This is a 24/7 job.

A tip of the hat to Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer, authors of Unselling (buy it here at Amazon).  Living and working in the new economy is a 24/7 job. In the automotive space, internet sales managers work store hours and spend evenings, weekends and overnights writing and editing content, trouble-shooting digital assets and keeping up with customers who, likewise, live, work and shop in this 24/7 world.

The best online sales professionals are their own brand, with all of the content creation that implies.

Many companies adopt an “opinions are my own” social media policy for employees to abide by. But employers and employees blurred that arcane line between home and work long ago.

Unselling

The revolution will not be televised

I blame Bewitched.

If — as clients — everything we think we know about advertising we’ve learned from episodic tv at 11 years of age, then we’ve come to expect that the sales rep at the ad agency is also the guy or gal who comes up with the whole creative campaign.  Usually, in an eleventh-hour panic.  The only other ad creatives who lived in pre-digital tv land, Thirtysomething‘s Michael Steadman and Elliot Weston, were cut from a similar cloth.

Bewitched york

 

As clients of digital marketing companies, local marketing agreement agencies, search engine marketers, social marketing experts, broadcast sales reps and newspaper sales reps, don’t we deserve the real thing?

There’s a lot of retail advertising made on the cheap by the media sales departments. And marketing gurus who know better.

A 1981 release, Neighbors, starred John Belushi and Dan Akroyd.  While Roger Ebert dug it, it was more flop than hit in its first run, but what’s not to like?  One particularly memorable image still hits home as an apt metaphor for lazy marketing today.  The bit of funny business when the Akroyd shady-new-neighbor character cons the Belushi neighbor character out of his cash and into a so-called fancy Italian restaurant take-out that’s really Ragu and store-bought spaghetti boiled at home.  Do you ever think your ad agency is like that, steaming off the Chef Boyardee labels and serving it up like it was made artisanal, and all that?

Neighbors 20481

Oh sure, there’s a revolution out there somewhere, a battle between the old world of work and the new ways — authenticity, transparency  — helpful information and useful content triumphing over empty promises and unbelievable exaggerations that are easily recognized as “advertising” and tuned out.

Only, I don’t think it can be easily packaged or delivered by push-button.  The revolution will not be merchandised.

Revolution Youtube

Hey, wait a minute.  Don’t we know advertising is a falsehood and a complicated dialog between our need for truth and our need to present a fictionalized persona of ourselves to the outside world?  Didn’t we all watch the final episode of Mad Men?

555b44acb80bcc99383a9b44_jon-hamm-mad-men-episode-14-season-7-part-2

We won’t be right back, after these messages.

 

 

The truth

“We live in a world of radical transparency. There is 
nothing that’s really truly private long-term in the world we 
live in today. And while there’s something lost from that, 
there’s something gained. And the gain is an incredible 
priority on the truth. And in business, I believe truth is the 
ultimate advantage. I mean, it’s truth, and it’s trust. You 
can’t separate those two. Truth is the ultimate advantage 
because, if you have the truth, you can win out because— 
in a world where we’re all connected with social media and 
every other form through the web—we now live in a world 
where the truth will eventually get out. Now, if you go on 
the web, you can get every lie known to man as well. So 
the technology that empowers also can confuse. But I think 
there’s a resonance to the truth, as corny as it may sound, 
that every human being feels. You know when somebody’s 
bullshitting you. You know at some level it’s not the whole 
story. There’s something being held back. It’s instinctive 
in human beings. And not only do you take that and you 
magnify that with the interconnected world that we live in 
today in social media, now you’re at a place where if you 
don’t tell the truth, the consequences are just horrific.”

Tony Robbins

10,000 push-ups and counting

Today, May 10, was the 130th day of the year.  Naturally, I did the required 130 push-ups. Tomorrow, I’ll do 131.

And so on.

Team Adrenaline’s push-up challenge started live on New Year’s Day; the awesome fitness coach, Paul Caminiti, had come up with the idea some time in December, and participants like me committed to start at 55 push-ups each day, until day 56, February 25, when the daily allotment went up. Then 57, on day 57, and so on.

