The Dealerist's Blog

November 17, 2009

Dealership Marketing and Advertising in the Web 2.0 Age

It’s no secret that advertising methods that worked in years past no longer work, so how can you market your dealership in today’s economy? 

I recently saw a presentation on What’s Next Marketing and Advertising by Paul Isakson on Slideshare.  One of the points that he makes is that the future of marketing is NOT about doing and saying things TO people, rather the future of marketing is about doing things WITH and FOR people.   Mr. Isakson’s presentation said that the future of marketing is:

Collaborative:  In today’s Web 2.0 environment your customers are your dealership’s voice.  What they say to their friends and family will trump anything you say in your advertising.

Generous:  Almost every dealer I know has a charity that they work with.  Your Facebook, your Twitter account even your showroom are venues that you can share with your charities to help promite their causes.  By doing so you show your customers and prospects that you are involved and care about your community. 

Experimental:  Let’s face it, advertising today a moving target.  You have to be willing to try new things.  The great news is that social media and the web are perfect for experimenting so go ahead try that crazy idea out.

Helpful:  One of the fundamental principles of social media is that people will share things they find helpful.  So use your social media accounts and your dealership website to provide helpful tips and videos.  Your customers and prospects will forward them to their friends and family and you get more exposure. 

Playful:  This should be a no brainer for those of us in the car business.  Why do you think that the King of Cars was so successful?  It was fun.  When you have fun your customers see that you’re real.  So get out there and have some fun with your marketing. 

Personal:  Ever since websites became common most dealerships have had staff pages.  Those pages allowed us to tell our prospects a little about us.  Today, social media sites go even further and if used properly show that we too have families, that kids play soccer too that we too are people just like them. 

Honest:  This one’s a tough one.  As an industry we have always had a bit of bad reputation.  I think dealers today are not only very honest; they are probably some of the most honest businesses around.  Social media sites and the web allow you to work with you customers and prospects in an open an transparent way.  If you staff made a mistake admit it and address it openly.  Nothing will go further to help your store image. 

Participatory:  Like Paul Isakson says, “The best way to get people to do stuff with you, is to first join them in what they are already doing.”  Your customers and prospects are already using social media to share and stay in touch with their friends and family.  When you get involved with social media you’re joining your customers and in doing so they will participate by helping you build a better business.

Marketing your dealership today doesn’t have to be all that confusing.  One thing is certain, the rules have changed and what used to work no longer does.  But the good news is that if you’re willing to try new things and open up and let your customers help, there’s a whole new way to market your business.

As always please feel free to call me at 502-689-5370 or follow me on Twitter, I am @dealerist.

November 12, 2009

Twitter 101: A Guide for Dealerships Part 2

You’re dealership is on Twitter, now what? 

As I said previously, you need to post at least every day.  If you use Outlook you can schedule a recurring task twice a day to remind you to post something. 

Again, you don’t have to be a prize winning author, but it needs to be relevant and interesting.  Here are a few points that will help make you worth following:

Be Helpful: 

Cars and trucks today have more computers on board than the first space shuttle did.  With all that technology comes tons of questions. 

Find out what are the most asked questions at delivery.  Talk to your service advisors and see what they get asked most often.  What high tech features does your OEM have?

Basically all of the frequently asked questions (FAQ) that your customers and prospects ask would be informative and helpful Tweets. 

Take an inexpensive video camera and shoot a short video demonstrating the “how to” for your FAQs and post the videos on your dealership’s “channel” on You Tube.  (If you don’t have a YouTube channel for you’re dealership don’t worry, that will be our next topic.)  

Then you can link to those videos in your Tweet.  Remember that Tweets have to be 140 characters or less so use a URL shortener like http://bit.ly.  A good example of a FAQ Tweet might look like this: 

Need to connect your iPod to your Microsoft Sync?  Here’s how http://bit.ly/2OWqoi

Be Informative: 

Use Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) to notify you via email whenever certain terms are posted online. 

