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Commentary & Insights

RIP Facebook Marketplace for Dealers?

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Facebook Marketplace underwent some changes in September and no longer lists vehicles from partner catalog feeds. This includes the entire marketplace experience: homepage, search function, etc.  There is a lot of debate on how this will affect the industry. But before we get into the juice, let’s clarify how dealers can still reach buyers on Facebook, even with this change. Create vehicle listings from the “inventory” tab on your dealership/business page Dealers still have the option to upload their inventory from their personal business pages (instead of having this also aggregated in Marketplace). While this is still a free option, the click rate on the inventory tab on business pages is quite low, so it’s critical to monitor this. It will be interesting to see if click rate and engagement rate will increase as Marketplace becomes more lean with inventory after this change.  Create AIA ( Automotive Inventory Ads )  AIA gives dealers the ability to upload an entire catalog of vehicles to Facebook so that the Facebook pixel can then target the best shoppers with the right inventory at the right time. The upload process is similar to the one disconnected with Marketplace, where you can send a feed automatically to Facebook. While this is not a free option, it’s an efficient way to get your vehicle listings seen by in-market shoppers (including placements on Marketplace among other placements on Facebook).  Manually create listings in Marketplace  This option does allow for dealerships to continue to showcase inventory (certified pre-owned only) on Marketplace, but since it’s manual the dealership would have to upload every/all relevant listings with all associated information. This is extremely time consuming, and for some, probably not worth the hassle.  So, what’s the field predicting with this change?   Some think it really won’t matter since AIA is the same idea, just paid, and will include ads on Facebook Marketplace when relevant. This is probably true for larger dealerships and/or Franchise dealers who have the means to do this through AIA.  Others think this will be a beneficial change for small and independent dealers since they usually entered manually anyway. Now, these smaller dealerships will also increase visibility since the larger franchises won’t have the capacity to upload manually. Cutting the competition and the noise can skyrocket results for these dealerships.  Lastly, some predict it will be similar to Craiglist’s change a few years back where they also eliminated the overwhelming amount of organic posts and in turn, helped shoppers find what they are looking for faster with a cleaner user interface.  What happens next? Like any big change in automotive, it’s going to be critical to watch trends for the next few months-- understand if this change was good or bad for your business. Do you have fewer leads? Do you have more qualified leads? Is your marketing team being more productive on other channels? Did your predictions for the change match reality? These are all important questions to tackle as we go into October and November and learn as an industry.  *This article was inspired by a forum thread in Dealer Refresh . 
dealership sales

