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Seeking and Creating Environments that Honor People: How Sarah Vantine is changing the BDC

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In preparation for our meeting with Sarah Vantine of Quantum5 , we spent time researching the company and reviewing her profile. Anything but ordinary comes to mind. Clear messaging about who she is, what she does, and most importantly, why she does it, sets the tone for a very people-centric conversation; the synergy between Sarah and Quantum5 exceeded our expectations. As Sarah sits in front of an elegant bookshelf, decorated in accolades, she boldly smiles and tells me that she assembled it herself when she was eight months pregnant. What would follow would be two people interacting, truly engaged. By the end of our conversation, I would understand the power of forward-thinking approaches to the BDC, vision boards, and how a dolphin toy on the desk of an employee was the game changer that made it all connect. Balance, Success, Courage and Seeking The word balance, to me, has always kind of been misleading because it implies that you always hold everything in equal measure. The reality of it is that at different points in time, you need to let go of one thing in order to focus on another. You can't physically hold on to all of your work and personal responsibilities equally and at the same time. What allows you to achieve your goals, personal and professional, is having the courage to seek out opportunities in which you can build a support network. There are companies out there where the mission statement is cookie-cutter and may not actually be reflective of the core culture, something you will notice when you consider things like retention of employees. I have sought opportunities that have allowed me to have a level of support and understanding, which has really been the secret to my success. “This was the best thing to happen to me so far in my career.” I am so thankful to be a part of the team that I am with now. Finding Your True North “It's not personal, it's just business.” Ken Herfurth sums it up really well, "it's always personal." In every business, there are always people. There is a person at every single interaction. It is never just business, there are always elements of personal experience woven into the very core of business. When Dave O’Brien and Ken Herfurth, the Founders of Quantum5, approached me, I had, up till this point, really made an effort to create a future within the BDC departments. We really focused on the individuals within the BDC itself. The term BDC is such a loose term for a variety of departments. You may find a dealership that says that they have a BDC department and in reality, they have two people answering calls and transferring them to somebody else; they have no authority, there is no empowerment and their job is quite limited. This leads to people within the dealership viewing them as an expense and someone who will never have the opportunity to move up in the organization. And so, one of the challenges that I always encountered throughout my career was challenging the perception that existed in terms of the BDC and what the BDC was capable of. I focused on putting the human aspect first and by focusing on how I developed my people allowed for the development of better customer relationship and management skills. When Quantum5 came along and I asked them about their reason for building the company, some of the pain points that they highlighted were things I had experienced in my own career and their values really impacted me because my heart was fully aligned. I had the opportunity to do something I really believed in on a larger scale, impacting hundreds of dealers, based on values that really represented my true north. Oftentimes in automotive, training is an event and it is done in a vacuum. And so what often happens is you go to a training seminar or a trainer comes in and you're pulled off the sales floor, you're pulled off the phones, and you're stuck in a room with this person. And then at the end of the training session, you go back to reality. Whatever was covered in that session slowly fades away. So, having the opportunity to take what I was doing in the BDC, like daily check-ins with all of my staff, is also really important to me. Although incredibly time-consuming and at times quite difficult when you're talking COVID and some of the restrictions that happened with face-to-face interactions, we still made an effort to have those one-on-one conversations. We used those sessions to understand what the challenges were and what we needed to adapt and adjust. How could we better serve our clients and build on that culture of creating and nurturing mutual trust? One on one human development directly impacts culture, skills development, and creates a better learning environment. What can we expect at CXAUTO2022? There are three strategies that we are going to unpack in the work session. We are going to talk about enabling multi-channel communication strategies within the BDC and what that really means at the end of the day. There is a lot of technology out there, and there are a lot of conversations around removing the human element by introducing chatbots or a predetermined response menu where the customer selects buttons and that becomes the full engagement experience. The reality is that people want the best of both, a combination of human interaction and technological implements. The customer does not want technology in a vacuum; they want a personal touch and they want to feel like they matter as an individual to the business. One of the biggest opportunities is including the BDC in developing