So if you’re a Ford dealer you might set an alert for the term “Ford F-150”, then select news for the type of alert and you be notified when there are press releases about the F-150.  Then you can read that press release and determine if it’s something your customers might be interested in.  If so, shorten the URL like we did above, mention the article and post.  An example of an informative Tweet may look like:

Wow people really love their F-150’s  http://bit.ly/1xhswU

Be a Good Neighbor: 

Get with local charities and civic organizations and when they are having local events Tweet about them and where possible link to their site.  Say your local Habitat for Humanity is looking for volunteers, you could Tweet something like this:

If u r in the #Indy area @IndyHabitat is looking for volunteers THIS Sat morning/afternoon. http://bit.ly/49wgy8

Be Positive: 

Post positive or motivation quotes from time to time.  There are tons of sites that you can get a motivational quote of the day emailed to you.  You can then Tweet that quote.  Who wouldn’t want to pass on something that makes your day like:

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”.  Albert Schweitzer

Using Twitter to reach out to your customers and prospects is not hard and does not take a lot of time.  With just a few minutes each day you can post/Tweet useful and informative items that people will then pass on or “Re-Tweet” to their friends and family. 

Then every now and then you can Tweet about a new incentive that the OEM just announced or a great service special.  People expect and will respond to an ad occasionally if the routine content is worth their time and attention.

As always there’s so much to talk about so I will post another article soon that will help you use Twitter at your dealership.  In the mean time if you have any questions at all please feel free to call me at 502-689-5370 or follow me on Twitter, I am @dealerist.

November 10, 2009

Twitter 101: A Guide for Dealerships

Everybody in the industry seems to be telling you to get your dealership on Twitter and the truth is you need to be.  But, has anyone really told you why or even how?  Lets’ take a basic look at Twitter and see what it is, why you should be on and more importantly, how to use Twitter. 

First you need to realize that Twitter is a lot like CB Radio for the Internet with one big exception:  Everyone gets their own channel.  Looking at it from that perspective keep in mind that people CHOOSE to listen (Follow) you so you have to be worth listening to. 

Reality check:  Twitter is NOT an advertising tool, a bulk email tool, or about large numbers of followers.  Let’s take a look at each of these individually.

Advertising: 

Twitter is not an advertising tool, it is a relationship tool.  Remember they choose to follow you so you must be worth following.  If all they get is a steady diet of marketing they will stop listening.  Use Twitter to build relationships with your customers and potential customers by providing meaningful content that they can use. 

After you have established your Twitter “Channel” as informative, entertaining and worthy of following you can then occasionally put out a special or an announcement.  The best strategy here is to use a bridge.  Briefly mention the special on the Twitter and refer to your Facebook Fan Page where you can really market your specials.

Bulk email: 

Common sense should tell you that just blasting out pitches like a bulk email program will not work on Twitter.  Yet, every day I see people use Twitter just like that and then complain that Twitter does not work for their store or their customers demographic or their OEM brand. 

Like we said before Twitter is a relationship media just like all Social Media.  I really can’t say this enough so I am going make it clear:

People CHOOSE to follow/listen to you, so you HAVE to be worth Listening to.

Number of Followers:  

At the dealership level you should not be overly concerned with how many people are following you.  You want a group of followers that are truly connected with your store so that your messages are relevant to them.  As you become more relevant to your own customers they will tell their friends and they will follow and your base of followers will grow. 

Building your followers starts on the lot.  Have your salespeople tell unsold showroom traffic about your Twitter page.  Your Service Advisors should be telling their customers about your Twitter page.  The parts counter should have a sign telling customers to follow you on Twitter.  Repair orders, business cards, F&I anywhere your dealership touches a customer there should be a sign asking them to follow you on Twitter.

Reality Check:  Be sure that you set up your Twitter account as your dealership name.  So if you are John Smith Ford your Twitter account should be JohnSmithFord or JSmithFord not Joe Wilson because he is your Internet Manager.  I have seen dealerships that have their Internet Manager set up their Twitter page and then if/when they leave the Twitter page and followers go with them. 

Make sure that not only your Internet Manager but also the GM, GSM and even you log in at least weekly and post a message.    

I will post another article with some detailed do and don’ts that will make you a believer in using Twitter at your dealership.  In the mean time if you have any questions at all please feel free to call me at 502-689-5370 or follow me on Twitter, I am @dealerist.