Best Practices

5 Keys to Get More Customer Referrals

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We all know that referrals represent our greatest opportunity for peak profits and predicable growth. As Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged, “People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”  There is no other business strategy that can provide the compounding results that can be realized through executing the right referral strategy. It’s simple math. With only half of your customers providing just a single referral every two years, your business doubles every three years.  Unfortunately for most teams, their strategy is simply to ‘ask for a referral.’ This too often leads to an awkward experience with many people avoiding the exchange altogether. There is a better way! With the right referral strategy customers actively share your message and support your business. If you are ready to get more referrals now, ask yourself these five questions: 1. Are my customers capable of referring business? In order to be capable of referring business, your customers must remember you, remember what you can do, and remember why people choose you.  Our customers might know how we’ve helped them and why they said yes, but that doesn’t mean they know all the ways in which we can help. We cannot expect our customers to remember us and how we can help each time an opportunity arises unless we’re in regular communication creating engagement, sharing successes, and continually providing value. Thankfully this can be accomplished with minimal effort leveraging old tools in a new way. You already possess the contact methods and the mediums. The next step is to marry automation with personalization to maximize each interaction and compound your results. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next level strategy that ensures they stay top-of-mind, they stay connected, and they stay relevant. 2. Are my customers compelled to refer business? Customers that are compelled to refer business are all motivated by one or more of the following three factors. First, these customers genuinely like us. When you align and connect with your customers on a personal level they not only gladly say yes, but they gladly tell others why they said yes as well. Second, these customers enjoyed a remarkable experience. They did not just have their expectations met; they had an experience worthy of a remark. What is unique and memorable about what you do and how you do it? For some it is a special gift, for others it is a special gesture, for some it is a special service, and for others, it is as simple as a special greeting and goodbye. Third, these customers genuinely want to help. These customers might want to help you because they want to see you succeed, they might want to help the people they are referring because they want to save them from an alternative and potentially bad experience, or they might want to help themselves because of an incentive or rewards program that you have in place. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that compels and drives their customers to openly share their experience. 3. Do my customers know I want them to refer business? When conducting a next-level referral workshop, I often ask the class to think of a business they recently worked with where the representative met their expectations, where their experience was positive, and where their needs were met. Then I ask the individuals to raise their hands if they have referred business to that company and representative. To no surprise, very few, if any hands go up. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that doing a good job does not equal referrals.  When it comes to getting more referrals now, good is never good enough! We have to ask for referrals, and then we have to continue to ask. This is accomplished by having purposeful conversations at the time of sale, after the honeymoon period, and around key dates on the calendar. A cornerstone of these conversations is the personal referral story crafted in the workshop. Each persons’ referral story is unique to them, but every story helps customers emotionally connect, conceptualize the value, and convict themselves to refer business.  Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that creates an environment where customers know that referrals are wanted, important, and beneficial to all. 4. Is it easy for my customers to share? One thing is for certain, if we make it awkward and difficult for our customers to refer business to us, we can expect little to no referrals. Technology plays a role. With that said, there is a lot that can be done with your existing technology, without having to invest in anything new. Aside from technology, there are three things you can do to make sure it is easy for your customers to share your message and refer business.  First, ask at the right time. Whether it is at the time of sale, or at a later date, there is a best time to ask. At the time of sale, it is not when you are signing agreements, or when you are saying your good-byes. When you follow up with your customers at a later date, it’s not on their birthdays, or when the new programs and incentives come out. The best times to ask are times where we can have a real purposeful conversation that strengthens our connection and compels our customers to act. Second, always put your customer first. One of the reasons why so many people feel awkward when asking for a referral is because they shift the focus from their customer to themselves. It doesn’t have to be this way. The focus should remain on the customer the entire time. After all, there is much that our customers stand to gain from referring business. Lastly, ask for the right number. One. Just one! One at a time. Too many people ask their customers to identify multiple people who might be interested. In this situation, the focus shifted away from the customer long ago. If a customer wants to refer more than one person to you at one time, great, but I recommend only asking for one. Invest your energy into that one, and it will turn into three more. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that makes it easy for customers to engage and refer business. 5. Do I share? The final question to ask yourself is: who am I referring business to? There must be people with whom you’ve conducted business that are worthy of a referral. Think about all of the people you’ve worked with over the past year both personally and professionally. What if all of those people were capable of referring business to you, were compelled to share their experience, and knew exactly how the act of referring business benefited everyone involved? One thing is for certain, when you refer business to these people, they will seek to refer business to you. Maybe not right away, but eventually the Law of Reciprocity will kick in. When you invest in the success of others, more people will want to see you succeed as well. Prioritize your efforts and begin referring business today. We all know that referrals represent our greatest opportunity for peak profits and predictable growth. Unfortunately, for most teams, their strategy is simply to ‘ask for a referral.’ Too often this leads to an awkward experience, with many people avoiding the exchange altogether. There is a better way. It all starts with answering the five questions above and executing a next-level referral strategy. If you want to build greater influence in your market and double your business every three years, focus on getting more referrals now! If you believe in the power of referrals as much as I do, reach out and share your experience. It would be my pleasure to connect.
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Reviews

