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Branding: A Call To Arms (And Phones, Marketing, Websites, email…)

BOOM! It happens and you’re left without a net… Damaged image. Damaged perception. Damaged goods.

Unless you have a brand. Unless you’ve been under a rock or have been too ‘busy’, the amount of evidence, chatter, discussion and conference-data hinging about branding has been nearly deafening. And still, undeniably, the majority of dealers put all of it on the badge.

Write your rxcuses down and put them where the training materials are from your favorite industry speaker (likely in someone’s office or under the desk in the tower, collecting dust). That’s where theu. Belong.

Retailers with amazing brand, consistent engagement, a commitment to what they do for customers and how much they care for their own people know what to do and say when the shit hits the fan.

If you have little else aside from lip service and management doing things the way they always have, you’re forced to depend on the badge. And folks, that’s a crappy position to be in. Oh, it is completely preventable.

Brand, whether the store’s or the salesperson’s or the service tech’s or the business manager’s, is inextricably tied to the customer expeerience. Someone can sell a product for years and ultimately be invisible.

Whatever comes out of any manufacturer difficulty or trial can be mitigated by having a brand that is independent.  It’s been proven over and over and over.

There will be those who come out if any challenging time better, more aware,ore prepared and more convinced. Will that be you after the smoke clears? Or will it be back to business (badge reliant) as usual?

Don’t be badge-dependant, be self-dependant!  If you don’t understand or believe that, it’s time to do a little self-searching…and ask what your brand is.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results 

Still Ignoring The “C Word” Will Cost You

The “C Word”. You know, that word. The one that makes dealership executives’ skin crawl, makes sales people laugh, has trainers’ mouths drool and absolutely keeps your store from its true potential. It even has female staffers cringing, question working at the dealership. Say it with me….CULTURE.

Ignored by only the bravest of souls who understand the kind of wrath and trial it brings. Changing culture takes balls. It takes work. It takes time. And it takes an unrelenting focus as well as undying commitment. We all know it, so why do so few do it? Weak leadership? Lazy management? Not necessarily. Mostly it’s due to the lack of understanding what the intermediate goals during and wins at the end of the effort are. You know…not starting with the end in mind.

Culture, by definition, is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

In other words, you’ve built the existing culture and it’s continued nearly blindly. In order to change a culture, the industry has historically resorted to spiffing or spanking. That’s not truly leading a culture change, rather a practice of distraction. So we take adults who should otherwise be able to achieve a change and create a different focus. Then we shoot down the same adults when the incentive or punishment dissipates. Quit setting your business up for failure!

Culture change takes conviction and creating lots of buy-in. We do that a lot with lead management and sales coaching at IM@CS. Creating adoption breeds results. More than taking the same business rules and communication requirements from dealer to dealer, like most consultants and trainers do, it takes a focus on sustainable actions through owning efforts, responsibility and results at each individual business.

Instead of blaming incompatible software, say desking and CRM, for why salespeople don’t complete their logging and steps in tracking and following up with customers, create an environment where sales supports each other and daily reports reign. And back it up with at least one weekly sales meeting run completely out of CRM. Over-simplified? Possibly. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

Culture? It’s everything or it’s nothing. Yeah, that will reflect everywhere…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Homogenization is for Milk (If You Drink That Sort of Thing), Not Dealers

“If digital were that easy, everyone would be doing it” said no automotive OEM executive, ever. But somehow, over the past few years, it seems as though they did. Meaning, for the most part, they don’t do anything digitally and yet…they expect their franchises to through some very forceful measures.

The dealers don’t win. The consumers don’t win. The car companies win. Concessions. That’s all. And not the kind that sell more cars. No, car sales are not up due to websites, erosion of gross or 84 month leases. Car sales are up because of demand, available loans and because, yes, the cars (all of them) are being made better today than ever. Oh, and of course, because your website company says their marketing rocks and they deliver the most low-funnel consumers to your doorstep (yeah, those reports make us puke, too).

Homogenization has never been greater at a time when nearly every smart person in marketing (automotive and non) says to create differentiation in every aspect of your business. Yet your OEM digital representative, who was in sales operations three years ago and brand communications a year ago, comes in and says that you have to/should use website provider A or B (that doesn’t have a fully responsive mobile platform, let alone one site), CRM vendor C2, search marketing partner D5B and consulting company WTF (who’s consultant was born the same year your rep graduated Northwood and worked at a Verizon store last).

If you’re smart and digitally savvy, you’ll run as fast as you can the other way. Why? Because selfishly, every digital know-it-all can do a better job? No. Because, unless you have a well under-performing store that you can plug any brainless automotive digital veteran into, buy more leads and sell more cars, they’re after your data, customers, results and ideas through managed programs. Yes it’s absolutely essential to have every retailer represented well digitally, however if a dealer wants to think that digital is a fad and not put resources into the top consideration generator, let them do so. It’s natural selection in business folks, let ’em sink.

Being made to look like every dealership with the same banners, offers, landing pages, newsletters, paid marketing and social media is a slow, miserable existence. An import dealer shared today that during his recent brand marketing meeting, an OEM digital overlord told him that he should have the ability to turn off all of the factory marketing if he had his own. Unfortunately, his website company (OEM-endorsed) didn’t allow him to and the third-party, in-the-way-of-your-results consulting firm didn’t have an answer on if he could or not. (the OEM guy did take notes and will report back!)

Another dealer chatted with us about not having proper used car data on their OEM-endorsed websites for their group. You think that the car company loses any sleep over used car anything, let alone mis-equipped listings potentially losing thousands of dollars?

It’s time to take your marketing over if you want to. Yes, it’ll take time, money, measurement (you don’t understand now), resources, patience and a die-hard willingness to learn, changing your dealership culture. And it has to start with the dealer and general management. Not for a dashboard or an award, not for a magazine cover shot or being called up at a conference. And quit talking about visits or sessions, that’s so 2008. Nothing cooler than telling your dealer “we had 1,000 people on the lot and in showroom, sat down with 28 and sold 4!”. By the way that’s what your website says.

All of this is because if something doesn’t sell or service a car, or get someone back to your dealership, it’s not worth buying or using. And nobody, not one person, after working with hundreds of dealers, on OEM programs, at 20 Groups, conferences and webinars, producing second-to-none content, social and SEO, can convince us that standardizing marketing and solutions across thousands of retail points across North America can do anything other than paint the industry with a bland brush.

You don’t deserve that and your customers don’t deserve that. Will Rogers once said “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. Unfortunately these OEM digital programs have created a Crab Mentality by literally not letting those that choose to get ahead. Good intentions, poor execution.

You can do much better. We hope. (310) 377-6481 or info at imacsweb.com

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results