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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Allan Cooper

Allan Cooper Principal

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I remember being told that I should seriously consider moving back to Australia if I truly thought I could sell cars on the Internet back in 1995, If you were a Clifford Stoll disciple you no doubt agreed, yet here we are 15 years later and how the world has changed. First I want you to read what Clifford thought in "95"... The Internet? Bah! http://www.newsweek.com/id/106554 Yet, has the attitude really changed in some of our dealerships...how many people do you know that have not embraced the viability of social media and how it should be used. Social Media Marketing, what it basically comes down to for any size dealership is understanding what is really involved in launching a social strategy. Success in social media requires some advance planning, as well as some fundamental shifts in marketers' attitudes toward online marketing. Following a few simple steps, a dealership can deliver a social media strategy that will provide a platform for refinement and success as we move forward in an ever changing consumer content driven world. Take the time and do some research into where your customers are holding conversations about you, your dealership, and the auto industry. Your customers may be active discussing your dealership and personnel through Facebook, Twitter or on DealerRater. Build your profiles and ensure that you have someone monitoring and engaging them with relevant communication. By taking the time to identify where your audience is active in the social media sphere, you can save yourself a lot in both time and aggravation. Going to where the conversation is being held is one of the fundamental elements to social media success. If you don't do the research to find out where your audience is engaged, you have no chance of connecting with them. Launching social media strategy involves all departments within the dealership, and possibly some outside vendors or partners.  A social media strategy helps you anticipate both the expected and unexpected in addition to getting all the key players on the same page, it brings all of your resources together and helps to make sure they are working with each other, rather than operating as separate silos. Without an overall social media strategy, the potential for failure rises even higher. If one department is responsible for the social media efforts and they are just operating on the directions of "get us out there in the community," failure is right around the corner. Anyone engaging customers in any medium needs to understand the company's overall marketing goals, messaging, and customer service strategies. All stakeholders in must communicate or you will eventually run into trouble when your social media efforts bear fruit. Without a cohesive strategy, major blunders are more likely to happen, and the risk of your social media efforts failing increases exponentially. One of the quickest ways to fail in social media is to not be transparent about who you are and why you are "here." Social media is all about building relationships in communities and the conversations you have. Relationships are built upon trust, and if that trust is broken in any way, your efforts are wasted. Do not have a third party masquerade as a dealership management or as employees. If you do and are found out all trust will be lost and your reputation within the community will be destroyed, usually followed by a far larger PR nightmare as mainstream media becomes involved. Dealerships can be very egotistical when it comes to marketing. For years, it's been all about getting our message out there so the customer will buy or service their vehicles with us . With social media, this kind of thinking will get you ignored, or could even cause a backlash against your dealership. Social media is about building relationships, and it's about conversations. Conversations involve more than just you pushing your carefully crafted message onto the consumer. Social media is about a community sharing experiences, and dealerships listening to the chatter by the participants. The old adage "God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason" speaks volumes for social media. Dealerships should be out there listening to the greater online community, engaging them in bidirectional communication, looking for feedback,  and embracing new them as valued clients with a view to increasing customer interaction at all levels. Forcing your prefabricated marketing message upon a social media community will only generate resentment and ultimately failure in social media. If dealerships take the time to work on some of these elements with their efforts in social media, they will build a solid foundation of valuable consumer feedback that provides an on-demand source of information from your best prospects of future revenue. Social media can be a very effective and successful tool, but only if companies take the time to strategically plan for it and not just rush into it head on without first putting in place the right structure, process and marketing.
Matt Watson
Nice post. CRM can definitely pay for itself if you pick the right one and implement it correctly. http://www.vinsolutions.com/crm.aspx
David Book
This is a good topic. We need to make sure we understand the difference between a CRM and a CRM initiative, there is a giant different. The fact is, software is not CRM. CRM is a philosophy, a plan, a strategy. Software and other tools attempt to help you maximize the ROI on your Customer Relationship Management efforts. The intention of this post is to try to debunk some myths about CRM in the auto industry. However, the myths discussed here are associated with "systems" or "solutions" or "software packages" that we have all labeled incorrectly, "CRM." If you find yourself struggling to keep up with all the advances in technology in the car-biz, don't lose sight of what CRM means, what CRM is and what CRM is not. CRM is not software. CRM is a strategy, a plan, a philosophy about how your going to manage your customers. I was recently interviewed for an Auto-Success Magazine Podcast. We discussed this exact issue. You can listen to it here. http://www.autosuccesspodcast.com/ Cheers David Book http://www.mygoaltracking.net http://www.pinspeed.com
Shellie Pierce
Let’s break down CRM into what it is made up of: Customer + Relationship + Management. The Customer is the no brain part. All dealerships have customers and are looking for new ways to attract and retain those customers. They often do this through the building of Relationships. Dealers today know that they need to hang on to their existing customers, and to so, they must have some way to Manage their customer interactions. You are spot on when you said, “The fact is, software is not CRM. CRM is a philosophy, a plan, a strategy”, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that to do so, you simply MUST have some sort of technology to support your efforts. Without a solid technical solution, then all you are left with is Customers and Relationships and no way to quantify, track, market or measure the precious interactions with each and every customer. I completely agree with you that CRM needs to be taken up a level and not viewed as a “system”. I think that is the point Jonathan was also trying to make above and it is great to know that there are other likeminded professionals out there trying to elevate our way of thinking!
David Book makes a fair point that CRM is also "a strategy" and I would agree that it is only successful when you have good "People and Process." But I think he stands alone to say, "it is not a system or a software." Most readers (probably 99%) associate the term CRM with a software program that will better facilitate, enable, and maximaixe their people and process... which will better manage their database of customers. I think most would agree that still many dealers have poor Customer Management "process" and think that a CRM software will be their cure-all. They are quickly let down when things don't change for them because THEY were not willing to change and actually utilize the software they paid for and then blame it on the software. If used to its full capability, a good CRM (software), in my opinion, is THE ONLY way a dealer can TRULY MAXIMIZE and enable an effective Customer Management process.
David Book
For sure.... I'm oversimplifying the "CRM is not Software" approach mostly to be sure we are all talking about the same thing. I think we all agree that 99% or more (giggles) dealers, vendors, developers and sales personnel associate CRM with a showroom or ILM tool - this is good. Although there are some examples of super successful CRM initiatives from the past, such as the very well organized planners like Verde, Franklin and others still promote, they are almost exclusively designed for a single person, one salesman, one account rep, etc. In today's world, in nearly every situation, there are at least a few people working with the same customer data so software because imperative. This is great discussion.

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