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From the Trenches - Let's Get Personal

 

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

 

Getting Personal with Relationship Marketing

 

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

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 420

Tags: Customer, Digital, Management, Marketing, Media, OEM, ROI, Relationship, Reputation, Service, More…Social, Transactional

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Comment by Tom Gorham on November 26, 2012 at 12:54pm

Tom Wiegand, I agree.  I watch as customers consistently speak of two or three people in our dealership in their reviews.  They often mention the salesperson, sales manager and finance manager all in one review.  They are impressed at how those two or three people worked together to give them a great value and great experience.  Thank you for your comment!

Ralph, I would appreciate it greatly.  Thank you!

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on November 26, 2012 at 12:00pm

Great post Tom Gorham!  Great comments too!  You can't expect "Reputation Management" to fill "Relationship Marketing" shoes.  Not to plug my book, yet the best relationships that prove to provide the best reputations are done within teams in synergy, not one on one.  Teams of 2 or more that build ongoing relationships have the best reputations, proving to build a better reputation for the business. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 26, 2012 at 4:58am

Tom Gorham - I have it on one of my storage drives... I will track it down and upload it so you can use it.

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 26, 2012 at 4:55am

Ralph, when was that written?  Is it possible to get a copy?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 26, 2012 at 3:04am

Relationship Management System for Automotive Sales Professionals

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 24, 2012 at 5:15pm

There's been some mention of passion in these comments.  It made me want to add to a phrase in my article.

"Word-of-Mouth marketing has been given new life and new meaning.  Live with it, submerse yourself in it, and make hay."

I would like to add "have fun and enjoy".  For what some mistake as passion is simply enjoyment of what we do and the relationships we form.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 24, 2012 at 2:56pm

Tom Hawkins, the real irony is that the gross on repeat and referral business is always better than a fresh up, and the amount of effort it takes to sell a repeat customer is usually less, a lot more salesperson friendly and more personally rewarding.  As a salesperson who far preferred repeat and referral business, I still am dumbfounded by sales professionals who do not act as if they do.

Comment by Tom Hawkins on November 24, 2012 at 2:50pm

Thanks, Ralph...which is exactly why I need at least one more salesperson.  My guys have enough business so the long-termers get enough new floor traffic and they don't/won't take the time to maintain the relationships.  They have their top 1/3 that love them and always come back.  But they don't have or take the time to nurture the middle 1/3 to create the same loyalty that the top 1/3 give them without much effort.  Salespeople have basically two primary activities. What are they doing to sell a car today and what are they doing to sell a car tomorrow.  I need to get my guys to work!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 24, 2012 at 2:17pm

Tom and Tom, I wanted to thare the irony (or synchronicity depending on perspective), of an image sent to me today by a Ford Dealer in New Mexico... It was the cover to a training manual I helped author more than 10 years ago titled "Relationship Management Systems" and was a training book we used back then to implement BDC's in dealerships.  Relationship based selling was, is and will most likely remain the most profitable and customer friendly sales strategy of them all.  I have met many people who tell me they buy all their vehicles from a certain salesperson because they always feel like they get a good deal, trust that person and really have no desire to deal with a stranger when spending as much money as a car or truck costs. 

The challenge with relationship based selling is that you must start today to reap the benefits in about a year, and the peak of effectiveness will only be achieved about 3 years into the process.  I am the personal embodiment of relationship based sales; that image that was texted to me by the New Mexico dealer was because he recently bought another Ford dealership and despite the numerous sales trainers, consultants and BDC installation specialists that have since contacted him, he wants me to come out to his store on a paid consulting basis.  Why? because of the relationship we have that has evolved over the past 11 years... Not very different than the people who do not want to buy a new or used vehicle from a sales professional they have never dealt with before.  This desire on the part of buyers is partially driven by the reduction in risk... The car sales professional we know is most likely a better bet than the one we don't!

Comment by Tom Hawkins on November 24, 2012 at 2:16pm

"While the SM company can provide daily communications and ideas for your social media, you can inject that unique character into it without massive amounts of time involved."

You stated what I was trying to say perfectly!!

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