If you own, say, a Ford store, the new Fords you sell are exactly the same as every new Ford sold by every other Ford dealer.
The manufacturers come in every few years and force, coerce, and cajole their dealers into spending millions on building shiny new facilities on a standard platform, so your dealership even looks like every other dealership.
Internet shopping, stairstep incentives, and the suggested retail pricing structure have universally compressed margins, so there's not a whole heck of a lot of difference in the prices dealers charge.
And through those same incentives, co-op money, and holdbacks, the factories now exert greater control over your dealership's advertising than ever before.
There are thousands of other dealerships selling exactly the same vehicles you sell for exactly the same price out of buildings that look exactly the same using advertising that says exactly the same thing.
That's the definition of a commodity. It's like you're selling salt, and the only way to make more money selling salt is to sell it in ever-increasing volume for ever-decreasing prices.
That's the race to the bottom.
But here's the thing, you're not selling salt.
You have a secret weapon in your store now that can help your dealership stand out in a sea of sameness, help you sell more cars for more money, and help your customers have a more enjoyable buying experience.
People connect with people. They want to do business with people. They can put their trust in people.
Nine out of 10 consumers trust recommendations and reviews from the people in their lives more than the information they receive from any form of communication from your dealership. More than they trust your social media. Overwhelmingly more than they trust your advertising.
You've been told for years that content is king, but that's no longer true. Content is necessary. Connection is king. The engagement your connections create is the holy grail.
Car buyers are eight times more likely to engage with content shared by people they already know, like, and trust than with content posted directly by the store.
The people on your team and the connections they already have are the only things you have left to differentiate yourself from every other store.
Do the math.
The average dealership has just north of sixty employees. Sixty employees with roughly 20,000 social connections (300 ish each) who will buy roughly 400 vehicles this month.
That's your natural market, low hanging fruit that your store can start picking today by encouraging, incentivizing, and enabling your people to help tell your dealership's story.
"It's one thing when you see brands brag about themselves. It's another thing when employees share genuine pride in the place where they work. When you see a post from a company, it feels like a logo talking to you. But when you see a post from a friend or a colleague, you're looking at it as a human being who is sharing their thoughts and feelings. It has a different vibe. It has credibility," says Kirt Simmer, Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing at staffing firm Robert Half.
Happy employees create happy customers.
Do first things first; make sure you have an engaged, happy, excited team.
Create a culture that they want to share with their friends. If you want your people to talk about you, you have to give them a work experience worth talking about.
You can't spend 73 minutes screaming at your employees or boring them to tears at the weekly half-hour-long mandatory meeting and expect them to log on to social media and talk about how amazing your dealership is.
Culture always starts at the top. The body follows where the head goes.
That means you and your management team have to lead the way by telling the story that you want them to tell.
Creating content for them to share.
Rewarding them for sharing it, engaging their personal network, and spreading the love about your dealership.
"I take lots of photos and videos that include our employees. We don't use outside sources for any of our social media platforms. So what content we share, it's us," says Cathy Nesbit, social media director for Harry Robinson Buick GMC in St. Smith, AR. "Then, I tag the employees in those posts."
By tagging the employee, they're sure to see the post and be more likely to engage with it. Many of their friends will see the post and be more likely to engage with it.
Engagement leads to conversations. Conversations lead to sales.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
The dealership shares major company news via departmental GroupMe Groups and asks the team to share it on their personal social media.
Managers will issue challenges to share certain promotions or vehicles and reward employees with cash on the barrelhead for those who actively engage real customers.
Of course, you want your salespeople active on social media, but the people in parts, service, the back office, the body shop, they all have people in their lives too.
Make it easy for them to show pride in their place of work, and put a friendly human face on your store's marketing and social media efforts.
Terry Lancaster is an automotive marketing strategist, trainer, copywriter, storyteller, and the #1 best-selling author of How To Sell More Cars. I’ve helped thousands of dealerships sell millions of cars by putting the right words in the right order to tell the right story. How can I help you tell yours? The How To Sell More Cars marketing and training program moves the needle that day, and I help your store create social media, videos, employee & customer spotlight profiles, blog posts, radio & TV commercials, direct mail, and the occasional dirty limerick slash bathroom stall graffiti: For a good time call 615-804-0311. Or visit HowToSellMoreCars.org.
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