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3 Pieces of Content Your Car Dealership Needs Today

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Let me ask you this: What content is your dealership creating every day? More often than not when I ask that question I get pulled into conversations about which social media platform is best, which distribution method dealerships should be using to spread the word about themselves, or even whether video, photos, or written content does a better job stopping the scroll. What happens much less often is that I get to have a conversation about the message. What’s the story they want to tell? Facebook & TikTok. Email & YouTube. Radio & TV. Blog posts & matchbook covers.  Nothing wrong with any of them. Use ‘em all, but they’re all just tools to get your message on the inside of your customers’ heads. How the message gets there isn’t anywhere near as important as what that message is. The message is what matters. If you want to create better, more engaging, conversation-starting content, you have to tell a better story. Telling a better story starts with deciding what story you want to tell, then creating more content that spreads that message regardless of format or delivery platform.  A great story can be told in many ways, in many formats, on many platforms. A great story transcends. Community The greatest stories that your dealership can tell,  The stories that will resonate best with your target market, The stories that will bring you the most likes, clicks, shares, smiley face emojis, actual real live conversations with real live people, and yes, more sales, In those stories, you’re not the hero; you’re the sidekick. You’re not Batman; you’re Robin. Look for opportunities to create content that shines a light on other people in your community. “Look for your people, and lift them up,” says business strategist Sherman Mohr. For years, I’ve been encouraging salespeople and managers to attend Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie training to improve their communication skills. In How To Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie says we can make it easy for other people to like us when we go out of our way to make them feel important. Create more content that does that! Full profiles of your employees , not just the sales department. Spotlights about your customers’ businesses.   Features about local sports teams from sandlot baseball to the major leagues.  Active participation in community events. The next time someone comes in asking you to donate $500 to some local charitable, civic, or sports organization, don’t just write the check. Show up and help. Use your dealership’s digital footprint to help them spread the word. Get your team out in the community belly-to-belly with the people and then Tell That Story. Use Video and pictures to put more faces on Facebook.  Write a blog post for your website to boost your SEO.  Share it on your Google My Business page.   In his book Marketing Revolution , Mark Schaeffer says that in today’s media-saturated market with today’s media-savvy consumers, the businesses that present the most human messages and stories will be the businesses that thrive. Be more human. Commerce Rule #1 is “It Ain’t About You!” It’s about them, and specifically, it’s about how you can help them. The single greatest thing about the car business is that almost every single human being you’ve ever met has, wants, or needs a car. They’ve got 99 problems and their car is definitely one! Create content that tells the story of how you can help solve their car problems. The best way to do that is to show how you’ve solved other people’s car problems. Post Videos of happy customers saying how you went out of your way to find them the perfect car. Post photographs from the service department showing your new Express and after-hours lanes. And get more written reviews from customers, sales customers, service customers, stopped-by-on-my-way-home-to-get-a-free-ice-cream-cone customers. Customer reviews are the gold medal, brass ring, heavyweight champion of the content marketing world. You can tell your story all day long, but when your customers start singing the same song that’s when a story becomes a brand. Ask And You Get; Don’t and You Won’t. It’s the first thing they tell you in Sales 101; you have to ask for the order. Your dealership is in business to generate business. Create revenue. Nothing says commitment like money changing hands. If you’re not even asking for the money, less of it is going to change hands. In the official social media official playbook Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook! , Gary Vaynerchuk likens your social media calendar is like a prizefight with friendly, entertaining, community based or other ostensibly non-commercial content serving as the left jabs that lower defenses and leave an opening for the knock out punch. Asking for the order. Making it easy for them to take action. Making them an offer they can’t refuse. Promising them a car buying experience they’ll never forget. Everybody loves a deal. Create more content that gives them a deal. Then look them dead in the eye and ask for the order - call, click or come on down.
man drawing umbrella over car
Auto Dealers: What’s Your Total Cost of Risk (TCOR)?

