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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

Misunderstanding the Misunderstood (A Post-NADA Perspective)

Too often, we mix messages. We misconstrue. We miscount. And most often, decisions based off those actions lead to more of the same. There is a lot of “data” out there: actionable, validated, accurate data, and damaging, paralyzing, inaccurate “data”.

 

Last year IM@CS was fortunate to be involved with a Mercedes-Benz project around lead management and one of the talking points (not from us or our partners) showed the average customer in 2013 submitted a lead to 1.3 dealers. Not only has this been invalidated by at least a half-dozen companies, in speaking with the dealers themselves, the empirical data disputed that. The data. “Data” brought in by (maybe) well-intentioned parties however far from accurate, very far for allowing a proper action plan and light years from having the dealers make sense of it.

 

Too often, the OEMs, and admittedly dealers, are lit up by flashy bids, mesmerizing proposals and the all-too-famous “we also have contracts with Competitor A and Competitor B” line or the notorious “we built the space/were first to launch this” verbal flatulence.

 

Another case in point: Last year General Motors rolled out an initiative for BDC build-out for it’s nearly 4,000 franchises. Good intentions, a little late on the “action bandwagon” (we spoke with GM about his in 2008 and 2009) aimed at mitigating the massive amount of lost sales due to lackluster lead response and follow up (read: all OEMs fall in to this bracket and have subsequently gone at solutions the wrong way). Enter two vendors for those dealers. Yes, two. Two vendors for build out and support of thousands of dealers’ BDCs. Then, the co-op curse, leading most dealers, due to “cost”, to not hire companies that can scale better, are more experienced (in real life, not on paper).

 

It’s time to stop misunderstanding the misunderstood! Who are the misunderstood? The agile, more up-to-date, active, often smaller guys and gals who prove themselves daily, weekly and monthly.  The misunderstood are the companies with great services, not great advertising and magazine cover shots. The misunderstood are the ones who deliver faithfully without contracts or gouging (why would a dealer ever sign a contract for services that must be measured?).

 

There is a prominent Internet/Marketing Director from the Midwest who, a couple months ago, posted on their Facebook page that their group was firing their existing trainer, and looking for a more progressive company that didn’t have an OEM contract. Why? Why? Why? Simply put, the services provided, as do most of the OEMs and the companies they endorse, couldn’t deliver for today’s market regardless of that company’s data!

 

The misunderstood are so titled due to the lack of willingness of dealers to get way from comfortable and, simply put, sell and service more cars. Its not your word tracks, it’s not your phone call scoring. It’s not your trainer that has to repeat him/herself each and every month and bring in nearly-duplicate reports. IF you don’t understand how something works, stops paying for someone to do it. Understand it.. Even if you find a partner to leverage, you’d better understand it.

 

The industry, by and large, still can’t respond to a lead effectively, completely and with a reason to buy in under a day.  We’re starting the 21st year of the Automotive Internet. You don’t need to know ode, you absolutely must understand why having a responsive website is a must. You don’t need to know how Facebook changes their algorithms, you absolutely must understand targeting das and dark posts. You don’t need to how Google leverages directories and local citations to leverage local search, you absolutely must understand how and where to update your information, links and phone numbers.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Manipulation: Not the greatest form of flattery (Stop It!)

Nobody looking from the left, not a soul peering in from
the right; so it’s done. Manipulation. The to do, the call, the email, the
touch…you know, the BS-logged activity. The stuff that’s done just to get the
heat off, clean up the CRM and get back to going the same pace of “lead
management” and selling (the same amount you always do).

So why do we do it? Why is it allowed? Are we that far
removed, today still, from accountability in the Internet departments of the
automotive world? Sure. Nobody really
knows how to monitor, let alone want to, so the scheming goes on. And the
units? They go somewhere else…

To quote Scott Straten: Stop It! Stop It! Stop It! Get real
about managing your leads and quit killing your dealership. Not only are you
not flattering your management and owner, you’re making the investment in the
software to assist in the process and closing your sales heavily irrelevant.
Want to make your ratios? Then do the work! Too many leads, stop begging for
more!!

Manipulating your tasks or your leads has an impact on your
dealership akin to giving your child an empty box for their birthday. Nothing
good can come out of it and they’ll eventually look somewhere else…

Not to mention, manipulating your CRM simply makes you look
bad. Period. Create processes and systems to ensure that the leads are touched,
every day, with rare exception. It’s a lose-lose that is unacceptable.

