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Making A Laughing Stock Out Of Social “Media”

Being involved in helping build awareness via social networks for dealers over the past three plus years, there has been a lot to see. And wonder about. From using APIs, feeds, republishing other content without attribution, ghost writing, "social" content farms, 50 plus network claims and more, it's a real "Wild Wild West" in what can loosely be called social media.

More often than not, the authentic part of brand building and gaining a following of targeted prospects, customers and partners is overshadowed by the "numbers game". Having not participated in the rat race, a few companies have catered to dealers from a more genuine and pervasive angle. In our case, even in working with some of the most reputable dealers in the US and Canada, our focus hasn't changed.

Just like with traditional or measured media, you can always pull an extra customer or two from outside your PMA/AOI because they saw your ad, lost leader, teaser, direct mail from a purchased list and the like. But the effort usually takes a financial investment, as well as a dedicated staff to take a couple hundred extra shopper calls from 50-200+ miles outside your selling market, that exceeds not only the return but takes un-calculated hours of effort. Again, you can likely sell one, two or even three. But at what cost?

Shiny object syndrome. Your choice: make it part of your business, or do like most dealers do with anything besides a warm body walking into the dealership. Isn't it so much easier when you can just throw hundreds to thousands of dollars at it to have it "done" by someone else, software, a new staff person, an existing staff person not doing their current job effectively or outsource it. Welcome to cardealerville, where more often than not (because there are some dealers and stores that simply kick a**), it's easier to just make it by rather than listen, learn, commit, apply, measure, adjust, remeasure, ask questions and do it forever.

Social networks. Facebook. It's a numbers game. Right? Yes, but only to a degree. While there are ways to grow a true, engaged following from email blasts to events, promotions to ads, signage to signature lines, an overnight success is as close to real and authentic as Simon Cowell keepng his opinion to himself or Donald Trump's hair staying in place without adhesive.

If you can add 2,100 fans in 48 hours and 1,100 of them in 11 hours, during the last few days of the month, claiming to do it with two salespeople walking around a (popular) mall armed only with iPads and their charm, there's a brand new Lexus LFA for sale at my house for $3.95 tax included.

Not to say that it can't be done. For Coca Cola. For United Airlines. For Zappos. For Lady Gaga. For a car dealer? Here's a reality check. The average percentage of people that you can stop, in a mall, during their shopping, fully engage, a get to do something you've asked them to do (as in "Like" a Facebook page) which requires about 2-4 minutes per person considering logging in, going to the page, liking it and logging out, is about 20%. If you're great. So, if you've added over 2,000 Likes, you would need over 10,000 people "walking by" you. Asking to Like a car dealership's Facebook page. At month end. Of a Holiday weekend. In a down economy. Need we go on?

Dealers. Heck, any business that reads our posts. This blog has been, is now, and will always be driven by the passon that our company has to education, improvement, information and moving the industry forward. Not hearsay. Not ego. Not reputation. Not prominence. Not sales (unless you're talking about a sales increase for the businesses reading our blog).

With less than 1% of franchise dealership employees getting a digital education at events, less than 5% participating in any level of OEM or third-party endorsed education, the attraction of paying $100 for 1,000 Facebook Likes can be too easy. Using automation and $50 a month to get thousands of Twitter followers can also be the same kind of aphrodisiac. Zero to hero is usually filled with as much satisfaction as a no-calorie candy bar. It may sound great, but selling high-line cars to a growing "Fan" base from South East Asia or South America is……………..well, let's not go there. Some of the OEMs actually read this. Wouldn't want anyone to get in hot water.

So just enjoy the teeming hordes of Likes you Real Ameican Genius of the Facebook Page. You deserve a nice cold one. Shower, that is.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results.

Automotive Online: Let’s Start From The Start

First, this is not a "back to the basics". The basics are constantly changing so anyone telling you to get back to anything likely can't get to the "now" things. So ignore them. If you're online in the automotive world (which should be everyone) there are a lot of things to do, keep up with, pay attention to, understand, investigate and network about. With the ongoing approach of "buy this", "you need that" and other distractions, let's look a quick look at what you should already have done:

1. Brand: The way people identify with you. Not a slogan. Not a mission statement. A brand is something people can experience at your business and take with them.

2. Staff: The right people make all the difference. It's any business's greatest asset, even if your facility cost over $50 million. Educate, listen, compel, challenge, equip and support them.

3. DMS: Are you simply using it or are you getting the greatest value out of one of the most critical pieces of technology? Hopefully you have one that gets development support behind it, provides regular training and updates and allows you to run your business from anywhere.

4. Website: Simply put it should be on technology that is up-to-date, work on all platforms and browsers, have a mobile version, integrates fully with your inventory, has a sitemap, allows full CMS access, has been submitted to all the major search engines, built on real SEO (yes, you have to pay for that), receives real updates, allows for use of video, social media and other necessary technology integration and is not controlled by your OEM.

5. Google analytics: Track your website(s). Track everything about them. Stop flying blind. It even helps you do other things.

6. Phone tracking: Why would you believe you educate and support your staff (anyone who touches a customer) without using phone tracking? You can't identify issues you don't know about and you can't teach (especially role play) without the right tools. Like someone hearing themselves.

7. Google Places: Your location, claimed by you, with all relevant details and descriptions, using photos and videos, leveraging Boost, using all provided analytics.

