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Barbecue for the Troops kicks off 2017 campaign

May 19, 2017
Area dealers hope to cross the half-million-dollar mark this summer in funds raised for USO of Illinois, after raising about $420,000 for the nonprofit over four summers. The 2017 campaign began at a launch party at the CATA on May 17.
 
The kickoff was preceded by a panel discussion about the growing importance of mobile marketing.
All the funds are used for USO programs that support deployed troops, military families, wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers, and families of the fallen.
 
The campaign culminates July 15, when it is hoped 100 area dealerships will host Barbecue for the Troops events. Dealership representatives at the "boot camp" launch were equipped with USO banners, posters, and donation tear pads, and computer links to campaign graphics.
Jessica Dolan, vice president of development for USO of Illinois, encouraged dealers to place banners in clear view near the street in front of their store.
"People will drive by and pull in to ask what you’re doing for the USO," Dolan said. "It is a very recognized logo, and people want to help the USO."
Chicago has been the only market in recent years where dealers have hosted USO Barbecue for the Troops events, but NADA Chairman Mark Scarpelli, a dealer principal in Antioch, is encouraging dealers across the country to host an event on July 15.
Some of the planned fundraising activities include:
 
• Car Wash, with dealers asking for donations
• Lunch special for employees and their families and friends. They can leave the brown bag at home and eat in, to support the troops
• Cornhole/Bags Games. No American barbecue is complete without a cornhole/bags tourney!
• On Demand DJ, with donations made for song requests
• Social Media Donations. Enlist employees to promote the dealership’s USO Barbecue for the Troops through their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar accounts, to collect additional donations through an event page.
The USO has for 76 years provided Americans with a tangible way to express appreciation and gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice of the nation’s troops and their families. 
The Chicago Automobile Trade Association has arranged for radio advertising and is working with many radio, print, television and social media partners to develop an aggressive promotional campaign leading up to July 15.
All CATA messaging will direct individuals to www.DriveChicago.com to find participating dealers nearby. Host dealers will be highlighted on DriveChicago, with links to information on specific events. 
Dealers who want to join the fundraiser should contact the CATA’s Tim McBride or Jennifer Morand, both at (630) 495-2282.
 
Panelists at the mobile marketing presentation discussed new strategies and tactics — including fresh content marketing ideas, video examples and email solutions — with the ultimate goal of converting more leads into quality customers. 
 
"Customers are getting more exacting with search parameters. ‘I want this car, in this color, with these options and trim level,’ " said panelist Mike McDonnell, chief executive of Automotive Internet Media. "If you don’t offer that, you lose them."
 
Other panelists included Craig Steensma, CEO of eshots; Kevin Keefe, the principal of Brilliance Honda, in Crystal Lake, and Brilliance Subaru, in Elgin; and Mark Bilek the CATA’s senior director of communications and technology.
 
Consumer use of mobile devices is accelerating. Just four years ago, the time spent using mobile was about equal to time at a desktop computer. Today, mobile leads about 2-to-1. Dealers must make sure their websites accommodate that.
 
Listings are more condensed on a mobile site, but the list, for instance, needn’t describe a vehicle’s color when showing a picture achieves that. A picture might look good when viewed vertically, but what about horizontally?
 
Steensma recounted a story about Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg meeting a website developer, then throwing the developer out of his office with the command, "Don’t come back to my office until you have a mobile strategy!"
 
Use of social media is an effective path to achieve name recognition through branding. And social media clicks can cost as little as 25 cents each, compared to $4 for a pay-per-click.
 
Bilek noted that dealers tend to spend more on advertising at the end of a month, as they try to meet sales goals. "But that’s when it costs more to advertise," he noted, "and people are shopping all month."
 
"Search engine optimization is dead," McDonnell declared. "It now is content marketing. Don’t just advertise, provide content."
 
 

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