Automotive Marketing Evolution: Interview with Bob Ruth Ford

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Over the last decade we have seen so many changes in automotive marketing. The evolution of social media has changed the marketing landscape. With the changes over the last year in our industry, it is more important than ever to have your marketing processes and procedures in place. One area that has been of particular interest for me has been video, specifically short-form video, and watching dealerships utilize it to reach and convert their customers. There are dealerships across the country that are utilizing TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to reach new customers. There are some that do an incredible job of taking their social media presence to the next level and then there are others that are still trying to work out all the details to get their team(s) firing on all cylinders. Over the last few years, I have been watching a Ford Dealership based out of Dillsburg, PA, Bob Ruth Ford, take their social media presence to new heights. To say I am impressed with their marketing processes and procedures is an understatement. When I had the opportunity to speak with their Marketing Director, Stephanie Clark, a rising marketing star in the car business, you know I was going to ask her all about their philosophies on video marketing! Melanie: Stephanie, Tiktok vs Instagram Reels vs YouTube vs LinkedIn. How do you determine which video platform to use/share on? Stephanie: Determining which platform to use and what to share where is super important. To tailor our communication among the platforms we use our key of simple sentences. So, for example, Instagram is “Here is a photo of coffee,” Facebook “I like coffee,” TikTok “Here I am dancing with coffee,” LinkedIn “My skills include making coffee,” Youtube “Here I am drinking coffee.” So, making sure all of our content reflects across the platforms, it helps us to keep in proper communication with each client. We aren’t going to communicate with people on LinkedIn the same way we would on TikTok. Finding our audience on these platforms comes from determining who our ideal customer is and where they spend their time. It’s important to focus on the user and not the product. Showing them a brand-new Explorer is great but provoking an emotion will go so much further. My personal favorite is Facebook. We have worked hard to build credibility with our followers on that platform and we get a lot of engagement through it. We are completely transparent, putting out all information that customers could want or need, along with some fun and silliness incorporated along the way. This is my favorite because you can get so creative with it and reach SO many people, and it’s very trackable. We see a lot of success with customer testimonial videos. New customers seeing and hearing a current customer say, and confirm, what we preach as to who and what we are as a company, makes all the difference. We could say something a hundred times, but it has so much more meaning when it is coming directly from our customer, and them saying that this was their experience, and therefore it was so unforgettable. YouTube is our holy grail! Every video we make goes on YouTube. Our customers can find anything and everything that they need to know about our dealership there. We have different playlists pertaining to different categories – our VIP buying process, our VIP selling process, a day in the life at the dealership, how-to videos, and any current event sponsorship events we’re doing within the community. It can all be found here. Our channel creates brand awareness all while being entertaining. They can learn about us as a company or learn about any vehicle or service they’re interested in. With Instagram Reels, Millennials are the biggest users on Instagram and spend about half an hour a day scrolling. This is where we show “here is a photo/here is a video of coffee.” Users are scrolling fast and need their attention caught quickly and it’s only going to last a few seconds. Successful Reels capture attention within the first two seconds. The communication on Instagram Reels is tailored to millennials that want natural-looking content. We advertise here that “We are in business,” it’s up to date and tasteful. An aesthetically pleasing feed is what attracts people there. A huge part of the Reels is appropriate CTA’s (calls to action), there’s no point in putting something out without meaning to get some form of return. Utilizing Reels on Instagram is an in-between of fun and information. People aren’t necessarily coming to Instagram to buy a car – however, in our instance, they absolutely can – but to see what our company is up to, that ‘hey we are in business!’ and that we do keep up with our customers there. LinkedIn – This is our “my skills include making coffee” platform, which is an older demographic – baby boomers, gen x, millennials. We create business relationships here, show how and why we are ahead of the times within the industry, and keep our customers and followers up to date with what our processes are / what technology we are using / what vendors and business partners we work with / and how we operate overall as a business. We also post video content here – mostly informational content on us as a company and/or employment opportunities. Almost like a current event – what we’re up to in the business world / how we are impacting those around us. It’s a place where people can learn from us and vice versa. M: Do you find that customers are reaching out to you through TikTok? S: TikTok – this is our ‘fun’ platform. We show personalities around the dealership, but still incorporate hot vehicles and keep it branded to Bob Ruth Ford / automotive content. We can stay with the trends while also making it pertain to the industry and remain relevant. People go to TikTok for entertainment, so I think it’s a great place for customers to see us real and raw and that we are people just like them. There’s a younger generation on TikTok than, say, LinkedIn, that is right at that first-car-purchasing age, so keeping up with them and getting in front of them is crucial. This generation isn’t going to see us on LinkedIn or even Facebook anymore. Gen Z is scrolling TikTok more than they are Facebook. Our people have gotten more comfortable in front of camera and video because we utilize it so heavily, it’s just become part of everyone’s day at work from sales, to accounting, to management. They’re used to having cameras in front of them and we aren’t afraid to put ourselves out there, and it’s really benefitted us. Which I think is a huge part of this platform, you can’t be afraid to do something silly or outside of your comfort zone! M: What is one tip for choosing the right video sounds and content? S: Always go with what’s trending. Anything that’s trending can be aligned with the brand focus – granted it’s within appropriate guidelines, etc. You can take sounds and make them relevant to your brand and industry. It takes creativity and stepping outside the box, as well as your comfort zone. My team and I have embarrassed ourselves plenty of times, you just have to laugh along with those watching. The same goes for hashtags: we use our core list of hashtags that are part of our brand, as well as throwing in the trending hashtags. That gives it a good mix to reach new audiences and keeps our current hashtag followers in the loop with content. It’s also important to follow other hashtags relevant to your brand, which keeps you zoned in with what others are doing around you. Following those have helped us to see what “trending” is and how we can follow a trend but do it better and differently, staying on brand with us. I love Stephanie’s perspective on social media and hearing what works for Bob Ruth Ford that can be transferred to your dealership. The take-aways from Stephanie’s experience that I know will help leadership all over the country, is to know your audience per platform, know what kind of content to share on those platforms and get comfortable being on camera, and to incorporate marketing into the culture of the business. Are you utilizing video in your dealership’s marketing strategy?      
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Best Practices

