Chris Costner

Give Them What They Want

  The book and recent movie, “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss, tells the story of Horton the Elephant who on one afternoon is splashing in a pool and hears a small speck of dust talking to him. It turns out the speck of dust is actually a tiny planet, home to a city called Whoville. Whoville is inhabited by microscopic-sized inhabitants called Whos, and led by a character known as the Mayor. His motto: A person is a person no matter how small. I think many can learn from the Mayor’s motto and apply it to their current Digital Marketing practices. Digital Marketing in the Automotive Industry is all about the Whos. It’s about building and maintaining those relationships between the dealership and its customers. The customers are the Whos of course, no matter how small they may be. Many treat the Whos more like Whats. They count them, they corral them, they segment them but they don’t listen to them. Many times they are just numbers such as 5... Read Post

How Broad Is Your Brush

I think we can all begin here with an agreement that stalking someone is bad. Personally, I find it very strange. Why is it then that some of our industry dealers use it as a viable digital marketing strategy, more specifically, email marketing? Now for some, it may be because they don’t realize what they are doing and may need some help with their strategies. Sadly, there are others that are too lazy to approach their digital marketing properly. I am writing this to help bring both sides of the spectrum more towards the center because from each side as they stand, it is hurting the automotive industry and beginning to give our digital marketing efforts a bad name. Now please understand I am not talking about the nefarious forms of cyberstalking but rather those dealers who generate a list of names email addresses from the CRM and constantly bombard the customer with the same "beginning of the month" or "end of month" email offer. Dealers should strive to become better technicians w... Read Post

"Superficial Social Media"

    I have been thinking lately regarding the way we interact with each other online and especially in the social web.  I find myself at times with a heavy daily agenda and certainly know others do as well.  With that being said, I wonder of the attention spans and daily interactions of some are becoming shorter and more superficial.  Let’s be real, some interactions in the social platforms are very involved while others are very light and seemingly meaningless; also perceived as a complete waste of time. The fact that one can perceive an interaction with another as a complete waste of time and that some do waste time online should not be confused with what our customers are expecting from us as the “brand” they are interacting with. By now, it goes without saying, that the social platforms and web allow us as brands to cultivate relationships with our current and future customers. Customer loyalty hasn't always been recognize... Read Post

Unleash The Hounds

I was first introduced to the “Dealership BDC” module back in 2000 under the watch of a gentleman by the name of Chuck Barker.  As a salesperson, I spent a 90-minute shift in that department each day and couldn’t wait to get back out on the lot and sell a car.  In order to be on the sales floor come Saturday, I also needed an “x” amount of confirmed appointments throughout the week.  I know this will not make sense to any of us now, but I was not a fan in the beginning.  It didn’t take long however with some coaching, call guide practicing, appointments being set and selling those appointments that I was hooked. The BDC/Internet department has certainly come a long way since then and so much is going on within it.  The one thing that hasn’t changed is that there are still phone calls coming into this dealership.  Although I am involved with much more now than in the year 2000, I am not afraid to get in the mix ... Read Post

Get Real

  I doubt there will be any argument from anyone engaged in social platforms that they are finding themselves pursuing topics and posts of interests from others they know.  I find myself doing it numerous times a day on a very broad spectrum of topics.  Why do we do it? What compels us to click that link our friend or family member posted twenty minutes ago? The number one reason hands down that link was shared or liked is content and for dealerships today, this means we all need to work a lot harder to engage with their audiences with our social content. I started thinking about social efforts or the lack thereof and cannot stress enough that there has to be a plan in place especially with the content we deliver.  Without one, I can promise the results will be wasted efforts and we all work too hard for that to happen. If we want our dealerships and brands to be more relevant in the social community, we need to deliver genuine content that will connect to ... Read Post

ASSERTIVENESS: A Better Approach

After coming back from a short holiday break and getting back to business I wanted to share what I recently discussed with our sales staff as we approach the final days of selling for 2011.  It isn’t anything new, just more of a “back to basics” session.  I thought it was important as many of our sales staff are close to hitting big bonuses, grabbing a place in a quarterly contest or at the very least may need a couple of units to make or break their paycheck.  The bottom line, emotions are higher than ever and we can’t let it get the best of us while conducting business with our valued customers.  I am not discouraging being assertive when selling, I am discouraging being aggressive. We all know that when selling we need to be confident when engaged in conversation, be unafraid to ask questions and not be discouraged by a customer saying no.  It is very easy to come across as aggressive to the customer during these interactions when... Read Post

Do You Have Bad Social Habits?