The end game, in all of this, will be on New Year’s Eve Day, December 31, 2015, when each one of us will accomplish 365 push-ups in the course of the day.

Someone in the group figured out that, today, we crossed over the 10,000 push-up count, year-to-date.

When I started working out with Team Adrenaline, push-ups of all kinds were integral, as were sprints, hill climbs, backward runs and other attributes of well-rounded fitness: balance, dexterity, speed, power and endurance. Organic, in that no equipment or machines are used, in a group rather than individual workouts, and the activity is outdoors, year-round. Exercise benefits from a group setting.  Counting a two-minute plank hold is more easily achievable by breaking it into manageable 10 or 15 second mental intervals.  Running 13.1 miles is manageable by thinking about it a mile at a time.

Similary, the push-ups are more manageable for me in sets of 20 or 30 or 45. But as the year goes on, it’s getting harder to fit those push-ups into morning before work and night time before bed.

I’m already getting sets of 40+ at a time done at the gas station while filling the tank.  And in the parking lot, waiting for restaurant take-out.  Eventually, they’ll spill into my work day.

post

 

The group Facebook page is full of photos and videos of push-up sets done creatively and in creative locations.  That will only increase as the job gets harder.  And the virtual group, it’s good for motivation.

I normally hate detailed, repetitive tasks.  In Adrenaline classes, being part of a group is a great source of positivism.  The social media aspect of what has been an otherwise solitary activity is a good substitute.

At work, online merchandising is a similarly detailed, repetitive task, and I approach it with the same dread as I do 130 push-ups.  But it has to be done.  Every individual vehicle deserves to have an accurate description, down to the factory color (is it Daytona orange, sunset orange or sunburst orange?), equipment and interior.  The photos have to be equally detailed. and all of the elements have to be syndicated to all inventory sites without loss of details.  Photo files, similarly, cannot be overly compressed to conserve server space, because picture quality suffers. My own vendors have compatibility issues, and I typically end up doing multiple entries to get transmission and interior colors correct.  I haven’t figured out what to do about the loss of photo details and the rise of compression artifacts, but I will.

Retail is detail.

push ups

Let’s have a meeting. And watch a movie.

In the customer-service industry which, make no mistake, is the business I’m in (one that just happens to be located in the automotive space), I’ve learned this truism.  If you can have a sales and training meeting that goes to the core of what it takes to move the metal, to sell the product, and it’s one in which any customer wouldn’t have a problem or feel uncomfortable sitting in on it, you’re doing it right.  That’s not something you can say about every sales/customer service process training, in any field, retail automotive or otherwise.

I recently went to one such meeting. Of course, it wasn’t anything like this:

Sons of the Desert

 

It was like this. You can click on the screen grab here, and tell me if a customer would have a problem, or feel uncomfortable, in earshot of these ideas:

storify

 

Speaking of meet-ups and meetings, one barometer of our nation’s economic mood may be the National Auto Dealers Association meeting.  If so, the annual event finishing up this weekend must mean that things are really great.  Who says?  Why, of course, my favorite contrarian, Peter De Lorenzo, as written January 19, 2015, in Autoextremist.com:

“Oh well, on to NADA where the booze will be flowing and the “hail-fellow-well-met” posturing will be insufferable. It’s a known fact that when business is good, NADA is a party and everybody is glad-handing and backslapping their way through the four days calling each other geniuses and/or best friends, or both. (Well, almost everybody anyway, for the manufacturers and dealers not bathing in the good times it can get contentious and downright u-g-l-y.)

“I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket on the orgy of champagne and canapés out in San Francisco, but it is my duty to remind everyone out there of the giant unseen force in the room, and that is the fact that this business never stays this hot forever. And now, going into the sixth year of rejuvenation and resurrection, we’re a lot closer to another downturn than we are to new records.

“Just a cold, clear thought that deserves mention on this January day.

“But for now, carry on. It’s what this business does best anyway.”

