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Are You And Your Dealership Ready For Social CRM? Part 1

Most dealerships use a CRM application in one form or another (some better than others). Everyone is trying to track their prospects and customers a little more closely because honestly, there are currently fewer of them. I think most dealerships are now looking into their DMS to mine previous shoppers in hopes of future business. This is a good thing, and I can say without a doubt that the last 14 months have been the most gut wrenching I have experienced in the last 18 years in the automotive industry. But I know that the dealerships that are left standing will be stronger, smarter and more equipped to deal with a marketplace that hasn't yet been fully defined.

Today, I want to focus on an emerging marketplace that I believe dealerships can leverage to gain a stronger local consumer influence, and secure their future in the automotive franchise business. The marketplace that I am referring to is Social Media. This dynamic and fluid channel is where over 250 million people are on FaceBook alone, gathering and sharing ideas, pictures, likes, dislikes and (Lil) green patch garden plants. Then there is Twitter, the fastest growing Social Media platform on the planet. I want to focus on these two platforms, but as you can see from this chart, the universe is large and so is the Social Media landscape.

This is a running list of all the Social Media platforms
So the question becomes: how does a dealership harness the power of these platforms to create a Social CRM program and build their own online community? Here are the steps I think are necessary to be successful on the Social Wide Web. First, here are some Do's & Don'ts.

1. Do establish a presence on FaceBook and Twitter and also set up your own dealership blog on WordPress.

2. Do join other people's conversations by adding input and ideas. This takes time but is well worth it.

3. Do join groups and become fans of things you like on FaceBook.

4. Do read Twitter posts and join in on the conversations if you have something of value to say.

5. Do review FaceBook friends' profiles, looking to establish connections. Invite people to be friends when you share common interests like a group or fan page.

6. Do build trust and rapport by getting to know your FaceBook friends.

7. Do ask all your prospect and customers to connect with you online socially to share information.

8. Don't Tweet that you had eggs for breakfast and have a Kia for sale for $9,995 today only. People don't want disruptive marketing messages. They want a conversation.

9. Don't try to sell. Instead, become an expert that people will use as a resource when they have questions.

10. Don't FaceBook friend request everyone in sight. Go slow and through time develop a network of people that you have rapport with.

11. Don't take your dealership Social unless you are committed to a long term, roll up your sleeves type of relationship.

12. Don't think you will begin selling vehicles overnight. It might be months; it might be never.

13. Don't use Social Media as a marketing platform. Instead think of it as an open line of communication with your entire prospect and customer database. Respect it or lose it.

14. Don't set up FaceBook and Twitter thinking networks build themselves. You are better off not to have an account if you don't use it actively.

Believe it or not, a lot of what you will have to do with Social Media is similar to successfully managing your dealership's prospect and customer database in your CRM. Except, Social Media is much more transparent and it moves quickly. The good part is that staying connected and engaged can help you grow an active database of people, much larger than a typical CRM, with just as much power-- if not more. This new frontier of Social Media can be one of the most profitable investments you make in your business over the next couple of years. The best part is that is doesn't require the marketing budgets we are used to in the automotive industry. It takes time, persistence and a desire to connect, but not much money. Are you ready, or you are still dipping your toe in the pool? We are at the precipice of the greatest customer land grab in history. This is the time to put your stake in the ground and claim your spot for your dealership's future. Go Social or Go Home.

Happy Chatting,


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Tags: active, activengage, automotive, chat, crm, dealer, dealership, engage, internet, live, More…marketing, media, social, software


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 25, 2009 at 5:02pm
Todd, I really like the way you used a video clip to add a comment in response to all the comments on your blog post, which obviously touched a nerve with so many respondents. I think that as we all become more familiar with video and user generated content, it will serve us well to use the kind of thinking you demonstrated, and make a video when the customer expects an email.
Comment by Ryan Lucia on August 25, 2009 at 4:28pm
Great job Todd with the video! Great touch!
Comment by Todd Smith on August 25, 2009 at 2:28pm
Comment by David T. Gould on August 21, 2009 at 5:17pm
Todd, Your input here and else where is appreciated. Social Marketing, as an integrated part of each dealer's digital marketing strategy, is an effective and efficient branding tool. Like any other type of promotion, properly executed it will reap huge rewards... but if improperly presented it may back fire. Top of the lead funnel (awareness) treatment is totally reasonable... Doesn't sound like a side project for dealership employees to me. I'll be looking forward to "Part 2"... Good Selling! DTG
Note To Self: Don't tick off Tim...

