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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.


David Johnson
New Media Strategist
Social Media Editor; ADM

Views: 63

Tags: David Johnson, Persuasve Concepts, Social Media


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Comment by David Johnson on September 1, 2011 at 6:33am

Sorry that I missed this comment Tom, not sure how I did that! I was reading the Deloitte survey and it said that 52.4 % of gen y respondents say a bad experience with a dealer would cause
them to never consider that brand of car again.

Think about that, if a customer (Gen Y) had a bad experience at a car dealership they just wouldn't go with another dealership, 52.4% of them would go with another brand altogether!

What does that have to do with social media? Everything. With social media a dealership has a way to fix their negative persona and really connect with people on a more personal level. That's just another reason why dealerships should embrace the social world.

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 26, 2011 at 11:30am

Thanks David, Word of Mouth Advertising is not just the "old" type of advertising, it's the "new" type of advertising.  And Social Media is Word 0f Mouth advertising on steroids.  I've written about it in this venue myself.

I believe manufacturers do a good job of selling their brand, and it's the dealers responsibility to sell his dealership.  Social Media is quickly becoming the best way to do that. 

I also agree with you that salespeople come and go; why let them be the only one who develops a lasting relationship with the customer rather than the dealer.  Although I agree with the concept of salesperson follow-up to the sale, the salesperson is merely the "current" representative of the dealership.  Dealerships tend to last longer than any one salesperson and should be cultivating that customer as their own. 

The reason some salespeople can leave your company and take some of their customers with them to a new store is that they did a better job of selling themself than the dealer did in selling the dealership.  Social Media can change that.

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