Automotive Marketing Professional Community for Car Dealers and their Managers
As a practice, relationship marketing differs from other forms of marketing in that it recognizes the long term value of customer relationships and extends communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages - Wikipedia
Some will maintain that new cars are not a commodity. I respect that opinion in that manufacturers must sell the benefit of a product versus their competitor’s product. In my mind, I assign this responsibility primarily to the manufacturer.
For dealers, I respectfully beg to differ. By the time a customer arrives at a dealer’s website, they are generally sure about what brand of vehicle they desire. A dealer’s main competitor is a same-brand dealer. This is especially true in over-saturated urban markets such as my own in the Chicago area.
When a customer has decided on your brand, they are no longer searching for a vehicle; they are searching for a dealer. They may believe they are searching for price, but when competition drives the price to the bottom, as it has in Chicagoland, the competition becomes personal. Who is the better dealer to do business with?
Relationship marketing is mostly retention-based marketing. However this is deceptive in itself because in creating loyal customers through trust and transparency, we create advocates. Advocates create new business on your behalf through referrals.
Referrals used to happen privately among friends. Today it happens publicly among Social Media “friends” and acquaintances and their exponentially larger lists of friends and acquaintances.
Social Media is not a tool for transactional marketing where you ply consumers with ads to get them in the door. It is primarily a relationship tool for encouraging trust and friendship. People buy from people they like. That is not a new concept.
I submit that you can hire a Social Media company to supply the meat of a relationship, but dealers or dealership personnel must supply the flavor and the gravy personally. Relationships cannot be outsourced. You must participate!
The definition of relationship is: a connection, association, or involvement. Dealership personnel MUST build that connection and be personally involved in it’s continuation up to and through the next transaction.
Customer reviews are merely a reflection and verbalization of that relationship. Recent manufacturer requirements that dealers hire a “Reputation Management” company are simply misplaced priorities. If outside companies offer a dealer tools to track and measure their online reputation, that is for the good of all. But dealers cannot and should not put their reputations into other’s hands.
Your reputation is yours alone to earn and be proud of or regret and try to hide.
The Internet and technology has given us unprecedented tools to communicate with, interact with, and build relationships with our customers.
Word-of-Mouth marketing has been given new life and new meaning. Live with it, submerse yourself in it, and make hay. If not, you’re running out of time!
Time to get personal!
Written by Tom Gorham
Editor, From The Trenches