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Five Steps To A More Innovative Dealership

American business was built on the foundations of innovation. The automotive industry is no exception. From Ford’s pioneering of the assembly line process to the brilliantly efficient design of the Chevy Volt, automotive companies have thrived on innovative solutions to everyday problems.

Innovation doesn’t have to come from your corporate office. Encouraging innovative thinking in your dealership can help you find new, creative ways to cut costs, improve processes, and build a strong brand. Here are five simple and affordable ways to encourage innovation in your dealership:

1. Offer Incentive Based Competitions:
Your employees are your dealership’s most valuable assets. They spend every day in the trenches, often discovering inefficiencies that management never even notices. Offer a monthly incentive to employees that discover a solution to an existing problem, or one that you did not even know existed. The prize can be a monetary reward, extra vacation day, iPad, or some other object of desire. Often the proposed solutions will save you much more money than the value of the incentive you give out.

A word of caution: Don’t mock your employees by offering a meaningless reward. A subscription to the Jelly of the Month club is not a prize that will generate thoughtful solutions to real problems. (Just ask Clark Griswold.)

2. Listen To Customers
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many businesses stop listening to a customer after the sale is finalized. Creating a simple survey to give to sales and service customers can give you valuable insights about how the outside world perceives your dealership. Give the customers the experience that they want, and they’ll keep coming back to you in the future.

3. Bring In Outsiders
One of the most common inhibitors of innovation is “doing business the way its always been done.” We try to solve problems based on the imaginary limitations ingrained in our minds. Some of the best ideas can come from those outside of your business, and even outside of your industry.

One way to include outsiders is to ask friends in other industries if they could “mystery shop” your dealership and report their findings. The results might surprise you, so be prepared for a likely wake up call. For larger dealer groups, hiring an automotive consulting firm can help you discover solutions to unknown problems hidden deep within your dealership processes.

4. Concentrate On What You Can
State regulators, OEMs, and the economy all create restrictions for dealerships. Its common to blame these restrictions when your business suffers, but you have to remember one thing: Your competitors face the same issues.

Instead of wasting your efforts trying to get around these uncontrollable factors, concentrate on innovating in areas you do control. Hiring the right people, building a strong brand, and getting involved with your community are all strategies that you can control. When you realize this, you’ll have an incredible advantage over dealerships that choose to waste time, energy and money on outside factors.

5. Trying Once Isn’t Enough
In one of Grant Cardone’s “Grant’s Rants”, he says that trying something once will never achieve results. Instead, you should test any new process or idea many times to see how effective it is. Innovation is a long term process, not a singular destination. The more you encourage and nurture the process, the better results you’ll see over time.

Dealership’s that encourage innovation are poised for greater growth and are able to dynamically adjust to new market conditions. Are you one of those dealerships?



Stephen C Murphy
PCG Digital Marketing
Cell: 732-977-2429
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Tags: automotive, consulting, innovation


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Comment by John Fraze on April 27, 2012 at 12:44pm

Great article steve, points 1 and 2 are BIG. Incentivization should be used to get good reviews for the dealership across all platforms. Salespeople should be motivated to push for a review with every single sale. I know of a certain dealership with over 1000 5 star reviews, honest and true, and their Google Places page looks fantastic.

That loops right into point 2- you can not ignore customers. They can now reach your entire audience just as easily as you can with the click of a mouse. Facebook, Google Places, Google Plus- it's all within reach for a mistreated customer. We're in a new business model now and it's all about customer service, pre-sale, during sale and post-sale. 

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