Management, take the time to completely understand your CRM.
In addition you must audit regularly, conduct one-one-ones and manage your
store’s Internet hand-raisers no differently than your walk-ins, referrals and
service customers.  Just because you
can’t “see” your customers doesn’t mean you treat them any differently.

What does all this mean? Manipulation in sales tracking just costs too much. So get
real, change/add processes, counsel with management, spend money on an
assistant…do anything other than fudge it.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

I fought the law and the law won…? Bullshizzle!

From time to time, it’s good to get a strong dose of
perspective or reality, depending who is describing reality. It’s easy to see
why business owners, and especially car dealers, are so confused when it comes
to doing anything, let alone well, in the digital/online space. Diluted
solutions that favor data over results and backed more by marketing genius than
true muscle are more common than wannabe starlets at Hugh Heffner’s gigs at the
mansion.

Our reality comes in doses while checking out new markets, our
client’s competitors, vendors’ pitch materials or the information the factory
eCommerce rep brings around to dealers, from time to time.

The information age is lacking in one large area for
businesses; in correct information! In a day where so called experts are giving
misleading or incorrect directions, ad agencies are still F-bombing (oops,
errant posts to) client social media accounts, SEO companies are still using
offshore link/content farms and studies show, for some reason, that 2009 data
still needs to be shared on stage as new, not enough people are calling folks
out. No, those companies are still getting hired and you’re still using them!

Reality check is you have to consume large amounts of
correct information at breakneck speed today to keep up. Mind you, we’re not
talking about leading, just keeping up. And most dealers aren’t doing
that.

Sure, everyone knows how to eat an elephant. Right? one bite
at a time. But trying to take a sip of the digital waters, for most, has been
like drinking from a fire hose or the bottom of a waterfall. A little
overbearing! Car dealers…get out of your comfort zone and take a big gulp!!

As you prepare to start 2013, here are a few things to think
about and maybe, just maybe, put to action:

  • Your website should not be the same as your
    closest in-brand competitor. This is not a vendor thing; it’s a content thing.
  • Your emails should not be the same as any local
    competitor. This is not a vendor thing; it’s a people thing.
  • Your social network content should not be the
    same as any local competitor. This is not a vendor thing; it’s a smart thing.

In 2013, the manufacturers clearly want their stores to be
as uniform as possible: experience, showroom, content, website/mobile, email
and more. Fight it tooth and nail.  The
majority of endorsed vendors are not there for you, they are there for
them.  The norm sucks…so don’t settle for
it.

The more consumers expect a unique experience, the more our
industry fights it. Why? Because it’s not easy to do things that way; even
though more of you are just giving in.

The smallest portion of the budgets in our industry, still,
happens to be the digital ones. This is a top-down mentality, starting with the
manufacturers. Oh, and don’t let the desire to govern response times and having
your wrists slapped over a vehicle image with the wrong lug nuts stop you from
having a kick ass digital presence and drive more customers to your front door.
Do things right the first time and get wet. Get really, really, really, really
wet from the digital hose. It’s the only way to lead.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

You Lost Me At Hello

Leads. Leads. Leads. Lead? Nope, the customer that should be
yours that will buy somewhere else. All the data (little data and it’s more
well-known brothers medium data and big data) says the same thing: people that
submit leads buy. And buy in a well-defined time frame. And buy from…….well,
it doesn’t matter. Most of the time it’s not you.

So what’s the deal? The deal is this: the more leads that
are typically generated deliver fewer customers. Why? Because we can’t change
an industry of salespeople, management, training and manuals before it wants to
shed its rich history of stuffing customers into cars, only going for the low-hanging
fruit and being “busy” which is a crock of bull. Between seemingly insurmountable
amounts of information and customers buying, there is a brick wall. Yes, the
one you keep hitting your heads against; the one that prevents us from being
great and gaining attitudes that push us outside of our comfort zones.

Internet leads are gold. Back in the 1800’s California Gold
Rush a lot of people went broke while a fair number made their riches. Fast
forward to the last fifteen years and, likely for many of the same reasons, a
few are making a killing while most are screaming “bad leads” rather than
actually looking at what the heck is happening in their stores.