Comment by Megan E. Bucher on August 21, 2009 at 3:17pm
Great input. The key to Social Influence Marketing is to be part of the conversation. There isn't a 'set it and forget it' solution anymore. The purpose of SIM is to be A PART of the conversation. Shamelessly plug yourself and you'll be blocked. Being a part of the conversation means sticking to what you know, so that you can provide helpful links of information within your comments/blog/facebook/tweet/etc. We are now attracted to the hyperlink. It builds credibility in your conversation, and allows you to support the sites and blogs where you learned your information from...thus building your network. Don't be a part of a conversation that you can't add value to. If you are having trouble with your SIM etiquette, mash it. See, caught your a little better, huh? It's like a living footnote system. No ones believes any one person has all the answers. So, give credit where credit is due, and the respect, and your following, will follow.

Networking is not buying E-mail addresses like the old car salesman used to cold call the phone book. Get real. Everyone has a fake email address for junk mail, and that's what your getting. That's probably what your CRM is getting, too, because until your consumer knows they can trust you, they aren't going actively engage.

Acquire the right base of people that are:
1. Interested in what you have to say.
2. Interested enough that they retweet your knowledge.

Twitter and Facebook will be replaced. But what they have taught us to filter our information for credibility.
It's an awesome challenge as a Marketer to watch the platform change continuously.
What will they think of next?
Comment by Ryan Lucia on August 21, 2009 at 12:04pm

Pretty good post! I have to say that I agree with some/most but again we have to take a look at the dealership from a management perspective. I am your typical car guy (30 yrs old, loves social media, and I am completely A.D.D).

Salesmen have enough distractions already "live analytics" "social media" "girlfriends calling" etc...

Time management is so important in a dealership. A statement was made by Timothy that explained that you are friends with the masses and that is very true. I know you want to measure every little sale but lets face it I got ripped for months by a GM over wrong reports by a certain CRM and almost lost my job over it until I spent a week doing it on paper and challenging him. Who is to say our stats are right. I very rarely found they were.

As dealers we need to stop trying to capture everyone's info. Don't hear me wrong, ask for it but don't let it be your primary goal like it is so often. Sales Managers everywhere are screaming "DID YOU GET THAT GUYS NUMBER AND NAME?" as the defeated salesmen walks in the door.

I think we would all be better off with a system that manages your time on sites and making calls rather then tracking your social success.

I admire you! You write great stuff and I believe a lot of what you say. I do however believe you often over look who your teaching this too. I am not saying the car business in not able to understand.....I am saying that majority of the car business won't take the time to understand and or implement it right.

Think about when you were in the car business. Did you want your salesmen on the internet fishing on social media sites or making calls to existing prospects or previous clients?

This post is perfect I just think it needs to offer solutions to dealers that don't have time. Maybe in #2 ;)
Thats my request.

Waiting for your next post. Be blessed in everything you do!!!
Comment by Kim Clouse on August 21, 2009 at 11:41am
In my opinion this is exactly right. I also built family networks on ning and paid the extra money to keep the ads off. Part of the sales follow up process was to send them an invitation to all 3 family networks plus the standards. The great thing about these networks is the family atmosphere at your store and your brand can be brought to the forefront. Everytime your customers build a site, organic incremental search is elevated as well if we put all of the relevant data in the framework.