As "Social Dealers", we work everyday to engage, inform and hopefully entice prospective customers to buy our vehicles or use our service and parts departments at some point. I would think we are working to have them become not only brand advocates of our manufacturer’s brand but also advocates of our personal brand as a dealership in the community. By now, many of us are using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Blogs to help make ourselves known and gain attention in the community.  Hopefully there is a plan in place on the content you are posting and when you are posting.  We definitely do not want to turn off those who have taken the time to be a part of our social community. There are few common mistakes a dealership can make that will lead to customers signing off and never to be seen again. They could also tell their friends or family about their negative feelings which as we all know will go much further than any message we could e... Read Post

Customer Loyalty Is Fragile

According to J.D. Power & NADA, almost 90% of retail customers are never contacted after delivery.  That statistic alone shows many dealers do not have a loyalty process in place.  It’s sad to see and hear.  As hard as we all work to capture someone’s business, we seem to want to continue to work just as hard to find another customer to earn their business and not focus on those we already have earned their trust and respect.  Not to mention it is 5 times more expensive to find that new customer. Loyalty is very fragile and is earned at every customer touch point throughout their entire ownership.  Touch point is also known by a term you may have been hearing quite often lately, “moment of truth.” You see, somewhere in your dealership, you have a “customer loyalty bank” that is hidden and only your customers know where it is.  Each “moment of truth” is when a customer forms an opinion of your deale... Read Post

A Daily Gameplan That Works

I do hope this posting finds you all closing out a great October and are ready to move into November.  After all it is the first of the month right? I consider myself a student of the process in this business and crave new knowledge daily to become better at what I do in which I can then help others become better as well.  At the end of each month, I like take a mental snapshot of each department and look at what made them successful or what may have hindered their success and think of ways I can apply it to my department or leave out if need be. Looking at our sales department over the past eleven months and how the BDC / Internet department has become a cornerstone to the success as whole, I enjoy seeing how the two departments keep the two-way communication going on a daily basis.  It begins every morning in the managers meeting as we discuss the previous days appointments and outcome plus the current days appointments and what the game plan is for each. ... Read Post

A Little More Effort

I am confident writing that there isn't a dealership sales department that enjoys not closing the deal when the client is in the showroom or even worse, losing the client completely to a competitor.  Unfortunately, we see it happen everyday in our showrooms and for the most part, we chalk it up as part of the business right?  From a BDC perspective, I find it almost embarrassing when this happens.  Now I understand it will never be 100%, but why not put forth the extra effort to make it a goal? Think about all that goes on behind the scenes prior to a client arriving in the showroom: online reviews, peer consulting, digital marketing efforts, advertising, searches, internet inquiries, phone inquiries and I know I left much more out but you get the idea.  This usually is months in the works and all let out the door with a simple WE CAN'T attitude or what I like to refer to as WE'RE LAZY  attitude when wor... Read Post

Dealers Shouldn't Be Forced

  I have been running across articles and video over the past month or so that dealers now are “forced” to look at their service drive for vehicles because of the big shortage of used vehicles unable to be found from trade-ins or auctions.  My initial thought is if a dealer had a process in place for working current service customers, they may not be faced with the inventory problems they talk about. A big concern of mine is that I have also ran across quotes of dealer personnel explaining once vehicles become easier to obtain, their plan is not to put as much effort into working the service drive.  Are you kidding me? A majority of the customers in the service department have already met you, liked you and purchased from you.  I cannot even try to imagine taking the service drive out of the “bag of opportunities” and sure hope other dealers wouldn’t either.  Also for those attached to the sales department that currently do n... Read Post

I'm In a Hurry

  I will be the first to admit that I am usually in a hurry and want results immediately.  In our industry we all seem to want immediate results right?  It can be discouraging for many of us with that mindset and it affects more than we know in both our personal and business lives.  I am going to take a moment and write on how over the last 100 days, being in a hurry kept me from having success with a product I am using:  Autotrader’s “Trade-In Marketplace.” This is not a “pitch” by no means.  All of us here use to share best practices to help the entire industry get better at what we do and I wanted to share something working for me. I want to first share a few points of being in a hurry that have helped me refocus and take a different approach: Try to figure out why you are in such a hurry. Pinpoint the triggers that often influence you to lose patience. Look for patterns. What pr... Read Post


    We knew it was coming and now the month end is fast approaching as it always seems to sneak up faster than we would like for it to. So my question is:  Did you thrive or survive? Many of us talk with others in the industry on a daily basis. Some of our conversations are with those near us and others in other states. One common question I do know for sure that gets asked is, “How’s business?” I have been thinking about this question and it seems it is a question of validation to judge our current performance.  Would any others reading agree or disagree with this statement? I find it interesting that many dealers are outperforming their brand, selling more vehicles and increasing gross profit all at the expense of their local competitors while others are finding a tough month going in the books very soon. How are the winners making this happen? I will begin by saying winners recognize that there are only three things in their contr... Read Post

WHO LOVES YOU: Your customers?

While marketing deals with markets of many, selling will always be about markets of one. With that being said, how do you make your customers love you? Yes, I said “love” and not “like” ladies and gentlemen.  It’s time to we make this a goal during every interaction with our customers.

Contrary to one I know for sure and any others out there who believe the role of salespeople is becoming obsolete with the proliferation of internet and mobile technology, effective sales professionals and a personal approach to selling remains important to dealerships nationwide.

Being personal is more than just being nice or friendly in my opinion.  Customers like a salesperson that is nice but they do not buy solely on how likeable they are. They want more.  We all should understand and hopefully agree that customers buy from dealerships they trust.  Sure it helps to be likable but our current and prospective customers are looking for someone Read Post

SOCIAL MEDIA ROI: You Have to Create It.