Between a dealership’s website and third parties, the
average store can create enough business to sustain at least one person
dedicated to managing “leads” or a floor of great communicators (which everyone
says they are) sharing all of the business. The problem lies at the point where
a response is sent. For the most part, dealerships respond with crap, period.
Invite me into any dealership in the country, I’ll show you mediocre at best
responses within the 30 days period prior and many of them.

So what needs to be done to eliminate losing someone at
hello? Ready…here’s the rocket science: 

  • Read the lead, and most of the time the source
    lead, completely prior to sending a response. Then read it again. Then slow
    down and read it again.
  • The response should include answers to every question or comment provided by the customer and validation for the customer
  • The response should include a qualifying and/or
    a closing question every time. In
    every email. Every time. No matter what. Every time. And if you can’t think of
    one, write a couple and stick it to your monitor or keyboard (would you like assistance with anything else?
    or did you have any other questions right
    now?
    )
  • Hit send after you’ve read the email thoroughly,
    ensuring that everything asked by the customer has been addressed, value or
    benefit has been identified, your complete contact information is included and
    that no significant amount of time has elapsed since receiving the
    information/email/response from the customer. Hold it!! Read it again and make
    sure it is understandable and completely
    addresses what the customer wants and needs
    without being a Steinbeck.

The reason that most dealerships don’t receive equitable
responses from customers who submit online leads is….we send garbage! If it’s
easier and more rewarding to buy a $25 item from Amazon than a $30,000 car from
your store, shame on you!

Never send an email or pick up the phone (recorded phone
calls demonstrate that we do just as s**tty of a job on the phone as emails)
when (1) you don’t know what you are going to say, (2) don’t address the
customer’s needs, (3) can’t properly invite them into the dealership and (4)
talk/write more than asking questions.

Expectations around online experiences leading to purchase
are increasing. So it doesn’t make sense to miss the mark, then defend yourself
to your GM or GSM with anything other than “you know what, I don’t deserve to
manage your leads”. And by the way, that’s not much of a defense, however at
least it’s honest.

Remember that there is no such thing as a bad lead, just a
crappy response. Yes, there are bogus leads but you’re old enough and smart
enough to sell 20+ cars a month on 100 leads. Yes, you are. Go get ‘em tiger!

Best Practices:
Professional Insight, Powerful Results

The Difference Is One Letter…And What It Gets You Is Much More

Many times people ask me why IM@CS is not a training company, even though plenty of people call what we do by the "T" word. The response every single person receives, for the last five years – and emphatically – is that people despise being trained. People, more successful ones for sure, love learning. In short, we've never had a staff member at a client that ever deserved such a low pat of the attention span.

Education, however, is what people and businesses that want to succeed tune into. There are plenty of trainers to choke 17,000 new car franchises to death, and then some. There are so very few educators, especially in the digital space. That aren't beholden to vendors they recommend (read: if you take a fee from a client and a commission from a vendor, that's called a conflict of interest). That don't work at a store 40 hours a week (read: that's an employee, not a consultant). That learn from outside the industry (read: recirculating existing data, quotes, white papers and results from others is simply an affront).

Education, for the few that want it, is the only thing that moves our industry forward. "Getting back to the basics" and "blocking and tackling", while called for and part of daily operation especially when things drop through the cracks, is needed. However, you can't increase results from eCommerce, increase your SEO footprint, establish social media signals, improve your email lead response rate or conquest a new market or brand by "doing what has always worked".

This week brought a great opportunity to share what might be considered as more "digitally savvy" dealerships and vendors in a conversation with an industry colleague. He happens to be someone that I respect, having OEM, portal and agency experience including outside automotive. He asked, among other items, what we're most proud of that we were able to do with a now, more-successful client. My response was that he should ask them, not me…

You see, training is something you do everywhere for everybody that "needs it". Education is something that you provide with varying degrees of success, seeing the results later through your clients and only for those that absolutely want or will kill for it.

One thing I've always been passionate about in providing services to different business over the past twenty plus years is watching their growth. By providing turnkey services or an enterprise-wide platform, as needed as those services are, the baseline is so muted. That doesn't get me or the team of people I get to work with up in the morning. What does is making a difference through education and then supporting the education. Anyone call sell or buy a widget. And many will tell you their widget is better or drives better results. Bulls**t. The people using the widget to their best capability win. Remember who people buy cars from? The least educated one, right?

