MM Podcast Episode 014: Automotive Marketing From The Alpha Dawg with Jim Ziegler (transcript)

This is a transcript of MM Podcast Episode 014: Automotive Marketing From The Alpha Dawg with Jim Ziegler.


Ashley: Welcome to Episode 14 of the Motorcar Marketing Podcast. In this episode’s main segment, I’m going to be talking with Jim Ziegler. Jim has been in the automotive industry for decades and has a ton of information to share, so stay tuned for that.

If you find this episode valuable, please help us out by giving us a review in ITunes, or leaving a comment on YouTube, or re-tweeting the podcast on Twitter, or liking us on Facebook.  These social media shares really do help spread the word about the podcast, so it’s very much appreciated.  If you have any questions or comments about anything feel free to send us an email at:  I want to improve this podcast, so some honest, constructive feedback is always very much appreciated.

A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on the website in the show notes.  I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show, or look at something later on.  You can find all the podcast show notes at  Just look for Episode 14. We recently put together a free guide for car dealers, called the Quickstart Auto Dealer Marketing Guide. You can get it by going to  It’s completely free, you just put in your email address, and the lessons will be emailed to you over the course of the next few days.  We’ve tried to concentrate on the high leverage things you can do with each marketing channel, so you can get the maximum results in the shortest amount of time.

We’ll be adding more lessons to this guide in the future, but to start out we’ll show you how to increase your ROI and sell more cars on Craigslist, how to quickly setup a Google Paper Click campaign, how to begin generating leads from your local search engine optimization, and how to effectively use email marketing to generate leads and correspond with your past customers.  Again, this guide is completely free just go to

So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m talking with automotive industry veteran Jim Zeiglar. Here’s the interview.


Ashley: Welcome Jim to the Motorcar Marketing Podcast, I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Jim: Hey, thank you so much, I appreciate it.


Ashley: Okay, so to start out, I wondered if you can give us a quick overview of your career and how you got into the auto industry.

Jim: I got into the auto industry completely by accident. Thirty-eight (38) years ago, I was in radio broadcast. I was a DJ. I was fairly well established and when the biggest radio stations in the country ended, I got divorced. I became depressed, and I thought I’d dropped out and sell cars for a while. I was just going to do this so I can get a good job 38 years ago. I became a manager. I moved to Atlanta in 1982.  I set some records in the industry and became nice, well known. I’m manager most of my career and I was a jumbo sales manager one year. I started the company in 1986 and became extremely successful since.


Ashley: Perfect, so let’s talk about the alpha dawg persona for a bit. I think it offers a great look at personal branding. I know I’ve seen some videos where, you know, it’s kind of tongue and cheek. But, let’s talk about it for a minute. How do you see personal branding, you know, as an advantage in your business?

Jim: Well, first of all, alpha dawg is a name that I gave myself. It wasn’t a nickname about your friends gave me. It was just, the alpha dawg, the leader, the undisputed whatever. You know, just one of those things that… I don’t take it all, but seriously, people that look at it and they shake their head at the jewelry. You know, a hundred thousand dollars worth of the jewelry at my hands.  I wear the baseball hat and say ‘alpha dog’. It’s Elvis on stage. I’m creating a cartoon persona and I’m not that serious about it.


Ashley: I think one of the things that is interesting to me about it, is you’re not afraid to, you know, sort of, maybe annoy a few people. I mean, there’s an old saying, “The middle of the road is a dangerous place to drive.” So, you know, by taking on this, sort of, persona, I think yes, you’re going to annoy a few people, but you’re also going to pick-up and get some people that are very passionate about you. That’s kind of a key in personal branding.

Jim: One thing you’re going to find is nobody on earth is going to say, “Jim Zeigler, I can’t take him, we’re leaving.”


Ashley: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Jim: I’ve got my fans and I’ve got other people. But, you know, I will tell you, if you don’t want to hear the answer then don’t ask the question because I will tell you exactly what’s on my mind no matter who’d offense.


Ashley: Okay. Perfect, so let’s get into some car dealer marketing and sales marketing. I work with a lot of dealers and basically, they advertise on, auto trader Craigslist. You can basically scratch out a living like this if you’re willing to compete aggressively on price. I’ve heard you talk about this, sort of, limbo dance dealers do where they just keep having to lower their prices more and more in, sort of, a race to the bottom. Let’s talk about that for a minute. How can dealerships get out of this loop where the only way they can differentiate themselves is by competing on price?

