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Web Tools: Improving Business Through the Internet and Social Media

For years, engine shops have used the Internet to try and increase business. But too often, a shop’s website wasn’t being used to it’s full potential. Today, engine professionals are using their website as a tool to increase profits by selling reman/rebuilt components from their shop online.

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Web-Design-ToolsFor years, engine shops have used the Internet to try and increase business. But too often, a shop’s website wasn’t being used to it’s full potential. Normally, websites provided the viewer hours of operation, directions to your shop and maybe a few photos of the business.

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Today, engine professionals are using their website as a tool to increase profits by selling reman/rebuilt components from their shop online.

Billing transactions for services like crankshaft grinding or honing can be completed via the Internet. And customer data such as credit card information, contact information and shipping addresses can be stored in the Internet’s cloud formats.

And, a growing number of performance and engine shops use the Internet everyday for buying tooling, components and engine parts.

However, just like any other tool in your shop that you use to improve your engine business, your computer must be properly “maintained.” This is especially important when it comes to your website and your Internet business operations.

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Revelations earlier this month that Russian hackers accessed nearly 1.2 billion user names and passwords are only the latest in a series of identity theft attacks that are causing US consumers to change shopping habits.

Some online shoppers are scaling back Internet-based purchases, especially at stores known to have had a data breach.

It may cause some engine builders worry for those who order a high volume of parts via the Internet.

When it comes to the Internet, the following helpful tips can keep your business running like a well-tuned engine.

Address Your Cybersecurity

by Mark Claypool

Password: “fluffy1234.” One of our clients asked us to use this for setting up his email, telling us it was the name of his wife’s cat.

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“Admin” was another client’s request for a username, and he wanted his password to be 1234. Nope! No way, no how!

We vigorously refuse to put unsecure passwords in place. “But they’re hard to remember, I have so many of them,” said one business owner. “I just keep them all the same, it makes it easier to keep it all straight,” said another. And that makes it easier for thieves to make life a living nightmare. And if they aren’t thieves, they are, at the very least, vandals.

Real Threats

Consider this a warning shot across your business bow. There are plenty of people out there gunning for weaknesses in website passwords, email passwords and databases with information of value – names, addresses, phone numbers, email and credit card information. How secure are you and your business?

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Threats to your cybersecurity are all too real. If you haven’t been impacted by identity theft, hacked emails and websites or data breaches, consider yourself lucky. To protect yourself – and your business – from cybersecurity threats, you need a plan.

Here are nine things you need to address:

1. Policies and training: Set up rules and policies to protect your business. Have systems in place, then train employees and set up consequences for non-compliance.

2. Passwords: Strong passwords need to be set up. Here’s a free source for the creation of a highly encrypted password:

http://passwordsgenerator.net. Some policies to follow include:

• Don’t use the same password across multiple accounts.

• Passwords should be at least 15 to 20 characters long and include numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols.

• Don’t use family names, initials,

pets, birthdates, addresses, towns

or full words in general, phone numbers or mathematical sequences as passwords.

• Do not permit your browser or FTP client programs to save your passwords. Any password saved in this manner can easily be discovered with a single click using some programming script.

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• Do not access important, password-protected accounts from public computers or someone else’s computer.

• Change your passwords regularly. Monthly is best, quarterly at the very least.

• Keep passwords straight using phone apps or an online password management system.

PC Magazine suggests the following: KeePass (free, download to your computer), www.keepass.com; ­LastPass (free, cloud-based), www.lastpass.com; RoboForm Desktop 7 (for one PC), or RoboForm Everywhere 7 (multiple PCs) (from $29.95) www.roboform.com.

Alternatively, save your passwords as plain text, then encrypt them with AES Crypt or AxCrypt.

• When employees leave the company, change all passwords that person was familiar with.

3. Virus/malware protection: Your computers must have the latest virus and malware protection installed and operating.

It must be updated regularly, then have a full scan run after each update.

4. Firewall: A firewall should be set up for your company’s Internet connection. Talk with an IT professional about what that entails.

Firewalls protect your private network data from being breached by outsiders.

5. Mobile device protocol:

Mobile devices used by your team can pose significant threats. They may contain confidential information and are frequently used to access company networks.

Password protect these devices, and have security apps installed. Encrypt all important data. Devices connecting to public networks at coffee shops, libraries, schools, etc., are particularly vulnerable to attack.

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6. Back up data: Nothing is sacred. Back up your data regularly. Email, documents, spreadsheets, databases, accounting files, HR files, etc., are irreplaceable and should be backed up regularly, preferably automatically.

Services like Carbonite or Barracuda are great for this purpose. If you make your own backups, put them on two external drives and keep them in a safe deposit box. Alternate these drives with each backup.

7. Wi-Fi: Secure your company Wi-Fi account with a highly encrypted password, which will help block outsiders from getting into your company network. If you offer a public access point for customers to use, make it separate from your business network.

