Automotive Digital Marketing

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Wow how things have changed in the twenty years I have been in the car business. When I got started, there wasn’t any internet department or internet leads, you made your living on the floor or by old school methods like “brown bag networking”.

One thing I learned during the 30 minutes of training that I received before hitting the floor, that still holds true today is repeat and referral customers are golden, they sell easier and you usually make a higher profit margin. Why is that? It’s because TRUST has already been built, more specifically the T.R.U.S.T. Factor.

TRUTH – Let’s be honest, the old saying “customers are only lying when their lips are moving” gets turned around by the buying public when they speak of car salespeople. They don’t believe us and they don’t believe our advertising. Do you still run ads that say “Now is the best time to buy?” STOP NOW! People are tired of it because you have been telling them that for years! They know your either lying now or lying then but they know your lying. I spent 15 years in F&I and so many times customers would say “My salesman said that was included” or something to the effect and my response was always the same: “Mr. and Mrs. Customer, you may not like everything I have to say but it will be the truth.” This line served me well for a long time, give it a shot!

RELIABILITY – Salespeople historically drop the ball by making promises and not following through and people are having less and less patience for this. If you upset a person in the past, they would go to their barber or local diner and tell everyone there about the crappy service they received. Now, social media has given people public outlets to express their displeasure in a place where it will be heard by the masses. Do what you say you’re going to do!

UNDERSTANDING through uncommon efforts – My business partner David Johnson loves to tell the story of a customer of his who was in the cabinet business. Dave came across an interesting article in a magazine about cabinets so he cut it out and mailed it to his customer. The gentleman was so impressed he became a great “bird dog” for Dave or in today’s terms he became a “brand ambassador” of Dave. Get to know your customers and truly understand and serve their needs!

SERVICE – According to Consumer Reports, 64 percent of shoppers were so irritated with the poor level of customer service they’ve experienced at a store in the past year that they’ve simply left without making a purchase. Now this wasn’t related to our industry, but what type of service are you proving your customers? Think about every touch point you have with your customers from the time they search for your business till they patronize you, are you providing okay service or are you creating the WOW factor? Think of your favorite restaurant, why do you go there? Food is probably good but it is the customer service and the way they make you feel special that usually has a bigger impression. Don’t do just enough, go above and beyond!

TAKE your time – Building trust does not happen overnight, be committed! It takes a dealership wide commitment to create exceptional customer service!

NEWS FLASH: The internet has taken the auto industry by storm! Okay, I’m sure this comes as no surprise but I remember the early stages of the internet were not welcomed by dealers because it hurt profit margins. Back to this in a minute but I have to share a story.

Around 1996, a subprime lender named BMAC (Banker Motor Acceptance Corp) came out with a program that eliminated the human element by having being completely automated scoring and application decisions. At the time, the dealership that I worked didn’t even have the internet yet so I would have to take applications home and submit them through my AOL dial up internet. Each application would take me about 45 minutes to submit but I would walk in each morning with a stack of approvals! Great program while it lasted, they were in and out of market in 90 days. I had 12 deals hung up in funding when they shut the doors but I did manage to get 11 reapproved with other lenders.

Internet + car sales = decrease in profit margins

This has been the perception of dealers for years even as they have come to realize they can’t fight it anymore; however, don’t despair, social media and reputation management allows an opportunity to reverse this trend!

Through social media, what are we really trying to do? We are trying to get people to talk about us and become advocates of our brand. Sounds a lot like we are trying to get repeat and referral customers huh?

Three ways in which social media will impact your bottom-line

If you have heard me speak or have one of my business cards, you have heard me say or read on my card “Social media is not just about sales, it’s about your bottom-line!”

Start by having a service focus with your social media efforts. Drive more traffic into your service drive by having things like Facebook Friends Free Oil Change day, any make or model welcome. Get people driving competitive brands into your dealership where you can demonstrate your commitment to customer service because J.D. Powers say a consumer is 3 times more likely to purchase a car from a dealership it had a positive service experience.

First opportunity, steal market share!

Couple of stats from RightNow Customer Service Impact 2010 Report:

85% of U.S. consumers say they will pay 5% to 25% more to ensure a superior customer experience.

76% of consumers say they appreciate it when brands and companies take a personal interest in them.

40% of consumers switched buying from a competitor because of its reputation for great customer service.

55% cite great service, not product or price, as their primary reason for recommending a company.

66% said that great customer service was their primary driver for greater customer spending!!!

Second opportunity, people will pay a higher price to do business with a dealer with a great reputation! I’m not saying they will pay sticker but they will pay $300 to $500 more per sale. What would an extra $400 per retail do to your bottom-line?

According to, one testimonial has an impact on a person equivalent to 200 traditional media impressions. Imagine that for a minute, one person walking around in your community or on your online community singing your praises is equal to you running 200 TV commercials, 200 radio spots or someone driving by your billboard 200 times!

Third opportunity, social media will allow you an opportunity to be market your dealership more efficiently!

Twenty years later, we are still trying to get more repeat and referral customers; the only thing that has changed is the tools. Once you commit and create an environment of exceptional customer service, social media tools allow you to spread your reputation to the masses.

This certainly isn’t all the ways social media can affect your bottom-line as things are constantly evolving. The next big thing that excites me is Facebook e-commerce pages; I see big opportunities for dealers to ramp up their accessory sales! What other ways do you see social media increasing your bottom-line?

Tags: automotive facebook, automotive social media, everything facebook

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