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Unsung Heroes of the Auto Industry, Show Yourselves



Imagine a world where car dealers earned the same community respect as fire fighters, police officers and other local philanthropists. A world where little kids dream of being car dealers when they grow up, where you receive recognition in your local paper, where community members stop by your place of business just to chat. Maybe this is already happening at your dealership, but if so, you’re the exception rather than the rule. Why is that?

Will the Perception Catch Up with Positive Industry Changes?

After all, the industry has consistently marched in the right direction with a focus on professionalism, transparency and customer service.  With the advent of Monroney stickers, Regulation Z, and Certified Pre-owned vehicles, dealerships have certainly become more ethical than the days filled with stories of throwing a prospect’s keys on the roof if they wouldn’t buy a car. So why is the perception still there? Frankly, it’s because dealers are their own worst enemy.

What I’ve found in my 13 years in the automotive marketing industry is that car dealers are too often the ‘unsung heroes’ of their communities. They too plant trees, sponsor Little League teams, and participate in their local Rotary clubs. They do as much or more for the community as many other esteemed business leaders. However, due to a variety of self-defeating behavior, these good deeds aren’t imprinting themselves on the public consciousness they way they should be.

Dealer Social Media Channels Add High-Impact Personal Appeal

Many dealers have caught on that a personal touch may help build a rapport with customers; now it’s time to get savvy about using new channels to build your dealership’s public persona in the most optimal way. (Note: There was just a great Driving Sales post about building an emotional connection on Twitter-we agree 100% and wanted to speak a little more broadly about how to apply the same principles to your entire dealership social media strategy.) Instead of posting pictures of your dog and your softball team on your website (which could be a distraction to hot-on-the-trail customers eager to buy) dealers should instead transfer these reputation-building efforts to their social media channels. “This will allow you to stay in touch with clients who are still in the consideration phase-possibly torn between you and a competitor with similar inventory,” Muilenburg explains. ”Your ‘good guy/gal’ perception will then naturally pay off to tip the tides in your favor.” Here’s how to do it:

Must-Do’s for Making Your Dealership Social Media “Like”able

  1. Post blog entries about your community involvement, include photos and videos
  2. Share stories and information about your local area
  3. Let your personality shine in your status updates
  4. Show excitement about things important to your community, like the college football team, or the summer concert series, etc
  5. Reward your fans

By instituting these five simple steps, you as a dealer can finally begin to gain recognition as the community hero that you truly are. If every dealer takes these actions to heart, we will finally be on our way to transforming the industry perception once and for all.

Matt Muilenburg, Vice President of Social Media at ADP Digital Marketing

Matt Muilenburg is Vice President of Social Media  for ADP Digital Marketing Solutions, where  he has been working closely with dealers and OEMs to identify new ways to improve automotive retailing and marketing effectiveness.  When not sitting in front of a gadget, you’ll find Matt volunteering at the YMCA, attending his kids academic, musical and athletic events, or releasing stress by working in his yard and garden. You can reach Matt at mattm@cobaltgroup.com or call him at 206-219-8259.

 

The Cobalt Group

www.cobalt.com
www.twitter.com/CobaltMarketing
www.facebook.com/CobaltTalent

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Tags: car, dealer, dealership, media, public, relations, social

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Comment by Matt Muilenburg on March 21, 2011 at 9:12am
Tom, I appreciate the endorsement and support, thank you. I agree that greater transparency in the sales process is a sign of true enlightenment. And you’re right, unfortunately there are “many dealerships that engage in the electronic equivalent of tossing the key on the roof”, but they are a small minority that taints the reputation of all.


I’m thankful for legislation like Regulation Z or mandated Manroney stickers, and OEM programs like Certified Pre-owned vehicles because they leveled the playing field by requiring some transparency. In their own ways, these evolutions in our industry created a path to escape the broad-brush impact of the few bad dealers. Social media is a grassroots opportunity for transparency and a unique way for the ethical amongst us to be known.

Using social media, we can finally break the shackles of those few that have brought a bad reputation to our industry. Let’s not wait for our industry as a whole to walk away from misleading advertisements and old school sales tactics to get invited to the ball. Let’s stand-up and share the positive, tell our stories, and drown out the din of those that defined the last half-century.
Comment by Ric McCoy on March 20, 2011 at 5:44pm
And we wonder why we have a hard time finding, hiring and keeping salespeople. Thanks for sharing Matt.
Comment by Bryan Armstrong on March 20, 2011 at 9:50am
Well said Mr. Kelly, well said.
Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on March 20, 2011 at 4:46am

A gorilla in a dress is still a gorilla!

Matt, when you say: ".........dealerships have certainly become more ethical............” I would suggest, not ethical enough... which would be my answer to your question "So why is the perception still there?" In general, I believe it is real rather than perceived. The changes you mentioned were in large part legislated changes in spite of our paid lobbyists efforts. We did not necessarily wake up one morning and decide we were going to do "the right thing". I would suggest that until our industry as a whole walks away from misleading advertisements and old school sales tactics that we will not be invited to the Ball anytime soon. We need to BE who we say we are not just float perceptions. The Internet has and will continue to allow the good to be separated from the bad. I see progress and we are going in the right direction but there are still many dealerships that engage in the electronic equivalent of tossing the keys on the roof. Time and energy would be well spent on making real changes as opposed to relying on social networks to change perceptions. When a dealer is truly enlightened, he/she will spend no time in a sales meeting demonstrating scenarios to salespersons how to gradually let the consumer learn that what he has seen or heard is really not what they were deliberately led to believe without them running out of the showroom or hanging up the phone. Lowering expectations once we have hustled them to the store or phone for too many dealerships…IS…the art of selling. There was a time in our past where some of us really thought that we had to “order before midnight tonight” to take advantage of a deal we saw on TV and assumed shipping and handling could NEVER exceed the cost of the product. We got smart over time and learned otherwise. If we want to be PERCIEVED as a pillar in our community, I suggest we BE a pillar in our community. Depth perception is vastly improved through the lens of the Internet. Truth, Honor, Integrity….live it. Full disclosure:I have worn that dress too.

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