  The discussion still continues today with dealers nationwide on the effectiveness of marketing through social media.  Dealers are still questioning if social media should actually be in their digital marketing efforts and also wondering if it actually works.  These are great questions that should be asked as we work to build a broad digital marketing strategy. I haven’t commented much on the somewhat recent news regarding General Motors ceasing their multi-million dollar Facebook display advertising but is a perfect example of marketers not asking the above questions early enough. So what really went wrong for General Motors to make such decision? After reviewing the Facebook page of General Motors, I must first say that it does have a lot of great content in my opinion.  It has some great videos, pictures and the timeline looks great giving a visual story around their brand.  I see engagement and a well-managed page.  Many of us have co... Read Post

The "Feel Good" Mindset

  Let’s face it, we have a huge “feel good” mindset problem in our industry today and are failing to address the core issues that keep many of us from being truly authentic to our clients and ourselves.  It’s the last day of the month once again and many will be closing out another huge month while others will justify, once again, why they fell short.  It’s more than missing monthly goals.  It’s also about the clients who have given us the opportunity and we missed their “goal.”  Now don’t get me wrong, we won’t close every opportunity we face, but how many sales are we missing because of something we had control over?  I am speaking dealership wide, not just the sales department. Those who have this “feel good” mindset, and believe me, everyone reading has experienced it at one point in time or another should recognize it within themselves and work to be better.  I would... Read Post

Will the Real Owner Please Stand Up?

I wanted to drop in and share a perspective of mine regarding our brands and who really owns them now that we are nearing the midway point of 2012.  We have all seen a huge increase nationwide in the number of dealerships and OEM’s participating in social media and this certainly excites me as I see it as a risk to not be involved.  While many dealerships and OEM’s are now taking social media very seriously, what does this actually mean for the brand strategy as a whole?  Are the dealers more in control of the brand or is it in the hands of the OEM?

Well guess what, it is your customers who are in control of your brand now more than they ever have been. Brand strategy, historically speaking, has always asserted to some degree that a brand is something that is cared for by the dealerships and owned, at least on an emotional level, by the customer. Now for many dealerships, thinking in these terms was more of a “mind exercise” than reality.&n Read Post

MENTORING: Our Missing Puzzle Piece

  Mentoring is something that I haven’t thought to write about until recently and after a few discussions with others, have come to understand that this is something our industry needs more of.  Mentoring from either an organizational standpoint or individual standpoint can be very powerful for learning and growth for someone you take an interest in thus increasing the probability for positive outcomes in their career path. Many of you reading can recall someone who, at some point in your career, has had a significant influence on you and may have shaped or determined your course bringing you to where you are today.  I certainly can say there have been a few individuals I have come to know over the past twelve years that have encouraged me to do well or help me overcome something I wasn’t totally grasping.  Recently, however, I can certainly say I consider myself having a mentor that I can trust to give me honest responses and opinions on anyt... Read Post

QUALITY F&I MANAGER: It’s All In Their Mindset.

  I have been in many conversations over the past few months with others alike about changing the image of our industry and definitely see the positive efforts being made to help make that happen.  As we all know it will not happen overnight but every new customer experience we are a part of can certainly move the needle in the right direction.  We should all see it as an honor to be of service with every customer interaction and for those that conduct business in this manner, I applaud you for a job well done. Still today, we can all find articles where the FTC is involved from where a consumer felt they were deceived by a dealership’s business practice.  Now whether the cases are true or not, something made the consumer feel this way.  Not much good comes from many of these cases and the lasting effect is deadly. I wrote last month in “Hope To Win or Plan To Win” that most of the objections confronted in the F&I office would f... Read Post

Hope To Win or Plan To Win?

    Many dealers across the United States will be closing out a great month of sales today and all of you should be congratulated for the efforts put forth.  It’s not over yet.  The great news is that we still have this wonderful Saturday to dig down deep and make it a month we haven’t seen in some time. Again, well done. Now that we lived that moment for a few seconds, what is your game plan for April? Do you have one? Do you approach the day wondering what will become of it or do you approach the day having a pretty good idea what will become of it? Are you spot on with every customer interaction, product presentations and handling objections the proper way rather than on the defensive? I have noticed over the years, in all capacities, that customer’s objections haven’t changed much yet dealer personnel still stumble many times when challenged. Especially in one of our biggest profit centers:  The F&I office. Most of... Read Post

How Many Customers Do You Lock in Your Showroom at Night?

  BDC / Internet operations are near and dear to my heart and I wanted to post this article I wrote for the DrivingSales Dealership Innovation Guide 3rd Quarter 2011 for those who may have missed it: "How many customers do you lock in your showroom at night?" This is a question that I enjoy asking dealer contacts around the country when I hear there is not a process in place or a process isn’t followed consistently to respond to customers on the other end of the telephone or the internet.  Believe it or not, as many of us are running full speed with our BDC departments and have been for years, there are still dealers around the country that either do not have such a department or have a half-functioning one.  For those dealers that fall into the latter two categories, it is time to step back, take a deep breath, and get a plan together to maximize on the opportunities that are there just as a customer standing in the sh... Read Post