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What Are You Doing About What Your Competition Is Not?

Everyone's worried about their bottom line, revenues, expenses, marketing,future and what's going to happen next. Worrying so much they have forgotten how to think forward and act intuitively. Better yet, they're not even paying attention to what is not being done by competitors (in and out-of-brand) that can easily be capitalized on.

Two years we were talking about 'an edge'. Now most every dealership is talking about falling off of it. Nothing has changed…nothing! Now, you may have to be more selective and conscience. But you have to market, you have to connect, you must communicate and you absolutely need to build.

Here's a little secret about what 80-90% of dealerships in your market are not doing (or doing effectively at all):

  • Online marketing: SEO, SEM (paid search/PPC, banner ads, etc)
    • Google Analytics (please!)
  • Customer Relationship Management: email, events, incentives
  • Social networking: Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, etc for increase engagement
    • And drives first two bullets!
  • Reputation management: DealerRater, CarFolks, MyDealerReport, Yelp, etc
    • And drives first three bullets!
  • Capitalize on resources for education
    • Automotive Digest, Digital Dealer, AutomotiveDigitalMarketing, Driving Sales
  • Capitalize on resources for training
    • Consultants, brand events, networking (chamber, local businesses, etc)

More often than not, 10% or less of the 'things that must get done' are and even when they do get done, they're not maintained. Some of the MOST fundamental activities are just not being done and for what?

  • The road to hell is paved with good intention
  • The road to debt is paved with discounts
  • The reason that 90% of people fail is the inability to deal with people
  • Nobody ever earned a dollar without spending one

These are the times when (as a good friend of mine in the industry put it) you can get a larger piece of a smaller pie or you can save yourself to death. Most everything listed here can be done for free to hundred of dollars per month.

One of IM@CS' clients has reduced their marketing expense by nearly 85%, increased their brand exposure, delivered more cars in the past month than they did over the past six, is driving over 25% more web traffic and nearly doubling their own website leads over the past three quarters. They're doing all of the above.

It's completely up to you. So what are you doing about what your competition is not? Someone has to wake up first and get going. It might as well be you!

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

OK, It’s Time To Get It…Follow Up Is The Key!

It doesn't matter who you are, what you sell or where you sell. Further, it doesn't matter if you're actively selling or making sales happen away from the front lines. There are a number of things that make business tick:

  1. Passion about what you're doing and/or representing
  2. Solid fundamentals; especially process
  3. Understanding and belief in your business' mission and/or goals

Some still count on their manufacturer's brand or their 'book of business' to bring in customers.  If you can still enjoy that luxury today, count yourself as extremely fortunate. For most businesses, that's not the case. But, it's not as difficult as many make it.

A few things are paramount and undeniable:

  1. People want to know what's in it for them
  2. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care
  3. People want to understand value, advantage or benefit

Simply put, consumers want a reason to connect. The number one active failure is follow up, bar none. When you tell someone that you'll call them back in 30 minutes, keep your word. When you say that a customer will be taken care of, it's your job to ensure that (and be careful because their understanding of what that means may be dramatically different than yours!). If a person understands that something will be replaced, delivered or set aside, do it!

More and more, I find that follow up is atrocious. You'd figure with fewer sales, dramatically less people visiting businesses and more time to do the proper things, we'd be getting it right. It comes down to driving effective results, which comes from setting expectations and delivering! If you don't have good follow up you're dead. And not just an alert in your CRM…really do it!

Many time, follow up is the job of a customer service department or a BDC. No matter what, whoever handles follow up represents the whole company. I've heard it many times that a salesperson will excuse a customer's opinion or experience because "customer service did the follow up, not me". News flash: you're deaf, dumb and blind if you believe that.

Yes, first impressions are lasting ones. But the last impressions may be all for many consumers today and that could severely impact your business. If you don't leverage software or other technology, have reminders and build a plan (and cushion) into your day every day, you are in for a rude awakening.

Think about these things:

  • Time effectiveness = results / time
  • The principal of stewardship is taking responsibility over what you have
  • Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile dream or goal
  • Change is made when you:
    1. Decide to make business happen
    2. Make a commitment to follow up
    3. Put action into decision and commitment

Make follow up a critical part of your business plan and do it right. It's not someone else's responsibility, it's yours. Or else it's someone else's business! And have a purpose to succeed.

No purpose –> No goals        Know purpose –> Know goals

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Best Practice Consutling: How And Why Do It? Can’t I Just Watch An Online Video?

Why hire a consultant or contractor? Why pay someone for a little work when I can bring on a new employee for the same or less? Consultants only tell you what you already know but charge you for it! I don't want an idea or process person, I want a do-it person!

