Monthly Archives: November 2013

How to Convert a Multi-Location Dealership System

In continuation of the articles regarding switching Dealer Management Systems, we will soon be documenting and making public the steps, so that any dealership, even those with multiple locations, can easily move from one management system to another.

I have always said that business owners and managers make decisions based on the information that is provided to them. Prevalent in the automotive, marine, and RV industries is the fear of a costly conversion, not only in the upfront software fees but also the loss of wages, information, and sales. By publicizing these conversions, we hope to dispel those myths. There are many great options for dealers to choose from and they should be able to make those choices without fear.

Giant Recreation World, a Central Florida dealership with three locations and over $40 million in sales per year will be moving from their current IDS system to Systems 2000’s Software. Founder and CEO, Don McNamara has agreed to answer questions for any dealers wanting more in-depth information during the switch over.

At Independence RV, processes are running pretty smoothly and we will be entering the ‘Bells and Whistles’ stage. In this stage, we will start to implement the functionality that separates today’s systems from yesterday’s text or DOS based systems. These bells and whistles will create efficiencies and ultimately increases profits.

Last week, Rainmaker Software’s company president, Chad Carr, did a press release on their CRM enhancement called “360.” According to the press release, a dealership’s employee can view all sales information for a customer. The “360” enhancement also automatically notifies the salesperson when their customer’s RV is in for service. I haven’t seen a demonstration of their enhancement, but this type of tool is invaluable for a dealer and represents the type of cutting edge software that today’s dealers should be investing in.

Here at Systems 2000 we want to wish everyone a very safe and happy Thanksgiving and hopefully we will see you at Louisville!

– Carl Sconnely
President of Systems 2000, Inc.

Systems 2000 Tip
Excel Spreadsheets – you can customize your Dealer 20 Group Statement by adding your own pages into the spreadsheet. Just reference the data page where the raw data is displayed. This raw data appears in the same cell every time you open the spreadsheet. As an example, on your custom page just insert =Data!O142 into a cell. “Data!” is the page, “O” is the column, and “142″ is the row or line. Just replace the O142 with the column and row that you want to use.

9 Million Reasons to Protect Your Identity

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.  With this many occurrences, it’s likely that you already know someone who has had their identity stolen.

I have put together a list of common best practices that will help you protect yourself and your customers from identity theft.  Passing this information on to your customers and prospects ultimately benefits your dealership:  A prospect who has a stellar 800+ credit score one day, could be surprised to find that score knocked down or flagged for fraud alert when they try to finance an RV, making the sale tougher than it needs to be.  In addition, customers will give you kudos just for passing on these helpful tips to secure their identity.

Start by searching for your dealership name and phone number on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! search engines.  You might find that someone else has a website with your name on it.  Recently, thieves have created fake dealer websites, offering unbelievable prices and convincing customers to wire deposits for securing fake deals.  When the customer shows up at your dealership to take delivery of that 2010 diesel pusher they paid $8,000 for, you will have more than a case of mistaken identity on your hands.

When creating usernames and passwords, you should try to use a random password combination to avoid your account being compromised.  Case sensitive passwords are best, since they make cracking a password over 26 times harder.  According to PCMag.com, the most commonly used password is “password”  (that’s a tough one), closely followed by “123456” (another toughie), “letmein” (Let Me In), and “monkey.”   Anyone using “Monkey” for a password, deserves to have their ID revoked.

Automated hacking programs can try up to 2,000,000 password combinations per second, so don’t use words in the dictionary of any language, common names, dates, or social security numbers in your passwords – or the word “Monkey.”

It’s also said that the higher up the ladder you go, the easier the password is to crack.  Presidents and CEOs hate to change their passwords and unfortunately, they out-rank the IT administrator; as such, they just keep typing their little four character password that they’ve used for the past 10 years.

Another important and preventable way to protect your identity is by locking up your birth certificate, social security card, and passport.  You should only be carrying these documents around when you are traveling or absolutely need them.  These documents aren’t just used for credit fraud, they are also used to create fake work permit papers by illegal aliens.  Don’t be surprised when you find out your employee John Doe isn’t really John Doe.  Worse yet, wait until the IRS says you have been working 5 different jobs, in different cities, all at the same time.  Many illegal aliens will pass information around so that others can work under the same assumed name.

Dealerships and individuals need to cross shred all discarded documents that contain sensitive information or hire a professional and confidential document shredding company.  Regular shredding is still too easy for potential “dumpster divers” to piece back together.

