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By now, we’ve all heard about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’S) landmark smackdown: the FTC fined Legacy Learning Systems $250,000 for unethical review practices. For the Tennessee-based company, the unethical behavior consisted of putting some “fuel additives” into their sales process by hiring marketers, disguised as customers, to plaster consumer review sites with comments about “the best home-study DVD course for guitar I have ever seen.” What a fantastic idea (NOT!!!). Sales revenues rose up into the millions, the FTC smelled something fishy, investigated, and the rest is history. Now, companies everywhere are clutching their collective hats, hoping and praying their own reputation management process is above- board.
And really, who can blame them?
After all, although Legacy Learning System’s methods were fishy, they are hardly the first to feel pressured by the “race for stars.” Reputation management is the hot new buzzword, and we car dealers are in the hot seat, charged with inspiring page after page of glowing reviews in record time, as well as silencing any “Negative Nellys” who have left an unflattering review.
As a “vintage auto old-timer” who has worked in the car business almost two weeks (or was it longer?), this reviews frenzy reminds me of the universal (automotive) marketing law; otherwise known as the TRUTH: No matter how urgent or desperate a marketing campaign might seem, it must always be tempered with ethics, honesty, and wise judgment. Take it from the VJnator (Did I mention you can follow me on Twitter @VJnator?): Fuel additives may offer an exhilarating extra edge for a short while, but you can’t rely on performance-enhancing gimmicks to power your review process in the long run. On that note, here are four tips for “grease-proofing” your dealership reputation management process. Follow these to keep your reputation marketing engine idling smoothly and steadily.
Because in the future, all dealerships will be considered “Internet stores,” meaning more than 90% of all consumers will “shop and observe” you before even coming to your brick and mortar store, the fuel mixture for driving your future success is already a known fact:
Octane 87 = Consistency
Octane 89 = Persistence
Octane 91 = Passion
Last but not least, remember there’s only two true ways to manage your reputation: Provide a spectacular customer experience, or provide a terrible one. Without having any gray zone, there will be only one white or black decision to do it right.
Volker Jaeckel works as a speaker, coach and educator in digital marketing. “VJ” is a frequent speaker at industry events like Digital Dealer Conference and NADA; he is also a fixture at NCM 20 Groups and OEM seminars. When he’s not dazzling others with his digital marketing know-how, VJ enjoys vintage Mercedes Benz cars and spending time with his wife and five kids.
The Cobalt Group