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loyalty culture
Dealership Culture: Make Trust Your North Star

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Bolster your dealership’s culture with clarity, consistency and accountability to succeed in a multi-channel world According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Rory Blackwell, the ultimate one-man band, played 108 different musical instruments simultaneously on May 29, 1989 in Devon, England.  Fortunately, a car dealership is the opposite of a one-man-band. A dealership is full of skilled, well-trained and dedicated professionals, all ready to do their part to help the dealership succeed. That said, I believe the most essential instrument required for them to play in harmony is trust.  Yet building trust in a dealership is a lot easier said than done. It can apply (or not) across the board to ownership, managers, employees and customers.  Trust can be earned, of course, but it also can be easily or quickly lost.  Culture Matters I’ve been thinking a lot about trust after listening to a recent podcast hosted by Troy Scheer with Brian Kramer, the General Manager at Germain Toyota of Naples, in which the two discussed the important role played by culture in a dealership. A running theme throughout the podcast was the importance of a culture built on trust.  A dealership must first define its culture, however, and I believe the touchstone for any dealership culture should be the customer experience. The challenge is to bring sales, finance and service together as a team – whether online or in the store -- to seamlessly provide the desired excellent experience to each customer.  This united effort is complicated by the need to balance in-person and digital contacts with customers. An employee who is busy in the showroom meeting and greeting customers is unavailable, at the same time, to respond to digital leads. Yet both types of communication are essential and must be made. You can’t afford to ignore customers or make them wait too long. That’s why the best dealership cultures inspire everybody up and down the line to do whatever it takes to deliver a positive customer experience.  Getting there with a minimum of friction, however, requires management to take three steps: clarify what’s expected, be consistent in its application and hold everyone accountable.  Clarity Means No Surprises When buying a vehicle, I’m always mystified why the salesperson doesn’t walk me over to their service department and personally introduce me to someone in sales to initiate a more long-term relationship. Those of us in the business know that typically parts and service can generate 49 percent of a dealership’s profits.  My guess is that the salesperson is focused on the short-term and is already thinking of his or her next sale, instead of what’s best for the customer or dealership. This particular salesperson may not fully understand or appreciate or trust the store’s culture.  Automotive retail can be a pressure cooker, but clarity actually diffuses the pressure because everyone knows what’s expected.  Consistency Means Everyone Contributes Whether your customer-first motto is in your mission statement, your store, or on your website, you must consistently practice what you preach.  As an owner or manager, you should encourage your employees to take risks and try things without fear of repercussion.  If you tell customers that you want them to be customers for life, you need to prove that by standing behind that statement with products like Lifetime Powertrain Warranties. Many of the dealerships we work with offer lifetime maintenance and customer loyalty programs in the finance office and train their service technicians on how to create a first-rate experience to keep service customers coming back time after time.  Consistency means backing your mission statement up in every department across every experience.  Communication Means Accountability This is the attribute where the rubber hits the road, hard choices are made and, ultimately, trust is built. Make your people accountable for their actions, and allow them the privilege of learning from their mistakes. Nobody wants to be second-guessed or blindsided, of course, especially during the course of a busy day.  Likewise, you don’t want employees running to management to make a decision they could and should make. If they know you have their back, they’ll have yours.  Above all, keep it transparent. Nothing undermines a culture of trust more than a manager who allows a closed-door meeting to talk privately about somebody else. A Culture Where Customers Win Making trust the centerpiece of your dealership’s culture turns former roadblocks into speed lanes.  More importantly, it enables customers to believe in your brand, because they know your entire team is looking out for what’s best for them. Customers are listened to, calls are followed-up, questions are answered. And you can reward their trust by offering them extra benefits for doing business with you, such as lifetime powertrain warranties.  I’d like to finish up with one of my all-time favorite quotes from legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who says, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all of the time.”  There’s no better way I can think of to describe building a lifetime value culture across your dealership that will last the test of time – do it right all of the time. 