How Dealers Should Handle COVID (Co-author Kristina Vaquera)

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Another article about COVID-19?  Ugh! Snap! And oh, my! Employers everywhere are tired with having to handle this additional burden to running their business. But, now, more than ever, it’s important to mitigate your risk by being consistent and current in how you handle COVID. Don’t let your guard down now.    In this article, we will limit our discussion to the federal perspective on COVID as each state may have its own rules or requirements.  FACT: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says you can mandate employee vaccinations for employees physically entering the workplace based on business necessity subject to reasonable accommodation requirements. In essence, if it is a threat to the safety and well-being of employees and customers, you can require vaccinates. Very few jobs at the dealership may be completed by being isolated by plexiglass or office walls. Most require daily face-to-face customer contact that cannot be eliminated. FACT: If vaccines are required, employees may claim two (2) accommodations: Because of their sincerely held religious beliefs (i.e., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), or Because of their disability (i.e. the Americans with Disabilities Act) If an employee asserts an accommodation request, call your employment lawyer for more specifics on how to handle the situation. Each case is different based on the facts. FACT:  To protect your employees and customers, ensure you have the latest signage from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and your state safety and health departments. For example, current CDC guidance has different masking requirements depending on whether you are in a low or medium to high-risk transmission area. Click here for more information. FACT:  As the employer, you are still required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing stations. Outbreaks at the dealership? If you are having frequent positive COVID situations at the store, you may need to revisit your policies and their efficacy. If you make changes, document what you are doing. Are you required to keep a log of positive cases, or report to your state? Make sure you are doing so if required. If OSHA, or any agency, visits you, they want to know what you are doing to protect everyone. Be diligent here.  FACT:  If you sell fleet vehicles to the government, or have a federal contract, then you may be a federal contractor. If so, you must follow federal COVID mandates required by Executive Order. You may also be subject to mandatory vaccine requirements if you have 100 or more employees.  FACT:  On September 9th, President Biden signed an Executive Order requiring employees of contractors doing business with the federal government to be vaccinated which builds off a previously issued Executive Order from July. President Biden also mandated that OSHA is developing a rule requiring all businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or require workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. This mandate also requires employers to provide paid time off for the time it takes workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. It is unknown if employers will have to pay for the cost of testing and/or the time associated with testing.   This situation continues to evolve. Don’t “take on” risk by being lackadaisical when it comes to COVID. Author's note: The above article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Commentary & Insights