communication skills to deal with a variety of clients. For the client, it feels familiar when a business really takes time to listen to them and facilitate human communication, allowing for their receptiveness to be elevated. The conversation becomes something of value for the client as well as the business. It is important that the BDC is equipped with the skills necessary to understand strategies that are going to lead to success. The second component of our work session will be focused on step-by-step instructions for a dealership to adjust their processes to best suit their customers' needs. An example that I can share comes from one of our case studies. Noises in vehicles are often one of the hardest things for a technician to diagnose. If you don’t have a good strategy to help the customer communicate the issue, it becomes very difficult for the technician to replicate the problem and without the information, they are unable to diagnose it. This creates frustration as the customer ends up having to return multiple times, a clear indication of a pain point within the dealership which is reflective of an existing process not being beneficial to the customer experience. The case study that we will be sharing is that of the Scott Clark Auto Group, who is a brilliant example of what can happen when you truly understand and adjust your process to the customer's needs. Lastly, we will be talking about strategies that really engage and retain the best professionals for your organization. Everyone talks about employee retention. We will be focusing on the human element and understanding what drives employee attrition. The BDC Representative oftentimes feels unappreciated and undervalued, and this is sometimes linked to a lack of training and development, essentially a lack of opportunity to grow within the organization. People are seeking companies that put people first and invest in them individually through teaching them how to interact with people, and how to become a successful person not just at work, but in life. We have some amazing strategies that we will be sharing with dealerships that focus on how to truly gauge employee satisfaction and how to adjust processes in order to retain talent. We dig deep into figuring out and understanding the people on your team. What makes them unique, what are their challenges? How do we best integrate this alongside the department and dealership goals? In BDC specifically, oftentimes we get hyper-focused on how many phone calls are being made. How many customers we are talking to, and how many appointments we are booking. But really, at the end of the day the person behind the scenes has a very complex life and they have their own goals and challenges that may not be obvious or mirror the same as the department’s. And so, the key strategy is to understand and then align the goals to the business. Sarah will be joined by Elizabeth Martin, the Service BDC Manager at the Scott Clarke Auto Group , as they discuss The New BDC: Best Practices to Capture and Upsell Service Business at the upcoming CXAUTO2022 . You can expect great insights based on case studies that illustrate concrete steps implemented to improve retention and continue to build value for customers. The new BDC is driven by innovative management and leadership practices that focus on honoring the individual through training and development and, ultimately, aligning the complexity within people, teams, and departments to achieve business goals. We would highly recommend that you see Sarah live! You can read more about her here
Fixed Operations Marketing: The Revolution

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The Niello Company started 101 years ago in the Fixed Ops Department. “I try to remind everyone of that all the time” Tully Williams, The Fixed Operations Director, laughs. I was projected onto a boardroom smart screen and before me, sat two gentlemen in really good suits, with the company values behind them. They smile and introduce themselves. I meet Tully and David together; they will be presenting at the upcoming CXAUTO2022 in Marina Del Rey this June. Tully’s Story You have extensive experience in Fixed Operations. How did you get started and what has kept you here? I started as an independent technician and I really just enjoy dealing with people. I really love to talk to people and Fixed Ops gives me that; I get to help people out. I love to be in service, greeting the customer; I am training to have my retirement job as a Walmart Greeter. I just want to help people and listen to all the stories and Fixed Ops has a lot more engagement with customers, long term engagement. "People keep me here, customers and employees." What has changed, what has been disrupted? When I started, we hand-wrote repair orders and of course, we now have computers and systems in place. What has been disrupted is the inspection; the electronic part of the inspection of the automobile. With the technician inspection piece, before it was like, my car is broken, fix it. Now we do an in-depth inspection on your car, we take pictures and video, we are marking down all the stuff to give you a list of the specifics and to me, back when I started, that wasn’t even in the realm of operations. The whole thing has changed for the better of the consumer and I believe also better for the technician. As we continue further along this journey, what we are really focussed on is making it easier to do business with us. We are focussed on mobile integration and accessibility; how can we make everything visible on the customer’s cell phone? How do we get them to say yes via their mobile device? There are a lot of people in this space but it is still kind of clunky. David’s