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The auto retailing industry has hit a wall and just about everyone is scambling to figure out what to do. Now is the perfect time for sales people to retrench, build a solid foundation and reconnect with every customer or prospect they worked with in the last year. Are you calling them to see how they are weathering the economic storm? Are you helping them trade up or down to a vehicle that better fits their needs? How are you raising your personal visibility on the web? Are you doing anything to leverage good "word of mouth" referrals online? Please share what you are personally experiencing out there and what steps you or your dealerships are taking. We are all in this together.

Tags: customer, marketing, online, referrals, reputation, sales, strategy, targeted

Views: 60

Replies to This ADM Discussion

Great subject Mark and it's part of what we try to do here perpetually. Have a plan, then work, work, work your plan. The divide is getting more noticeable in my mind: about half of IM@CS' clients are now executing on a plan to take advantage of the opportunities, have started truly marketing online, social/business network efforts are growing and have taken a serious look at their staff/resources. Add to that they're starting to understand that the mentality of the quick ad versus equitable engagement with consumers has shifted dramatically and that it's now accountable.

Making sure every customer is touched has to be part of that plan. Done right, it's a beautiful thing. One of my clients that has a high-end franchise was experiencing significant unwinds on arriving special order vehicles. The GSM personally contacted each one, talked and/or emailed personally (as well as professionally) about their situations and a significant percentage have now been coming in to take delivery of their cars, some over $150k each.

Another client has changed their websites, added Facebook and other networks, let people go and is just starting their targeted SEO/SEM programs. While it'll take 60-90+ days to see the bigger results, they're saving immediately ($30,000+ per month), gaining more recognition online and evaluating their Google Analytics which was never done prior.

While I've not personally met a dealer running a significant online reputation management program, they're starting to ask, getting comfortable with how to do it correctly and watching their clients help them out. Happy to see one or two write-ups a month, I'm trying to get them to set goals for 10+.

Education, reinforcement and resources are what separates the "doing its" from the "not doing its". We'll see in the next six months how that changes, good or bad.

-Gary May
IM@CS
Mark,

I have to chuckle a bit because my boss asks me the same question, and although he wants me to explain how I am going to build business with car companies and enterprise retail groups, the answers are the same.

My job is to find ways to sell more cars at the dealership level, and then convince car companies that the solution is compelling enough for them to encourage or subsidize their dealer's use of the solution. One of the most exciting areas I have found is the concept of using various Web 2.0/UGC sites to establish and build better relationships with both existing and prospective dealership customers.

The challenge is, how do you sell something to dealers that is free? Well, the sites and the hosting services are actually not free, they are supported by paid advertising. Already I have seen dealership community sites targeted by that dealer's competition for advertising placements... How bad is that? Well... maybe not bad at all... One dealer said to me "Ralph, if I can have my competition paying the bill for me to have a website that is used by my employees, suppliers and customers in the current economic conditions, maybe I can live with that for awhile...".

Otherwise, for $25 a month we can get the competitor's ads removed and either put our own, or ads for our suppliers... Which brings me to another point, or rather concept. For years I have been saying that dealers whould ask their suppliers to pay for advertising space on their web sites. Well with many of the Web 2.0/UGC platforms I have been using to build dealership community sites, you can insert the dealer's own Google Adsense code and accept advertising from the suppliers who bid the highest amount. I first did this successfully on the www.2008ChevyCamaro.com website and the ad revenue has exceeded $15,000 to date that has been paid to the dealership by Google... Maybe not a lot of money when put in perspective, but certainly enough to offset the less than $600 in hosting fees that the dealership has paid to date!

Why do I think that UGC sites can produce results for dealers? If you look at the evolution of the web and how consumers use it, there is a rapidly growing body of data showing that consumers are paying less attention to what dealers say and more attanetion to what their peers and fellow consumers have to say... My wife no longer seeks out a plumber, electrician, hair stylist, gym, massage therapist or any number of other merchants or suppliers without checking the consumer reviews posted on Kudzu.com... I believe that dealers who truly want to engage cosnumers online in 2009 and going forward will need to embrace 2 way communication that includes letting consumers post comments, display photos and videos and publish what they feel is important on sites that are either managed or sponsored by the dealership.
So you say your wife goes to a third party site to validate ratings of vendors and their services, and then in the next sentence you say dealers have to post feedback from customers on their own sites.

Who is the smarter one in the household? I am leaning towards your wife, Elizabeth who puts more credance on an unbiased third party. Dealers need to include comments and feedback on their sites, but they should populate that component with third party (objective and untainted) info from sites like CarFolks.com, DealerRater.com or similar sites like Yelp or Edmunds. Testimonials from those third party sites will be perceived as much more valuable to consumers.
I thought I shoould let everyone know what CarFolks does every day with data extraction
CarFolks invites member dealers sold and fixed ops customers as a third party to take part
CarFolks reports to the Dealer all comments good or bad so it can be corrected
CarFolks monitors the reporting and watches for false or unwarranted comments
CarFolks encourages customers to show support for their dealer
CarFolks helps the dealer stay ahead of CSI problems and see low performing employees for improvement.

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