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Boy, 2008 put the 'oh crap' in everyone's to-do list. It was a lot of things but fun. So what are we to do now? For one, plan on at least a few things to succeed in 2009 and 2010 (as the real experts suggest we should be levelling out on our ride about then). In short the last year, actually the past 18 months, has shown us the following (with the caveat that the OEMs and dealers are very appreciated clients):
So, who knew 18 to 24 months ago that the bottom would drop out? Nobody I talk with...and this article is not to imply that anyone here is claiming to. But the fact is that more needed to be done at retail than would have ever been acknowledged. Until now at least. Dealers that are semi-concious are asking for help (where most wouldn't have hired an Internet consultant just one short year ago) and those that aren't cutting everything in sight back to nothing are starting to put effective sales and marketing strategies together. Here's a few areas of growth and likely some of the only places to effectively capitalize:
*If you're going to hire a company to email market your datase, it is important to understand your brand (not your franchise) and who your marketing to. Do not send the same content your competition, both in-brand and out-of-brand, sends. If you end up using the same vendor, change the message, color, format or something that makes it yours. Your cars, oil, filters, headlights, free WI-FI, flat-screen monitors, emblazoned umbrellas, loaner cars and cheeky grins are identical to every other dealership. So please make an effort there. Also, start actually using the great customer data you get during qualifying, walking, driving and selling the customer and put it into your database. That way you're not sending the same marketing messages to your 21-year-old first-time buyers and 44-year-old exeuctives.
Let's see, we've got NADA, JD Power Automotive Roundtable, Digital Dealer Conference, Dealer ADvantage Webinars, Auomotive Congress and a slew of other events coming up. So you have the chance to meet every Tom, Dick and Harry service provider, expert and presenter. How do you make sense of 374 CRM systems, 614 SEO companies and 1,629 website builders?
Don't buy what you think works or necessarily what your 20 Group buddy uses. Buy after you've made a real effort to understand how it will benefit your business and how they will work with you. Stop signing 2+ year agreements that cost you another year to back out if the vendor isn't holding their end of the deal. Start with a plan that has buy-in from the whole of your staff, understand what you want out of every relationship and remind them what is expected, don't lose sight of your indentity and stay in touch with the fact that you need customers to buy products and services and not a beautiful building to warehouse shiny objects that cost more that the average American makes in their lifetime.
In short, understand clearly why you are in business and what is the best route to be successful. There are people out there that will help you. They are represented in this website. And please remember that while, ahem, stores are managed from the top down, every person in your staff is the greatest asset you'll ever have. 2009 is here...go out there and invite some people over to buy some of your whoziwhatsies...