Story Can you share your journey within the automotive industry with us? "Joining The Niello Company, working on the retail side, feels like I have completed the triangle" I always wanted to start in DMS so that I could truly understand what dealers prioritize and focus on. In order to become a Lead Installer, you really need to master all aspects of the DMS and I was fortunate enough to achieve that within my tenure at Cox Automotive . I then went over to the OEM side of the business working for Ford Direct , the digital arm of the Ford Motor Company which was just fantastic. In terms of my region, I was responsible for the Pacific NorthWest, from San Francisco up to Seattle and all the way over to Montana, over 193 dealerships and focussing on all aspects of digital marketing. I was working with the regions and the dealers on what they were doing to drive more quality traffic to their websites, what they were doing to convert that traffic into leads, and, then most importantly, what they were doing in terms of lead management. There was an opportunity for us to improve processes in order to harness the potential of the traffic that was being driven to their sites. My performance got the recognition of Chrysler and I then got recruited to work for their biggest business center, which covered six States in the South East. With a little over 360 dealers, that role expanded my responsibilities and I got control over our Tier Two budgets, and then also complete control over the Tier Three spaces as well. We focussed more heavily on Tier Three because that is where we saw the most opportunity. As the National Digital Marketing Manager of Stellantis , a really fantastic experience, I had the opportunity to work with all aspects of an OEM and assist in keeping our dealers afloat during COVID by rolling out our digital retailing strategy. What is different now, how has your focus changed? With the OEM, it's really easy to get focussed on just one aspect of the business. In my role, I was laser focussed on new vehicle sales. There are so many profit centers within a dealership, I can now expand my horizons and create profitability across all departments, there is just so much more to work on to create a healthy and successful dealership.At the start of the pandemic, with Stellantis, the focus was really, how can we save as many employees as possible? When I transitioned over to retail amidst a different kind of crisis, the micro chip shortage, I was presented with a whole new set of challenges, challenges we continue to confront every day. On the Partnership between Fixed Operations and Marketing: What is certainly understood here at Niello, from the top to the bottom of the organization, is that we are all part of the same Ecosystem. That Fixed feeds Sales and Sales feeds Fixed and that is our universal truth; that is something that we hold near and dear to our hearts. On average within the industry, about 3% of the marketing budget is dedicated to Fixed Ops, that is not the case with The Niello Company, we take Fixed very seriously. One thing that makes us unique is that we have a specific Agency that is dedicated to Fixed Operations and the main reason is that we want them to be passionate about Fixed Ops. We need them to focus and to understand that what is important is answering how they are actively helping us to drive more traffic and convert more appointments so we can have more inspections. We take it seriously, we track it every day, and we meet with our Agency three times per month. We start with a past month’s performance review and then we meet in the middle of the month to make sure we are dealing with course corrections: is there anything we are falling behind on and are we hitting our targets And then, most importantly, what are we planning for next month? We are really committed to that and what is really fun about it is that we bring everyone into those meetings. It’s not just our Fixed Ops Director. We have our department heads included, our Service Managers and Parts Managers; they are all on those calls. We are focussing on what they are focussed on. We have that kind of community, the idea of centralized success. Within Fixed Ops, we focus on crafting a clear message and then making it measurable. "The key question is: are we driving appointments into our service bay?" Marketing and Fixed Ops work together really well. We set the message and monitor it through the rest of the month. We do see this happening elsewhere but only at forward thinking dealerships. We have the right platforms to do this, and the right agencies. On Getting Buy-in, across departments and across Stores: We really want the Store to be involved. “Tully and David don’t know what is best for the Stores”; the Stores do. We may have a lot of ideas and we will most certainly share them but essentially, we want the Stores to make those great decisions. And of course, if we disagree, we will challenge that, but to be honest, we know that they know what is best. They also feel very engaged. It's their marketing plan, the Stores’ plan; we are here to support them on implementing and achieving that. On Change: "Are we projecting out what the change is going to be? Are we showing them the benefit?" We don’t force feed anything. Whenever we want to roll out anything, whether it is a new partner or a new region, we sell it to our Stores. We want them to see the value, understand what is expected and say “Yes, we want to move forward, we want to share this success too”. It starts with the culture of the store, behind us are our values. At The Niello Company, embracing change comes from the leadership and that really impacts culture within the Stores. Also, we show the change and