An Excellent Customer Experience Needs the Human Element

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Think about the last time you had a really great conversation.  When I think about a great conversation, my mind goes to those a-little-too-long lunches with business colleagues. Game night with friends on the weekend. Laughing until I cry until the wee hours of the morning after not seeing family for some time.  Great conversations stay with you. You reflect on them warmly, and often, they feed future conversations. They become a part of our fondest memories.  I believe in all of these situations, I am being sold on something.  Authentic Conversations Make for Authentic Sales Interactions  I feel like I must clarify — I don’t want to cheapen the authenticity of these wonderful moments with a sales analogy. Rather, I want to do the opposite. My aim is to enrich the authenticity of sales opportunities by comparison. In those moments, I’m being sold on a good time. I’m being sold on a connection, relatability — a togetherness that keeps me present in the conversation with a desire to keep it going. I feel heard and appreciated.  We should be authenticating the sales experience by tapping into and drawing from those moments. Make customers feel heard and seen at every point in their shopping journey!  In car sales especially, which have high-pressure connotations even with a lack of pointed pressure from sales, a great conversation can shatter the fog of “dealership dread.” A point of connection between shopper and associate can open up the conversation beyond the product. Good conversation puts customers at ease. It welcomes them; they let their walls down a bit.  A.I. and Chatbots - No Human Experience In Sight  This is the age of the digital dealership. Without context, recommending A.I. to accompany your digital dealership might sound logical. Sane even. Fielding your online, or "digital", clients while your team concentrates on delivering the best possible in-store experience is an objectively good idea. Except that these consumers aren't digital, they are humans using a digital platform. How better to set yourself apart with a "wow" than humanizing your digital platform? Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in onsite visits. But at the end of the day, if there isn’t a living, breathing person at the end of a dealership’s communication touchpoints — well, let’s just say there are other dealerships down the road, and certainly on the internet. The usefulness of A.I., and A.I.-powered bots, begins and ends at that first point of contact. They can’t hold and sustain that all-too-important conversation.  Let’s look to Carvana briefly. Consumers are attracted to that straightforward process that saves them time. But they still lack that conversational touch that makes great, welcoming salespeople at dealerships a more trusted resource. I believe if dealers can engage in this straightforward way of handling business while maintaining that human connection, they can win big.  A conversation isn’t just a simple exchange of words and information.  It’s so much more than that. In automotive sales specifically, car shoppers are about to make what is likely the most expensive, emotional purchase they can make. And they aren’t just buying an engine, wheels, and seats. A vehicle is an extension of a unique human being with specific interests and lifestyles. Does it make sense to utilize a tool that can’t emote?  How can a chatbot relate to the mother of two who needs all of the best safety features? Or the owner of three dogs who needs ample space for them when they go on their beloved outdoor adventures? A.I. can’t sympathize and empathize with a customer's perspective.  They don’t share that human experience.  Those in automotive sales know that you have to act fast on a lead. Customers need to be engaged promptly so you can keep them on the line. At the same time, it might serve us better to slow down. Ask some different questions upfront - get to know your customers on a deeper level. Discover their yet undiscovered needs.  Create and foster a great conversation. Make this a memorable experience, one that they can reflect on later where they felt like they mattered. There’s something about great conversations that make you want to have them again and again. What better way to build customer loyalty than by bringing that human experience to each and every sales interaction?  No matter what, in and out of the showroom: keep having great conversations. I know I will.
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Commentary & Insights

Be the Ultimate Pro at Effectiveness: Ready - Set - Poised for Success

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Maybe it’s a strange-type A-Virgo-slightly OCD-anal retentive personality trait that I have or perhaps I’m just an old soul who is hard to explain. Either way – I like things “topped off”. Who doesn’t? For instance, right after I make my coffee in the am (don’t hate me for using K-Cups), I pitch the grinds and immediately grab my smart water and start filling up the 48oz reservoir on my Keurig – so that the next cup is ready to go, even though I could let it get low and then run out of water. When I am not giving people tickets to the magic show at the dealership, you’ll find me on the ski slopes of Colorado undoubtedly. I always leave downtown Denver with a full tank of gas and upon arriving on the other side of the continental divide, I stop and “top off” the tank. I do this for a variety of reasons. First, I want to already be full when I leave the mountains headed to downtown Denver. Secondly, I want to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, i.e., sitting in I-70 eastbound traffic in a blizzard/freezing conditions and high winds. I also do the same thing with washer fluid. I don’t always need it, however when I get a chance to top it off at the dealership or a gas station, I do. Not because it is needed right then, but because the last thing I want to find myself in, is a situation where I need something I don’t have that could have been prevented by paying attention and taking action early when I had time.  The same concept can be applied in the business office. How many times have you been in the middle of a busy Saturday and you are about to spin your 5th deal and you have 3 waiting and while completing a deal for a customer, you look down at the printer under your desk and realize the temporary permit forms you are waiting for are pending because you are out of paper? Spending the extra few seconds at the beginning of each day to properly prepare ourselves for activities that are to come, eliminates the downtime of “topping off” the printer. I like to always make sure I am prepared for whatever is to come. This isn’t always possible in EVERY situation; however, I feel that if you are diligent in being faithful in the ordinary, you can achieve more greatness each day by paying attention to the little details that really do matter. It allows you to traverse the day with more confidence and less aggravation.  When you are constantly on top of everything that is asked and required of you during the day, it makes new requests and favors easier to say yes to without added stress. When you know that you need to have your monthly numbers updated for a manager meeting on Wednesday morning, but you have time to do it each day, I like to spend 3 minutes updating a report daily rather than spend 30 minutes once a week working on the same thing. Why? Because on the off chance the owner wants to move the meeting up, instead of scrambling, stressing, and suffering with the task, you can breathe easy and know that you need 3 minutes to be ready or better yet, you ARE ready.  Having the mentality of “DO IT NOW”, instead of “it can wait until later” is what separates the real pros in this business. When you are prepared and have your life dialed in, in all aspects, you are more likely to win and win big. The feeling of being ready for whatever happens to you each day is a feeling of confidence allowing you to have a better attitude and a more stable approach at the daily tasks and interactions with others. I encourage you to look around your life – at home and the store, and find ways to be more proactive and look for things to “top off”. See how that impacts you later on. My guess is once you try it my way, you’ll enjoy the results so much, you’ll adopt this as your approach for being ready, getting set, and poising towards continued improvement & success!!
winning team

