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Should Dealers Embrace Personal Branding – Or Control It?

In this highly regulated industry, there has been some recent debate as to if dealership salespeople should be allowed to establish and control their own personal branding.

 

In the past, personal branding by salespeople was geographically restricted, simply because the technology didn’t exist to go much further. Salespeople would find strategic places to display their business cards, or they would perhaps create magnets, or other items, which would then be given away to their customers. However, in today’s globally connected world, personal branding efforts can reach far beyond the local community and touch a much larger audience.

 

There are many examples of salespeople that have increased their visibility, resulting in increased opportunities and higher sales numbers. One could argue for or against these practices. Or perhaps find a middle ground. Differing opinions certainly exist out there. Let’s examine some pros and cons:

 

In Favor: Salespeople who do engage in personal branding efforts argue that they are spending their own money to generate additional sales. In return, this makes them more money. And, as a side benefit, it also increases sales for the dealership. By default, their own personal branding efforts, using such tools as Facebook, and other social media platforms, generate additional buzz and exposure for the dealership. Through their own personal branding activities, these salespeople are able to connect with customers they may not previously have been able to. If done well, these personalized interactions can help to make customers feel special. They also can serve to develop dealership loyalty along with referrals. In essence, this personalized approach can help to create brand advocates for the dealership itself.

 

Against: Dealers need to be aware that, while the FTC isn’t quite caught up yet, it will be soon and will be gunning for dealerships. There have been several recent cases in which dealerships have been fined for lack of disclaimers in social media ads and messages. The FTC has made it quite clear that advertising compliance extends to all advertising, including social media content. In addition, ads need to be clearly labeled as such. Personal branding messages by salespeople can, at times, contain messaging that could conflict with those rules. An easy example would be if a salesperson produced and posted a YouTube video about a sale with a blanket statement, “$10,000 off all Chevrolet Silverados.”  The problem is that the FTC will no longer distinguish between a salesperson’s individual activities and the dealership’s. As an employee, these personal branding activities have the potential of placing the dealership at risk for liability through advertising that fails to be in compliance. This liability could result in hefty fines.

 

On the other side of the coin, with the industry-wide problem of high employee turnover, what happens when that salesperson leaves? There have been some recent examples whereby the salesperson was so effective at personal branding that they become the de facto face of the dealership, simply through the volume of content they generated.

 

Regardless of which side of the fence you choose, the fact is that more and more salespeople see the value of these activities and are working hard to market themselves first, and the dealership by default. As other salespeople recognize the financial benefits, we may see this activity increase and dealers may be forced to take action.

 

There are definitely two sides to the coin here – some huge positives, but also some strong cautions as well. What are your thoughts on personal branding by salespeople?

Views: 378

Tags: FTC, automotive, brand, branding, compliance, control, dealerships, exposure, image, media, More…personal, sales, salespeople, social

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Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on July 29, 2015 at 9:00am

Legalities aside, which can be "semi-controlled" by a good employee handbook and training (understanding the FTC rules) how could you as a business owner (or why would you!) stop your employees from becoming better at what they do?

I even wonder if dealers in metro areas will be able to compete in short term without doing this.

This is a marketing style that can't be overtaken by the dealer so if your competitors have a couple of branded superstars, you better move fast or lose sales.

What dealers need to rethink is how to support these people, provide different work schedules and pay plans, so they stay.

Comment by Paul Moran on July 19, 2015 at 5:31am

I think we can all agree that any company that can get its followers to share content from their page or positive content about their business will be rewarded with greater reach. People trust their friends, family and social networks more than any marketing or advertising so what one friend shares with another friend is more powerful than anything a business can post. Dealerships who have brand advocates as employees who are consistently getting the dealership in front of their social networks and beyond should be rewarded. If there comes a time when compliance issues on social media start being a larger concern, I'm confident that management can work together with the employees making these efforts to both allow them to continue yet also ensure that they are being compliant in their messages.

Comment by Jeff Glackin on July 18, 2015 at 6:12am

Just based on the title if more dealers would embrace it that would ultimately give them some control over it. There are still far too many that don't even embrace it for their store let alone individual sales people. I think it would be great to see dealerships pay their reps an advertising spiff per unit sold. How cool would that be for the rep that has been financing it on his own? 

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on July 18, 2015 at 5:43am

Visionary Personal Brands of business only compete on customer experiences, not on price or product.  They excel, not at satisfaction scores, not at satisfying an experience, but on always earning loyalty exceeding customer experience expectations at every defining moment of every experience.  Visionary Personal Brands of business purposely earn the right to become every customers Loyalty Champion, as they become your Loyalty Advocate.  Business leaders:  MAKE YOUR PEOPLE YOUR BRAND!  Visionary Personal Brands of business: MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS YOUR BRAND! Only Visionary Personal Brands of business are capable of winning this W.A.R. (Winning.At.Relationships).  My pleasure showing why!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 18, 2015 at 3:02am

A sales professional's personal brand, follower, friend and subscriber base has already become a consideration when choosing whether or not a dealership should hire that person... As we go forward, the sales professional's ability to develop and maintain a "book of business" as seen within their multiple social media profiles and accounts will become more important for career sales professionals in the car business. Unless we want to continue hiring sales people who stand out front on "the point" waiting for ups to enter the dealership, who are devoid of communication or follow up skills, as leaders we need to embrace the millennials entering the auto industry who use social media like we always thought we would get sales pros to use CRM apps.


Influencer
Comment by Steve Tamulewicz on July 17, 2015 at 12:46pm

I think the benefits out weigh the risks. Just draw up a policy that allows it with contingencies to protect the dealership legally. Encourage the sales people to do it and show them How. I've helped professionals if various industries create an online presence that they built up over time. It benefited their employer and if they moved on it benefited the professional because they took their customers with them. It all part of Social Media Marketing

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 17, 2015 at 11:15am

Dealers had better standout or there's no differential (from a marketing perspective, *see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuromarketing -- Marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli) than all rest.

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.


Influencer
Comment by Mark Frost on July 17, 2015 at 10:45am

Great post, Paul!

I love personal branding, and wish more salespeople embraced it. Kinny Landrum at Toyota of Bowling Green and Mike Davenport at Bachman Chevrolet are two that stand out online, and I'm confident they're killing it for their dealerships.

And as long as there are clear rules, there should be no problem with false advertising. 

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