Social Media and Brand Loyalty
Making the New Buying Process Work for You
If you’ve been in the car business long enough, you remember a time before social media. Back then, a customer would see your ad on TV or in the newspaper, compare prices, then come in and buy. If you were lucky, you would see that customer again when it was time for the next purchase. All that’s changed.
Your customers are now “social shoppers,” which means they interact with more brands and are much more “dialed-in” to the buying process. It also means they can remain engaged with your brand before and long after they drive off the lot. These customers could become your biggest advocates (best case scenario) or your biggest detractors (worst case scenario). Whatever their opinion, however, thanks to social media, the whole world will know how they feel about you.
This doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Though social media is a vast, uncharted landscape in which you seemingly cede control over what is said about your dealership, there are tremendous opportunities here. If you can track what people are saying while participating in, and shaping, the conversation, you can turn social media into a powerful marketing tool.
To do this, you have to start by rethinking the way your customers approach a car-buying decision. More importantly, you have to lengthen the engagement beyond the actual purchase to create a long-term bond with customers. This level of connection is what will keep you top of mind when they buy their next car, but more importantly, it will keep you top of mind when they recommend you to a friend, a family member, or a complete stranger. Because through the power of social networking, your customers now have the ability to reach all three—with unprecedented speed.
The risks of the status quo?
Faced with the prospect of taming the social media landscape, many dealers opt for inaction, which may seem like the easy road, but the risks are huge.
· You lose control of your message. Without you to steer the conversation in the right direction, anyone can say virtually anything about your dealership and you’re not there to counter it.
· You lose that edge created through top of mind awareness. If they’re not thinking about you, they’re not thinking about buying a car from you.
· You appear invisible. If you’re not engaging the consumer, your competitor probably is.
What are the benefits of embracing social media management? For starters, you create fans who could become “evangelists” for your dealership. This helps spur growth of first-time visitors and return business as well, which has the potential to build revenue in all profit centers. Above all, it forms the foundation of a solid, long-term relationship between you and your customers.
How to make social media work for you
Unlike in the past, when most communication between dealers and customers was one way, today you have the opportunity to participate in a conversation, where you and your customer can talk, listen, and learn from one another. The longer this conversation goes, the stronger the bond you have created. Here are a few things to remember:
· Engage customers wherever they are looking for information that will inform their buying decision. Even after they’ve made a purchase, they’re already processing information for their next purchase. Stay in touch.
· The sale doesn’t stop at the showroom door. Build your post-sale relationship by linking your customer to your other profit centers. A positive service experience will keep your dealership top-of-mind.
· Customers are going to post reviews about your dealership—some positive and some negative. The important thing for you is to have a mechanism to capture and respond to that feedback in order to address your detractors while giving your fans a forum to express themselves.
· Push relevant content—not just inventory—to search engines and social networks to position your dealership as the trusted expert.
· Use multimedia to demonstrate what you’re doing for the community to cast your brand in a positive light.
· When it comes to turning customers into powerful, highly authentic marketing tools, social media generates outstanding ROI.
· When you invest in social media, track the performance of that investment. Because you can so easily make changes on the fly, paying attention to what’s working and what’s not pays dividends.
Making social media work for you may not look easy. With the right tools in your hands, however, it can be. By building relationships with your customers online, you can profit from the social media revolution and turn it into a powerful revenue generator for your dealership.
Mike DeCecco is the director of business development for Dealer.com. For more information, visit www.dealer.com.