Best Practices

Why Your Team Should Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

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"The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity …" - Albert Einstein We humans complicate things, and it’s no surprise in dealerships it manifests in grandiose form, especially noticeable when it comes to how teams, training, and advertising relate to technology. These four areas, when not in harmony, work against each other. I have found the most successful stores don’t have the most cutting-edge technology or the newest tools, the most successful stores are the ones that have mastered the balance between team, training, advertising, and tech. Why these four areas? Each one directly affects the other, when you understand how one can affect another you avoid the chain reaction domino effect preventing you from streamlining and propelling your team forward. Recent technology is often marketed as a trade-off for training, the proverbial easy button, which is attractive when you’re focused on growth. Unfortunately, band-aids like this won’t last and we’re left with a glut of tech solutions that aren’t streamlined and overlap. You know what happens next, a collision course with chaos, with wasted budget, time, and we didn’t improve our customer’s experience. Connecting Training, Advertising and Technology I use the four questions below with my clients to ensure the team, training, advertising and technology don’t become disjointed, bloated and to address weak links. Does it already exist in any of our current products or services? Is this something that solves a problem which can’t be solved with training? Is it simple enough to flow seamlessly, support my team, and our processes? Will it benefit our customers and reduce pain points? Sounds simple, right? These four questions provide great touchpoints for inspecting when and where to add new products and services, they also ensure you’re making the most of products and services you already have in place. It’s also beneficial to make a habit of evaluating your outside services and products every month, considering these questions when you do. Like tools in a mechanic’s box, the tools you use in your dealership need fine tuning, maintenance, and at times replacement. Bloat is not exclusive to overindulging on Thanksgiving; it creeps in when dealerships continue to add the “next new thing” without evaluating what is already in place.  Where do my team and training come into this? Let’s hit the hard truth first - if you’re adding tech to overcome lack of training, you're compounding the problem. If you’re working with an outside company to handle your social media because you don’t have someone on your team with the training to manage it, you’re only hurting yourself. Here’s the thing, hiring an outside company to do what should be an inside job is not sustainable, nor is it going to bring healthy growth; you’re selling based on transactional relationships, which do not last. We want your team, tech, and advertising aligned and working together as one; the only way to accomplish this is through training. Adjusting your perspective to view your team’s training as part of your marketing strategy will help you achieve balance. It will also help you to reframe how you view your technology assets, focus on how your tech supports your team, and how to make it easy for your customers to do business with you. Instead of looking at tech as a funnel for leads, try looking for it to support your team in growing relationships that become loyal customers. Your team members are going to be your true sources of long-term, non-transactional business, providing your team training and technology to that end is where your tech investment will be your best investment. Addressing the Elephant in the Room Advertising is always the painful elephant in the room, it doesn’t have to be. When you make your team part of your marketing strategy, incorporating training and goal setting, advertising becomes a daily habit. Now let’s take that one step further. Consider how the diversity in your team represents the diversity in your audience and customers, creating a space and culture where your team members contribute to your advertising allows your message to be presented with a different personality, now reaching everyone in your audience with their preferred “flavor” of marketing. Prioritizing Customer Facing Tech Making it easier for our customers to do business with us where we have the most room for expansion and I believe where we will see the biggest strides in advancement, this is the tech you should be on the lookout for. Customer facing tech has for so long been lacking because we have been focused on driving leads, rather than building relationships - change is coming. How you choose to train your team, and whether you achieve harmony with your team, training, advertising, and technology could mean the difference between growth and exponential growth as that change rolls out.
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Commentary & Insights

