What is your first sign of a dealer in trouble, a dealer that just doesn't get it, and a dealer that can only sell successfully for a limited period of time, because they are selling in SPITE of themselves. Yes, folks, the car market is back and dealers are once again selling cars in spite of themselves. And that has brought back the old fears and yes, let's call the baby ugly, the old stupidities that we had all hoped went away in 2008. Dealers are still just flat out scared of the Internet, so much so that the power is ignored in favor of the fact that some minimum wage lot guy just MAY discover porn while on break back in the wash bay.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of experiencing just that type of dealer. In the dealer's defense, they have come to us with a request to help them become a more Internet focussed store, and pull away from traditional types of media, mainly newspaper. My first point of fear with any dealer I am working with, is when they look at me and say, 'We know the Internet is the future, and we really want to get on board.' I will always look quickly around the room for a calendar to try to see if I just time warped back to 1997 or if I actually have more work to do than I was expecting. In this case, it was still unfortunately 2010. So my associate and I pop open our mac books (apparently there is no such thing as a mac in a dealership, under utilized iPhone, yes, but no mac book) and begin searching for a wireless network. Voila, there is one - however it is still labeled by the brand of the archaic router, which no customer would recognize. Now there are a few catches. This dealer has a corporate office that mandates the fear of the Internet. Asking for access, we are told that we can absolutely use the network, however, we can not access sites like Facebook from the network. No, we are not just talking about the dealers in-house, we are talking about their wireless network. So any customer that has brought their laptop along for their service visit, or while waiting for the F&I office, they will not be able to check out the dealer's Facebook page or "Like" the store. And it gets worse. The network user can get Google, but not much of anything beyond that, including the dealership's own website and even Craigslist (so just how are they supposed to be creating a Craigslist strategy?).So this corporation has determined that the evils of the Internet far outweigh any opportunity to market themselves, their reputation and vehicles online. We are back to the hourly lot kid that will discover Internet porn in the wash bay. I must point out, these are not opinions shared by the General Manager or others in management - so much so that they have gone out and purchased broadband cards just to be able to create online marketing strategies.
This post is not meant as a bash on any particular dealership, it is meant as a wake up call. If you are reading this and you are running a dealership that has the same prison bars, I am asking you to rethink your strategy and realize that if you don't, your competition is going to leave you in the dust. But your next thought is hopefully, how do I change this? How do I realize that my customers expect me to be online and Facebook is not only a powerful reputation tool, it is a great way for my sales people to look for business, instead of just protecting the point and smoking too much.
1) Open up your network - wireless and in-store - if the lot kid wants to search porn, he's doing it on his android or iPhone, he doesn't need the store network.
2) Rename your wireless network so customer's can find it, and advertise it around the store
3) Encourage your customers, sales and service, to check out your Facebook page, Follow you on Twitter, Check in on FourSquare and reward them for doing so (don't forget to actually talk to them after they leave)
4) Use all of the above to make sure your customers remember your store and come back again and again.
Remember, having a Facebook or Twitter account doesn't complete the task. And letting someone check in on FourSquare is useless if you don't do something with that check - in. You have people in your store that you can talk to, and market to, right now, without out sending out your sketchy looking sales guy who will actually send them running for their car and speeding off the lot. Facebook is not just about car specials - remember the "buyer" audience is constantly cycling through, if you don't want your fan base to constantly cycle remember you have potential and existing customers liking you. Twitter is more about the ongoing conversation. Yes, you should post SOME of your Tweets on Facebook, but it is less necessary that your status update is changed every hour, your Twitter post, it is expected.
I invite everyone to put this to the test. See what your favorite dealer, or your competition is doing. Are you a Ford store? Do you follow every competitive Ford store on Facebook and Twitter? Do it. Have you pulled onto your competition's lot and see what their wireless network is all about? Did you check in on FourSquare? Was their anyone else there or a special or did you have to add the location? If you find the dealer is there, don't worry you're behind but that doesn't mean you can't catch up. If you don't see the dealer there, rush back to your store, and get everything set up. Not sure where to start? No worries, email UpShift Digital and we can get you started in a very short period of time.
Bottom line, do NOT be afraid of the Internet - it is a marketing and reporting tool. Use it, have your sales team use it. If you have people on staff you don't want to use it or that are scared of it, replace them - plain and simple. And remember, if you still think the Internet is the future of the auto industry, double check to make sure your calendar doesn't say 1997.