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Financial statements track how you are doing financially every month. Consider measuring and benchmarking TCOR as a part of your ongoing financial statement process.   What is TCOR and why should you care about your dealership’s Total Cost of Risk (TCOR)?  Business is about keeping the money you make. Your sales and gross profits could be at record highs, but your losses might be, as well. Unless you are tracking TCOR, your money may be walking out the back door because of losses or customer problems. Consider changing the way the dealership accounts for losses at the store (TCOR).    The only way to improve in any area is to measure it and benchmark it. TCOR is a metric used to evaluate your dealership’s internal risk process. Here is how it’s calculated: Insurance premiums + self-insured losses + losses associated with lower profits and productivity + risk administrative expenses (internal & external) = Total Cost of Risk (TCOR)  Tracking this metric will help you laser focus on which parts of the dealership cost you money. Consider customizing and defining each aspect of the formula to specify the guidelines for your dealership. These guidelines will be different for every owner-operator. It’s important to be consistent in how you establish and execute the accounting at your dealership based on those guidelines. Consistency will produce accurate data leading to meaningful answers.  Here’s an example: Let’s say you sell vehicles to people who have credit challenges (secondary customers). In my experience, if you “spot” them in their vehicles, and then cannot get them financed for whatever reason, they tend to write more negative online reviews. Hopefully, you have a process at the dealership to bring them back in and try to satisfy them in some way.   (If not, start today. Most lawsuits and regulatory problems start with upset customers. In fact, a dealership in Tennessee recently had its license revoked after multiple claims of deceptive acts. Now, the owner has been convicted of twenty-one (21) felony counts. His problems all started with customer complaints. Pro Tip: After you have satisfied the customers’ concerns, ask them to “update” their review. If you ask them to “change” their review, the customers will feel manipulated, Then, it will look like the only reason you helped them was to have them update the online review.) If you tracked the personnel time and all other expenses associated with these types of issues, you would be able to determine the actual cost of taking care of these customers. This is only one aspect of TCOR. (Please refer to the formula above.) If the dealership accounts for these costs accurately, it means you can no longer hide these losses in “Other Income.” In many dealerships, “Other Income” becomes the “garbage pail” of accounts, where you charge expenses, so the managers who are paid on gross won’t complain about chargebacks.    Using the secondary customer example above - whether or not TCOR is being tracked - we can discuss which policies and procedures can be put into place to stop these types of losses. There are plenty! We will not know the effectiveness of the procedures unless the numbers are tracked accurately. Recently, I have been hearing dealers espouse a case of the “yets.”   “I haven’t been sued yet.” “I have not heard from a regulator, yet” “We haven’t had any major problems, yet.” So, I don’t need to track TCOR…  Depending on the accounting controls at the store, the losses may be bigger than you realize. Unless you are measuring these costs, it is unknowable how much money is being poured into issues at your dealership. Do you really know your risk costs? Reputational losses? Customer satisfaction charges? Please consider tracking and measuring these numbers moving forward.  I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did. 
The Chip Shortage Is Coming! Is Your Used Inventory Ready?

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By now, the entire industry and many consumers have heard about the chip shortage ready to hit automotive showrooms about the time our summer kicks off. A shortage of semi-conductor chips due to COVID slowdowns with production hit auto makers in the early part of 2021, and dealers are now bracing for impact. Popular vehicles like Ford F-150 trucks and other models are harder to come by right at a time when vaccinations and a lessening of restrictions are bringing car buyers nationwide back to dealership lots in droves.  While there are a lot of ideas on how dealerships can work around the shortage and continue to turn a profit, one theme that continues to resonate throughout the industry is to have dealers look to their used car inventory to shore up sales before the event. As we look to the summer buying season, what are some things you can work on now to ensure you're ready?  1. Build Trust A recent Marchex report shows more than 91% of people surveyed said they rate trust just as, if not more, important than the price of a vehicle. This becomes even more crucial when it's time to look across your used car inventory. What products can you use to your advantage to help build that trust with the customer? One of our favorite ways to show dealerships how to do this is with a Lifetime Powertrain Warranty. By offering a Lifetime Powertrain Warranty as an additional safeguard for the used vehicles in your inventory, you're adding another layer of trust to your guest's purchase.  2. Use Extras Just like our example with the Lifetime Powertrain Warranty suggestion above, throwing in extras to entice customers to move forward with a used vehicle has shown to be an effective way to move the needle toward a sale. Some of the add-ins we've seen that work well are: Warranties Free oil changes Complimentary tickets to a local sporting or arts event Even a contribution to the buyer's local charitable organization of choice  3. Do a Complete F&I Audit  Now is the time to look through and audit your current F&I offerings. Used vehicle buyers tend to purchase more ancillary products like dent and ding protection and paint repair. Some things to look at as you go through your audit – look over your disclosures to ensure you are up to date with compliance. Important terms to check include stating the purchase of products is not required to obtain financing, and the agreement or declining of products will not affect APR. Lastly, ensure every F&I product you offer is properly displayed on your presentation page with benefit statements for each.  4. Increase Promotion of Popular Used Vehicles Several models, like Ford F Series pick-ups, will continue to drive demand. The longer the chip shortage lasts, the harder these popular used models will be to find on dealer lots. Ensure you are identifying the most popular models on each of your lots and promoting them heavily as we move into the summer months.  While the chip shortage is not ideal, you can act now to shore up your used inventory and build trust to push buyers toward the used vehicles on your lot. A combination of promoting high-demand vehicles, auditing your F&I products, and offering incentives like Lifetime Powertrain Warranties can go a long way when building the buyer confidence needed to push you to the finish line this summer. 
