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Should Dealers Embrace Personal Branding – Or Control It?

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In this highly regulated industry, there has been some recent debate as to if dealership salespeople should be allowed to establish and control their own personal branding.

 

In the past, personal branding by salespeople was geographically restricted, simply because the technology didn’t exist to go much further. Salespeople would find strategic places to display their business cards, or they would perhaps create magnets, or other items, which would then be given away to their customers. However, in today’s globally connected world, personal branding efforts can reach far beyond the local community and touch a much larger audience.

 

There are many examples of salespeople that have increased their visibility, resulting in increased opportunities and higher sales numbers. One could argue for or against these practices. Or perhaps find a middle ground. Differing opinions certainly exist out there. Let’s examine some pros and cons:

 

In Favor: Salespeople who do engage in personal branding efforts argue that they are spending their own money to generate additional sales. In return, this makes them more money. And, as a side benefit, it also increases sales for the dealership. By default, their own personal branding efforts, using such tools as Facebook, and other social media platforms, generate additional buzz and exposure for the dealership. Through their own personal branding activities, these salespeople are able to connect with customers they may not previously have been able to. If done well, these personalized interactions can help to make customers feel special. They also can serve to develop dealership loyalty along with referrals. In essence, this personalized approach can help to create brand advocates for the dealership itself.

 

Against: Dealers need to be aware that, while the FTC isn’t quite caught up yet, it will be soon and will be gunning for dealerships. There have been several recent cases in which dealerships have been fined for lack of disclaimers in social media ads and messages. The FTC has made it quite clear that advertising compliance extends to all advertising, including social media content. In addition, ads need to be clearly labeled as such. Personal branding messages by salespeople can, at times, contain messaging that could conflict with those rules. An easy example would be if a salesperson produced and posted a YouTube video about a sale with a blanket statement, “$10,000 off all Chevrolet Silverados.”  The problem is that the FTC will no longer distinguish between a salesperson’s individual activities and the dealership’s. As an employee, these personal branding activities have the potential of placing the dealership at risk for liability through advertising that fails to be in compliance. This liability could result in hefty fines.

 

On the other side of the coin, with the industry-wide problem of high employee turnover, what happens when that salesperson leaves? There have been some recent examples whereby the salesperson was so effective at personal branding that they become the de facto face of the dealership, simply through the volume of content they generated.

 

Regardless of which side of the fence you choose, the fact is that more and more salespeople see the value of these activities and are working hard to market themselves first, and the dealership by default. As other salespeople recognize the financial benefits, we may see this activity increase and dealers may be forced to take action.

 

There are definitely two sides to the coin here – some huge positives, but also some strong cautions as well. What are your thoughts on personal branding by salespeople?

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