Embrace Change as a Leader for Your Dealership to Thrive

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If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it’s time we get comfortable with being uncomfortable ! The good news is leaders that embrace and encourage change have a dynamic team with a stronger and healthier culture, whereas dealerships that aren’t open to change tend to BE stagnant and vulnerable to failure. In other words, if you’re not willing to change, you’re not ready to lead. One of the biggest reasons that embracing change leads to success is because when we try new things, we learn from the new experiences, and we innovate new improved ideas. Whether the outcome is good or bad, every time we navigate through the unfamiliar, we undergo processes that will allow us to grow.   “The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein Whether it is new digital retailing technology or implementing a new DMS, when leaders frame change in the right way and take action to support that change, team members are way more likely to embrace it. And guess what? The need for change exists everywhere, no matter how successful the company or dealership, and yours is no different. As a leader, you should constantly be asking yourself how to improve and be willing to test the waters when needed. Once you do identify the need for change, reflect with your team about how to address that change. How does your team feel about the change? How can you support them? Do they have any questions? Next, you must understand that people will be naturally resistant to change, and even if everyone appears to be on the same page at first, it’s going to be your job to usher people past the disruption and create a new status quo. Effective leaders are able to communicate change in a way that takes into account their team’s perspective, including their emotional well-being. In times of change make it a point to check in with emotions and concerns whenever possible. Strong leaders are able to see the change through the lens of their team, always consider how will this change impact the service technician, the valent, or the new sales consultants and understand how to best connect value to each individual. There is always a question of value when we make significant change. This is when it is time to tune in to my favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) Remember, you are asking people to change from the comfortable, “the way we have always done it around here”, to a new way in how we do business so always understand the shift you may be excited about, can feel overwhelming to some Most people won’t buy-in 100% until the either recognize the individual positive consequence it entails. The more you can communicate and cast a vision that connect with their individual “Why”, the more they feel trust you, the more you commit to helping them, the more they will invest their hearts and their time. Make sure everyone has a clear role they feel good about. The whole team should be crystal clear about what everyone’s role is so that things can run as smoothly as possible, with minimal confusion about who is responsible for what. Understanding where they fit in to the new change initiative, will help them feel less anxious about the change.   We know that dealerships must change in order to thrive in an always-changing market. In order to help your team (and yourself) stomach change in a manageable way, break down each step of that change into small steps. Do your best to map out any major hurdles and plan solutions for dealing with them. This eliminates an enormous amount of stress, burnout, or disengagement.  The more that you map out your path, the easier the road will be! “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
digital transformation

Commentary & Insights

Digital Transformation in the Automotive Industry

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76% of CEOs, in every industry, agree their business models will be unrecognizable in 5 years. Think your dealership is immune? Technology touches every part of our lives. From the Alexa alarm that wakes you up to the UberEats app that brings you lunch, technology has radically shifted the way we live our lives and conduct our businesses. Forrester Research surveyed the world’s top CEOs and found that more than three-quarters of CEOs across every industry expect their business model to change in the next five years. After a year of explosive growth for automotive e-commerce companies like Carvana and Vroom, it’s time for dealerships to make their move.  Age of the Giants Depending on where you or your dealership clients are located, it’s possible that you’ve already felt the presence of tech-first dealerships like CarMax, Carvana, and Vroom. These companies have entered the market nearly a decade ago and have seen their growth explode thanks to shifting consumer attitudes about online car buying, especially over the last year.  Digital dealerships have seen large success because they make it easy and transparent for shoppers to get the information they need to make a confident purchase decision online. Fortunately, it doesn’t take millions in raised capital or shareholder money to create the type of online shopping experience that converts. Instead, it takes a digital transformation. The Tech Takeover Technology has been traditionally considered its own industry, but Forrester analyst, Jay McBain, predicts that soon the “tech industry” will disappear as it becomes ingrained in overall business strategy. McBain had this to say on a recent episode of The Ultimate Guide to Partnering podcast,  “…you used to compete against the person across the street and in your industry, and do things 10% better. Well, there’s a set of startups somewhere in the world right now that are thinking about ending your industry. So, every company has had to become a technology company. And every day, you’re reading about car companies having to look more like Tesla, you’re reading about almost every industry, you’ve got these big changes underway. So this technology is no longer a part of a company. In many cases, it’s becoming the entire business model…” Some of the most notable companies are already leading the charge in this change. Tesla is a technology company at its core and just happens to produce automobiles. Uber is not a taxi service, but rather a tech company that allows consumers to leverage technology to solve transportation problems. As consumers insist on more personalized and on-demand service, dealerships will profit from reinvigorating their business models with the new IT strategy. Your New Most Valuable Real Estate A lot of dealership owners think that their physical car lot is their most valuable piece of real estate. Dealers put a lot of attention into their dealership’s physical location and designing their showroom experience with special thought and planning, but neglect their mobile digital customer experience.  But consider this: how many customers visit your dealership showroom every day? Now consider how many people visit your website on a mobile device every day. The first experience a consumer has with your dealership before they walk into your showroom is your website. Consumers are doing so much more research on their own, likely on a mobile device, going through the selection process and eliminating dealerships to visit. As a result, they are visiting fewer dealerships. Does your website give consumers the experience you would expect as a car shopper?  Digital transformation is not just a new digital retailing tool or a video and 360° walkaround tool. Instead, it’s an overall adoption of digital technology by a dealership to enhance the car shopping experience while improving business processes and profitability. Leading the Digital Transformation Has your dealership business model changed in the last 5 years? What changes are you planning to make in the next 5 years? Dealers can only be successful if vendors invest in partnerships, integrations, and guide dealers through mobile digital transformation. Software companies, software integrators, service providers, marketing agencies, trainers, and consultants have a massive opportunity to help dealers meet customers online by partnering and connecting the right tech solutions together.
insurance