With Connectivity, Dealers Can Get More from Courtesy Transportation Programs

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Most dealers have Courtesy Transportation, or CTP programs in place, with the support of their respective manufacturers. What dealers may not be aware of though, is that these programs are increasingly using Connected Car technology to track and manage the vehicles enrolled in them. Not only does this new technology create opportunities for better fleet management, but it also has the potential to create some exciting new revenue opportunities for dealers in the very near future. The same platform used to operate CTP can be used by dealers to operate Rental programs, Alternative Financing programs, or Demonstrations. Connected CTP Programs Manufacturers are increasingly equipping new vehicles with built-in telematics equipment. In 2021, over 90% of all new vehicles will be equipped this way. Fleet owners have long recognized the value of built-in connections for fleet management applications. Fleets can more accurately track vehicle location, maintenance needs, mileage, and driver behavior data using a built-in connection and centralized fleet management. Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly bringing connected fleet management tools to their CTP to let dealers more closely manage these fleets as well. These programs, operated by companies like  TSD Loaner ,  Connexion Telematics ,  Bluebird Auto Rental Systems , and  ARSLoaner , all enable Dealers to more closely manage CTP vehicles. Dealers can easily enroll vehicles from their inventory into these systems and then track which ones are rented out, how many miles have been driven, how much fuel is being used, and whether any of the vehicles need maintenance. In the event that one of the vehicles goes missing, it can also be located. To get the most out of Connected CTP, dealers should take full advantage of available reporting, such as: Mileage alerts to prevent vehicles from being used past OEM program mileage limits Fuel Usage, to recoup fuel costs Rental History, to identify which vehicles are over-and under-used Over-Time alerts, to identify vehicles that have been kept longer than planned Tolling Alerts, to recoup toll costs Some programs also include remote lock/unlock commands, giving the dealer the ability to easily help if a CTP customer gets locked out. Taken together, dealers can use these tools to significantly improve the efficiency of their CTP.   New Revenue Opportunities While Connected CTP can be useful in managing costs today, they can also create a platform for dealers to easily try out new revenue models. Technically, any connected vehicle on the dealer's lot – new or used – can be activated and managed from the same platform that is used to manage CTP. That creates some interesting possibilities, such as: Short-Term Rentals Any connected vehicle on the dealer's lot could be enrolled and offered as a short-term rental. The CTP platform could easily bill the rental customer for time, mileage, fuel used, tolls, etc., at a rate negotiated by the dealer. Rentals could be for use by individuals or businesses or could be offered to Uber or Lyft drivers. Dealers should seek information & guidance from their providers & OEM partners. Some of the providers mentioned above already offer integrations that can result in immediate revenue opportunities.  Alternative Financing Models The same CTP platform could also allow the dealer to experiment with alternative financing models, such as subscriptions or "loan to own." The platform can easily track vehicle usage, apply a metered price by day, month, or by mileage, and can apply additional charges for fuel, tolls, and maintenance. In the event vehicles need to be recovered, they can also be located. The platform built to enable a Connected CTP can easily be adapted to operate these programs, as well. Demonstration Programs The dealer's CTP platform can also be used to offer vehicles for demonstration. With the roll-out of Electric Vehicles, for example, many customers may want to have a trial of an EV before committing to an all-new method of propulsion. Any other vehicle on the dealer's lot can also be offered this way, with mileage and usage easily monitored for follow-up with the customer. These new applications are not yet widely deployed to dealers, but dealers should be aware of the potential of Connected CTP and press their manufacturer sponsors and platform providers to bring these capabilities forward.
