The End of Business As Usual?

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A few years ago, I worked at a car dealership with a guy who had no conscience.  One of the stories he liked to boast about himself was that he was able to “sell” a Toyota Rav4 to an elderly woman and make $20K profit on the deal.  Yep, that means he doubled the suggested retail price and convinced her to pay it.  She had $20K down and he considered himself talented because he was able to get another $20K out of her.  I quit working with him not long after this event.

In a great article this week, Brian Solis talks about how empathy is becoming the key to success in business.  He makes the point that Social Media engagement is the beginning of the end of business as usual.  “When we engage with customers we begin to see the purchase process through their eyes.  We sense what it takes to encourage positive sentiment.  There’s an empathy that develops simply by being human.”  Well, assuming all parties are human…I’m not so sure about my former colleague described above.  I can hear the guy now, “Empathy Schmempathy.  Now, who’s got a deal for me?”

‘Engage or die.’  Mr. Solis’ warning 3 years ago has taken on a life of its own.  “It wasn’t necessarily intended as a dire warning.” says Solis.  “But what it does mean is that conversations and evolution are taking place with or without you.  And you have a choice to make.”

Auto dealers have never faced such a decision in their marketing and operational model.  Years ago, when the internet was becoming prevalent, the task of managing that fell on the business manager or the parts manager or someone who was a ‘techie’.  They were asked to fit it into their job description–into their ‘spare time’.  Dealers are trying to repeat that scenario with Social Media and that will cost them dearly.  By not engaging effectively, can dealers really afford not to be part of the consumers’ decision-making process?

Social Media is not just technology, it’s a movement.  Misunderstanding the dynamic and how it permeates from the outside in and bottom up will cost you business.  Social Media is driven from the outside-from you and me-and the dealers’ fear of relinquishing their perceived control is what’s stopping them from engaging.

Social Media is growing in prominence on a daily basis.  One-in-four car buyers use Social Media to make their buying decision.  The consequence of not engaging, or not even listening, is literally the beginning of the end.