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Andy Warner

Andy Warner Ecommerce Director

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Everyone knows the economic downturn has caused dealerships to examine their expenses with a scalpel. Dealerships are literally in a fight for survival based upon their expenses because most incomes are drastically shrinking. We know there are successful dealerships weathering through the storm because of their innovation and adapting to the challenging economic environment.

But how are these businesses succeeding? What is driving their success?

A recent interview occurred between two very successful marketers, Seth Godin and Josh Spears. Josh interviewed Seth about Seth’s longstanding success in online marketing. The interview was brief, but included many nuggets of marketing wisdom. The highlight of the interview (for me) was this:

Josh Spears: The fact that you always have something new to say about marketing must rely on the fact that today’s marketing approaches must constantly be updated. What do you think have been some of the most significant updates of 2008?

Seth Godin: Clearly, we’re seeing a stampede by traditional marketers into online ads and social media. They’re starting to figure out how text ads work, but have no clue at all about the role of corporations in social media. Here’s a hint: You don’t get to ask, “How can we use this to grow?” It’s not yours to use. It belongs to the people who are in it, not to greedy marketers who believe they have a right to ride along. The opportunity is to have a tribe, a group of followers, loyal people who are connected to each other and to a movement.

My question to you is: Have you asked your market for permission to access their networks?

Unfortunately, the advertising method most dealerships use involves forcing their message to their local market through direct mail, the internet, newspaper, radio and television without considering the customer’s reason for entry into the purchasing funnel. A brief consideration of the online message could vastly strengthen the interaction between buyer and seller and produce a consumer for life.

Instead, many dealerships blast a haphazardly developed message to the masses and as a result, leads are of low quality, appointments are not kept, closing ratios are low and the repeat customer is non-existent.

Dealerships must consider the changing landscape when marketing to their potential buyer. Advertising, especially online advertising has changed. Online advertising is a response to consumer action and not the manufacturer directing consumer action. There are three pieces dealerships must consider when advertising in the digital space:
1. Manufacturers must ask permission to access markets
2. Manufacturers must provide product validation to remain in the market
3. Manufacturers must innovate based on the consumer’s terms not what manufacturer’s think is best for the consumer

Social media is definitely changing the way dealerships market. Social media enables dealerships to understand their consumer better, but social media also drives the dealership to produce a richer and beneficial customer experience. Gaining entry into a group is difficult. The internet has made this absolute even more difficult due to the interconnectivity social media provides. Dealerships must ask permission to enter these markets because the network is more educated, more solid and more closed-knit than ever before. Through networking with members, dealerships can gain stronger ties into these networks... provided the message is properly developed.

There are definitely different methods of gaining access and successful dealerships are bridging these gaps every day through social networks. Once dealerships enter these markets their products (the customer’s experience with the dealership) must deliver, whether it is ordering a vehicle online, ordering parts, service, etc. If the experience fails, dealerships risk a much tougher time of re-entry and a possible business channel dies.

Dealerships can avoid death by staying connected to their consumer. The voice of the customer has never been louder or stronger than it is now because of the increasing strength of virtual networks. Virtual networks are the sounding boards of consumers’ needs and wants--all a dealership needs to do is listen (or read for that matter). Please understand that I am not saying dealerships need to lay down to their customers. I am saying that dealerships need to embrace and understand their consumers at a deeper level if they expect to be in business the next two to five years.

Therefore, take the time to understand your consumer, it might just save your (financial) life.

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