I spoke last week at the American Marketing Association’s luncheon on Social Media’s influence on the automotive industry. One of the remarkable things we touched on was how, in the past 3 years, the car business has completely shifted to a customer-service-based model: Social Media is customer service.
In this era of Socialized Media, relationships are the new currency and participation and collaboration are emerging as the new information exchange. Consumers are looking for dealers who want to develop and sustain a relationship with their customers. They want to know that when they do business with you, they’re going to come out of the transaction with a renewed sense of excitement about that relationship.
Some dealers have stalled taking action on Social Media. Some will wait until it’s too late, only to awaken to a daunting challenge of creating and earning presence and relevance in this new economy. Relationships are the currency in this economy and dealers need to become masterful at relationship marketing. You need the technical skills to properly navigate today’s Social tools. You also need the “softer” skills to effectively build solid relationships using these tools.
I often talk about Carl Sewell and his credo of building loyalty with the idea that everyone is a potential $517,000 customer. When a customer shops with you, they want a pleasant environment and you want to give it to them, not because you want to sell them one car, but so that you have the chance to sell them 10 or 20. Every time you get a chance to sell to a customer one item, you need to think about how much they represent in future business. Take care of the customer and they come back and bring their friends.
Social Media allows you to provide that pleasant environment. Your customer gets to engage, learn, converse and spread their experience with you by word of mouth…digitally. They share information and they support their network by giving details on the stuff they buy, the food they eat and the life experiences that bring them joy.
Successful dealers have always genuinely cared about their customer. They’ve worked hard at building solid, win-win relationships with their community. Even though the Social platform is new, this business fundamental remains intact. Technology has made it simpler but the learning curve is running interference. The piece needed to bridge the gap is knowledge and training. You now need to invest in thorough training and bolster your store’s in-house resources in order to properly manage the relationships you build.
To create the best selling opportunities for your store, you must optimize your Social presence. Invest in making your store visible in the Social space. When car shoppers are spending the bulk of their time on 3rd party sites to research their next purchase, it’s no longer an option to connect with them via Social Media, it’s standard equipment.