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Jared Hamilton
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Gary May

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If you've been a dealer for more than two years, face it: you're an adverholic. Anyone who has made it through the auto 'heydays' has spent 30, 70...even 100 thousand plus PER MONTH to get their name out to an unmeasured amount of eyeballs. Those days are gone (and soon many of the recipients of those ad dollars, if not already) but the pain and yearning may still be there.

When you stop advertising for the sake of advertising and start a conscience level of engagement with 'your public', paying attention to things outside of the dealership and spending more time getting to know who buys from you and why, things get a bit clearer. Understanding the components of today's market related to your brand existing comes in a two-step recovery program:

1. Stop doing what doesn't work
2. Start doing what does work

The biggest game change in media over the last 100 years: social media/consumer opt-in engagement. It's truly interesting when you sit down with a dealer or general manager and hear about what they want changed: more of their own website leads, to drop (costly) third party leads, to retain more clients, to spend less (sometimes blindly) and ultimately stay flat or grow in today's economy.

So, how can and where do you start? Short of choosing to disappear completely from people's conscientiousness, you have to be smarter about what you say, where you say it, how you say it and when you say it. Then you absolutely have to be spot on when a person consumes your media and wants to interact with you.

There are no better tools that I've ever seen than in social media, and dealers are starting to get it. Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn and more, let alone your website (done right, that is). You don't need to worry about your overhead or CPM if you have 735 fans of your dealership on Facebook. It's free. And get this: you can drive the most contextual messages to them and they'll get it automatically. Imagine this scenario:

Joe Blow likes your dealership, even has visited when the new models arrive and he ends up buddies with one of your sales staff from chit-chat. He sees a promotion in the reception area about your Facebook page and becomes a fan. He gets updates regularly about your dealership, special cars arriving, service specials and more. You also broadcast exclusive specials via Twitter so he follows you there. When he's in market, clicks the option on your Facebook page to get inventory sent directly to his cell phone. The unit he wants comes in, he IM's the salesperson that he'll be in the next day at 5:30 to buy the car.

No lead, no timer, no missed emails or communication. No cost. No competition. No guessing what drove him in (ie was it your $10,000 cable spot, $15,000 direct mail campaign or the $20,000 newspaper ad). This customer was always yours, which is the way most dealers I know like it.

Repeat after me: "I'm a recovering adverholic and I don't need to advertise just to advertise anymore. I will be relevant, timely and honest (ouch!). My website is a living, breathing entity, not a billboard. I'll go digital so my camera is not the only one in my office that is. And I'll meet my customers in the same place that I go for my sports scores, to book travel, to post pictures of my kids and do all my banking: ONLINE!"

Boom, you're healed. Go sell cars...

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