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Jared Hamilton
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Gary May

Gary May President

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Reading a number of great posts recently (while trying to ignore the blatant self-promotion via a popularity contest glorified by a number of industry members last week), all focused on getting dealers to make the shift to digital or social media, it hit me once again what we're all trying to do: get people in the door.

While a number of dealers (maybe 5% in the country) are seeing growth many are seeing flat or declining numbers. Others are experiencing unit lifts while dealing with large drop in gross or back end. And everyone is dealing with selling fewer vehicles in the past 18 months than in the previous 4-6 years.
 

So in this online world, what aside from actually selling a vehicle to a customer or servicing their car drives traffic? One thing that can be looked at, especially in a world of smaller budgets, staffs and sales is events. With rare exception over the past two years, the factories (and therefore the dealers) have spent less and less on driving valuable traffic via new-owner events, clinics, ride-and-drives, sponsorships, meet-and-greets and the like. While the quantity of tire kickers may be down, real purchase intention is down significantly less (we'll leave the statistics and "pent up demand" gibberish talk to others).

Fewer and fewer dealers are doing what it takes to being people in: WIIFM. Yes, the most popular radio station in the world. What's In It For Me! More and more consumers are out there, looking for answers on how to program their seat memory, sync their bluetooth, update their navigation system, find out the difference in maintaining their car at the dealership versus aftermarket besides price and a whole lot more. So...they're left with going to a discussion group/blog/forum/portal, relying on word of mouth or not knowing at all. And you believe you 'had them at hello' when you sold the car.

So no new owner clinics. No barbecues. No comparison drives. No meet the staff days. No fundraisers (let alone getting a link from the event website to your website with all of the traffic they're receiving. What's that? What's a link? What does that do?). Boy, that will work! Then tell yourself that the drop in floor traffic is fine since 70-90% of the same-brand stores in your PMA are also down rather than kicking ass. Forget about building a brand, or answering the questions that many customers won't ask you over the phone, or stopping that brand new owner from driving into (fill-in-the-blank)-Lube, let alone even retaining the customers you have and that WANT to come back for a good reason or two.

No. Maybe this whole thing is wrong. The factory is supposed to do and promote events. The factory is supposed to drive floor traffic. The factory is supposed to give you all of the handraisers in the area. The factory has to do all of the advertising so you can copy the ad and put it on your (mediocre) website. The factory is supposed to give you all of the pitter-patter of footsteps so you can just kick back, put your feet up (or in the golf cart), make money and retire in 20 years.

DING, DING, DING. Wake Up!!! (that was your floor traffic meter just hitting zero)

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

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Jim Elliott
Opportunities for events are endless. Customer car shows, free car wash Fridays, how about Earth Day every April -- showcase your hybrids and invite people to bring in their low carbon footprint vehicle! If I had a grand palace like many Lexus or Cadillac dealers do, I would clear the showroom every Sunday for Sunday brunch! Bring in the best caterer -- and charge for it! Proceeds can go to charities or churches in the area! Digital dialogue is only the beginning -- this dialogue needs to turn into getting people into your showroom. Get back to having fun in the business -- when people are having fun at your facility they will relax and you can build relationships outside of a stressful sales process.
Eric Miltsch
@Gary - thought provoking post. Visitors walking into a car dealership have their guards up. What if you can get them to come in with those guards down? While I'm not in the same sales capacity as many of us here, I tried something different a while back... I hosted a social media breakfast in our Raleigh showroom and invited anyone and everyone in the area to come; a couple of people offered to do mini-presentations about SM services/consulting - no hard sells - purely information sharing. 80+ people showed up & we wound up selling nearly a dozen vehicles to attendees over the next few months. Here's a few pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auctiondirect/sets/72157618923487796/ Nice post Gary...I need to do another one!
Bart Wilson
These ideas are a great way to strengthen your community, both your online and off. What a great way to build raving fans. @Eric, thanks for the stats. These events CAN sell cars!

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