Be sure to review all of your credit card and/or bank statements as soon as they arrive or track them closely online if possible.  Most of your cards should be protected from fraud, but many banks are shortening the time you have to report fraudulent charges before they become your responsibility.

When at all possible, do not use a debit card while shopping online or in any other seemingly risky place.  Debit cards are linked to your actual bank account, and this could allow a thief to drain your entire bank balance before you even find out something is wrong.  Even if your bank reimburses you for the loss, this typically is not immediate and would leave you temporarily without any cash.

Sensitive customer information is lost or stolen every year by banks, healthcare companies, and even government agencies so it is also a good idea to tell your customers to check their credit report at least a couple of times each year.

By sharing your dealership’s existing security policies with your potential customers, it will put them at ease while you handle their personal information. Reviewing the above best practices with your customers will help ensure that their credit is not blemished and will begin to build an ID security awareness in your dealership.

Carl Sconnely
President of Systems 2000, Inc.

Systems 2000 Tip of the Week

Don’t use “Monkey” for your password.

Cyber Wars Are Not Science Fiction

I’m not a “Trekkie” but as a kid with only one TV in the house and an older brother who liked Star Trek, I ended up seeing a few episodes. Even at the age of 10, I questioned the logic behind many of the episodes, especially the one where war was being waged by two computers. Captain Kirk’s logic, which I did agree with at the time, was to just shut down the computer and go bomb the other planet to smithereens.

What Kirk and I didn’t take into account (and unlike our Captain, I have the excuse of only being 10 years old) was that the other system may have already rendered our missiles useless, shut down our power grid, and emptied our bank accounts. Like a soldier with a broken gun, you have no choice but to surrender.

Today, we live in a world where hacking and cyber attacks are not coming from bored, 14 year old kids that get their kicks from deleting your computer files. We now have governments, terrorist organizations, and organized crime working constantly to infiltrate every system on the planet.

If you’re thinking you’re too small and your dealership really isn’t that significant to an organization such as Al Qaeda or the Russian Mafia, think again. What better a treasure than a dealership’s database or information stream. Dealer management systems handle point of sale transactions and F&I information. Credit bureaus are routinely pulled and credit cards are processed daily, leaving only your mother’s maiden name out of the picture, that is, unless your system is tracking the nearest relative not living with you – who just happens to be your mother.

On the Serengeti plains of Africa, the Lion prides feed off the old and weak to sustain themselves. In the business world, organized crime and terrorists search for older and weaker computer systems. With software written before cyber-crime was a gleam in a terrorist or mobster’s eye, these systems are easy to infiltrate and they store years of data that can be used to fund their causes.

Every dealer should ask, “How old is my system and what security upgrades have been made to defend my dealership? Realize that you, the dealer, are liable for a breach, and worse yet, you may be unknowingly supplying information to one or more of those organizations – right now as you are reading this blog!

Mushrooms may solve a low tech problem for a high tech industry.

With all the jokes and clichés about mushrooms, it’s hard to imagine how those little bulbs of fungi can help the technology industry.  There are 5 classes of mushrooms, edible, toxic, medicinal, psychoactive, and industrial.  Long before synthetic dyes, mushrooms, which come in a variety of colors, would be run through a process to extract the chromophores (coloring agent) and used to produce vivid dyes of every color of the spectrum.  Synthetic dyes replaced that process, but now the industrial mushroom is working its way back into mainstream life.   Two young college students turned entrepreneurs, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, formed company called Ecovative Design.  Ecovative Design has come up with a process for using fungal mycelium (fancy word for a shroom) to replace Styrofoam in just about everything from packaging and insulation, to even surf boards.

For me, it isn’t the fact that they are using mushrooms as a Styrofoam alternative, but the actual process of growing the packaging that I find so interesting.  At first thought, you would think they were merely grinding up some mushrooms and forming them into the necessary shapes and sizes, but that’s hardly the case.  Their process involves creating a mold – not the stuff that grows on old bread, but a container the shape of the needed packaging.  They then plant the mushroom tissue into the pre-shaped mold and let nature take over.   The mushroom tissue grows without the need for light, water, or other petrochemicals; and what I would give for a lawn that needed so little attention.