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8. Credit card processing: Work closely with whatever service you use to process credit cards and make sure you’re using the most trusted, validated and anti-fraud system possible.

Use an isolated computer for these transactions, not one used for going online.

9. Give limited access: Give ­access to employees only on a need-to-know basis, only for the processes they use. No person other than the owner should have access to all this information. We call this having the “keys to the castle.”

Give these keys to a trusted attorney who’s in charge of the owner’s estate should something happen, with strict instructions that these be given out ASAP to a specific person in the event of the owner’s demise.

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Not So Hard

Sure, it’s hard to do all this, but it’s much harder to fix a data breach, undo the damage done by hackers and apologize to customers for their personal information being stolen. Set a goal to get this done before the end of the year.

Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and Web presence management.

He is the CEO of Optima ­Automotive

(www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.

Social Gathering

by Heather Blessington

If you are like most engine shops, managing your social media channels is a random mix of posts updated only when time permits. Measuring performance on your channels gets pushed to the back burner since figuring out content is time consuming enough.

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This article will help you create a social media marketing plan that works for the long term. The information provided here includes proven strategies specifically for dealerships. All you have to do is hold up your part and commit to three things: resources, time and budget.

Social Media is Free

By now, you know that although it’s “free” to sign up for social media channels, managing these channels requires budget and qualified staff.

On average, shops should be spending 10 to 20 hours per week on social media marketing.

That time should include performance reporting. This time equates to either a part-time or full-time internal position depending upon the size of your engine shop, objectives and goals.

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I Want ROI, Like NOW

No doubt about it, social media marketing requires patience. This arena of marketing is by no means turnkey, but I can assure you, I have never seen an engine shop fail if it commits to its efforts.

You should be seeing foot traffic marching into your shop within three to six months — even sooner if you start offering social-media-specific coupons right out of the gate.

Track Conversions

The biggest hurdle to driving foot traffic to your shop is you. I speak from experience.

Each week, my highly motivated, extremely passionate team meets to whine about our clients who promised to track our well-executed Facebook promotions through to sales conversion — but then the shop doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. We cry, we scream, we get all the venting out of our system, and then we discuss solutions.

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To date, we have not discovered one, so if you have the magic answer, please tell me.

You must require your entire staff to track social media driven promotions at checkout. Here’s where it gets tricky.

Customers may come in with printed coupons, but they’re more likely to flash their mobile phone to your cashier with the Facebook offer displayed on it. If your cashier gazes back, dazed and confused, it’s a problem.

Your cashier must track this sales conversion. The tracking can be easy as a checkmark on a piece of paper — just make sure they do it. Every single coupon/offer redemption must be tracked.

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Otherwise, what’s the point?

Assigning the Right ­Resources

Let’s start with what may be my biggest pet peeve of all time: shop owners who say something like,“My daughter is coming home from college for spring break, and she’s big on all this social stuff, so she’s going to handle it from here on out.”

This is so foolish. You are running a business. Don’t be a cheapskate, and don’t underestimate the power of social media marketing.

The first issue is that just because your son or daughter spends 18 hours a day on Facebook it doesn’t mean that they know how to market your business.

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Second, I don’t care how old you are, you need to learn about this stuff. Don’t pawn any marketing responsibility off on others and expect it to get done correctly. It’s time to get your hands dirty and learn it at a high level so you can assign resources appropriately.

If I were a shop owner, I would have the most qualified internal resource manage my social media marketing. This person would generally be your marketing person, but not always. Perhaps your service manager or IT person possesses the right skills for the job.

If I didn’t have an internal resource, I would hire one on a part-time hourly basis.

Word of warning here, everyone is a social media specialist these days, so do your due diligence in reviewing past work samples, client references and resumes.

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Outsourcing Social Media Management

In both scenarios, I would outsource with a company specializing in the powersports industry to work as a mentor/trainer with the internal staff member.

The social media market is changing and evolving so quickly that even my company has a hard time keeping up with it. For example, Facebook and Google+ enhance and update weekly.

This information can make or break your social media efforts –– your marketing person may be moseying along with no sense of industry best practices in security, privacy or current feature set.

Read: security breaches to your customer data, lack of reach to target demographic, and content postings that sit and spin when they should be informing your social communities of your dealership happenings. All of these stories result in lost revenue for you.

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Social Channel Relevancy

Facebook is by far the most utilized social channel by engine shops, and with good reason: it has the highest number of subscribers in every single demographic.

This means you should dedicate at least 50 percent of your social media marketing time to Facebook efforts, which includes Promoted Post Advertising campaigns.

Google+ and Twitter are the other two channels that I consider must-haves. The thought of managing three channels is daunting; however, the use of Hootsuite makes this problem disappear.