we show it in multiple ways. We have these huge television sets in the service shop with all the stats of the technicians in the store, showing them how well they are doing and how great they are. In the sales office, we are talking about stats with the sales people and F&I people. We also push communications internally. "We communicate" The truth is, you can’t be secretive about the stats. We are an open book, transparency is not only important for our customers but for our employees and teams as well. “I want them to take a picture of their name on the screen and show their mother", Tully smiles. What to expect at CXAUTO2022: A high-energy and in-depth discussion on creating better customers through changing the way Fixed Ops services is marketed; through digital customer experiences. They work together to increase their service department value by building trust with their customers before they arrive. David and Tully will share new communication methods as well as their 3 Pillars of Fixed Ops Marketing Success. "All our decisions have to be based on a foundation of clean, visible analytics that every department head has access to" The Niello Company has been around for over a century, and together, Tully and David educated us on Fixed Operations Marketing, with insight that could only be gained through time and energy spent working hand in hand with their Stores. See the duo live at CXAUTO2022 We would highly recommend it! See more about Tully here and David here
Disruption is the New Normal

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Disruption. One of the buzz words lately over-used and misunderstood. The standard business definition is “radical change to an existing industry or market due to technological innovation.”  I would argue is not always technological. And is that radical change good or bad? Is disruption good or bad?   The fact of the matter is,  DISRUPTION IS THE NEW NORMAL.   Whether we like it or not, as business owners, as consumers, as social citizens, we better embrace it. It is the new norm and will only continually cycle and accelerate.   If it is self-disruption, or at least a state of managed or accepted disruption, it can benefit our enterprise.  This agility and flexibility to take on disruption and capitalize through it and because of it, should even be a capability or culture that is driven in an organization. It will change the way customers expect products/services and experiences, it will change the way workers produce, and it will change the way we must manage our business models. In automotive, we could highlight a lot of major and recent disruptions. There is the pandemic effect amplified by home delivery and mobile service. There is the new mobility ecosystem accelerating around access to transportation on-demand. There is the new wave of EVs coming on due to many factors including gas and oil prices and a drive to a sustainable economy. Many technologies are disruptive to our previous industry and business models such as Cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, 5G and more. These technologies enable new experiences, real-time information, constant connectivity, and an overall overhaul of traditional, sequential, and transactional engagements. The customer experience with a brand is now always on, anywhere, anytime, and anyhow they choose. An illustrative landscape of some of the disruptive forces, effects and outcomes is pictured below. In the automotive retailer world, what have we seen in terms of disruption, again not just technological impacts but all kinds of disruptions or “disturbances”. There are quite a few, including but not limited to: Supply chain issues and inventory shortages Even more demanding customer expectations  New EV models and companies with direct-to-consumer models Ever increasing technology in vehicles including over-the-air updates Uncertain future of the “as is “dealer profit model  Ability to work with customers in a multi-channel format Some brands and vehicles getting more flexible financial access and even subscription models …and much more. The real question is, what do we do about it?  How do we handle these disruptions?  How do we survive and capitalize on disruption and build our business into future-proof models? The hard part, even though I asked the questions, is that there is no easy answer. There is no one solution, one technology, or even one way to ensure that your business can survive and thrive in the future.  I have heard before, “we cannot predict the future, but we must plan for multiple futures.” Good advice.  Meaning nobody knows what exactly the world, our industry or our business may look like in 5 years, 10 years and certainly not beyond. Anybody see the supply chain shortage coming 3 years ago? Anybody think Tesla would be on of the Top 10 market cap companies 10 years ago?   52% of the Fortune 500 companies from 2000 are extinct. That is not a typo. Read that again. So, there is no 100% prediction, and there is no one easy answer. But the recipe for success in an ongoing continuous cycle through any disruption must include some basic core operating principles and capabilities.   Some critical components and general principles include: Do not have a rigid business model, be willing to change Build a business model enabled by flexible business processes and enabling technologies aimed at delivering experiences and fulfilling needs (not transactional simple mundane tasks) Equip your people with training, knowledge, culture, and power to deliver customer experience (no barriers) Data and Insight. Understand what shifts and movements there are in your customers and your business.   