Ouch! So what of this habit we have as social beings to glad-hand and backslap?

laugh

 

Some interesting facts about the Laurel and Hardy classic, “Sons of the Desert,” via Turner Classic Movies:

Sons of the Desert co-star Charley Chase (1893-1940) was a comedy star in his own right. After a brief career in vaudeville, he moved to supporting parts in films starring Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and others. He joined the Hal Roach Studios as a director until Roach realized what a great comic performer he had on his roster. Between 1924 and 1929 he starred in nearly 200 two-reelers, most of them directed by Leo McCarey, who would later become famous for such acclaimed comedies as Duck Soup (1933) and The Awful Truth(1937). He continued to appear in shorts in the sound era, and directed some of the earliest Three Stooges movies. His death of a heart attack at the age of 46 has been attributed to his alcoholism.

Charley Chase’s younger brother, Jimmy Parrott, was also a comedy actor, gag writer and director. He directed The Music Box and at least 20 other Laurel and Hardy pictures, as well as close to three dozen featuring his brother. Parrott was a drug addict and, like Chase, died of a heart attack at the age 40 in 1939.

Charley Chase and Mae Busch, who plays his sister in Sons of the Desert, appeared in several Keystone comedies for Mack Sennett in the early days of silents.

Sons of the Desert screenwriter Frank Craven is best known for appearing as the pipe-smoking Stage Manager narrator in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, both on stage and on screen. He also co-authored (with Wilder) the 1940 film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

 

Sit back and enjoy. Our feature presentation is about to begin (colorized and subtitled in Danish):

 

Youtubesonsofthedesert

Bookclubbing

I’m not much of a reader; I’m a skimmer and a scanner. I like magazines and articles with lots of visuals. But there’s a permanence about books that still makes the task of authorship an acheivement I greatly respect and admire. Knowing I’ll never, ever write a book, I’m damned lucky to have wound up in these pages:

Velocity Overdrive Cover

Velocity Overdrive: The Road to Reinvention by Dale Pollak is the third book in the Velocity series that lays out Dale’s vision of a new marketplace efficiency that is transforming the world of car sales, largely replacing the tradition of wheeling and dealing, hassling and haggling due to the economics of transparency in a digital age.

The section I’m in discusses a continuing controversy over the tactics of one advertising vendor (Truecar.com) that came to a head several years ago, and our dealership’s view that it was more an opportunity than a problem.

index

That index above is a Who’s Who of some of the top digital marketers in automotive.  And me.  I’m still a Zelig-like character in this world.

I also got a chance earlier this year to write an endorsement for a textbook-style survey of the field I’m in, authored by a very knowlegeable practitioner, Brian Pasch:

Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing Cover

 

Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing: Volume One by Brian Pasch is a comprehensive survey designed to train dealerships in the rigors of a relatively new role in dealerships, the marketing manager, that’s similar, but not the same, as a sales manager or an internet sales manager or an internet manager.  A must-read if you’re in this business.  Or if you want to be in this business.  Or, like me, if you want to figure out this business you’re in.

blurbs
I’m a blog writer, not a book writer. I can live vicariously through others’ authorship. So, what else is on the family bookshelf, you ask?

 

The Kissing Sailor cover

The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi tells my mom’s story of VJ Day and the photograph that everyone knows, and the search for the identity of the sailor and the nurse over the next 70 years.

NIH Guide cover

A Guide to NIH Grant Programs by Samuel M. Schwartz and Mischa E. Friedman is a book co-written by my dad, who spent close to 20 years at the National Institutes of Health.  Equally dry as a book about digital marketing, unless you are a scientific researcher.  Then, you’d want to read the book that Science reviewed as “…lucid and straightforward. This authoritative and clearly written book should be in libraries or departmental reading rooms wherever NIH-supported research is done.”