lady buying a car
No Inventory? No Problem. Marketing Tips From the Field for Your Dealership’s Success

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The automotive industry is consumed with the inventory shortage-- while gross is higher than ever, dealerships are finding it hard to strategize marketing without the usual suspects on the lot. That being said, it’s still critical that your dealership maintain a hefty strategy so that you don’t lose your brand recognition; this could lead to giving your competitors a potential customer for life that could have been yours.  Below is a roundup of the latest tips from the field to make sure your dealership is staying at the cutting edge: Brand Campaigns While inventory may be low, you can still maintain a good reputation for your dealership. Shoppers looking for their next vehicle don’t only prioritize the make/model they’re interested in, but also the shopping experience- starting online. If your dealership brand can provide a superb experience-- answering promptly and locking in the customer before they look elsewhere-- your marketing will see high ROI during this tumultuous time.  Make sure your brand campaigns are also answering current events. During COVID, this was all about hygiene and sanitization. Now, focus on how you have the right process for getting the vehicle of their dreams to each and every customer with the best customer service. Advertise Pre-order Options Your dealership is not the only dealership with low inventory, so marketing inventory which is not released or in stock will keep your dealership competitive and give you the chance to lock in customers for life that may look elsewhere if they don’t have this option with your store.  Dealerships that advertise future inventory support brand goals, engage and conquest new shoppers, as well as continue to see high quality conversion rates on their websites.  Finetune Your SEO   SEO is an efficient way to keep your dealership on the map without spending too much money. Find the high-search keywords in your market and include them in your vehicle descriptions, promotions, and blog posts. If your dealership doesn’t have a blog, now is the time to invest in one -- especially if you’ve cut back on other marketing resources. Blog posts are excellent resources for shoppers (the more descriptive, the better). Pro tip: take a high-volume search term and use that as the basis of your blog post. This way you won’t only be answering questions that people are actually searching, but you’ll probably have priority for showing up first on Google.  Work the Service Drive   We all know the importance of the F&I profit center. But while people are sticking to leases longer, or can’t yet find the car of their dreams with inventory shortages, service is more important than ever. Make sure your dealership is advertising all service options in descriptive ad campaigns. Double-check that you’ve properly set up your service center on Google my Business so you can be easily found, and separately for those interested in service rather than sales. Lastly, set up an easy-to-use service booking calendar on your website so it’s a seamless experience for shoppers.  Trade In/Trade Up Scoring inventory is gold right now, so make sure you’ve perfected your trade in campaigns. Make sure shoppers know they can trade in their cars without buying new ones. Shoppers are also interested in comparing trade in prices, so your dealership should have a seamless infrastructure for providing trade in values, at the most competitive prices. If you haven’t already, you can also train your service staff to focus on trade in upsells right from the service lane.  We already know that pausing marketing right now can hurt your dealership brand and ROI. With these expert tips, your dealership can now focus the marketing strategy to fit today’s climate and continue to bring in new customers for life.  *Isaac Hertzberg from Napleton Cadillac and Kyle Mountsier from Nelson Mazda were interviewed to help with this article
marketing strategies
How to Set Up Google My Business (GMB) Nested Department Listings for Car Dealerships

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Leveraging the power of Google My Business can place your store before the right customers, increase your sales potential and grow your dealership revenues. Most dealerships structures are broken down into departments, and it might be beneficial to increase the visibility of the service, parts, etc. departments of the dealership. That is where Google My Business Departmental listing can help in nesting them. To create nested departments for your dealership, you first need an optimized main Google My Business profile page for your parent store. Before we dig deeper, let’s first have an overview of Google My Business for those that are not familiar. Google My Business Overview: What is it and what are its benefits? It’s a Google service, which allows dealerships and other businesses to manage their online presence.   With My Business, you can: Manage your dealership contact information on Google Maps. Get directions to your store and share it with others. Share updates about your business and connect with customers via social media. See insights such as when you receive calls and when the store is busy.  Before you set up nested departments for your business, you should ensure you have optimized the appearance of your main Google My Business profile page for your business. Besides the obvious of having name and address correctly completed, here are some tips:  1. Complete the description field of your profile The description field is often overlooked but it is where you can describe your store offerings and what makes you different. This is also an area that you can use to highlight the brands that you sell. 2. Upload photos of your dealership’s exterior and interior in the "Photos" section of profile Posting photos of the store in the Places section will help prospective customers to see what the store looks like prior to visiting. It helps them feel more comfortable when they arrive. Customers like images of people smiling and dealership personnel. It humanizes the store and also puts customers more at ease prior to their visit. However, be aware that Google users can also upload images to the page, so you need to closely monitor the page.  If the store fails to add photos, Google places a Google Maps image that is not very attractive. Adding photos also help customers see how popular your dealership is by viewing the number of reviews and photos other users have uploaded. 