Mark Sokal, CEO of Sokal, joins Jim Fitzpatrick to discuss some of the most effective ways that dealerships can advertise their businesses in today’s electronically focused world.

As a speaker at the upcoming 2019 Digital Dealer Conference Mark tells of some of the topics his session will be focused on, including marketing tips and spending your advertising money in places that make the most sense for your company. He says that when dealers are working through multiple third-party advertising agencies not only is it costing them more money but it’s causing them more hassle, and Sokal works to eliminate this hassle from the process and save the dealerships time and money by eliminating these third parties.

To hear more about this from Mark check out the full interview above and make sure to register for Digital Dealer now and catch his full session, “What to Do When You Can’t Do Everything –– Learn How to Spend Your Ad Dollars in Places That Make the Most Sense for Your Budget and Market”.

SokalVIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hi everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us on another edition of CBT News. We are so happy to have back in our studios here in Atlanta, Mr. Mark Sokal. Welcome back to CBT News, Mark.

Mark Sokal:
Thank you. Great to great to be here. I appreciate it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. You’ve got a big week coming up. You’re going to be speaking to Digital Dealer.

Mark Sokal:
Yes sir.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Talk to us about that.

Mark Sokal:
Since Digital Dealer started, we really haven’t been that involved with Digital Dealer. We’ve done a few times, we’ve gotten a few boots, but really not involved. That’s not my thing. I’m not really a speaker. That’s why I don’t come here that often.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I don’t know about that. You do a pretty good job.

Mark Sokal:
Yeah. Thank you. Not as good as you. But this time they came to me and they said, “You know what, Mark? You have 300 accounts. When you talk, people listen and car dealers listen so we’d love for you to come in and talk.” And the idea was when you can’t do everything, what do you do? And I think you remember because we were in the car business about the same time-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Mark Sokal:
… that pick one thing. Whatever that one thing is, do that one thing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
For those that are not going to be able to make it out to Digital Dealer, what are some of those thoughts with regard to the dealers that are sitting there saying, “My God, I got digital. I got the TV guy calling me and the radio and everything else.” And I know you’ve got your hands in all of that. What do you recommend to a dealer nowadays? It’s so fragmented.

Mark Sokal:
Absolutely. We did a lot of research on it and the one thing that’s out right now that I think we touched on last time I was here was CTV, Connected TV.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. For the dealers that are watching, explain what Connected TV is and what you mean by that.

Mark Sokal:
All the people that have, let’s say, cut the wire. They’re watching, let’s say, Roku, Sling Hulu, Amazon Prime. Right? I want to be on their phone. I want them every time they are watching something on their phone or their iPad. I want to hit them. So I think right now that’s the way the advertising is going or I can reach the amount of people I want to reach for the lowest possible price. And what I like is that I’m controlling who I’m hitting, so it’s not like you put an ad on TV and who knows who sees it? I can actually decide these are the people in my demographics that are going to buy or are interested in a car that I can make sure that they’re watching my commercial.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And is it both video as well as offering banner ads or what kind of a format is that?

Mark Sokal:
That’s a great question. So what we do with the CTV is we buy 30 second spots. Now obviously we can put banner ads on their phone also and they work good. We bring them right to the website. Why I like CTV is because they’re going to actually see a 30 second spot and it’s really hard to click out of it. I don’t know if you’ve seen when you’re watching something on your phone and/ or on YouTube and you want to watch the rest of it, you can’t get out of it. So I like it for that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s where you want to be-

Mark Sokal:
That’s where I want to go-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… and and that’s where you’re putting your clients today.

Mark Sokal:
And that’s where I’m putting … I think we have almost every client doing CTV right now. I don’t know if there’s anybody that’s not.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And it’s generating results the dealer wants.

Mark Sokal:
Absolutely, generating the amount of leads, and you know what I like? It’s not a guess. I could track the lead back that they watched it on CTV, they clicked to the website, and then what happened? And especially if they have, a good CRM like eLEADs, an example. I could see if they sold a car. I know all what they did, and I think that’s real strong nowadays.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And it’s so key. You guys are doing not just the CTV and of course all the marketing for the dealers, but you’re also building their websites which is really cool. Because you’ve got it really, you’ve got that customer almost like cradle to grave, everything in between that dealer or that dealer group does and needs. You have it all at Sokal. I think that’s probably what’s led to your success.

Mark Sokal:
And that was one thing when I decided … Yeah, absolutely. When I wanted to get into this business I guess from sitting on the other side as a dealer … We just took over a dealership in New York City. This dealer when we went into, “We want you to handle everything for us.” I said, “Okay, give me all of the people that you were dealing with so I could take care of that for you.” He had 27, 27 different reps that we had to call to cancel everything.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So you can imagine this guy spent his whole day in marketing.

Mark Sokal:
He’s not selling cars anymore. He’s the General Manager of doing his advertising. Why do that? So that’s what I wanted to do it where-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And so many dealers and GMs that are listening to this conversation, listening to you right now, describe that. They’re going, “That’s where I’m at. I got 26” or “I got 32” or whatever. But that’s a very common situation, right?

Mark Sokal:
Absolutely, and it’s a lot of work.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It is. It is.