Yes, those are common comments (direct or indirect) that reflect some of the frustration that is typically borne out of paying for something that you believe you're getting versus what you actually get. Truth is the greatest benefits a business can ever receive is accurate 'outside' information.

Many people ask what 'best practices' are or why the term is used instead of just 'consulting'. Since there are many ways to interpret how a goal is set, course of action is drawn, possibilities determined and application is completed, it is important to ensure constant collaboration. Fact is, so many aspects can be viewed subjectively. Also consider that anyone can sell or buy what's in a book or what has already been done. More often than not in today's climate, what's necessary are customized or completely unique solutions that must be applied. The partnership between provider and client along with very specific goals are the glue.

The Wikipedia defines best practices as follows:

An idea that asserts that there is a technique,
method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective
at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method,
process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and
testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and
unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the
most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results)
way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have
proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

Despite the need to improve on processes as times change and things evolve, best-practice is considered by some as a business buzzword
used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way
of doing things that multiple organizations can use for management,
policy, and especially software systems.

As the term has become more popular, some organizations have begun
using "best practices" to refer to what are in fact 'rules', causing a linguistic drift in which a new term such as "good ideas" is needed to refer to what would previously have been called "best practices."

Simply put, it describes a concept of being dynamic and staying out front via perpetual process improvement. If the goals for your business include fundamental advancement, engagement, education and awareness, it may just be what you need.

There are some great consultants out there. Take the time to find one that works based on your needs, not theirs. Right now more dealerships than ever need help. Things are changing so rapidly and they won't stop. Get someone from outside your business to help things run better for your business. And listen…you'll thank me later.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What Do You Think It Will Take To Change? Hello?

Sometimes it helps being a cynic and a pessimist, or at least devil's advocate but at the end of the day you're either your own worst enemy or best ding-dang advocate.  It is always beneficial to see things with a different perspective but critically important to maintain your identity and job jump in the pool for the sake of it, no matter how fun the party.

Recently I've read two good articles. One by Joe Webb (President of Dealer Knows) in Digital Dealer Magazine. The other a blog post by Matt Watson (VIN Solutions) on AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com. Both deal with perception versus reality, pitch versus practice and simply understanding what you have and need before you're had.  Two common carriers of bias at the dealership level: a rep and an excited, overzealous  employee. Both are doing their job but if you to change anything you've got to address everything.

While results typically flow bottom up, change is managed top down. Changing your online results will not come from some videos on YouTube and some 'vSEO' on your website. Update all of your touch-points, become contextually relevant and timely, make sure your brand connects and apply process consistently. Changing how your employees act will not come from a new company policy solely either.

SEO and SEM are hot topics…and should be managed in tandem with your website and CRM. Having a bunch of disparate systems and efforts out there is like fishing with two poles…3,000 miles apart from each other. It just doesn't make sense!

Search engine optimization is an ongoing task with great opportunity, not a "got it with my website two years ago" item. When was the last time you looked closely at your analytics or, better yet, looked at your site with an overlay so you can see real numbers and statistics against what you think your consumers see. That's always an interesting meeting with my clients.

Change is never done. If you don't continue to change because you need to, because your competition is or because you can and make the right changes…you lose. The change everyone has been talking about for months is cutting everything and everywhere with very little regard. You see, that's not a change from troubled times in the past, especially for dealers and OEMs.

Our greatest changes are still in front of us. Are you ready? And what do you think it will take to change? Think about it and do it.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

FREE WEBINAR: How Digital Signage Saves Money, Drives Sales & Builds Trust

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Time: February 11, 2009 from 3pm to 4pm CST
Location: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/228925417
Organized By: Karolyn Hart

Automotive Event Description:
According to research conducted by Ipsos-Reid consumers see car sales people as the least trust-worth profession only equal to that of politicians.

Let's face it – dealer's have major challenges to overcome and on top of that (especially in this economy) they also have to find a way to cut costs and drive sales.

Join us for a Free Webinar that will show you how digital signage is helping with all these challenges and discover why it it has become the fastest growing media sector in the world!

RoninCast for Automotive – Driving ROI with Digital Signage
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM CST
REGISTER: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/228925417

Join Alan Buterbaugh, Wireless Ronin’s SVP of Business Development as he reveals how digital signage can address challenges faced by the automotive retail industry during today’s tough economic landscape. Alan has over 20 years of digital signage consulting and sales experience working with the nation’s leading OEMs and dealers. He will draw upon this knowledge to demonstrate proven methods for leveraging digital signage to reduce traditional sales and marketing costs while positively impacting revenue and generating significant ROI.