3. Add a Virtual Tour if you have one. Upload a 3D virtual tour of your dealership to showcase vehicles and the customer experience 3D virtual tours are becoming more and more popular with dealers and are a great way to showcase your business, employees, products, and services in an innovative way. 4. Ensure all contact information is correct and up-to-date, including phone number  Google has now become the phone book of the world. It is critical that the phone number you use for the store is local and that it is the same phone number listed throughout the main other online directories. Do not use different phone numbers for Bing, Facebook or other sites for tracking purposes as it will reduce the Google rank for the store. If you want to check how your listings look across the website I suggest the use of Moz.com or BrightLocal citation checkers.  Once you have the Google My Business listing up to date here is how to create the nested departmental listings: Step 1: Create a new Google My Business listing and assign it a different number and category other than that of your dealership. For instance, “Mercedes-Benz Beaverton Parts Center”. It will require you to verify the listing which can take some time if you have to complete it by mail. If you already have department listings you can skip this step.  Step 2: Once verified, as a Google User, search in Google Maps for the newly created Google My Business page created in step 1 above and click “Suggest and Edit”. This cannot currently be done by the GMB Owner of the dealership page. It must be done in Google Maps as a Google User. Step 3: Select or choose “Change name or other details”, once on the change page, navigate to “Located within” and type in the name of your primary business where you would like to nest the department. Step 5: Your department page should now display on the primary dealership’s GMB page as “Located In”. Although your department page displays “Located In” Google will take a few days to review your submission then it will be live on Google under the main business Google My Business page profile. So, be patient. That’s how simple it is to create Google My Business department listings for your dealership. Feel free to reach out to me if you get stuck and need a hand. 
cookieless future
Combat Your Cookieless Future by Creating Your Own First-Party

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You’ve seen it and have read the headlines circulating your feeds and emails. The topic about a cookieless future. And while yes this can be jarring and you may be wondering, where do I go from here, it’s important to understand a few things. There currently are 7 types of cookies that are trackable on your website, depending on your website’s makeup and functionality. Out of those 7, your first-party cookies and third-party cookies are going to be the most beneficial to you as a marketer. However, Google announced at the beginning of this year that third-party cookies would be going away. This diminishes your ability to have your products shown to consumers across different websites and platforms after they leave yours. Without looking at this change as a huge negative impact on your marketing efforts, the time has come to rethink and reengage. Rethink What does your consumer mean to you? This should be displayed in your marketing to them. Not all your shoppers are low funnel shoppers, therefore not all your consumers should see the same type of campaign. Facebook Advertising has a unique approach in which you can create more of an intent to “shop” with you. Because remember, the folks seeing your ads across Facebook and Instagram can be those who don’t know who you are, have already begun their shoppers’ journey with you, and/or have already converted. You need to be precise in the messages you’re sending to the proper audiences so that you can reengage. Reengage Within the Facebook business suite, you can create audiences out of those who are engaging with your name. You have a pixel code unique to your business manager that when implemented properly on your website can track events or actions that shoppers are taking on your website. These shoppers would be considered more into the low funnel category with the way they’re engaging with you. Within the audience building in Facebook, you can create new shoppers to take more in-depth actionable steps on your website. What I’m saying is, is that yes you indeed can create your own first-party within Facebook Business Manager.  My Top 3 Audience Builders in Facebook Business Manager 1. Lead Form Audiences Lead Forms and I have had a back-and-forth relationship on Facebook. There have been times where I’ve found that the leads generating through these campaigns were not of the most quality. Where I got the best quality leads was from creating campaigns that were geared toward more high funnel shoppers, that created an intent to do business with the dealership. Lead Forms on Facebook should not just be used for sales. You have a unique opportunity to create campaigns and use the lead form for contests, new subscribers, and shoppers that would be interested in new model releases to re-engage audiences. Once you start operating in this way and run a campaign you then can create audiences out of people who’ve engaged with your lead form. As you can see in the image, you have three options of audiences.  2. Facebook Engagement A fully optimized and active Facebook page can lead to a world of audience creation. You should start to see your businesses’ Facebook page as a micro-website and a hub of information about you. Just as Google My Business is your #1 source of free organic traffic, your business's Facebook page can serve the same purpose. Are your hours of operation up to date? Is your recent post most relevant to who you are as a company? Do you have inventory listed in the proper section on the page? And of course, please check that your CTA is UTM tagged so you can track who’s coming from your Facebook page. All these steps will help you attract shoppers to your Facebook page, and in return, you can create audiences.  3. Video Views A Video Marketing strategy is so important to the success of your brand. Video is engaging, it’s fun, and you can display a good amount of information and your creative side all in a matter of 15 seconds. Your goal with any video you’re creating and displaying is to catch the consumers' attention within the first 3 seconds so that they stop scrolling and watch/engage with your video. Facebook audience builder gives you a lot of options with how to create audiences out of those who’ve watched your video, and in return, you can create audiences to either reengage or serve up the proper campaign as to where this audience is in their buyer’s journey.  There are more audiences that can be created within Facebook Business Manager, and I suggest you go in and peek at all your options. Your goal? To create a bank within Facebook of all your own first-party data to combat a cookieless future. 