Jim: It’s amazing we have one of a few industries in the world that we have less than 3-5% mark-up in our apologizing ford. The real estate and jewelry mark-up 300%, but then rather 60 minutes is never exposed to jewelry store. That was some poor car dude trying hold this 3% thing and proud of it.

So, first of all, we’ve got to win ourselves away from the vendors that are driving the prices down. They’ve been asserting another level of profit between us and the consumer. Most of the vendors were doing business when they’re making more profit from these cars than we are. They’re controlling the prices. The first generation of lead providers basically gave you a lead and you work the deal. Let’s face it most car dealers are honest. Most car dealers are not the way they’re portrayed. We, vendors, are portraying us to be terrible people. That’s stereotype probably won out in the 70’s, but they still perpetuate because they use their advantage to create distrust to the consumers.

The dealers have got to recap to the first page of Google. The virtual showroom has moved to the Internet and Google is the battlefield. I’m going to tell you right now, if any dealer listens to this podcast to go into Google app, your make of car – Chevrolet, a model – Silverado, and your town – Dayton, Ohio. Those are the three things that most consumers put in a Google search – make of a car, model of a car, and the city they want to buy it.

You’re going to find out that all of these vendors are popping out and the dealers aren’t even on their own first stage. They’ve stolen your market. By the way, I believe, these leak providers have a debt in a place in the industry. You know, we should use them, they could be good, but we also have to own our own turf. I’m not saying fire all the vendors, I’m saying transform the vendors. Make them justify because truthfully, a lot of these vendors are not producing enough to justify their high prices.


Ashley: Let’s just step back. We’re really talking about the, the These sites have aggressively marketed themselves.

Jim: This is a personal opinion, but I personally did test car dealers. A lot of people don’t know who they are, but their stealing your first page of Google and almost every market. A lot of your vendors are re-selling your inventory to other vendors. You’d be amazed. I was in a private speech in Columbus, Ohio last week and I had like 60 car dealer principles in the room. I was showing, among Google, where vendors were shipping their customers half of their market place. I showed one dealer where his inventory, one of his units and stock were on a hundred websites he didn’t put them, that inventory on. I pulled his serial number on Google and it pulled up a hundred different websites. Your vendors are really doing some things behind your back you are not aware of.


Ashley: I think, just to play devil’s advocate here for a minute, one of the things the vendors would say is that, “Well this obviously puts pressure on the dealers. It may be better for the consumers in bringing down prices.” What would you say to something like that?

Jim: How far down, you know, if they go to where the dealer is making a profit? Let’s say the vendors completely won the battle to put the car dealers out of business and turn our dealerships into warehouses, you’re going to end up with best buy; you’re going to end up with big warehouses. They’re going to set the prices and the prices will go up. Dealers are not making any reasonable profit. Most new car dealers, they are not profitable in the new car department. The new car departments are still a pro away. Consumers might get what they wish for because service and some of the things we do. Most dealers are contributing half a way back to the communities. The dealers that are emotionally and historically invested in our communities were good people. That’s our biggest gripe to some of these vendors that portray us to be thieves and criminals when, in fact, we are very community oriented. We put in uniforms; we’re in little league teams; we’re building wings on the hospitals. We’re doing wonderful things in our communities. We’re paying vendors who are vilifying us, and then just frost me.


Ashley: Yeah, for sure. Let’s just take that thread and go with that. You say transform these vendors. One of the things, it is the nature of the Internet, I think, this comparison shopping that people do that’s really ultimately driving prices down. What could we do? What could the dealerships do to try and get and to be, sort of, on their side?

Jim: I used to be lead providers. Now, they’re trying to tell us they’re advertisers. The advertising source, well excuse me, but I don’t need another advertising source. They can’t justify their pricing. Remember the movie of Jerry Maguire, “Show Me the Money”? show me the ups. Don’t tell me how many pay bills I got. Don’t tell me how many people are visiting you. How many people did you generate? The latest single here from the vendors is they didn’t come in to our site but they researched you on our site.  That is the most bogus explanation in the world for their pricing. Show me the ups; show me the justification of how many units you produced in sales. Not just because you’re manipulating the price and find out what others paid. There’s only so much profit to bill your car deal and dealers don’t want to cheat the consumers. We’re talking about fair profitability. Most consumers have no idea to believe we make so little on cars, we do because they’ve been so distrust.