Germs cover

A more thrilling and compelling read on scientific research for the non-scientist would be Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, three top reporters for the New York Times.  It’s a thorough look back at the formerly top-secret history of biowarfare,from the War on Terror and the anthrax scare, back to the Cold War era, where the laboratories of Fort Detrick, Maryland, played a prominent role.  This is where my dad was employed before his years at NIH, from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Reluctant Return cover

My mom may have grown up in New York, but she was a refugee from Europe at age 14.  The town of Wiener Neustadt, outside Vienna, held a remarkable reunion with its survivors in 1995, chronicled by one in this remarkable and well-told first-person account, Reluctant Return: A Survivor’s Journey to an Austrian Town by David Weiss.  My mom did not go back with this group, but her oldest sister did.

all the kings men

Speaking of World War II refugees, the “University in exile” provided an unusally rich environment for learning within the New School for Social Research.  Shown above is my mom’s original script from her class in the New School’s Dramatic Workshop production in 1948.

blind date

Am I well read?  I haven’t read anything by Jerzy Kozinski, but Blind Date is also there on the bookshelf, waiting for me, like Charlie the Tuna, “to show Starkist my good taste.” Hopefully I can ease into it by viewing Being There on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

pearl bailey

Hurry Up, American, and Spit by Pearl Bailey is my kind of book.  Each chapter is three paragraphs in length, on average.  I’ve read a few of these… paragraphs.

weegee

Naked City by Weegee (Arthur Fellig) is truly a classic. A great collection by the master of mid-century tabloid photojournalism.

Great Escape

This one I did read.  The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Escaped Hitler and Changed the World by Kati Marton gives me pride in my Austria-Hungarian roots.  While I’m on a family history binge, it’s a profile of nine remarkable Hungarian escapees, from movie makers Michael Curtis and Alexander Korda to photographers Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz to scientists Edward Teller and John von Neumann.  And I’m going to finally watch Casablanca some time this week.

 

gropius

The New Architecture and the Bauhaus by Walter Gropius is all words, hardly any pictures.  I’ll never read it. I did check out the reviews on Amazon.com. Which says this is a must-read for any and all lovers of art and architecture, like me.

Admittedly, I’ll never write a book myself — but I might just read another one today, if I get similarly inspired.

 

25 and positively thinking

It’s been a bad summer for good news.

For a die-hard media consumer (news junkie, pop culture addict) like myself, it’s been more tempting to unplug than to add to the social media chatter — I’ve found I’m less engaged online and more hesitant than ever to share an opinion, whether it’s Ebola, ISIS, Boku Haram, Gaza, Furguson, Ray Rice or the sad death of Robin Williams.

I haven’t been tagged for an ice-bucket challenge.

I haven’t written any blog posts.

I haven’t kept my commitment to stay 100% positive, either, although I still maintain this is a worthwhile goal.

I haven’t written a word about enlightened customer service in the automotive sector this past summer, save for an inspired live-tweet session at Dealer Think Tank.

Which is why I’ve come to admire my 25-year-old son’s work for Photowings.org, a foundation dedicated to the support of photojournalism, as a positive force in a dangerous world.

This summer, Michael’s work took him to Guatemala, where he shot and edited this amazing profile of photographer James Whitlow Delano — it’s a great work about making great work, and if you need 10 minutes to reaffirm your faith in the power of good people and good things, click on it now:

Lessons in the field

 

Michael’s camera work and editing are equally awesome.  Here’s a few random screen grabs, if you don’t want to dig into the video immediately:

Lessons in the field 1

Lessons in the field 2

Lessons in the field 3

 

When I heard about the death of Robin Williams, this summer, I immediately thought of his 25-year-old daughter, Zelda, and the cruelty of social media.  Why did it strike so close to home?  My son, having lived in San Francisco for eight years, and she, do know many of the same people; I recalled he has been over to their house before. Although I don’t know him from Adam, it was like he was an acquaintance, too. And this: I, too, know what it’s like to lose someone close, at 25, to drug addiction and suicide, although in my case, it was a peer rather than a parent.

