2012 – the year that makes or breaks you! This is the year of natural selection… survival of the fittest.
All of us have a pretty basic question to ask ourselves. Do we invest in the past… or the future? Is our loyalty to what was… or to what will be?
2011 was to be the year of digital, and in many ways it was. My company dropped newspaper advertising. There was absolutely NO impact. Life and sales went on. Yes it was truly the year of digital, in that nearly everyone understood that traditional advertising was either dead, or on its deathbed.
So if 2011 was the digital year, where are we now in 2012, a year later? I say we’re in disarray. Many who dropped traditional advertising did so because it was the “thing to do”. They heard the noise. It came from so many reputable sources, so they did it. But they didn’t know why….
I’m going to tell you why, and you may not like it. But it’s too late for you if you don’t.
2012 will be a great year for the economy. Cars will sell like hotcakes (do hotcakes really sell?). Will customers be buying them from you?
- Campaigns are dead. Forget about it! People no longer believe in a free cruise in the Caribbean or a free Camaro. No-one ever wins and if they do, insurance covers it. Customers call it fraud… lies…. Shut up and leave me alone.
- Potential customers want to know who you are. Do their friends recommend you? Do past customers recommend you? Are you HUMAN? Or are you just a money-making machine cranking out the same old stories about how great you are?
- All technologies will merge and become interactive. Do you have an iPad, a PC, a smart-phone, or any kind of tablet? Doesn’t matter. They will be forever connected to each other and the “cloud” (storage is on the Internet, not on your physical device).
- Customers can shop you while they’re standing right in front of you. Be prepared to say why you’re charging more than the other dealer, on the spot.
- Price will lose all meaning other than, “this is what we paid for it”. When all prices are transparent, what do you have to offer? What is your value proposition?
- Dealers will look for profit centers when profit is disappearing on new cars. Profit centers are still there but declining. Market pricing is cutting into profits on used cars. Our government itself is cutting into this with Consumer Protection laws on financing. They are also declaring “Right to Service” laws (see Massachusetts) that will provide robust competition to dealers for service. Get tight!
So what is a “progressive” dealer to do? I ask the question this way because, anyone who is not progressive won’t be a dealer for long.
First, understand that you have had a decade or longer to grasp this. The Internet revolution didn’t start and end at any given point. Where have you been?
If you have truly understood the Internet revolution, you are probably poised for the next step. If not, you are fighting losing battles against not only the present, but the future. You will be squashed, no matter how many battles you win. You will become a sweet but poignant memory.
So! Back to 2012.
- Expect complete interactivity between businesses and their customers. Immediate gratification on all counts and all methods of discovery.
- Expect customers to want to be your friend if they are to do business with you. This hearkens back to the old days… a repeated theme in my analysis.
- Word-of-mouth is king and queen. If you can’t win this, you can’t win.
- Word-of-Mouth can’t be faked by companies offering “review strategies”. You MUST earn it. Customers will know the difference even if vendors and experts don’t.
- Respect your customers. Again, respect your customers. Don’t try to coerce them into doing things, such as in-house reviews, that they don’t feel comfortable with.
- Entertain and be friends with your customers on Social sites. Don’t try to sell there; take a break. Be HUMAN.
- Ask your best customers to recommend you.
- Find the profit places where you can make money and use the new car sales to drive business to that profit center.
Most of all, BE CREATIVE. Your adversaries are not stupid people. Respect them and their efforts to create wealth for themselves. That IS the American way. If they come up with a value proposition that appeals to the consumer, YOU must come up with a better one.
I really love this job and this industry. But I am tied to nothing and no past glories. Enjoy the great memories and create new ones.
Written by Tom Gorham
Editor, From The Trenches
Automotive Digital Marketing