Hootsuite is a social media management tool that allows you to post to multiple channels simultaneously, and it only costs $9.99 per month. Even better, Hootsuite allows your posts to be scheduled, so content can be planned ahead of time and posted when your fans are most active.

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YouTube is another powerful social media marketing tool. The ability to express company culture, personality and style via video is second to none. Furthermore, 30-second walk-around videos sell vehicles like there’s no tomorrow. Shops that dive into YouTube are the most successful I have seen. The hard part is figuring out who is going to put their face on camera and who is going to shoot the video (it’s simple to shoot from a smartphone using the YouTube app which will automatically upload the video).

Finally, we have two other visual-based tools: Pinterest and Instagram. Instagram is owned by Facebook and it can be integrated into your account, so that is a plus for its usage.

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Pinterest is known for its “boards” format, which auto-magically sorts your images into an eye-pleasing display that begs to be viewed and repinned by any enthusiast with a passionate bone in his or her body.

My advice here is to take one of these channels on, if and when you have mastered the management of the big three under the umbrella of Hootsuite, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Performance Reporting

Facebook insights are right there for the reading, so you must take the time to review the reports.

The demographic and city reports tell you who your fans are and where they live, and you will likely be surprised to find that your in-store demographic is different than your online demographic — which is something you need to consider and accommodate for when planning your content and promotions.

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Next, the daily performance reporting on key metrics is essential. The key metrics include “Reach,” “Likes,” “Engagement,” “Talking about this” and “Virality” (hover over each metric on your report to learn what each statistic means for your business).

Your website reporting tool (i.e. Google Analytics), will tell you the referral traffic from your social media channels.

Going Tubing

by Heather Blessington

The power of YouTube as a primary social channel should not be underestimated.

Videos serve to boost your website’s organic search ranking, build your performance shop brand and sell more engines and services — which is enough reason to dive in.

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Getting Started

The best aspect of YouTube is you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars on sophisticated video equipment and professional editors to jumpstart your efforts.

Got a smartphone? You’re ready to shoot. Webcam on your computer, or even better, a GoPro camera? Now, you’ve got no excuse!

Here’s is a step-by-step guide to setting up a YouTube account:

Sign-in to YouTube with your Gmail account from Google — if you don’t have one, YouTube will walk you through the process (remember Google owns YouTube that’s why publishing content here helps your organic search rankings).

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Go To All My Channels

Here, you’ve got the option to create a YouTube channel for a Google+ page that you manage.

Select this option, as you’ll want to associate your YouTube account with your shop’s Google+ page. If you don’t have a Google+ page established, a new one will be created when you click, “Create a new channel.”

Fill out the details to create your new channel, and you’re ready to roll film … well, almost.

Planning Your Content

Strategy

While going “viral” may sound appealing, the chances that your shop’s new video will compete with adorable kittens and viral sensations like the Harlem Shake are slim-to-none.

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Instead, your goal should be to create videos that connect with your niche customer base. As a rule of thumb, if you can blog about it, you can create a video about it.

Optimizing Your Videos for SEO

Just like on Google, keywords drive the discovery of your YouTube videos. You can use YouTube’s Keyword Tool (https://www.youtube.com/keyword_tool) to generate a list of keywords to work into your videos. Here are the key places to use your keywords in each video:

Title: Just like your blog posts, make sure the title of your video includes your keywords.

Description: At the very least, you should write a one-sentence description, but you don’t have to stop there. You can write a blog-post length description, working in your keyword phrase(s) multiple times. This section is an ideal place to plug in a secondary call to action which clicks through to a landing page on your website (insider tip: there is no character limit on this field, so include all the detail you would like).

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Tags: Make sure you use your keywords and related terms in the tags section.

Script:  YouTube takes the audio from your video and creates an automatic transcript, so working your keywords into your script will help your video’s SEO.

Annotations: The ultimate goal of all of your videos should be to drive traffic to your website. Utilize annotations to place words on the screen with a call to action, such as, “For more information on all of our engine building capabilities, visit us at xyzengines.com.”

Be Consistent

One video doesn’t cut it. Forget about coming up with the world’s most creative viral video. Instead, focus on creating a steady, consistent stream of videos that address your target customer’s biggest needs. Sit down with your entire team and create an executable schedule of video content to ensure your YouTube channel stays current.

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It’s also important to remember that YouTube is just one channel in your overall social media marketing strategy. When you’re coming up with video ideas, be sure to think about how your video fits into your shop’s overall social media and digital marketing strategy.

If you remember anything from this article, remember this: the key to digital marketing success is to publish relevant content on a regular basis to establish authority.  n

Heather Blessington is a nationally-renowned speaker on social media strategy and a digital marketing veteran with more than 20 years experience. As CMO at ARI Network Services, Blessington is dedicated to educating businesses on digital marketing best practices.

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