November 7, 2009

500,000 People a Day, What Are You Waiting For?

Filed under: Automotive — Joe Turner @ 3:28 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

How many people do you know that won’t buy a lottery ticket until the jackpot reaches a certain amount?  I’ll bet we all know people like that, maybe even ourselves. 

Many dealers are like that when it comes to adopting new trends and technologies.  I’ve been in the retail car business for over 14 years.  I worked for dealers that scoffed at the notion of a website some even threatened representatives of websites companies.  Today, almost every dealership has a website. 

I read a report that Facebook is now adding 500,000 NEW users every DAY! 

For those of you that don’t get “in” until the jackpot is big enough, I have some news…the jackpot is at an all-time high.  It’s time for your dealership to get in Social Media.

By getting “in” I don’t mean just signing up on Facebook and Twitter.  No, getting “in” means that you and your staff are serious about actually joining in the conversation that’s all ready going on about your dealership.

Fortunately, a lot of big corporations have been using Social Media for some time so here are some of the lessons learned thus far.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:

It’s been said that good customer service makes the best marketing.  Start right now by offering customer service via Twitter.  Smart companies have been following Twitter and when someone mentions their company they respond quickly to any issues or potential issues.   

Have your Customer Service Manager or even you start following Twitter today.  Tell your customers about it when their in F&I, the service drive and even tell your unsold showroom traffic about your Twitter page.  If it were my store, I’d have it plastered on every door coming in and going out of the dealership. 

This will be a bitter pill for many but the rewards will be almost instantaneous.  Even if you can’t help a potentially upset customer right away via Twitter, you can at least point them in the right direction and get the resolution process started.   

INCREASE YOUR REACH:

When it comes to promotions there’s not much that has worked as well on the web or on the lot as the word “Free.”  Social media is no exception to this rule.

A restaurant recently had a drawing for a $100 gift card.  To enter the drawing people had to tweet  “Follow @Maggianos by 5pm CST to be entered to win $100 in Maggiano’s gift certificates,” during a specific  time frame.  As a result Maggiano’s gained over 2,000 followers in a single day. 

You could offer a free oil change for something similar.  Followers on Twitter are more valuable than any list of email addresses so any promotion that helps you get more followers is worth the effort.

DON’T TRY TO SELL:

This one will be hard for most of us, after all we’re car people.  We’ve been taught to always be closing.  But the reality of Social Media is that if you’re pitching they’ll stop following.  Instead use a bridge by occasionally embedding a link in your tweets back to your Facebook Fan Page.  There you can present special offers for all of your profit centers. 

Implement a Social Media Policy for your department managers.  Have each department tweet one useful tidbit either daily or every other day.  Then stagger the times that each department does their tweet.  The best part is the tweets don’t have to be original material.  You can “Re-Tweet” an OEM press release, an article about one of your models or seasonal reminders such as how to set the clock in the car back in the fall. 

There are too many ways to use Social Media than we can discuss in this small article.  If you have any questions at all or would like more information on ways you can use Twitter and Facebook please feel free to call me at 502-689-5370 or better yet follow me on Twitter I am @dealerist

So what are you waiting for?  The jackpot has never been bigger and with Facebook adding a half million people a day you can’t afford to wait anymore.

October 30, 2009

Use Social Media to be proactive

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Turner @ 6:51 pm

Had a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine that owns a Nissan store.  We were talking about how social sites like Facebook can be used by dealerships. 

He was not excited about the prospect of engaging upset customer in the open on Facebook.  I certainly can understand his trepidation.  We are used to settling a customer’s issues in an office not in the showroom. 

But the reality is that while we may have discussed and settled an issue with an upset customer behind closed doors in the past they still talked to their friends and family about what happened.  Social media today actually represents a better opportunity to earn the future business of not only their friends and family, but many others as well.

By engaging the customer in an open forum you demonstrate to potential customers that you are a reputable dealer and can be trusted.

So don’t be afraid to open up and engage your customer base online, you’ll be planting the seeds for future customers as well as retaining existing ones.

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