auto inventory in lot
Dealership Inventory Crisis: Marketing Lessons From the COVID-19 Crisis

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It’s obvious that fluctuations in inventory are going to dominate the automotive narrative for the rest of 2021. And while it seems like we’ve just overcome the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the automotive industry, we’re slapped in the face with another big one: the infamous inventory shortage. So let’s not forget some of the lessons we learned as an industry when it comes to marketing during a crisis so that your dealership can stay resilient during this crisis as well.  Stay flexible  When COVID-19 first hit and the government shutdown orders went into effect, it took time for most dealerships to update their marketing messaging across all channels. For some dealerships, “Come on in for a test drive” was still their main message on their websites and in their ads, making it completely irrelevant to shoppers at the time.  Dealerships that had the infrastructure to be flexible and dynamic in their marketing strategy during the pandemic were not only able to turn around their messaging quickly, but they were successful in seeing results - even during a crisis - since they didn’t rigidly define things like messaging and budget. Dealerships that pre-allocated budget to Facebook and to Google were less resilient during COVID-19 because it took them longer to realize the shift in consumer behavior from search to social while at home. Dealers that had automated marketing budgets-- fluid budgets that self-allocate based on where the best opportunities are in real-time - were seeing much better results since the learning curve was faster and more efficient.  When we think about this as it applies to the inventory shortage, it’s important to understand that the market is unpredictable, but one thing is certain: dealerships need to be where their shoppers are in order to not miss an opportunity. Even during this tumultuous time, shoppers are still looking for their next car, and most likely at a higher gross, so make sure your marketing strategy is flexible to change in real-time and react fast. As soon as inventory turns, or comes in, your dealership’s marketing strategy should be ready to go and in sync with your dealership’s goals.   Reassess marketing (don’t pause)  While our gut instinct may be to pause marketing spend during any crisis, we learned during COVID that there are long-term risks to this . Firstly, you want to keep your brand awareness high. Even during tough times, people need to service their cars and renew their leases, so making sure those shoppers choose your store over a competitor is crucial. Dealers should be focused on gaining and retaining customers for life; cutting all marketing spend will restrict your dealership from doing this successfully.  That being said, difficult times present an opportunity to really assess ROI and productivity. So while pausing may put your dealership at a disadvantage, this is the perfect time to do a deep dive on your data and make sure your marketing ROI is high, so that you can still be the dealership of choice for shoppers during any crisis.  Do whatever it takes to bring shoppers to your dealership  During COVID-19, dealerships scrambled to implement a digital retail solution in order to stay relevant for their customers. Even if most consumers weren’t actually transacting 100% online, the software gave shoppers the opportunity to cut time in store and start the process online. This was a way for dealers to attract customers and stay relevant during the pandemic.  Similarly now, dealerships still need to do whatever it takes to get shoppers into their doors. So even with low inventory levels, dealerships should consider advertising inventory that’s on backorder and not yet in stock. This helps your dealership gain customers for life before they go to competitors. Focusing on trade-in acquisition campaigns or investing in a strategy to move more stuck/aged vehicles can also help your dealership market to customers while aligning with business goals to get more inventory and sell lot rot at the highest potential gross.  Do whatever it takes to bring people to your dealership during this time, no matter what the crisis. And usually, this involves a pretty efficient marketing strategy. 
puzzle pieces
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.