Ashley:  Let’s take another step back. You said, “We got to own our first page of Google.” Maybe give us some tips about how somebody could potentially own that first page of Google.

Jim: First of all, you got to have a website to convince the customers to an appointment to sales to contact. The website has got to be really well mapped. Somebody’s websites are terrible. They’re not maximized; they’re not optimized; they’re not, what I call, heat mapped. There’s a definite science of where customers go on a website. The prime real estate, for example, the upper right hand corner is the first place the eyes look. I see dealers all day long that don’t have their phone number permanently displayed on the upper right hand corner of their website.

The vendors will say, “We put it in a place where they had look for because we wanted convert the customers to email. So, we convert them to a phone call; If we started out at a phone call then we won’t have a form so that they won’t have a record because we’ve got vendors right now dropping cookies in the consumers’ browsers. Some of these are websites at the manufacture requires that you have the manufactures monitoring your website activity. When that consumer leaves your website, these vendors are still tracking them all over the Internet and re-marketing too continuously.

First of all, we need to be sure that our websites are up right. Second of all, we got to have an SEO strategy ourselves. Concentrate on Bing and Yahoo and all these other search entities. They’re okay, but still Google is the battlefield. If you don’t own Google, you own nothing.

I had shown dealers in this meeting I had in Columbus, Ohio last week. I was sure the bugs screen on their computer. I was going into the source codes. Some of their website vendors had no source coding at all. No meta-tags whatsoever, neither were the big website companies, I mean, some of the biggest. Hold your website provider accountable for conversion. Your website should be built to attract, retain, and convert customers to a contact to a sale. That’s what the lead providers are doing. If we mimic what they are doing and drive a month on the first page of Google, our sales would go up.


Ashley: We talked about some of the big changes that you’ve seen in your 38-year career in the industry. Let’s talk about just some of the things that have basically stayed the same. What are some constants and some things that kind of never changed in the auto industry?


Jim: First of all, the auto industry has changed, but the road to the sale. This whole theory: old school, new school is stupid. There is no old school, new school. The road to the sale didn’t die, it evolved. Technology was added to the road to the sale. We still have to make the appointment. We still have to cause the consumer to contact us. We still have to do all the basic blocking and tackling we’ve always had to do. The negatives are gone; the consumer is fully transparent today. They know exactly what we paid for the car. They know about finance. But the average consumers on the Internet are three hours before they even make the first contact of the car dealership or even one of the vendors. I can find out the invoice. I can find out the finance. I can find out everything about money in five minutes. What they do for the rest of it – 2 hours and 55 minutes – they’re researching the cars, the equipment. That’s what we have to educate ourselves, people. Selling of cars is still not a daily word. It’s not a bad thing to do. You don’t trick the customer or deceive the customer. You finesse despite that ourselves everyday. We hired you because we suspect that you have a personality. If you don’t genuinely like people, get out of the car business. It’s not an adversary of relationship, these are our friends. It’s always been that way.


Ashley: If someone who goes into a lot of dealership, who talk to a lot of sales guys, a lot of sales managers. I wonder if you could just give us a few common problems that you see and then tell us how to correct those common problems.

Jim: I’ve been in a thousand showrooms minimum in 49 states. I have not yet been to Alaska. I had best deals and worked with customers in every other state. That’s kind of cool. I got pin-napped. Alaska is just bare. I might get there before I die, who knows. I talked to a lot of people. Everything I’m telling you today is experiential, it’s not something I read in a book or something I theorized.

The biggest thing that we’re seeing with people today is the quality of our sales people. There’s a big move on the day view with profits going down to pay your sales people less and your management less. There are vendors out there selling people, consulting programs how you can pay your people less. Even when you’ve paid peanuts, you get monkeys. That’s what we’re forgetting and the consumers want a better quality sales person and we have to pay people to get better quality people. You got to educate yourselves, people.

The sad part today is we’re chasing generation wide and milenios. The milenios really can’t buy anything. They’re all living with their mama’s basement playing X-box all day saving up for their next tattoo. They’re not car buyers.

What are we dealing with? We’re basically dealing with a sales force that is not loyal, that turnover that change jobs at the drop of a hat and leave you for a whereas job for three hours too long. It’s the quality of what we put in front of the public is the biggest challenge today.