Since nature is doing all the work to create the packaging, no supplemental energy is used to produce the finished product and no petroleum is used as an ingredient.  With the rising cost of oil affecting the price of Styrofoam and consumer electronics being one of the top users of this type of packaging, this shroom packaging will eventually create economic and environmental advantages for our industry.   Packaging isn’t the only product Ecovative Design is working on.  They are developing insulation products, acoustical tiles, and automotive applications.  According to their website http://www.ecovativedesign.com, the benefits to the automotive industry for using their product instead of Styrofoam are:
•    Better energy dissipation than Expanded Polypropylene (EPP)
•    Low or no VOCs
•    Entirely recyclable or compostable at end of use
•    Very good acoustical sound attenuation
•    Passes all accelerated aging tests
•    Fire retardant without any added chemicals
These benefits are something that I would urge the RV manufacturers and suppliers to check into, especially the fire retardant properties of the product.

Ecovative also has a “Grow it yourself kit” in beta testing that you can sign up for on their website.  Once available, people will be able to come up with a wide variety of ideas and uses for their product.

The Changing Face of Television Advertisements

In the last 15 years we’ve seen a dramatic change in the advertising industry. Where paper and billboards once reigned supreme, the Internet dashed in and all but decimated the traditional newspaper. Those who couldn’t navigate the curve failed, a crippling recession only serving to hurry the process. Meanwhile, every day businesses struggled to comprehend a changing landscape: websites were suddenly a necessity – but a culture shock too – as the online era ushered in a new level of transparency. Now customers and competition could see how many units were on your lot, what they looked like and (gasp!) the MSRP.

Today, just about every company runs a website, some kind of social media presence, and deals with tech acronyms (SEO, PPC) on a daily basis. Marketing budgets have shifted to incorporate banner ads and product listings in place of the old magazine and classified advertisements.

Of course, now that everyone has finally gotten things situated, the tide is gearing up for another turn.

The Internet’s next target: Television.

2013 marks the first year in history that Americans will have spent more time on their digital devices than they have on the television. This is certainly not to say that we’ve all suddenly lost interest in our favorite shows; rather, we are choosing to watch them on our own time through network websites and services like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple’s iTunes. Recognizing the trend, Google jumped in with a brand new device this year, called Chromecast, which aims to turn a user’s TV into a giant digital device. Priced at $35, it joins a host of other streaming devices which will eventually have a dramatic impact on the cable industry, and subsequently, television advertising.

As is, many of us already pre-record shows on our DVR and skip through the commercials. From a consumer standpoint, it’s great – but step to the other side of the fence, and it seems like businesses are left holding the bag. As more viewers find their way to the web for video content, the audience pool (especially among younger generations) is rapidly shrinking.

While I wouldn’t completely pull the plug on television advertisement just yet, it’s important for businesses to know what’s on the horizon and begin shifting their sails accordingly. So what do you do? Begin refocusing your marketing budget to more internet-friendly outlets: hire a production team to produce short, eye-catching, and informative YouTube videos, build up your website with quality blogs and content (hire a copywriter), and develop mature social networks that will help direct your audience back to your web content and videos. Further, explore ways of advertising on YouTube and Facebook, where you can pinpoint specific demographics for marketing precision, and pay close attention to news stories about new advancements in technology and  video streaming – especially if a big player like Google gets involved.

Recognizing technology changes and aligning your business ahead of time can mean the difference between riding the wave or frantically swimming to catch up. Keeping an ear to the ground and an adaptive marketing strategy will ensure your company stays steady on the surfboard.

Make a Big Impact with Video Marketing

Online videos are an ever-present form of online marketing and are becoming increasingly vital to brand awareness. The best part is they can be produced for pennies on the dollar. Buy a good camera once, hire a part-time film student or use a tech-savvy employee and voila – online marketing goldmine! Unfortunately though, many RV dealership marketing plans are still far behind in figuring out how to integrate videos into their marketing plan. Here are a few great ways to use small videos for a big impact online:

1) Educate. Humans are curious beings. We like to learn things. Educational videos are a fantastic way to position yourself as an expert in the industry – and your customers will appreciate working with someone who knows their stuff. There are two types of educational videos: First, the ‘directional.’ This is a step-by-step explanation of how to do something, from hooking up a RV to operating slide-outs, and can range anywhere from 2-15 minutes long. If you are just starting a video library, focus on easy tasks and common operational questions, which can be produced quickly by less-knowledgeable employees. When performing more difficult technical videos, make sure your educator is an expert – if you just have a pretty face on the camera and a customer meets your star in person, they’ll be expecting to talk to a professional and may ask detailed questions that your “expert” can’t answer. For directionals, give them the real deal on camera and avoid embarrassment later.

2) The second kind of educational video is called a ‘quick tip,’ and can be produced by just about anyone. These 2 minute or less videos can be posted daily and might include novel ideas for organization, tips on driving, or may highlight a little-known but useful feature on an RV. Content is an incredibly important part of boosting your online image, and these easy videos are a great way to spread your name across the web and drastically increase your RV dealership marketing success.

