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Should Car Dealers Focus on Technical Expertise Instead of Price and Gimmicks?

Next to computers, tablets, and smartphones, our cars are often the most technologically-challenging item that we deal with on a daily basis. Every model year brings out new gadgets and gizmos that are designed to enhance, adapt, and often-times engage with other technologies that we carry with us. Tablets are used as owners' manuals. MP3 players have become our stereos. Speakers and mics interact with our phones for hands-free driving. These are the common examples. Today's cars can do so much more.

The advertising on the OEM level often focuses on technology. Why do so few dealers do the same? It's not that they need to advertise the latest advancements to SYNC or show off the technology in any way. That's the manufacturers' job. They can, however, demonstrate that they have both an expertise in making these technologies work for their customers as well as an eager willingness to make it happen.

Many dealers do this. Few market it properly. Many of the car ads we see on television or the internet still focus on sales, price-beating, and gimmicks. What if (and think about it for more than a second) instead of promoting their dealership the same way every other dealership does, they took the path of focusing on their expertise and customer service. What if they weren't just there to sell you a vehicle. What if they were there to help you make it fit in with your technological existence?

It's an idea that was sparked by a friend, Jeff Cryder at Lebanon Ford, about a year ago but that didn't manifest itself in its current form until tonight. I was debating with a friend about his iPhone 5 versus my Galaxy SIII. His "winning" argument that obliterated any chance of convincing him that my phone was better than his: the Genius Bar.

Price is a losing battle in the automotive industry. Most dealers will be within dollars of each other when negotiated down to the bottom line on identical cars. The focus on "we treat you right" is still a powerful message but doesn't quite have the zing that it once did; the number of scandalous car dealers with poor practices has diminished dramatically in recent years and the majority do what they can to treat their customers with respect.

Technology. Expertise. A willingness to help customers get "plugged in" to their cars and take advantage of the tremendous technologies available to us - these are the things that might just work from a marketing perspective. It would be a welcome change from a television advertising perspective. It would be a differentiator at the website level. On social media, it could shine. Now, apply this to both the sales and service departments and I think you might have something.

Would it work? Is it worth trying?

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"Car Technology" image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Views: 338

Tags: Jeff Cryder, Lebanon Ford, advertising, brand, car Dealer, expertise, gimmicks, idea, marketing, resource, More…technology

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Comment by Lindsey Shaker on December 11, 2012 at 5:43pm
I stumbled upon lebanon fords site not long ago and I was enamored with the tech specific consumer friendly information, including trouble shooting ideas. I keep bringing itup in the dealership. Now. I am very comfortable with Micr. Sync and its functionality. I am thorough with customers and go over all of it. BUT. I am pushing for a shakercentric consumer friendly tech info so that not can they feel free to utilize me, but also a video perhaps exemplifying the functions for reference.
Comment by Roosevelt Gist on December 10, 2012 at 6:17am

I just returned from the launch of the 2013 Buick Encore held in Atlanta and Bose techs were there to give a very detailed presentation on how the new Bose noise cancellation system works in Encore. I'm sure dealers will be exposed to same because this system is a great selling feature for the Encore. View my short video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj7PuJToLdo.

Comment by Alexander Lau on December 10, 2012 at 6:09am

What is the percentage of those that are "knowledged-up" and understand more than the car dealers / salesmen themselves? Sorry to sound so crass, but one way or another the dealers / salesmen get what they want, they just move around the numbers to make themselves happy on a deal and that is 99.9%. I suppose something could be said for ethical business practices and whether dealers truly live by that motto. They wouldn't be in existence if that were untrue. Densely (no pun intended) populated within the buyer nation, the ignorant and uniformed surely outnumber the informed.

Also, how many salesmen follow up through a car's lifecycle? What's the percentage?

Comment by Brian Bennington on December 9, 2012 at 4:28pm

What a bizarrely simplistic question. Obviously, they should do both. Primarily because, for certain buyers, each works.  But, they only get the people in the door. Salesmanship is the big differentiator. Somehow, on this technology driven website, this subject is often downplayed. I also don't like the "lamb surrounded by ravenous wolves" analogy, especially in this age where consumers can enter a dealership "knowledged-up" better than the "wolf" they're facing.

The ignorant and uninformed, in most competitive situations, are going to lose. That's the facts of life. A true salesman, as opposed to a "closer", "hammer", or whatever name you give to a sales person who makes sales but doesn't follow-up through to help his customer enjoy their purchase, knows the benefits and ongoing power of satisfied customers and capitalizes on it.     

Comment by Alexander Lau on December 6, 2012 at 5:27am

I'm a firm believer dealerships purposely convolute the entire buying process. Your average buyer is a lamb surrounded by hungry, ravenous wolves. It reminds me of SEO and the way Google purposely convolutes the entire indexing process by changing their algorithm every six months. Rather than creating standards, why not try and beat the consumer by forcing them to pay more for less.

Comment by Roosevelt Gist on December 5, 2012 at 4:23pm

Here's another video I did, several years ago, on Lincoln's system

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXSMczXUnzs

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 5, 2012 at 4:19pm

Good suggestions, and it sure seems to work for the handful of dealers doing it... I have seen several Ford stores publish articles about how to use Ford's SYNC technology, then include in the article when they are doing a Ford SYNC Owner Clinic at their dealership.  While I was at Ken Grody Ford last August I witnessed several prospective customers attending the Ford SYNC Owner Clinic BEFORE they had made a purchase of a Ford vehicle with SYNC, so they could better understand the technology... This caught me by surprise but really lends itself to the concept that providing technology expertise to car buyers and owners helps build better relationships between the dealership with these people so that price and discounts become less of a decision criteria.

Comment by Roosevelt Gist on December 5, 2012 at 12:52pm

Tech demos would be very helpful to the buyer if it doesn't add another 30 minutes or more to the sale or delivery.

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