So what's the difference between training and education? Education is one letter longer. And likely the only thing keeping your dealership back from excellence…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

If It Were That Simple, You Wouldn’t Have Done It Yet…

Things are changing. So fast, they’re staying put, at least for the most part. It usually brings a smile to my face when they phrase “We’re doing well. Things could be better, but compared with (fill in competitor) we’re actually doing fine/well“, is muttered for two reasons. First, it’s part of our selection process and second, it’s part of the business’ selection process. “No, we’re not changing” is a great response, even though most can’t get it out of their mouths.

Recently one of our clients called to advise us that they were being pushed be their OEM to do some print advertising, their first in nearly two years. So they advised us that they’ll do it for two months, just to get the heat of their back. That made me think about what business owners and senior management do to simply make their business partners happy, or trying to make competitors worried, or to make a statement as well as a list of other, mostly ego-driven or self-centered, reasons.

Many businesses today are out of touch with their customers even though consumer sentiment and feedback is so readily available today, to the point of nausea. And we don’t ask. Heck, we can’t even get accurate sourcing at the point of sale today as “the fastest way around the system” is what most of those in sales will do because “I just want to sell a (fill in the blank) now”.

Logic tells us if something is easy enough, we should just do it! Logic also tells us most people won’t opt to do things that are deemed difficult so the few that do that harder work reap the greatest benefit. Most things that can increase results relatively quickly, given the proper attention, will absolutely give an unprecedented advantage. Yet most fall short. Well short.

Take, for example, call tracking. Why would you want to use your cell, at your desk, when you can kill two birds with one stone on the business’ land line (unless you have a more advanced CRM that can append a cell call to a customer record)? Convenience is not a reason, that’s called an excuse. Sure, there are reasons to have your land line forwarded to your cell, however it makes sense to get the most out of each contact, being somewhere you can easily take notes and/or check something online and more, simply by making/taking the call at your desk on a tracked phone. (Using this example due to the fact that for most car dealerships this is a huge pain point in accountability and tracking.)

Do we really think the top producing salesperson will drop 20-70% of their sales when pressed to follow a process versus letting them “do it their way” since nobody wants to “rock the boat”? That’s not likely to happen and,  better yet, it’s more likely to provide a boost in production.

More than ever we need to stretch the rubber band if we expect to succeed, not just get along. There are so many simple things that we can get done offering huge benefits in return. They may not always be easy, but they are worth it. The salesperson chatting on the front line may just be able to reach five more people today on the phone. But it won’t happen..

Because if it were really that simple, it just won’t get done. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a big issue.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

NADA Time: Start Operating Your Business As Yours Or Someone Else Will

More often than not, businesses are left to turning part (or all) of their operation over to vendors and partners with the reasoning that they're not able to "do everything". In automotive retail the de facto excuse you hear usually has something to do with how selling cars is what gets done and nothing else matters. Well, it's 2012 and everything has to do with selling cars.

News flash: It always has been so.

More likely than not, as we're upon the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) season, hundreds if not thousands of dealers will leave with contracts signed, or nearly signed, convinced that simply punting their responsibilities over the wall is the best way to get 'er done. Fact is nothing is further from the truth.

Dealers must grasp a much more realistic perspective of controlling their business through action, education and accountability or they will absolutely have it taken over. And nobody is saying that's a bad thing, in the event that a business has no desire to be "in" business. While a $6M dealership may not scale, invest, market or operate like a Fortune 100 business, but there is not a single reason why it can't approach and plan business in the same way or using the similar methodology.

A few things to keep in mind as we go into the NADA conference this coming weekend.

  1. Assess your dealership's needs and gain consensus from your employees on what to return from the conference with
  2. Plan 90% of your schedule via expo and workshop schedules, focusing on must-have meetings
  3. Schedule meetings with critical existing and vendors and check out their competition
  4. Talk to as many dealers as you can outside of your 20 Group, in the booths you visit, about what they're doing and not doing with the vendors you're visiting as well as haven't considered
  5. Look at vendor and supplier reviews on Google, forums including DrivingSales and other reliable sources
  6. Ensure the viability of vendor/product deployment in your store prior to signing any agreement
  7. Talk with existing/new vendors after the conference again, prior to accepting any new agreement

 

While the above steps are no guarantee against "being had", it should at least put some steps between a mediocre quick decision and a thought out beneficial one.