Remember that building an educational video library on your site not only advertises your expertise, but it also proves your commitment to your customers. They will appreciate the free education and will make your website their first stop for questions – and eventually, their first stop for an RV purchase!

3) Showcase. If pictures speak a thousand words, then videos must speak about a million. These days consumers spend hours researching exactly what they are looking for, and when it comes to RV shopping, people like videos. Unlike pictures which can be limiting or misleading, a video walk-through provides an overall feel for the experience of an RV. Customers can watch a model come to life, as cabinets are opened, bathrooms are explored, switches turned off and on.

You could have any employee do your showcase videos, but if you have a long-time knowledgeable sales manager with a great camera disposition, it can be beneficial for your brand to have one familiar person do the walk-throughs.  Your on-screen tour guide should be able to point out and demonstrate some of the key features of the unit, while allowing the camera to also provide a full view of the RV environment.

These videos are usually about 2-5 minutes long. People have short attention spans, so make sure your tour guide speaks clearly, hits the biggest & boldest features first, and doesn’t block the view. Customers should be seeing and/or learning something new every few seconds or they will move on to another video. Remember that a two minute video hits the sweet spot. Keeping a viewer engaged after that can be increasingly tough, so always get your major selling points in first to ensure they stick.

Keep in mind, these videos are certainly important for your sales process, but they also benefit your overall RV dealership marketing appeal. Showcase videos contribute to your online marketing and will help increase your search engine rankings too.

4) Reach Out. Do you do work in your local community? Do you sponsor or attend community events? If the answer is yes, good for you! Community outreach is a great way to spread your brand and make it look good too. Of course, the benefits don’t have to stop after an event is finished. Hire a professional film crew to come in and do a little piece on your involvement. Interview non-employee participants on your involvement to gain unbiased praise. Post it on your website to show all of your customers how your business gives back to the community. Knowing they are dealing with a caring, reputable company can make a big difference in how consumers perceive you.

News outlets are always looking for positive community-building stories too. Contact some of your local stations and provide them with your video – you just might find your company on the 6 o’clock news for free.

5) Connect. You employ great people and your customers should know that. Give them a chance to connect with some cute video shorts featuring your staff. Offer your staff a few questions to choose from, such as… What do they love about RVing? What was their favorite trip? What do they love about your company?

Have your employees introduce themselves on camera and then have them answer one of the questions. Just as community service can change consumers’ perception of your business, so can showcasing your staff. With videos like these, you are able to show your customers that your company is knowledgeable, fun, and down-to-earth. In essence, viewers are given the opportunity to connect with your staff on a person-to-person level. This is a great tool, as it provides an emotional connection to your dealership for consumers.

On all videos, make sure to put your dealership logo and information on all of the posted videos. Also, videos should never be shaky. Hire a professional or even just a film student who has the tools necessary to ensure a quality production. You wouldn’t put a messy advertisement on a billboard, and the same idea applies here. Quality will speak to your brand – make sure it’s good!

Colombia Child Care is Focused on Helping the Poorest Children

The Colombia Child Care organization is focused on helping the poorest children in the region and continues its efforts as it faces new challenges each day.

In Colombia, there is a concentration of multiple groups with conflicting positions and a lack of a non-violent solution. This creates a vacuum for a normal quality of life for the majority of the people living there. In the United States of America, people fall into three classes; there are the upper, middle, and lower classes. The upper and lower classes account for a very low percentage as most people have a middle class standard of living. In a third world country, such as Colombia, you have only two classes – very rich, and very poor. There is little middle ground; you’re either enjoying all the luxuries that money can buy or you are on the street begging for food.

Because of the violence in Colombia, many children have become fatherless through war or have been abandoned due to economics.

We are all called to be a voice to the voiceless; these children don’t have the advocates they need to stand up on their behalf and to secure basic life necessities, such as food, education, and medical care. This is what we do. Our work is all about providing the practical but also the spiritual well being.

We want these precious children to grow up in the knowledge of God’s love and that there are good people who care about them. We cannot just bless them and send them on their way with rumbling stomachs, broken and lost, only to be rewarded with food and shelter by drug lords, terrorists, and other radical groups for doing their dirty work.

Twenty five dollars a month is more than enough to provide a poor child in Colombia with an education, regular meals, and medical care. Please help us help these children and pray for the protection of our staff and children in Colombia as we have seen a huge escalation of violence in the last few months.

Thank you in advance,