Comment by Michelle Oldershaw on August 21, 2009 at 9:37am
We have found that Dealers who embrace Facebook and twitter, both to engage customers and as a promotional vehicle, have been successful.
Customers who find you on social networking sites have sought you out. They are looking for you. Once they find you, it is a great opportunity to help lead them to your website and to your inventory.
DealerRater recently launched a Classified Ads Application on Facebook to give Dealers the opportunity to showcase their inventory directly on the Dealer’s Facebook page.
The core of these social networking sites is a bit of self promotion. It’s the reason we all post our best profile picture, and on our personal pages make our lives sound pretty interesting! Don’t be afraid to show the best of your Dealership – leverage your positive reviews, honor your staff, and post your classified ads.

Michelle Oldershaw
Director of Marketing

Manage Your Online Reputation ▪ Reach In-Market Customers ▪ Increase SEO Value

Comment by Nick Cybela on August 21, 2009 at 7:51am
Hey Todd,

These are all very similar points as I advise, with the exception of #14 about "you are better off not to have..."

In actuality, the first step for a dealer should be to register their brand name in as many places as they can. This is to ensure their reputation is management. It's already easy enough for someone to register and show up right underneath your results without the appropriate strategy. That being said, unless they're willing to make the time investment to update it I recommend they have their basic information on it and link it to where they are active with a clear call to action. (Ex: To connect with us check out our Facebook page at [link here].)
Comment by Timothy Martell on August 21, 2009 at 6:40am
Well before this becomes a back slapping contest (oops too late) I am going to throw in a completely opposing view! First let me start by saying I completely respect Todd and in no way should this be construed as a personal attack on Todd. Some of you know by now that I am passionate in my views and hold nothing back in my commentary. And on that note...

There is far too much time spent by people claiming they know what to do with social marketing. Even more, there is far too much time spent analyzing what this so called "expert" or that so called "expert" says needs to be analyzed! The fact is, I have yet to see a single post anywhere that even remotely comes close to the correct way to use Twitter from a dealership perspective. Now we want CRM to look at out facebook friends? BARF!!!!!!!!!!! Let me tell you something. Customers do NOT want to be our friends. Stop pretending to be something we're not and be honest with yourselves. You want consumers to spend money in our stores so we can make a living. STOP. You want dealers to listen to this BS so vendors can sell their consulting services to dealers and make a living. STOP.

Should you have a facebook account? Absolutely. Should you have a Twitter account? Absolutely. But I'll be damned if I'm going to tell you why or how to use them. As a dealer who drove nearly 40,000 visitors to my site last month using these portals I can tell you it wasn't about direct dealer to consumer engagement. People are so far off the mark in there approach with this it astounds me.

So lets examine Todd's do's and don'ts


#2-7 Not in the way people are approaching this. You are all so far off the mark with this it is incredible. You couldn't be more right and wrong at the same time.

#8 - 10 - If you want to become an expert that people will use as a resource you CANNOT do it as a dealership employee. There will always be mistrust. You need to think outside the box on this one.

11-14 WRONG. If for no other reason than to protect your name from an SEO standpoint GET YOUR DEALER NAME AT LEAST! EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING WITH IT!!!! Because I guarantee if you don't get it, I WILL and I will market to your customers! Absolutely think you will be selling vehicles overnight. If this is not the reason you are doing this in the first place then go home and start collecting your Obama check because you are not doing your employer any good. I can also guarantee you will be collecting that Obama check if it turns out to be never...

Believe it or not you couldn't be further from the promise land if you think you will use social media the way you prospect in CRM. Social Media is not about drilling down to each and every sheep. It is about the wolves herding the sheep. Herding large flocks by creating large groups to follow you. The sheep are not going to flock to a dealer to any great degree. If you want to be a wolf you need to think outside the box. As a lone wolf, I'm not sharing. It DOES take time. It DOES take persistence. It DOESN'T require budgets. But stop listening to the same diatribe over and over. This post wasn't insightful. I've seen this regurgitation 100 times or more now.

Sorry Todd, I know this probably wasn't what you were hoping for, but this is my contribution. I know you would all love it if I shared my insight and success, but these platforms are too new to give away my play book. It can be more powerful than you can imagine. But it is fickle and whimsical and todays hero is tomorrow's has-been. I am not looking to join has-been status anytime soon! Good luck to all in your search for Online Market Domination!


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