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Allan Cooper

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Selling cars is not going to be any easier in 2009 than it was in 2008. However, even at the worst estimate, which seems to change weekly, there will be at least somewhere around 10,000,000 new retail vehicles sold this year. So which dealers and salespeople are going to get their fair share of the pie out there? January always brings some type of resolution for me, if I were still in the retail side of the business these would be mine:

• Commit to cleaning up your database. Have your database administrator or database vendor remove duplicate or dated information, appending contact and consumer details will open opportunities for additional business. Look at analyzing whom your best, and worst customers are, both sales and fixed operations. Segment the year by quarters and start communicating with those customers now. Look at orphan customers who used to frequent the service department but have not serviced their vehicle in over 9 months. Start contacting any financed customers six months before the end of their contract.

• Take time to analyze the ROI on vendors, measure them, hold them accountable and be prepared to end low-performing activities. Continue to look for ways to eliminate unnecessary and sometimes duplicate solutions, look for vendors that can consolidate multiple solutions and reduce expenses. • Lay out a marketing strategy for the year, it should be reviewed quarterly and adjusted for market conditions. Use the web, Micro-sites, Partnerships, Viral Marketing and Video publishing. Tap into social networks. Integrate your DMS and CRM solutions so you can create consumer data consistent and rich in information that is actionable.

• Professional, timely, relevant and targeted communication is the most important action you can do in is this market. Make sure you continue to reach out and touch customers (and prospects) regularly, Voice, text, mobile, email, and in person. Provide a platform that allows your customers to let you know their preferred communication channel. Empower your customers to communicate with you by giving them their own personal Webpage (PURL).

• Learn more about your customers by mining the riches of your own database; monitor user reviews like DealerRater, Edmunds and CarFolks. Do not be afraid to negotiate with a vendor to test-market a new tool with one of your stores for a discount. Attend conferences; read everything you can, absorb as much new information as you can, it is a completely new world out there this year.

Last but by no means least, network with your peers, they will be the best source of the new ideas, products and strategies that are working…and those that are not.

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