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What is a brand? If reputation is a brand, a visit to a dealer ranks below one to the dentist. If awareness is a brand, most portals slaughter dealers in search where roughly 90% of automotive shopping takes place. If trust is a brand...well let's not go there. What is your brand and how do you build a brand today?

Recently my most engaged response to someone describing a brand was after spending some time on Dave Armano's blog http://darmano.typepad.com/ (click on the video on the right side about personal branding). You see, 'brand' has nothing do to with your inventory, your facility or your finely made espresso. Brand has everything do to with the experience your provide, your customers' beliefs in you, your handshake, your smiling staff and your ability to invite people back like they're coming some place special.

At the end of the day, your brand is all you have. Yes folks, 'what have you done for me lately' is in lockstep with 'will I ever return here'. While there are some great companies out there that will take your money and promote you online, offline, inline and out of line...what in the heck will they promote?

Sitting down with dealer principals and general managers, their responses to identifying their own brands are as canned as the marketing emails that every dealer in the same DMA sends out (yes, I've mentioned that lately and will again until dealers stop doing it). Everyone knows that a Lexus dealer will treat you like a guest in their own home, it's part of the covenant. Frankly Scarlet, we want to give a damn about something else.

With dealers (and other businesses) unfortunately in a position to provide much less to their communities as of late, the real brand and equity test is soon to come. If you do one thing this year well, build a brand. While there is no guarantee of eminent success, chances are your positive results will follow. Nobody asks for facial tissue, they ask for Kleenex. Nobody makes a photocopy, they make a Xerox. Unless you're from the Midwest, you ask for a Coke (but asking for a 'pop' just has a certain ring to it!) and not a soda.

Do everything you can to become a brand and more. There are those of you that do, don't get this message wrong. It's just that for most of the car dealers out there, your brand ends where the driveway meets the street. There is more you can and must do.

Start with your entire staff. Get them together. Ask what they believe your brand is. If the meeting lacks consensus, you have your work cut out for you. If you have one, get your customers to help. Want to get really 'techno-dealer'? Set up Facebook, Twitter and other networks that will work for you. Get reciprocal links from local businesses that are your clients and partners. Get influential people in your local area into your store, take care of them and they'll blog or contribute to forums about your business!

OK, enough for today. But Just Do It...and do it now...(you recognize that brand, don't you?)

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Matt Watson
CRM success for any business is dependent on having the right people and processes both. However, CRM success is also dependent on having the right technology as well and knowing how to use it! Training is critical to CRM success. Dealers need a CRM that is very easy to use and works very well for new cars, used cars, Internet leads, desking, BDC, and most importantly these days, the service department. It is very difficult to find a solution that does all of those things very well. We recently signed up a dealer that had 4 different CRM systems because each one was good at one thing. To your point, that particular dealer sold over 500 cars a month even with the CRM mess they were in. Nobody in the dealership had any idea what the others were doing and it was impossible to identify the value and history of a customer to the dealership. So although they were still selling a lot of cars, you can imagine how much more efficient they are when the whole dealership is running on the same platform and speaking the same language. Thanks, Matt Watson VinSolutions http://www.vinsolutions.com/crm.aspx

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