Mark Sokal:
I think sometimes you don’t realize it until you do it, but if you could have a team of people … Right now I couldn’t have just one person handle one store. It’s impossible. So every store that we have has a team of people. There’s literally four or five people on that team that have to handle that one client. So how can a dealer do that in house? So I think it’s important that people understand that, pick one thing, do that one thing, but make that the best thing right now out there. Used to be mail. A few years ago, it was mail, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Sure. And it’s all about this. It’s all about reaching that customer on, his or her mobile device. It’s got to be mobile today, mobile friendly. Because desktop, forget it, you’re too late. It’s all about being mobile. If you don’t have a mobile agency, you’re in big trouble.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
What do you find from dealers that call you and say, “Mark, I got a problem. I’m with X Agency and I need to make a change because here’s my problem. Here’s what we’re not doing,” or “Here’s what we’re doing too much of.” What would you say that would be? Is there a common thread out there that you feel agencies are missing the ball on for their clients?

Mark Sokal:
Yeah, I would think today, firstly, if you’re not doing 50% digital, that’s the first issue. Everybody needs to be at 50% digital.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
At least 50, right?

Mark Sokal:
A minimum. Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. So do you see-

Mark Sokal:
I’ve got dealers that call us, they’re at 20% still, 15%. We’re like, how?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Really? Oh my gosh. Wow.

Mark Sokal:
It doesn’t really make sense, but once you get to 50 then what we do is … A lot of people look to get outside of their PMA, and they want to bring people that are 30 mile, and that’s great. But you need to own your PMA. Right? So that’s first.

Mark Sokal:
The other thing that we’re noticing is it’s not always the advertising, and I’m your advertising guy telling you that. If you don’t have a BDC, and you’re not calling people back … Perfect examples, we just had a guy call us and I said, “How many people do you have in your BDC?” He said, “Four.” “Okay.” “How many leads did you get last month?” He said, “600.” “Okay. How many did you get the month before that?” “The same.” How many did you get the month before that?” “About the same.” So you’ve got 1800 leads in the last 90 days. You got four people calling all those 18 on it, plus taking a [inaudible 00:07:32], how has that even happening?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You can’t. It’s impossible.

Mark Sokal:
You can’t. So sometimes it’s not even the advertising, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
A very good point.

Mark Sokal:
You got to adjust to make sure 75 people, 75 people per person. That’s it. That’s what it is. If they tell you 200, it doesn’t work.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I totally agree, totally agree.

Mark Sokal:
Going back to what we first started with, I think it’s important no matter who you hire, whether it’s us or another company, that they have people that have been in the car business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
They got to know the business.

Mark Sokal:
They have to know the business. You can go tomorrow and go sit at a desk. I could go tomorrow and sit at a desk. You can’t bring in an advertising company that’s never sold a car. They handle Dick’s Sporting Goods. Okay, great. That’s a big account. They do a wonderful job. It’s much different than the car business, right? So no, you don’t need me to sell a car, but you need me to understand what it’s going to take to get that particular kind of person into the dealership.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Your dealers and your clients are coming to you looking for that overall strategy. To go, “I want to be able to give you a a hundred grand a month. You dish it up. You get the leads I’m looking for, and I’ll hold my team accountable. But you do your part. We’ll do our part.” And it’s a winning recipe. Right?

Mark Sokal:
It is, I would tell you that I think another, not even another, but I think the biggest recipe we have is from coming from the car business. I didn’t like when you had to sign a contract with somebody. You have to do my advertising for 12 months. And then you’re not … Maybe it’s not a good fit on either part. But you’ve got, “Oh, here he comes. I got 12 months, 11 more months, 10 more months.” I don’t have a contract with anybody.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow. That’s good.

Mark Sokal:
And we don’t really lose.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You earn your keep every month.

Mark Sokal:
We earn our keep. The car business is all about last month. Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Sokal:
And honesty. It’s real, real hard to find a company that you could really trust. It goes a long way.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It really does.

Mark Sokal:
You don’t need a contract.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, and your clients appreciate that.

Mark Sokal:
We have to just every day make sure that we are being honest, humble, and doing the right thing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And that’s at the end of the day it means everything. That’s right.

Mark Sokal:
As long as you’re doing it, you’re going to be good.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. I agree. I agree.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Digital Dealer, for those of you that are going out to Digital Dealer, it’s going to be a great show. It’s August, just in the next week actually, August 19th through the 21st. Make sure that you see Mark Sokal while he’s out there and it’s going to be a great presentation. And you’re going to be amazed as to what these guys are up to because you’re knocking the cover off the ball for such companies like Hendrick Automotive Group.

Mark Sokal:
Yes sir.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
If you’re good enough for those guys, you’re good enough for 90% of the car dealers that are out there.

Mark Sokal:
I would hope so. Between them and the Capital Group, those are two big groups that we handle, and the Capital Group we’ve had probably 15 years now, and Hendrick, we’re going on 10.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh. That’s pretty cool.

Mark Sokal:
Without a contract.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Without a contract. That is fantastic. Mark, thank you so much for doing this at CBT News.

Mark Sokal:
Thank you for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You guys get out to Digital Dealer and check out his presentation. I know you will not be sorry for that. So thanks again.

Mark Sokal:
Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hopefully we can have you back after the presentation. Talk some more.

Mark Sokal:
That’d be great.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. Thank you.

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