Commentary & Insights

Do You Understand the Components of Your Garage Insurance Policy?

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Flavor: Something we crave in our daily routine. Try this flavor-filled description: “There’s a sense of cornmeal next to sawdust, oily vanilla, and a hint of fresh honey sweetness that entices your senses. It takes on a caramel corn sweetness as the vanilla carries you towards sweeter woods and cherry fruits. The end is short and sweet with a distant wisp of orange oils next to a slight minerality.” Recently, I found this depiction in an online article on Uproxx. Do you know what’s being described? (You’ll have to read the whole article or skip to the bottom for the answer.) With an increase in the complexity of flavors, I would proffer that you discover more appreciation of the product through the layers of taste. And so it is with your garage insurance policy. The more you understand it, the more you will appreciate it and have the taste for it.  I recently studied a garage insurance policy for a client. (Try not to be jealous.) I found 107 items in the policy which were questionable and needed further investigation as they were important for the dealer. As it turned out, at least 26 were actionable. My initial review drove the premium down from $109,641 to $81,511. Based on that audit, here are eight (8) select items for you to consider: What is the total value of your land + building + used vehicle inventory (not floor planned) + parts + blue sky? Your liability umbrella should exceed that total number or the business is underinsured in the case of a catastrophic accident. Do you have enough employee crime coverage to satisfy a claim resulting from someone stealing a vehicle? Do you have an aggregate over your vehicle weather deductible to act as a “stop loss” in the event of a large loss? (For example, if you have a $1000 deductible and 600 vehicles are damaged, you are out of pocket $600,000. If you had a $250,000 aggregate, you would write a check for the $250,000 and not the $600,000.) Have you compared your vehicle physical damage coverage limits to your actual inventory to determine if you should adjust the policy up or down? Did you know this exclusion is in most policies? “Loss caused by an ‘employee’ if the ‘employee’ had also committed ‘theft’ or any other dishonest act prior to the effective date of this insurance and you or any of your partners, ‘members’, ‘managers’, officers, directors or trustees, not in collusion with the ‘employee’, learned of such ‘theft’ or dishonest act prior to the Policy Period shown in the Declarations.” How much are you paying for Med Pay coverage? Isn’t it duplicative of your basic liability coverage? If you eliminate the coverage, how much money could you save? Are you paying an extra premium for higher limits on your uninsured and underinsured drivers policy (than you are legally obligated by your state) to pay? How much will this save you? Also, have you considered a separate, higher limit to protect the owners? Are you accurately self-reporting the number of dealer tags? Getting the flavor here? Make it a priority to review your policy with someone knowledgeable who will go through it and explain everything to you. While it may be distasteful upfront, you’ll be glad you did while gaining an understanding of what provisions the policy contains. And, it’s not ice cream that was being described above.  It was bourbon!