A Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, Melanie Borden has spent the majority of her 14+ year marketing career in the automotive tech industry. Melanie has worked in various atmospheres from social media startups to a public tech company in consulting, marketing, and business development roles. She has driven marketing efficiencies for her clients along the eastern seaboard from NYC to Burlington, VT. Melanie is the driver for the marketing vision and strategy from inception to execution for the clients she has worked with. Presently, she is the VP of marketing for Tom Maoli’s Celebrity Motor Cars auto group where she develops and implements all facets of the marketing strategy and built the in-house advertising agency.
Dealer Magazine: To begin, can you tell us a little about your background and about Celebrity?
Melanie: Sure, I started in automotive in my early 20’s working for ADP Dealer Services, now called CDK Global. During my tenure there, I worked with many Lexus dealerships as part of a certified digital marketing program which included Celebrity Motor Cars’ first location, Lexus of Route 10 in Whippany, N.J. Having built a business relationship with his dealership Lexus of Route 10, Tom Maoli approached me in 2017 to come work for him to implement some processes, controls, and strategies for his entire auto group’s marketing. I came on in 2018 as the marketing operations manager and in March 2019 I was promoted to vice president of marketing.
About Celebrity: Celebrity Motor Cars was founded in 2011 by Tom Maoli serial entrepreneur, real estate mogul, and radio show host. Tom has a commercial real estate development company (Real Estate Opportunity Investments) as well as the entrepreneurial syndication, “Go Big or Go Home,” on iHeartMedia. Celebrity Motor Cars’ dealerships include Lexus of Route 10, Maserati of Morris County, Alfa Romeo of Morris County, BMW of Springfield and Mercedes-Benz of Goldens Bridge.
Tom has scouted out the best and most talented individuals in the automotive industry to work in the organization. He has put in place women in leadership at all of his dealerships which is truly unique in the automotive industry.
Dealer Magazine: The dealership has earned some notable recognition; can you tell us about some of those honors?
Melanie: Since Tom has purchased the dealerships in 2011, we have won a few prestigious awards, including BMW Center of Excellence Award. Lexus is a 7x consecutive winner of Best in the East, as well as the defending champion of The Crown Jewel, and the Circle of Excellence for two years running.
Our Maserati and Alfa Romeo dealerships of Morris County, both run completely by women leaders in sales, service, and finance, have also tripled gross since becoming brand new points. Mercedes-Benz of Goldens Bridge continues to grow exponentially since our ownership took over in 2017 and won 2018 Mercedes-Benz Best of the Best – Golden Laurel.
Dealer Magazine: What business strengths or mentality do you attribute to Celebrity’s success?
Melanie: Our COO has a background of 20 years in the high-end hospitality industry. The mentality of our organization is if you are not servicing the customer, you should be servicing someone who is. As leaders in our organization, we ask ourselves daily, “are we doing enough to put the employees in a position of success?” The strength of Celebrity Motor Cars is we operate as a team, and this is what sets us apart from any other auto group or dealership in the industry. Our chemistry and culture are very special in an industry that has always been male-dominated, very divided, and not well received by the public. The leadership team, as well as all employees, work together for the ultimate good of the group and especially our boss, the customer!
Our director of client services is a unique addition, one that is important to have in this ever-changing industry. He is dedicated to handling all of our customer concerns and issues they may have, with the philosophy that our most loyal customers started with a problem. How we are able to solve their problems shapes how they view our dealerships.
Dealer Magazine: What areas do you believe are important for dealerships to pay attention to today?
Melanie: With all the competition in the marketplace, I would say bridging the gap between sales and service, utilizing your own data for marketing, improving the trackability of your marketing, and streamlining your initiatives.
Dealer Magazine: Please tell us about your marketing approach, including how you reach your audience, where you focus your efforts, etc.
Melanie: The success we’ve had in marketing and advertising is our adaptability and ability to pivot and make changes on the turn of a dime, which many groups cannot do. We understand the purchasing power of millennials, which is why we have a significant focus on PR and social media.
A year ago, we partnered with SocialDealer on our social media strategies, which we have continued to reap the benefits from. We have also worked with them on a variety of different strategies, incorporating our own sales and service data, inactive customer data, our lease retention portfolio, as well as maximizing our PMA (primary market area). These targeting strategies have been an essential part of our social media efforts. All of our traditional media is strategically interweaved with our Facebook and Instagram ads. All messaging/ad copy is consistent across the board.
One of the key elements in our targeting strategy is utilizing our own customer data for sales and service. For every single form of marketing and advertising we do, we utilize our own database in CDK. Many dealerships today forget that the single most important source of revenue is their own customers. You have inactive and active customers in your backyard that you must not forget. For targeting, we use our pump in pump out reports, pull ahead lists, active prospects, as well as maximize our PMAs. We measure what we have implemented in our go-to-market strategy by using these reports with our OEM partners. We also leverage press releases extensively as an SEO advantage over other dealerships in our market.
Dealer Magazine: How do you accomplish all the work you’re doing? Are there any tools you use?
Melanie: In 2018, all marketing and advertising efforts were brought in-house, including creative, PR, vendor management, co-op, content creation, etc. All of our marketing has been streamlined, and this has given the owners complete control of their messaging.
Since starting our in-house agency, I rely on a few different systems, which are essential in my day-to-day. Box.com is where we house and organize everything in our content library. Within Box, we store all content including, photos, creative, video, etc. It is absolutely essential that every dealership has a content library. Ease of use to all assets helps with marketing efficiently. Sprout Social is where my team manages our day to day organic social. We have dozens of social media profiles, and this gives my team the ability to create a content calendar, and a posting strategy – all in one place. I use Cision’s PR Newswire for all of our PR needs. For my more administrative responsibilities, such as my team’s project management workflow, co-op, media buying and planning, I work out of google docs and the various OEM portals.
Dealer Magazine: What kind of support do you have?
Melanie: Our marketing team consists of three women including myself, our creative director, and a social media intern.
Our business development center, run by another mom, also centralized all of the dealership’s sales and service department’s BDCs. She has a staff of 16 and 14 are women. Although this is a separate department, the BDC director and I have partnered, working hand in hand with our teams together. We found that the dealership was over communicating to customers, and there was no real retention team following up on the marketing (emails, mailers). The BDC team now includes a retention team that is responsible for following up with our customers after they receive marketing collateral from us. This has helped us to improve profitability and trackability. We have eliminated most of our external direct mail and email vendors.
Our teams, by working together, bridge the gap between sales and service and the outbound marketing strategy efficiencies.
Dealer Magazine: Any final thoughts or goals for the future?
Melanie: One of our goals has been to build awareness for our philanthropic efforts within our community. We now drive awareness throughout various avenues, including internal Celebrity Auto Group communications, email marketing to our customer database, press, social media, (paid and organic) websites, television, and signage in the showroom at the dealership.
Celebrity prides itself on making a difference and supporting families less fortunate in our community – all year round. We focus on building productive, mutually rewarding, long-term relationships with deserving entities in our community, including The Community Soup Kitchen of Morristown, Rose Petals, Community Center of Northern Westchester, and the Goodwill Rescue Mission of Newark, thereby building positive relationships within our community.