Dealer Marketing: Going Loco for Local Campaigns

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There's a good reason that car dealers should be going mad over local campaigns: the results. Now, let's get something straight first. There are so many variables that influence digital marketing -- your local market conditions, budget, tactics, creativity -- that no dealership will see the same numbers.  You can, however, expect to fall within a range set by our dealer partners whose strategy we have adequately executed and monitored: $4 - $6 Cost per Lead $0.50 - $1.50 Cost per Click 10,000 - 30,000 Interactions These dealerships also met a recommended monthly budget of no less than $300 and up to $1,000. If cost-efficiencies that deliver high-quality leads is your jam, let's define local campaigns to give you a better perspective on the  what  and  where . What are local campaigns? They are part of Google's continual innovation on advertising products and are tied to your dealership's Google My Business (GMB) listings. As more search results don't yield a click to a website property, it's more important than ever to have a robust strategy around local search engine optimization. Local ads leverage your GMB to deliver targeted ads in brand new placements. Local campaigns use the Merchant Center for inventory feed integration and Google's machine learning to populate highly relevant, hyper-local advertisements that are more likely to resonate with consumers and generate foot traffic and local actions or phone calls. Google is, in fact, so confident in the results local campaigns can produce that these ads are highlighted in the Dealer Guidebook 2.5 edition. Launching this type of campaign is relatively easy, tasking you to fulfill just a few requisites: Verified GMB Linked to Google Ads Minimum of 1 YouTube Video Link Images (1200x1200 & 1200x628) Where are local campaigns new placements? Local campaigns are delivered across all of Google's properties, including the Display Network and YouTube. These are now the most interesting placements, though.  You linked your GMB listing to your Google Ads account so your dealership's ads can also be placed on ...  Google Maps , where shoppers can identify the quickest route to the dealership thanks to the ad highlighting your location as the top destination. GMB Listing Profile , where shoppers can see the latest offers and promotions (for variable and fixed operations). Google Search Network , where shoppers will see the advertisement at the top of the local search pack. New placements bring new methods of optimization. These local campaigns aren't optimized by using historical search network mechanics, such as analyzing query and keyword data. Instead, advertisers will be tasked with analyzing and iterating on the actual content of the ad. Dealers Will Win on the Local Level If you haven't embraced the power of Google My Business, which is the crux of your local search strategy, you're likely to miss out on other opportunities that arise -- like local campaigns. The notion of "going local" isn't exactly new; it's just now getting the proper attention that it deserves. In a digital ecosystem where your real competition is third-party and aftermarketing websites, building localized content and ads have become the backbone of maintaining and growing your market share. There's no better place to start than your own backyard, for which local campaigns have been specifically built.  Start winning, my friends.
Four Ways to Create a Fire Hose of Branded Content

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I've been working with tech companies in automotive public relations for more than two decades and in that time have watched communication styles change from the importance of your website to the importance of your blog, to now, the importance of social media.  While traditional articles and speaking applications will always carry an air of credibility, some exciting new messaging opportunities are currently in the mix and, if carried out correctly, can bring a lot of visibility to your brand.  Below I detail four ways you can use new communication methods to take a fire hose approach to your brand content:  Podcasts  I am a huge believer in podcasts, both as a guest on dozens and as a creator of one myself. I began my podcast, Carearing, a little over a year ago now and have seen it explode in engagement. When I began, I was looking at it as a way to connect with other working women who loved their careers. But it has done so much more. It's allowed me to champion female leadership, hold women up to be celebrated, and has led to some pretty spectacular guest spots, articles, and speaking engagements for me around female leaders in automotive.  Making it work for you:  You don't have to create a podcast to get this right. Just look for podcast hosts who already have shows focused on your expertise. Follow hashtags for #podcast on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, look into Mastermind groups focused on your expertise area, or there are even podcast booking services now that match guests with hosts.   Clubhouse  Clubhouse jumped on the scene late last year and in my opinion had one of the best roll-outs ever. You had to be invited to join and in early January of this year, an invite to Clubhouse was like a ticket to the cool kid's lunch table. While the hype on this has died down considerably, it is still solid gold when it comes to creating interest around hot topics.   Making it work for you:  While you can create a room, in my experience, the best way to currently use this channel is to guest spot in already established rooms. And while the overall PR benefits of Clubhouse remain to be seen, the opportunity to put the rooms you are a guest in on LinkedIn drives huge engagement on that platform. The best way to get invited as a contributor is to attend some rooms that seem interesting and when you're ready, raise your hand and contribute to the main stage. (Just a note, at the time of this writing, Clubhouse is open to users of Apple products only.) Influencer Threads  Influencer threads are an easy way to widen your influence and strengthen relationships. Jump on any of your favorite platforms, mine is LinkedIn, and find people you admire who are raising interesting questions, addressing topics you relate to, and generally posting things you care about and begin to engage with them. A note here, you need to truly want to add value to the discussion. Influencers can smell false engagement a mile away.  Making it work for you:  Curate a list of people you admire on the major social media threads, follow their content, and begin to reply. DO NOT post information about your product or service. People want to interact with people, not be sold something. If you take the time to establish relationships with these influencers and regularly engage on their posts, they will be willing to find out more about you and your company on their own.  LinkedIn  Here's where the rubber meets the road. Take all of the above content, guest spots, Clubhouse rooms and internet discussions and post, post, post it on LinkedIn or Facebook. Social media feeds are today's form of traditional publications and just like a press release, you should be using them to distribute information about your brand.  Making it work for you : Were you a guest in a Clubhouse room? Promote it on LinkedIn. Have a guest podcast clip to share? LinkedIn. Invited to speak at a conference? Post and tag that puppy. LinkedIn and other social media platforms are the conveyer belt for all of the content you are creating – use them accordingly! Today public relations is all about creating and distributing content across channels where it will have the best chance of engaging an audience. By following the four methods above, you'll create a groundswell of content that can be used in multiple ways to increase your brand value online. You've got this!