And it is with that experience in mind, from which I’ve come to understand how one is forever changed by it, so that I can say I share, quite deeply, the opinions forcefully expressed — and rapidly shouted down during this negative summer — Henry Rollins had the wisdom to say what it is to be a parent.  He spoke to my values:

http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2014/08/21/henry-rollins-fuck-suicide?showFullText=true

http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2014/08/25/henry-rollins-more-thoughts-on-suicide

Positive Mental Attitude

So, yes, a difficult summer to stay positive.  Which brings to mind a turning point in the birth of the Hardcore movement, my first exposure to the ideals that would sustain me in a completely different walk of life, ideas that sustained and gave voice to people I’ve known and been inspired by, like Henry Rollins and Ian Mackaye: it may have began with the discovery by the Bad Brains of the works of Napoleon Hill. http://waxpoetics.com/features/articles/bad-brains-came-with-extraordinary-positivity/

Think and Grow Rich

25 years later, I am re-dedicating myself to the power of positive thinking.

by Joshua Michael Friedman

The wolf of Digital Dealer

wolf of digital dealer

 

It’s been a long, prolific career for Martin Scorcese.  The sheer power of his storytelling, in crime biopics, contemporary dramas and period pieces (from Mean Streets to Taxi Driver, to Goodfellas and Casino, from the Color of Money to the Gangs of New York, to the Age of Innocence and Shutter Island, from the King of Comedy to Key Largo) is unrivaled.  I find myself drawn with fascination to Henry Hill’s and Lefty Rosenthal’s real-life underworld histories as sidebars to the acting, writing and directing showcases that inform their filmed stories.

But the larceny and substance abuse reenacted on the big screen in Wolf of Wall Street I think to be visceral and revolting in ways not shared by the entertainment of Scorcese’s other crime films.  I find the real story purely negative — and its filmed version irrelavent.

Perhaps through some fault of the storytelling, Jordan Belfort’s life is not outsized by his own written words, this hit film or his equally enriching career in motivational speaking.  This is what I believe to be true and real about Jordan Belfort:

10 Reasons the Real-Life “Wolf of Wall Street” Is a Schmuck Who Shouldn’t Be Glamorized

An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself

Digital Dealer, for a decade, has been the twice-yearly meet-up of internet sales practictioners in the car business.  One part teach-in and one part vendor expo, it’s a valuably immersive learning environment.  Although it still claims to the the largest conference in the industry, today it represents one of many choices for peer-to-peer networking and education (some more vendor-centric, some more dealer-centric): Driving Sales Executive Summit, Dealer Think Tank, GM eSummit, Google’s Digital Summit at Mountain View, AutoCon, Unfair Advantage Automotive Mastermind, Internet 20 Group, etc.

As disgusted as I am about the real-life toll taken by life-savings swindlers and practicing addicts, I am equally disgusted by an auditorium of “progressive” car dealers delivering a standing ovation after a spellbinding speech from the likes of JB, no less in the symbolic backdrop of the city of Vegas.  I can’t think of a more damaging impact on our collective reputation.

 

 

by Joshua Michael Friedman

Past perfect

2014MayCSI

This one has been hanging around for the past month, and I’ve been meaning to share it.  Another 100% 90-day customer satisfaction score blend.  Blended, because it’s an aggregate of seven questions on the purchase-and-delivery survey:

How satisfied were you that you were treated in a professional and courteous manner?

How satisfied were you with the sales consultant’s willingness to take the time necessary to thoroughly understand your vehicle needs?

How satisfied were you with the sales consultant’s knowledge of GM vehicles?

Were you offered an orientation tour of the dealership, including the service department?

How satisfied were you with the explanation of your vehicle’s features and operations?

Based on your overall purchase/lease and delivery experience, how satisfied are you with the dealership?

Based on your overall purchase/lease and delivery experience, would you recommend this dealership?

Not sure why the use of underscore for the conjunction; it tends to draw one’s attention and places unnecessary emphasis — the last two questions serve to summarize the requested information and are traditionally considered the most important in the inexact science of indexing a customer’s satisfaction.

Anyway, the photo above is my score for May, 2014, showing customers purchasing in January, February and March, surveyed through April and reported for a 90-day rolling average, and a corresponding 12 months of purchasers surveyed for the 12-month rolling average.

I finally got a less than perfect score from an April, 2014, purchaser, which brought my June, 2014, 90-day rolling average down to a 95% top-box score.  Still respectable.  My record stands at five months of purchasers in a row who responded to the survey scoring me perfectly.  No one’s perfect.

by Joshua Michael Friedman