. However, what about the segment of the market like my mother in law, who believes that if she doesn't specifically, click the sign out button on her Yahoo email account that her emails start floating out into the ether like she's never gonna buy a car line? So what about this? This segment of the market or the segments of the market who still are in a position to buy a vehicle who will never buy online? Do you have a process to support this? Because it's still going to come down to experience, in my opinion, But I'm curious on your take. I think that I'm all for Omni Channel, meaning when things pop up that are good places to sell, cars do it. And so if you can take advantage of platforms out there, don't jump in earlier. I don't think there's a lot of benefit being enjoy adopters these platforms. But I think once you see traction pick up and they're actually selling cars and you start hearing your customers went on, What's the big one out here? Fair is the big one in the way. Why won't you hear? Hear that taking off? Then it's like, Okay, maybe we should look into how this bear is partnered with dealerships, so why wouldn't you? It's another channel to sell cars, so I think you know, if history shows us one thing, it's resistance to innovation tends to leave you behind, so I think it's a balance. Don't chase the shiny objects. Don't be the first mover, but once there is a market created and it seems to be a good revenue stream, do it. It's like all the fashion brands that resisted E Commerce forever. And now in Covid. They're screwed because that's where all purchases went. And so versus all the companies have jumped into. It did really well. So doing it wrong, they will be wasted effort when it comes to innovation. And also don't as I agree with you, don't chase the Chinese object the first time it comes on market. But as you start to see actually trends, uh, surface go for both because I agree with the people that jump in and people that don't and painting a broad brush Or like I guess, if you're starting your business from scratch and someone goes, you're gonna start a business. Uh, would you rather see if you can open it up to any customer that wants to buy a car? Or would you rather focus on just the people that don't like the Internet? I'm gonna go for everyone like I'm gonna open it up and, like, maybe there's a brand that needs to be built around people that hate the Internet, they want to buy cars, But I don't really care to play. And that's not what I'm trying to build them. Trying to build a nice car dealership. I'm actually invested into car dealerships. And so I'd rather open it up to all types of distribution. Oh, see? Well, there's a little Jim had. No. So you're a dealer, Essentially. You know, that's Yeah, that's amazing. Uh, like a Mark Walberg kind of way, because I think he's bought two or three are invested in a definitely not my name on it. I'm, like, silent minority investor. Yeah, so? So my question to that point is, how do you, um how do you navigate all of the things that you could do and whittle it down to the things that you should do? Uh, I look at the actual friction in the business. So instead of saying, like the things you could do our infinite. So it's actually like, Where do I in this where you just have to be a good business owner. Like, where do I see the biggest friction that has the biggest opportunity? What are the biggest levers to pull and the low hanging fruit that actually affect my business currently? Where am I having challenges And how do I fix those? That's what I focus on. It's less about. What could I do, and then, in terms of a new opportunities, expansion opportunities, I look at less friction dealing with that right now. I'm sorry, Google. It's going off. But, uh, I looked at, uh, where the West Restriction to get something going with the highest opportunity because what I noticed, too, is a lot of people go into new innovation and want to build out their business. Opened another dealership, whatever it is, and they go for something that's really challenging. And through that process, the return on their actual effort becomes way well, well. And so I try to find things that I can seamlessly add to my business by hiring one more person. You're building out a little bit of spending a little time on it, but then it it folds right in nicely versus launching something...

...completely new. That takes a ton of my time to build that thing out because the risk reward the risk is my time on a lot of these things. And so if I have to spend a ton of time on it, then the risk reward ratio goes way down versus even if the rewards similar bigger. I try to find things that I can again really easily launch off of what I'm doing and use it as a platform. So but dealerships again, I'd be looking at stuff that are really easy to integrate, really easy to get going and fix all those first and then start to look at what the next thing is. All of that. Um I guess my one of my last questions to you would be this, um, in scaling your business in looking for the pain points and creating a solution from an organizational perspective as the leader, how do you and polling knowing which lever to pull or that you're going to spend most of your focus on How do you navigate? Because And I guess some backup here is Obviously, I think all business owners always kind of feel the urgency of We need to do this now. We need to move on that now. How do you navigate or what would you say to to the business that says, man, I've got all these plates spinning. But how do I get to movement? How do I actually get to growth? How do I navigate the urgency of things? I feel like we need to do now. But that or maybe not doing because that's something that I think perpetually a lot of business owners struggle with watching what's out there in the market again. The biggest way I do that is just knowing my business. Like, where are the pain points? What is breaking, where can I improve and then talking to people in all different industries and staying in touch with a lot of other owners and the kind of ideas they're having and listening a lot? Clubhouse has been great, caring what other people are up to and then being really reactive in that sense, like quick to react and going. That's a great idea, like let's go like let's implement that and having a good team to help you implement initiatives. That could be interesting because I think I I see this with a lot of car dealerships, like they get stuck in the same cadence of the same thing for decades and they don't innovate. They don't do try new things and, like I think, you know, part of succeeding is just those little innovation hits. I don't think it has to be like a stressed again anxious driven like we have to constantly innovate, but like you should be looking at ways to improve all the time, too. And, like, how can we do this a little better and a little better and incremental improvements that over time you are way ahead of the competition? Because you I spent 10 years improving instead of 10 years stagnating, right? It's the journey of an entrepreneur. It's that roller coaster. Have you ever seen that mean where it's like I'm the best? Holy crap. We're going out of business. We've all felt it. Yeah, it's not a game that's for the faint of heart, that's for sure, Is it? It's not. But I also I'm on that note. I've definitely found that, like it's important to remind yourself that it's a choice. You can always get a fucking job. So you chose to be an entrepreneur and a business owner. And so when you realize that you can kind of accept the issues and know that running a business, you're going to deal with the biggest problems of the business, that's the job, accept it and then frankly, starts hitting the emotional side of you a lot less. But It's like, Yeah, that's what I signed up for. When you feel the empowerment of a choice, it probably doesn't. I can tell you from experience. It stops hitting as hard when you have a problem. I love a man. Holy smokes. The value that's been dropped in the last 25 minutes by my man Eric Who? We We realized we're closer than we think. Through clubhouse if you're not there yet. Well, sorry. Not sorry, but how do we build? How do we build foam O r? Yeah. Love it, man. I want to thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. How can those listening get in touch with you? Any social channel for slash Doberman. Super easy. Just mention this podcast. And yeah, so I know it's not some random spam. Amazing man. Thanks so much for joining me on the dealer playbook. Thank you. I'm Michel Cirillo, and you've been listening to the dealer playbook. Podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening. Right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a...

...colleague. If you're ready to make big changes in your life and career and want to connect with positive, nurturing automotive professionals. Join my exclusive dpb pro community on Facebook. That's where we share information, ideas and content that isn't shared anywhere else. I can't wait to meet you there. Thanks for listening.

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