You may think you are in the car business, but you are I the customer experience business. Focus on needs management over leads management. Take Action. Early, often and always. Do not wait for change to come to you, change what needs to be ahead of the curve. Consider your business as a platform (not a static and rigid set of transactional processes), with dynamic capabilities that can flex and pivot to meet demands and needs. These may sound high-level and unachievable for a dealership. But they are not, and they can’t be. They must be driven into the culture of your business .   In more tactical terms, your business must consider, deal with and optimize the ability to: Sell and service different (online, offline, omni-channel, mobile, and anyway the customer wants it.) Assess and determine new business models that can be viable for your customers and market: Subscription models Rental / car sharing models Other access and financial models to enable customers to access mobility Charging stations  The dealership as an experience center not as an inventory hub or “sales office” EV versus ICE customers service and overall needs More personalized build-to-order to overcome shortages Service as a service (more of a Geek Squad model) than a service bay model Be flexible to accommodate all different kinds of customers and their needs A tall order indeed. But if we think of and build our dealership business model more as a dynamic platform of capabilities and assets to accomplish the above and more, we can succeed in multiple paths of revenue streams.   It is not easy to accept that our business must be under a constant state of transformation.   But in order to continually survive, thrive and innovate we must always be in that continuous state of transformation. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because one thing is certain, the future is exactly what we think it will be. The key take-away again, DISRUPTION IS THE NEW NORMAL.   Get used to it and realize we have to deal with it continuously and forever. Capitalize on the fact that if done right, we can enable our business to dynamically flex in new directions and new models to support and thrive in multiple paths. Put focus and effort on the notion that are business is a platform of capabilities, not a rigid set of workflows.   With the focus on the North Star of customer experience driving your business, the capabilities can be dynamically developed to withstand all change and disruption.
Disruption is Change

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Disruption is about change. In the automotive industry we usually connect the word disruption to some up-and-coming vendor program, product, or new technology. When really disruption comes from how these things introduce new habits, adjust how you communicate, and/or change your approach. You may not need new products, services, or technology to create a disruption in your market, all you may need is to reflect and change. Technology is not the disruption; it is a confirmation of needs which are waiting to be filled. With technology having affected the way people consume and engage, becoming a force of positive disruption in your market is well within your grasp. Retail automotive has a never-before-seen opportunity to show with clarity how it has evolved to rise to the consumer challenge to “do better.” No longer is the showroom a place with fancy-suited strangers and cold metal, the most competitive dealerships are bringing the showroom, and their people, to their customers, creating more open and sustainable relationships. Social media has given us a spyglass into the lives of others, making people realize their own humanness is not so abnormal. Consumers are driven to engage with individuals and business they feel they know, trust, and relate to. Further reenforcing that people buy from people, and relationships matter. The key to disruption is not missing the point of disruption. Stop doing what you have always done. Consumers are clear about their needs, how to meet their needs and expectations, are we listening? They do not necessarily need more technology; they need more communication with clarity. Your customers expect their in-dealership experience and online experience to be cohesive. They want a process that is mindful of the buyer, a business that is community-aware and, believe it or not, a long-term relationship with you. Disruption is a mindset; it is when you genuinely care as much for the people you employ and the people you are selling to as you do your sales. Disruption mindset starts with leadership, it is creating the culture for employees that mirrors the experience you want for your customers. It is building long term relationships with your customers by fostering long term tenure with your employees. You’re thinking, all that’s great, how do I achieve disruption? Here are a few areas you can easily check yourself in and create positive disruptive change within your dealership: 1.      Does your employee culture reflect the experience you desire for your customers? 2.      Do your customer’s in-dealership experiences and online experiences feel cohesive and transition smoothly? Does it feel like a singular purchase experience? 3.      Do you have a social presence sharing outside of what you earn a profit from? Is it a place your customers return to after the sale? 4.      Is your dealership website a virtual showroom only for vehicles, or is it also a meet and greet for your staff? 5.      Are you actively listening to your customers' needs and expectations? “But tackling some of those would be like opening a can of worms.” Open that can of worms, friend. Without conquering these things, none of the disruption you achieve in your market will be sustainable.  