8. Reviews: Ask for them, explain the benefits in consumer terms (stop saying "would you do me a favor", please), display them, take care of customers that don't feel appropriately taken care of, use photos, use video and promote throughout your facility.

9. Inventory management tools: If you actually sell cars, stop using your gut and start using a tool that assists your genius mind with tools that help market your inventory, shows your pricing in the area or beyond, pushes your cars to your website and other places on the web you choose, has reporting, lets you use technology real-time on the lot and allows you to track performance wherever you are.

10. CRM: Input everything. Track everything. Measure everything. Tie it all together. And remember: the store owns the customer. The salesperson owns the relationship. Not putting all the data you can into the records in your CRM? You might as well cut a hand or foot off. It's what you're doing to your and your store's revenue potential.

11. Social networks: Get the first 10 down. First. Then call someone (not a guru).

These aren't by any means new ideas, bold suggestions, compelling insights or amazing shortcuts to your impending success. At the same time, they are grossly missed. Every day. By most dealerships in the country. It's one thing to have someone hold you back. It's an entirely other thing when you are holding you back.

If your business is not set up right,how can it perform its best?

 

Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results

 

Shortcuts, Rock Stars, Working Harder And The Point

Everyone, even the most committed and successful visionary, may take a shortcut from time to time. It's in our DNA. It's hard to resist. It's a recipe for disaster. It's one of the status quos of automotive retail and it'll undoubtedly be the death of more dealers.

So why is it that we live in a world where increasing the cost of goods sold for the sake of selling is acceptable? Markets overwhelmingly determine prices and sales, and those that proactively and interactively work to grow the market will win. And retention is nearly completely determined by the retailer. If you listen to most vendor pitches, increasing your operational cost is the only way to increase your business. Look at the trends at too many dealers over the past year, as sales have increased and you'll see old patterns and habits back once again.

– Look at the opportunities that are being missed. If you are a GM or GSM and are not reviewing your store's Internet-based performances at least weekly, you are losing sales, reviews, service opportunities and more. Don't simply add leads when salespeople ask for more leads. Review and access. Don't mask performance issues with more leads, new add-ons from vendors or another salesperson until you find and fix the true issues.

Dealers increasingly seem to be struggling with their rock stars once again. The difference between the salespeople that are truly working processes, generating results and those that talk a great story and have glowing resumes they'll share with everyone at the drop of a hat appears to be growing. Well-qualified people are harder to get at the same time that the gravy train seems to be stuck at the station. Rock stars are made by quality of work, sales, fans, referrals and buzz. If you are in car dealership management and your staff doesn't have all of those, you're website staff page might as well have pictures of Busey, Sheen and Murphy, Sure, your sales staff used to sell cars but are simply taking up otherwise valuable space at your expensive facility.

– If a salesperson can't close a manager, they can't close. They sold 28 a month at the (fill in the blank) store before taking your prized opening? What happened? You might be able to teach them. But how are they going to talk with and close an executive from a local company when they can't leave a proper message? While the industry talks about the "quality" of leads, we actually need to talk about the quality of people representing dealerships. Personality tests, walk-around evaluations, daily product training and more are great, but if your rock star is simply an over-egoed, tanned snake it the grass with a tattoo, that's what you and your customers are getting.

For a true professional, working harder is just as important and effective as time management. (newsflash: there is no such thing as time management, just priority or schedule management). If you are in sales and you tell management that you'll work harder, take the rest of the day off. Unpaid. Working harder is to results as Pillsbury is to making a gourmet cake. Find ways to leverage your time, use existing resources, have a cache of information ready and, most importantly, listen to your customers so you can save time rather than work harder. If you're in the work harder camp, you'll be passed by those that are in the work effectively camp and enjoy life much, much less.

– While there are a lot of things that can keep you from what you need to do on a daily basis, what needs to be done is incredibly simple. It's just not easy. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals (if you have the guts, set quarterly ones, too). Document everything. Use your electronic tools but write things down. It's amazing how many salespeople refuse to print out their queue and document notes by each contacts' name throughout the day, saying mid-day "I've hit my list" and "why do I need to print a list, it's on my screen!". Did you call each prospect three times? Are you customizing each email so it's relevant to them? Are you creating excitement, a call to action and exclusivity? And are you documenting everything?

Given the choice to build your business, what activity must you do?

1. follow up with all sold customers, asking them for referrals;
2. provide the best delivery process
3. set appointments
4. be the fastest responder of all your competitors
5. have the best brand experience of any salesperson at your store

If you've spent any time in sales, the only activity that generates business is number 3. You can everything else well, but if you're taking shortcuts, doing everything you can to work harder and bending it like a bonehead, you can't build a great business.

Remember that the best tools allow those that use them correctly with solid processes to do the best. A mediocre salesperson using great software may be able to sell some more products. A mediocre product with a great sales team, processes and software to back it up will win nearly every time.

As the automotive world we live in continues to change through new ideas, consolidation, acquisitions, production issues, lousy marketing and the like, you can only control what you do. So do what you do better. Shortcuts don't work, and definitely in the long run. Most rockstars fade or burn out. Leave working harder to the ones that don't know any better. What we're about is providing a better experience and delivering more cars. Not a flashy image. Nothing old school. Nothing that blocks or tackles.

What's the point? It's the one that things turn at. It's the one you wake up at. It's the one that you're beyond. Get the point?

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results.