Ashley: What are some tips for that? A lot of the dealers that I’ve worked with, it’s like I talk to them and I can see their cash trap and it becomes the vicious cycle where they want to pay more but they can’t because they’re not earning more. What are some tips to get better sales guys on your work?

Jim: First of all, you got to make a better profit. You can’t afford to do that, you’re right. Second of all, you got to pre-screen your people. You got to go through some proof to find the pearl. Don’t just desire bodies to put up there because you need coverage. There are some really some good people available. Find them. Constantly be recruiting sales people. Don’t recruit sales people when you finally realize you’re out of people.

Most dealerships do not sell the amount of automobiles they could sell because they’re understaffed. Unfortunately, sales people have, what I call, nut mentality. This is a number of sales people probably as many as 70%. They are not 70% sales people. This is not a number that I’ve seen or researched or I just feel 70%. I take 70% of the sales people today are just working to pay their bills one more time in a row. They’re not trying to get ahead. They’re not trying to be manager. They’re not trying to own a dealership. They’re not trying to be super successful. They’re just passing through to get to another job. They’re trying to keep ahead of their bills – one paycheck away from homeless. That’s not the kind of people we need. I want people that are motivated and have goal and inspiration. To find those people you’re going to have to dig through with it. Those people are out there. People with work ethic.

There are four pillars in prosperity: attitude, desire, work ethic and competency. Attitude. I can’t give you attitude. I’d probably run on stage and show you what attitude looks like. I’ve got attitude. I believe in me and I am bulletproof and invincible. Work ethic. I am where I am because I am willing to do things other people are not willing to do to get what they say they want. Desire. I’m going to tell you right now, most people don’t want it badly enough. I motivate sales people. I have to ask them, “What do you want?” They really have a thought about it. “Do you want a bigger house that you’re living in? A nicer home? You want a motorcycle? You want a car? You want a better car? You want vacation? You want jewelry? You want luxury? Vacations? Dining? Education for your children? Security into your old age? Why are you doing this?” Once I can make them understand why they are doing it and have a goal, and have a clear vision of what they want. They just don’t want to know their paycheck and another night in the tavern. You want something beyond all of this. That is the biggest thing I have to do. Motivating sales people with quality of life with not motivating sales people with money. Money is for hookers and pawnbrokers.


Ashley: Maybe you could just tell us what’s the best way for people to kind of keep up with you and follow you, you can maybe mention some of your websites and your Twitter account? I’ll link all this in the show notes, but just tell us some of those links now so we can get you.

Jim: I’ve got a hundred thousand friends and followers in social media. I’m making $30,000 a month on my Facebook page. That’s just part of my income. Social media is another advantage we need to really get a hand on. My Facebook page is You’ll find, if you Google me up, I come up over 4 million times legitimately. You’ll find me. My main website that I can give today is The, all the articles because I write for three magazines issue now. Part of the red callous me in the industry to put those three together. The alphadawgblog has all my articles in the past and all of my upcoming events and or the I’ve got 50 or 60 websites out there.


Ashley: Tell me, you said $30,000 a month on Facebook. Where is that income coming in from?

Jim: Like next week in Seattle, this broadcast due will come out too late to advertise an event, but I’ve got an event next week in Seattle, We’ve got 20 speakers on stage plus myself for two and a half days teaching dealership internet practices. We’ve got another one coming up called the Supersales Management Conference coming up in November in Atlanta with another 20 speakers. is that one. That website is up right now. We haven’t populated it yet, but we just did one in Dallas. I’ve done 20 or 30 this big of conference with about 150 people there and 20 sponsors.


Ashley: Perfect. Jim, you’ve been very generous with your time, I really appreciate this. This has been very talentful.

Jim: I’m very happy to help you. I’m not here for you. I’m here for the dealers.


Ashley: Perfect. I think the dealers are going to listen to this and get a lot of value out of it. This has been really helpful.

Jim: Thank you.


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Just a quick thought on today’s interview with Jim. I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what Jim said about owning the first page of Google for your dealership. I think that really is key because then you’re not really as reliant on big sites like and

I’m actually doing some testing creating some local sites here in Southern California and seeing if I can get them ranked for some good keywords. We’ll see. If there are any dealers out there who want to be involved in this beta test, please let me know. I’m happy to run some of these experiments in your local area too, so we can see what sort of Google traffic we can get.

Anyway, that’s our show I hope you got some value out of it that can help you grow your business. Thanks for listening.

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