Embracing the Future Facebook Ecosystem of Today

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The title may have seemed confusing. If we’re going to take a dive into a  future  ecosystem, how can it also be available  today ? The answer is simple: adoption rate. The capabilities outlined in this article are available right now; however, many dealers are not embracing them and continue to advertise on Facebook as they always have. You have an opportunity to do today what all of your competitors will — or at least should — be doing in the future. Here’s what we’ve been so accustomed to do … Create a carousel ad. Send the consumer to the website. Retarget those who don’t engage. The second step is problematic. It’s important that we break the cycle of thinking that all traffic must go to the website. With a 3-5% opt-in rate of Apple users deciding to share their data with Facebook and its applications and losing 85% of website-based conversion data because of this and other privacy constraints, continuing to advertise on Facebook as we always have is already outdated thinking.  Facebook has products that allow advertisers to embrace a completely native ecosystem.  Here’s a question: If a consumer is choosing to be on Facebook, why would we remove them from that place of comfort and take them to a website? Here’s a second question: Isn’t our role as advertisers to meet where consumers want to engage with us and offer a seamless experience?  So here’s how we do that. A Breakdown of the On-Facebook Ecosystem Branding — Top-of-the-Funnel Let’s first caveat this part of the ecosystem. Branding lives outside of the 30-day cycle, and you don’t want to hold these ads accountable to metrics beyond reach, impressions, and frequency. While these will create clicks and drive traffic to your online properties — mostly your website — these ads are intended to keep your dealership top-of-mind as consumers who aren’t quite in-market spend their time on the Facebook platform and its network partners. Your branding ads should communicate your differentiators, value propositions, and culture. They should also communicate facets of your business that are evergreen, such as your ability to purchase consumer cars or the loyalty programs and free estimates that your fixed operations may offer. Such as with Douglas Volkswagen, who’s inviting local potential shoppers to come experience the “Douglas Difference,” which has been nurtured for nearly 70 years. Or you may want the local community to know that you’ll buy their vehicle — whether or not they bought one from your dealership. Regardless of the ad’s message, you want to make sure that the page they land on when they click the call-to-action — in these cases, “Learn More” — is directly aligned with the content of the advertisement.  AIAs and Service Ads — Middle-of-the-Funnel As you continually hold a presence with branding ads, you’ll want to capture those local shoppers who are in-market.  Side Note — We recommend that you don’t rely solely on Facebook targeting as you can add layers of depth and precision to this with a partner like IHS/Polk, who can provide an accurate number of households based on parameters you set — and this data isn’t affected by privacy updates or website data-loss as it’s based on actual sales and credit reporting data, not on online signals like pixels. The ability to create hyper-local, highly targeted audiences will make creating ad sets and ad copy easier as you’ll have a clear understanding to whom you’re delivering those ads. Automotive Inventory Ads (AIAs) are a carousel of vehicles that are relevant to the targeted audience, except these offer advertisers the capability to keep consumers on Facebook for a streamlined experience. The carousel ad gets delivered to the audience to browse the relevant vehicles that are available for purchase at your dealership. When they click a vehicle that interests them, a VDP-like page near instantaneously appears. It has all of the information that your traditional VDP contains, it has deep links to your dealership’s website and onsite VDP for dealers who need a little comfort in making this transition — and most importantly, it has different actions to actually capture a lead, including click-to-call, directions request, and chat. This method keeps consumers within the Facebook ecosystem, so we don’t lose any conversion data. Facebook collects the information on how consumers are behaving, what different attributes and facets of the VDP are most effective, and other pieces that can better inform them and us on what works. The more data that we can feed Facebook, the more accurately they can update this content and assist us as advertisers to make more strategic decisions. Here are the results when we looked at all campaigns that took consumers to the dealership website (non-AIA) compared to campaigns that kept consumers on Facebook (AIA). Significantly more content viewed, significantly lower costs, and significantly more actual leads from Facebook — people chatting, calling, and requesting directions from the on-Facebook VDPs.  