Wireless Ronin’s ROI model is critical to addressing the difficult economic challenges being faced by today’s OEMs and dealers. Alan will demonstrate how, with RoninCast for Automotive, you can:

• Instantly build trust with today’s sophisticated consumer
• Positively impact sales and transform the automotive retail experience
• Simplify a typically complex in-dealership shopping experience
• Educate your shoppers while providing the ultimate sales tool for sales representatives

Chat Up Your Inventory: Leverage Chat to Reach In-Market Shoppers and Win the Sale

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Date: Friday, Feb. 13, 2009
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern)
Location: Your Computer
Cost: FREE Click Here

Online advertising allows car buyers to connect with you in myriad ways: making a phone call, sending an email, visiting the store or clicking over to your store's website. The growing use of chat among online shoppers creates an additional channel to reach in-market shoppers and compete for their business. This webinar outlines the new communication strategies required to engage internet car buyers and stay with them throughout their shopping process.

In this session led by Kathy Kimmel, a Cars.com automotive consulting and dealer training manager, you'll learn how to:

  • Incorporate chat functionality into your online listings
  • Answer shoppers' questions and obtain their name and contact information
  • Encourage shoppers to set and keep an appointment
  • Follow up with prospects until they buy a car

Enroll_Now

Waiting For The Opportunity That Already Passed? Try To Process That!

No knock to hear. No call to answer. No door to open. No question to respond to. The customer was never yours. It happens more than not and it's aggravating as hell to deal with…if you do at all. Today you have two choices:

1. Wait for the next 'up' and work in the same manner as before
2. Create, extend and perpetuate a brand and destination where people want to interact with you

The result will be massively different but the actions required are not so disparate. What are you providing clients with that they'll remember you by? Are you qualifying and inviting before you try to sell (yes, that includes the appointment). It's been estimated over the past few years that nearly three quarters of vehicle buyers online have ended up buying from a store other than the first contacted, sometimes the third or fourth.

No matter what it is you actually do, stay relevant. Which models are people looking at most on your site? Which specials have the most hits? Which emails you send aren't getting opened? When is the last time you tailored your home page to traffic trends?' What are you doing to create opportunities?

IM@CS spends a lot of time on process and branding. Without process, the best online marketing, CRM, emails, websites and more will not deliver the results you want. By the same token, all process and lousy brand, marketing and reach won't win you fans either.

Some day soon, you'll have to get out of comfortable and get with now. Leave what worked behind and start creating what's next. Use what happened yesterday to do it better tomorrow. You can't process (or make a process for) something that is not identified, understood and actionable. Remember the definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.

What is it going to take to change perspectives from loss to gain? From hiding to opportunity? And from losing to winning? Just turning off the television won't do it. Those who are doing everything possible to not only brand and promote but connect with consumers will win, period.  It's a mindset and will take work.

Make sure the next chance is the one that didn't get away. People are begging for reasons to trust rather than fear. Guess what, you only have to worry about your customers! I'm not talking about the fact that Edmunds, KBB, Cars and Trader traffic is up 20%+. Do what it takes to attract every opportunity and capitalize on it "in your neck of the woods" as Al Rocker would say.

Stop waiting. Start acting. Start creating. Start adjusting, Start relating, Start understanding. Start executing. Start right now. I can guarantee you you'll get more opportunities. Remember that it's a numbers game and you have to start to win.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Week At IM@CS: Chats With The Industry

We typically address vendors here for best practices and today will be a little different. When trying to tackle social media, especially as a support for specific marketing online, it is important to be equipped. Some of the most frequent questions heard relate to getting started and how to be effective.

1. Where?
    Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, CarFolks, Google, Yelp, DealerRater, MyDealerReport for starters

2. Why?
    People go there, trust them, read them, listen to them more than they do with you, period.

3. How?
    Register, watch others, prepare and create a plan. Don't just set up a Facebook page and leave it. Support it with content, staff and purpose. There are now tools to measure your impact, for example on Twitter:
http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com/twitter
http://twitter.grader.com/

4. When?
    Now, or as soon as you decide that your brand awareness and people connecting with you are important.

5. Remember
    Nothing, not even the best process, is a silver bullet. If you're planning on inviting more people to come to you, give them a reason. Not a price, not a car, not a showroom, not espresso. Give them a reason that the rest of the 'things' absolutely support.

Nothing can build or kill your business like reputation. What are you doing to ensure that the good outweighs the bad, no matter how accurate? Almost every resource listed above is free, but worth money. You've been spending $3,000-$50,000 per month to get one, two, three customers at a time (at a ridiculously low ROI). Why not spend $0-$3,000 a month using those tools to make sure every customer has a reason to use you, can find you, can read what others say about you and stay connected with you, something they never did with your $20,000 ad that used to run every Saturday.

Stay in front, it's more important than ever today. Stay relevant, your future depends on it. Stay tuned, that way your customers can.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results