As times are getting tougher and dealers are talking about cutting expenses they start to lose sight of what they are giving up. The main focus becomes to stay old fashioned and not spend a dollar until they start seeing profits again. The problem is that dealers forget that they need their vendors to help them keeping selling cars and producing revenue. This becomes a bigger problem as dealerships start to lose even more profits. As the frustration increases there becomes more tension in the showroom.
Thankfully the internet came to the rescue at the right time. While some blame the internet for destroying business others are saying that it made business better. The consumer enjoys the internet because it made car shopping easier. The problem is that they still have a bad taste in their mouth about car buying. The internet has made it easy for consumers to control other consumers buying decisions and offer each other advice. It is unfortunate that the auto industry still has a hard time building trust in customers. As the economy got worse, consumers are adding that as another reason why they are not buying cars and lost trust in dealerships.
The new phenomenon on the internet that is affecting every industry and most importantly the auto industry is social networking and reputation management. While both are different topics they have common elements and can work well one another. Just six months ago, I was getting laid off from my last dealership where I was a successful BDC Manager. None of the readers on here knew who I was. In fact, I found sites like Drivingsales.com and Automotivedigitalmarketing.com where I joined and met most of the people that are reading this. I contributed to discussions and started writing articles for major industry sources. I also made a trip to NADA where I hung out with many people and built lasting relationships. My current position was offered to me because I made connections using social networking. After my trip, a fellow blogger on here and my good friend Joe Webb wrote a blog about me and how I used social networking to create a reputation. This gave me many new ideas and creations. As I am thinking of getting into consulting to train dealers on internet sales and marketing, I started an idea of how to factor social networking into best practices. This came to me after I myself was able to generate leads to work without having to make cold calls.
How will this help your dealership grow when spending is cut? The training and motivation of sales staff and management needs to get serious. Since business is down and there is no traffic, the proper consultant should come in and evaluate spending, sales processes, and business practices to help the dealership thrive in these times. One of these practices is the teaching of social network marketing. There are many dealerships on facebook and myspace with fan pages and dealership profiles where they get industry friends and previous customers to be their friends on there.
(Ok Stan, what is your point here?)
Well, dealerships have processes to get consent from customers to collect email address. Likewise, they should get consent from happy customers to become friends online. A satisfied customer should not have a problem because they want to build a relationship and create trust in their dealer. As time moves on, the friends list increases and more opportunities are created. When the profile changes a status or posts a blog it should be personal to the point where everyone reads it. It should also be business because there is opportunity for free advertisement. We send out broadcast emails and mailers. We can advertise weekend sales or service and parts specials. A satisfied client can use this to refer their friends to your business. Talk about a low cost of sale.
Now take social networking and add videos like John Marazzi Nissan (www.johnmarazzinissan.com) or my friend Tim Jennings from Tomsparks.com utilizes it. These are youtube videos that can be posted into virtually any social networking site. These are not only ways to kill useless time at the dealership but they are also creative methods to attempt to drive showroom traffic.
A huge part of social networking is blogging. Blogs can be used and shown on the dealer website as well as social networking sites. Videos can be added to blogs to enhance the quality of the content. Now we are talking about being creative.
If you are worried that you will be laid off or you feel lucky that you are still employed, stop sitting around and complaining. The world does not need cancers. The world needs successful people; the same people that will work to drive our economy into the right direction. The true bailout starts with us working to improve our situations. While not every buyer will get a loan, many still will and they need to trust you before they consider working with you. Customers are hurting just like dealers, use this as an opportunity to find common ground and build relationships.
Here is the best part. These practices are free. The only cost is time. Why not use it? What else will we do with our time today?
If anyone has questions or comments please share them or email me. I am available for all of you all of the time.