I wrote that this is also applicable to service. It’s true: we currently use IHS/Polk ownership data to layer onto native Facebook targeting to create a more accurate picture of the audiences to whom our ads will be the most relevant, breaking these ads out into the big four — brakes, batteries, tires, oil changes — and general service ads. At this moment, we do not have the mechanisms in place to keep consumers on Facebook and embrace the new ecosystem; however, our Social Media Director wanted to be deliberate in getting the sales portion fine-tuned before diving into fixed operations. What I can say at this moment is that there are more sophisticated schedulers that can integrate with your dealership’s internal systems to create the same experience in service as we have in sales. Now not every customer in-market or near-market will become an immediate lead. Just like as with website visitors in the past, the consumers who click on one of your ads will be placed into a retargeting pool. This is where our strategic approach to the Facebook ecosystem has evolved the most. Retargeting Lead Generation Ads — Bottom-of-the-Funnel This is where I may lose you because you’ve done lead generation ads before on Facebook. I’m going to challenge that pushback. The approach is where we, as advertisers, went wrong in leveraging lead generation objectives on Facebook. We cast a wide net and hit people with ads who had potentially never engaged with any of our content — and we expected them to simply opt in to sharing their information. That’s unproductive. It yields spammy leads. It wastes your time and your budget. It was a shiny “instant lead retrieval” object that had foregone deliberate strategy.  The correct philosophy is to understand that consumers who have demonstrated intent and interest in our inventory and services — with our middle-of-funnel ads — are more likely to see a lead generation ad as relevant to their interests and, thus, is much more likely to be a qualified lead.  So using lead generation as your measured and deliberate retargeting campaign will work in your favor because the element of intent or interest is at play. They’ve clicked through one of your middle-of-funnel ads and browsed the VDP but didn’t contact the dealership via Messenger within the last 30 days.   That, however, isn’t the only parameter (intent/interest) that makes an effective lead generation retargeting campaign. It’s also important to still task the consumer to take an action without putting an undue burden on them. We want to pose a question that gauges the urgency of their purchase intent. So when the consumer has engaged the lead generation ad, their name and email is automatically populated — but to ensure that a click isn’t merely accidental, the consumer has to actively select an option from a dropdown menu.  When they have done that and done any necessary changes to email, name, or even add their phone number, they are opted into terms and conditions that they have to accept, and then are given a notification that they will be contacted — that information all gets routed to your CRM so that you can track it from form submission to the sale of the vehicle. Our team uses  LeadsBridge  for this capability. So you’ve ensured that the consumer has chosen to engage with the lead generation ad and has taken actual actions to share their information, which demonstrates several layers of intent.  It’s all a matter of keeping things simple and structured. When our team put this into a beta test, it generated an average of  83 qualified leads  per month at a cost of around  $8 per lead .  The On-Facebook Ecosystem Facebook has adapted in the face of privacy constraints and the eventual deprecation of the third-party cookie. It’s important that we embrace the future Facebook ecosystem of today because this is the environment in which we will all compete. By understanding how consumers want to engage with us, as well as the fact that platforms like Facebook and Google are creating ecosystems that keep consumers within their own properties, we will be better equipped to produce content that better resonates with them. If you have any further questions regarding this evolution or the different tactics presented in this article, please feel free to reach out to me, Dane Saville, at dane@reunionmarketing.com.
Need Management over Lead Management

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It seems like a simple concept.  Take care of people’s needs first and foremost.  Yet, it continuously falls short on the planning and execution when the transactional mindset and objectives take over. We spent decades instituting and enforcing a “customer satisfaction” survey process.  That was supposed to put the customer first right?  But that was a post-mortem grade on how a dealer rated versus other dealers, in most cases on a transactional process, not really aimed at customer’s true needs in the first place.  We have now evolved to the concept of “customer experience.”  But we still chase it as if it is something we can develop and invoke upon the customer.   When in reality it is the “customer’s experience.”  They own it.   They dictate how they will perceive it and value it.  We merely need to be able to be flexible and personalized in our approach to their needs. I would argue vigorously that the future of retail, the success of the dealer footprint going forward will depend much more on Need Management versus Lead Management.  By its very nature leads are cold, transactional, and aimed at getting people into a car within the current sales month.  Needs are obviously more personal, more relevant and contextual to the exact need for the interaction and engagement.  Needs may not be aimed at a traditional sale either, but perhaps a service, or a question for now, or a more personal approach to the right vehicle and right financial arrangement. This proposition may sound basic, but the entire retail industry is built on a sales leads funnel to get people in and through the process and then survey them and ask how we did.  Our focus must shift if we hope to have long-term sustainability in retail in an industry and a function that is fast transforming.   As EV’s and other digital services and subscription models enter the scene, as new car inventories will be in flux through 2022 and used cars become an option, we must personalize the experience to focus on customer mobility and transportation needs. Even in the traditional new car sales process, we often miss the need.  As more customers move to digital shopping and retailing (you all know the increasing numbers), they are required to figure out their own need before they hit a human or the store.  