Professional Community for Automotive Marketers, Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
Life has changed, the way we sell cars has changed, business, in general, has changed. Now, it's time to embrace it, or fall by the way side. We live in an exciting social world where the new economy is more social in nature. Why? Because we are an untrusting lot. We are putting less and less stock in traditional advertising and more and more into what our peers think. Opinions matter. Reviews matter. What our friends think matter. Even the opinions of complete strangers matter. Are you embracing this new philosophy or fighting it tooth and nail? It's time you start embracing it.
Collectively, we've gone back to what I like to refer to as the village mindset. There used to be a time before the internet, a time even before the phone, when neighbors asked neighbors their opinions on certain things and made purchasing decisions based off of what their neighbors told them. For instance, Farmer Bob needs to buy a new dairy cow, and in a hurry. Instead of jumping on Google (remember this was before the internet), Farmer Bob would ask his neighbor Farmer Frank if he knew who sold the best dairy cows around. Because Farmer Frank just bought a dairy cow himself, he recommended that Farmer Bob buy one from Farmer Dan.
Take a look at what's happening today, it's the same exact thing, more or less. True, we have Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks to help us connect, but the desire has always been there. In fact, I'd argue that the desire to find out what others think about a particular business is stronger today, than it ever has been. Why is that? First, we are social creatures. Second, we are tired of all the slick advertising who's only aim is to take our hard earned money, not necessarily to aid us in finding the best product for our particular situation. That's where word-of-mouth comes in, and why it's vitally important to your dealership, that you influence as much chatter as possible.
It shouldn't be an epiphany when I state that the two most powerful forms of advertising are word-of-mouth amongst friends, and word-of-mouth amongst strangers. In fact, you should be shaking your head up and down in agreement. So, how do you influence word-of-mouth anyway? First step is to admit that there has been a fundamental change in the way people are buying cars, most anything for that matter, especially big ticket items.
The second, is to think in terms of engagement. Of course, a new definition of engagement is in order. If you take a look at how traditional engagement was defined, it was defined by us, the business owners, the dealerships. We defined it by how many people we could get to scratch-off a winning number on a direct mail piece, but as Forrester Research points out, the revised definition of engagement is defined as, "the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence an individual has with a brand over time."
Of course, I'd like to expand on that definition and say that engagement is not only the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence an individual has with a brand over time, but also the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence an individual has within the broader community that supports the brand. The idea, as I pointed out a few paragraphs earlier, is to influence as much word-of-mouth as possible, so the addendum makes sense.
Social As A Relationship Tool
Thus far I've been talking about using social media as a way to market your brand, but in reality, it can be used more than just as a marketing tool. Social media should be used to bring both awareness about your dealership and to build relationships with your current client base. For years and years we've heard it over and over again that the best type of customer are referrals, but most dealerships fail miserably in the referral department. In my honest opinion that is a total waste of money.
Think about it, each and every month, 10's of thousands of dollars must be spent to generate new business, when it costs pennies on the dollar to generate referrals from old business. Yes, I understand that you may be sitting there reading this, shaking your head, saying that you can't get your salespeople to follow up. You know what I have to say about that? Stop! Use social networks, Facebook as an example, to engage your customers. Salespeople come and go but if you spend time, on the dealership level, engaging your customers in order to build community, you will go a long way in creating massive amounts of word-of-mouth.
I've seen a lot of dealers fight the idea that the way they market has to change. No, I'm not saying that you should stop advertising on television, radio and print. All I'm saying is that your advertising techniques must evolve if you want to influence word-of-mouth. Try to work in ways to engage your audience in order to create a dialogue. The whole idea with social marketing is to create a conversation surrounding your brand. A conversation that goes on without you, long after the campaign is over. Stop hitting a brick wall with your current advertising, no matter how hard you hit, it won't budge. Instead, grab your social media ladder, climb it and embrace the new social world, it's not that scary, it's just different.
New Media Strategist
Social Media Editor; ADM