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Subi Ghosh

Subi Ghosh Senior Director of Dealer Marketing

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Culture: You’ve got it all wrong and we NEED to talk about it!

Let me explain. What do you think makes up Company Culture? When you ask people how they experience culture (not define it), you’ll get a varying degree of responses. A majority of those responses will be focused on “having fun”, “easy to communicate with leadership”, or “free food”. Ultimately, these are responses you want to get, but culture is far more than the warm and fuzzies. There is a real tangible value of decreasing turnover, engaging sales staff to perform higher, improving morale, and increasing sales from an intentionally placed structure and an engaged community. How you achieve this is through planning, structure, and effective deployment. There are real steps and structures to put in place to properly achieve long-lasting growth with culture success.

A few things to get you started.

Two halves that make a whole are internal and external culture. They work hand in hand but should be focused on independently. Internally, you want to focus on your employees, internal communication, structures, mission statements, expectations meetings, defined customer experience paths, defined processes, bridging departments, improving communication, breaking silos, and creating value statements by departments as well as for the organization as a whole.

Externally, you want to address how the community engages with your store. Areas of focus that address external culture include social culture strategy, brand identity, value propositions, consistent market research, social training for the team, consumer experience awareness, and defined consumer experiences paths. They are important to discuss and illustrate to your team as well as the community.

5 pillars

In my experience of both being an Internet Director and running an agency, I’ve identified 5 areas where those internal and external cultures focus into.

  1. Strategic Hiring and Placement – Cultivating a specific set of steps for hiring will help clearly identify the best candidates. I have personally used four stages: phone, in-person, a follow-up email task, return in-person to meet with team members. Identifying skillsets for correct placement of employees is the biggest growth opportunity in dealerships from what I’ve experienced. Not only will interview and placement roadmaps make hiring easier on sales managers, but will also dramatically improve turnover.
  2. Internal Processes – The right structure, rules, guidelines, expectations, mission statements, and consumer experience pathways makes all the difference to your team as well as to your customers. Most employees “understand” the general processes, but will admit that they couldn’t share the steps with a teammate or follow them consistently. This is due mostly to a lack of written rules or handbooks. Defining the outlined items above will give your team clear instructions on how to do their jobs, what is expected of them, what it means to be a team member, and how to give a customer the best possible experience.
  3. Websites – Taking what we’ve defined in the first two pillars, we now have a defined brand with incredible value that helps your dealership stand out amongst competitors. We can now effectively communicate that message to the community through creative placement on the homepage, SRPs, and VDPs to overcome objections (before they even become objections) along with convincing them to engage the dealership. With only a 2-4% conversion from eyeballs on your website to leads, we have to get creative to get those consumers wanting to engage with us.
  4. Social Culture – Incorporating the first 3 pillars into engaging your community through non-advertising means can take those grassroots efforts and magnify them! Creating opportunities to empower your team to become ambassadors of your brand can significantly increase exposure. A social culture is not one where individuals are simply posting on Social Media, but rather going out into the communities with pride and authorities as ambassadors of your organization. Social policies and training are crucial to igniting this strategy.
  5. Retention Marketing- We are so often focused on the in-market buyers that we forget the rest of the lifecycle of our customers. By creating a strategy, processes, and structure for all stages of our customers we can engage/communicate our culture, our missions, and sales opportunities more effectively.

In a hyper-connected, consumer experience driven world, culture is crucial to attracting and retaining both your customers and employees. Dealership culture seems to be the most difficult to influence or course correct. In large part due to the connotation of difficulty, most give up before they even try. I’m here to tell you it isn’t that difficult, but it does take intention and buy-in.

Culture has become an extremely hot topic across all industries, especially in automotive where customer experience is critical, and those who fail to execute that struggle with turnover at a high rate. While I see that increasingly more dealerships are embracing “culture”, I find that it is quite misunderstood and poorly structured which leads to continued turnover issues along with poor consumer experience. Solving this problem is my motivation for discussing this topic at the upcoming Driving Sales Executive Summit in Vegas this October. I hope you join me at DSES so you can walk out with a plan to conquer such an important and misconstrued topic.

Derrick Woolfson

Great article, Subi. An Internal marketing strategy is invaluable on the dealer level. And for many dealers, they do not have any means of connecting their employees internally. That causes for a lot of turnover, which can be very costly for the dealership. 

Subi Ghosh

Exactly. The reality is there isn't much formal structure at all. Both internal and external work hand in hand, it just isn't as focused. The key word is intentional. IF there is an intentional plan, it doesn't have to be much work or really all that difficult. Thanks for reading and commenting, Derrick!

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