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Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Dealerships are putting too much emphasis on social media and its not healthy for the stores, the consumers, or the industry.

Marketing is not the problem.

Despite the fact that most dealerships are still operating on an old marketing paradigm, most dealers are fairly decent marketers. They tend to manage large budgets and get predictable results with acceptable ROI. (The ROI part is semi-debatable, but that’s for another time.)

The biggest problem hindering most stores is not the marketing, it’s that they don’t deliver on their marketing promises.  It’s sad, but our industry standard for customer service is doing just enough to get the job done with today’s fresh customers but stops way short of creating an experience that customers can rave about. In other words, the root problem holding dealerships back is not what you are doing in 140 characters on twitter, it’s what you are doing on your showroom and service drive.

Think about these points:

·      Is the foursquare you use in your write up process designed for optimal customer experience or just to maximize gross?

·      If a customer asks for the price, or even payments, on a vehicle, how hard is it for them to get a straight answer?  Are your sales people trained in evasive tactics?

·      Are your sales people paid in a way that motivates them to maximize gross at the expense of the customer experience?

·      How long does it take to get through the finance office?

·      Is your trade evaluation process transparent or do your customers have to wrangle through a negotiation process after being hit with a super low offer to get to an “acceptable” deal?

These items are just examples of common pain points within dealerships that hinder customers from truly loving you.  I know this sounds a bit crazy, but if you were to bring your mom down to the dealership to buy a car, but you wouldn’t allow her to be subjected to your normal sales process… you have a broken process!  Lets face it; we could all do a better job in certain areas.

Social Media is the COOL thing to do:

Social media is about really efficient communications.  People now share information to the tenth power, and this power of “word of mouth” has WONDERFUL marketing implications for all business.  However, most dealerships don’t give the customers something good to talk about.  Even the most effective social media strategy is doomed if your dealership doesn’t operate in a super customer centered way.

Think about it like this, an effective social media strategy, or any marketing strategy, to attract customers to a dealership that is not customer focused is like taking aspirin to cure cancer.  It may make you feel better, but it’s far from a cure.  Are you looking to really cure your dealership of its current setbacks, or are you into chasing a shiny object ‘cause it’s the cool thing to do?

My Recommendation:

There is a massive opportunity out there for those dealerships who are willing to be innovative with their marketing, including being heavily involved in the social media sphere, while innovating at the operations level to provide amazing customer service… then get out of the way and let your customers do the talking.

This is proven to generate wild success.  Ask Eric Miltsch, Tom White jr, Andrew Difeo or Tracy Myers about how their stores have performed through the downturn, then ask them about the how they handle the pain points listed above.  These guys are more than marketing geniuses, they pair excellent marketing with brilliant operations, and each puts their own flavor to it.

Killer success does not come from killer marketing alone.  Huge success comes from the alignment of your dealerships marketing with your stores true value proposition, excellent customer service.

Everyone wants to be a business rock star but few are willing to put in what it takes to get there.   Most in business operate at the status quo and try and dress things up in fancy marketing. Innovate at the operation level and pair that with killer marketing and you will become the rock star.

What’s holding your store back from rock star status?  My guess it’s not just what you are saying on twitter or sharing on Facebook, it has more to do with giving your customers something to talk about.

Brian Pasch
Jared, great points. Dealers need to utilize all forms of communications, like social media, but if internal processes are broken, social media may even expose those problems to a greater degree. Working with great dealers like Andrew Difeo at Hyundai of St. Augustine has shown me that they have ample customers that are willing to post reviews online or participate in customer testimonial videos because the experience was excellent. They have leveraged their customer experience to greater brand awareness. I just posted an article on DrinfSales which talks about one strategy to give customers an outstanding experience: Dealers become Go-Givers. By changing the sales "process" that so many car dealers are using, as suggested by these authors, dealers will be amazed to see how much will change for the positive. Their dealership will be the perfect example of leveraging social media.
Stacy Mueller
Jared: Really great post...honest and thought-provoking! I completely agree with Brian. Social media can reveal a dealership's weak points and can exacerbate a dealership in peril. Social media is word of mouth marketing on steroids so a dealership must be conscientious of customer's experience. Social media is a great tool but one thing that will never change...a great product and great customer will always prevail. Can't wait to see more comments and thoughts.
Dave Erickson
Probably one of my favorite posts on Driving Sales in the few years I've been checking in. Especially with all the chatter recently about Social Media. Big time dividends when you have a process and sales staff that actually engages the customers in such a way that it drives the social media in a positive way. So much more value than the extra few bucks in you pick up on grinding the hell out of someone. The funny thing is that a good deal of managers I've run into on interviews would answer Jared's points in exactly the opposite way and think it's a good thing without question. They would say, you hit them high, the 4 square is to f*&ck them, low ball them on a trade. Work the deal, work the deal, work the deal, grind them for hours. In the end if you were to ask them if they would treat their mother that way they would probably respond saying their mother wouldn't ask for a discount. She would trust them. The funny thing is how you treat your customers, the experience you provide and believe in down the core is what will drive social media for or against them/us and help establish that trust.
Jared, absolutely right, and great responses from Missy, Dave and Brian. To embed a Social Marketing strategy into a dealership the structure and foundation needs to be up to the pulse (or up-to-date) as well. Dusty hierarchies in dealerships, pre-historical Sales Manager types who are not getting their “A*$” off their chair (or tower) to greet and thank customers, when those coming through the door, letting their sales people running during the negotiation 12-times back and forth to the desk and who are having the opinion that “we are selling cars and aren’t in the business to distribute sales catalogues and give away information for free”, these are the dealerships who believe in chasing the shiny objects. The idea of a 4square is as old as Methuselah. Alone this “hit’em high” indication speaks for antique structure and foundation. My suggestion as a Coach for the industry: When you are a customer, vendor or a consultant meeting these “wisdom fighters”, explained above – just run…not to them but away. As long the DP or GM can’t see what is wrong with these aged behavior and attitude do not explain Social media to them. They will blame you (in case you are trying to implement a strategy) as long as their owner will not admit that something needs to be changed in the processes and will give you 100% green lights for the run. As I explained in my Crawl-Walk-Run approach – Basics First! Like owning your SERP; having a OEM CSI-rating of 98% and higher throughout your service and sales department; having an aligned OEM/Dealer Website Marketing message; hopefully staying in touch with Ownership Marketing and last but not least praise review-sites like PrestoReviews, Dealerrater, Yelp, etc. for their services provided to your potential customers (even so they are sometimes bad, but “bad” reviews housing opportunities to get better and to refine processes). These Basics are the mandatory essence to advance later in to the Walk & Run phases, and to step into the YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook arena. Just ask them (or maybe even yourself) if they would put a new HEMI or AMG engine into a car with 10+ year old, first generation rear drum brakes, without making any other adjustments to the ride. Not changing brakes, not changing sway-bars, suspension, still having 175R/15” tires installed… Would you top-speed this car with the new 530hp block without having a “death-wish”? I guess not! “Social Media is not the silver bullet”, and whoever says “it is”, believes possibly that there is indeed a Tooth Fairy and Wolly Wonka at the end of the rainbow.
Phil Cannon
VJ we're going to need to put you on the payroll for talking about Presto Reviews all over. I had a good example today talking to a dealer about where in the sales process to have the customer fill out a review. He said he couldn't do it before the F&I office because customers usually wait 2 hours to get there... so he is trying to get positive reviews, but knows that his customers wait an incredible amount of time just trying to get into F&I. I hated to say it, but it didn't matter when he asked them for a review because his system wasn't built to make customers happy. I felt like following VJ's advice... and just running away

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