We ask them to figure it out through a wonky pricing and configuration tool where they must select option codes and packages they are not even sure they want or need.  Most of us in the industry struggle knowing the difference between a trim level, model level or an option package.  The customer often muscles their way through it and lands on a “build and price” vehicle.  That then becomes the lead!  But have we really identified and resolved the need? I believe the whole process needs to be tipped upside down to start the with the need.  What does the customer (The “UP”) need?  It may sometimes be information they want to support some decision making that is hard to find in a sales brochure online system.  It may be information about best mobility options.  Assuming for a moment it is a vehicle that they want to own and acquire, is a new or used vehicle the best fit?  What type of driving will they do?  What are their weekly commuting needs?  What is their budget target?  Are they better of buying, leasing or even subscribing where available? I am not naïve enough to believe that the very process of moving inventory, monthly sales targets, transactional commission-based sales people are supportive of the idea of taking the necessary time to understand the customer need and taking the appropriate actions to deliver on that expectation.  What is success in automotive retail and sales will have to change. I would argue it already has changed.  Good dealers were already transforming processes and success metrics to understand that the future retail sustainability will be based on lifetime value, products and services, experiences and customer affinity to the dealer brand and experience.  The past year and a half with a global pandemic that changed customer expectations and mobility needs, and also disrupted supply chains for the foreseeable future, have all created more value on build-to-order (personalized orders) and personalized engagement for customer fulfillment of needs (not just sales). The new business imperatives that will drive success in the auto retail industry include: Access over Assets  The importance of the ability to engage the customer where they are in their journey as opposed to simply having inventory available.  That “permission” and capability for access and engagement is move valuable (even on a balance sheet) than the physical assets. Personalization over Transaction How much of the customer’s true needs were met versus our simple goal of a unit sale.  Transaction may help the monthly sales quota, but personalization will contribute to the customer lifetime value and the business sustainability. Service is not an event, it is an experience Treating every service experience as an opportunity to engage the customer deeper in their needs fulfillment entirely as opposed to a maintain or repair the product only mindset Users over Owners Leverage any and every customer who may want to engage with us at the retail level whether that be for product information, used cars, mini-fleet access or subscription models, digital services, maintenance and updates, charging, or future services as the goal over simply supporting owners only with the basic vehicle services.  They may not even be a “customer” in the traditional sense, but every interaction is of potential value for both parties in building a long-term relationship. Retail is not a location, it is an action and a relationship This means more than mobile delivery or service pick-up and drop-off.  How do we use retail experiences, which should include every interaction through every channel, to build a relationship and understand the customer’s context and needs?  Retail, and all it entails, is an experience building opportunity. While I mention these as imperatives, there are objectives and measurables that should be assigned to these efforts.  There should be focus on the people, processes and technology all aligning to this mission as the North Star experience.   It’s always easy to raise issues, but what are the solutions?  There is no one path forward to achieve these objectives and each dealership will need different focus and transformation depending on its maturity towards this goal. Let me offer a few thoughts and enablers I would consider critical to pivoting to need over lead. Define your North Star customer experience.  Clearly and concisely.  Is it well understood and communicated through the organization? Is the North Star experience supported by the right processes and measurables? Personalization not Transaction focus.  Do we really know and understand the customer needs? Do we have the right data and information to understand and respond appropriately to the need?   Are we asking the right questions and capturing the information? Does our technology share actionable insight, or does it just enable transactional processing? I would not suggest that this initiative mandates and overhaul of your technology platform and entire business processes.  But could they all be sharpened and aimed at the right objective?  I would suggest they could be optimized for this long-term success strategy.  Let’s utilize customer management systems and data across the organization (regardless of department or function) to create additive customer journey and customer need insight at each interaction.   Let’s evolve our business processes to be “customer-centric” and not functional-based or organizationally standard. Overall, the future of retail success will be predicated on the ability to deliver personalized, valuable engagements on the terms of the customer.  Their needs being fulfilled is the future of retail, not transactional exchanges.  That includes the what, where and how.  Retail is not a physical location; it must be an experience.  Customer needs will be met by somebody, it is up to you to make sure that somebody is you.