Areas that seem to be gaining traction and popularity that don't make sense include:

  • Reputation management: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of well-deserved gleaming reviews from consumers that just haven't provided them to you. Garbage! Consumers see through it faster, better and more than Google does. Start expecting your staff to obtain reviews when selling or servicing products and ensure a process is in place. Some staff members don't want to do that? Let them go or simply hand over the keys because you're not leading a dealership…
  • Social media: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of fans simply because you're a car dealership, with "caption this" or "tell us what you think" on nearly every other post sprinkled with inventory or incentive specials don't say "great place to buy" in the least. If a great Facebook, Twitter or blog presence means 2,000 likes, followers or readers and not more than 3-4 comments, shares, retweets or +1's, you're likely being had. Nobody wants to go to a dealership Facebook page to play Asteroids or Bejeweled 2 and write a title for a photo showing two dogs dressed up as superheros chasing each other, let alone find a tab that doesn't work (for months).
  • CRM: services that say their great, train your staff for $5,000-10,000 a day, put in standard templates and tell you to look at reports to create accountability need to start traveling with the Dodo bird. At the same time employees not using CRM for any reason need to pack their neon-green Hulk baggage and leave town as well. Get real, negotiate agreements, expect your account person to visit regularly, get all of management to use the tools and then expect everyone else to in the dealership. If utilization of CRM is under 75% in your dealership, get your vendor to start acting like a partner and put sales and service staff on the bubble. It's not a choice, it's a reality check.

There will be a lot of fanfare, parties, speakers pitching and snow jobs at booths. However, it's in everyone's best interest to see through the smoke and put the rose-colored glasses down. Our entire world is digital, mobile and fast. It's time for 17,000+ franchises (and who knows how many independents) to get so as well. Leave the hook, line and sinker at home, ignore the playmates for as long as you can and get real with your business.

There is a boatload of opportunity for those that want it in 2012 and NADA happens to be a great place to kick it all off or continue down the progressive road if you've already started. It's also where tons of dealers get sucked in by nothing more than marketing and get nothing for their hard-earned cash except for an open liability door.

So go with purpose to NADA. Come back and operate your business properly. Or someone else will take it from you. All of it.

 

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

 

2011 Will Be A Great Year…Even If You Don’t Participate

It's no secret that over the past three years, some pretty forward-thinking information was provided to the automotive industry franchise dealer body. All 24,000 plus of them (not ignoring the independents here, just making a point). Over the coming weeks, all 20,000 of the franchise dealers will get more critically important data. Just like before, it's up to them to participate.

2011 will be a great year. Fewer than last year will make up the bulk of increases in sales, count on it. The most web-versed, socially-minded, communication-skilled and forward-thinking will win. Many of those dealers will win impressively. So the same question bears repeating: why not more? Has the carnage not been great enough? Is there too much money in the coffers still? Or is it that management is still happy sitting on their "duffs" of the bay?

2011 will be a great year. There will be more talent available for dealers to select their next sales, service and parts teams and management from. Efficiency will increase, while hopefully not at the sake of bottom lines. In other words there should be more people working at dealerships unless dealerships ignore the potential increase to their business.

2011 will be a great year. The product lines continue to get better and consumer demand for a wider array of cars (not the same car re-badged) is greater than ever. Floor traffic at the dealers that deserve it will most definitely increase. Savvier dealer marketing and engagement will increase penetration in service departments, expect it. And many dealers will experience true conquest for the very first time because they did it, not the badge.

2011 will be a great year. Technoloy will continue to becon to a larger and larger customer base so those more comfortable with technology will take advantage of that. Chaging interests in Green and alternatives will compel a few more dealers to become as engaged with those movements as their customers. Building dealership brands will become a more heated conversation than building new dealership facilities (no, that won't go away).

So how great of a year will 2011 be for you and your store? Everyone, yes everyone, is betting their bottom dollar — and bottoms — that the numbers will be up. We even believe that will be the case. Remember: it's not what you make, it's what you keep. So if you didn't like what 2010 brought, you may not really be satisfied once 2011 closes it's doors.

2011 will be a great year. Oh by the way, for the ones that will be successful, 2011 has already begun. For those that want to join us, what's stopping you???…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results