I’ve worked in every automotive retail environment–Audi to VW, Ford to Ferrari–and I’ve seen some great cars, with great design, that were very reliable. There are also some that sucked. I managed a busy Ford store in 1990. We sold 350 units a month and pushed 150 cars a day through Service. The cars would break so often that nearly every day a customer was yelling at someone.
I’d come into work early one morning and discovered a car coming in the drive being towed in. I noticed it was the vehicle we had just delivered the night before and while in those days I was used to Fords breaking a lot, it was rare to see one back the next morning on a Hook.
I went out to the Service Manager, Ray, and asked him what happened. He said the customer had called him first thing that morning and said that he’d gone out to get into his new car to go to work and it wouldn’t start. Ray had the car picked up so we could see what was wrong and fix it. Once the car was loaded safely off the tow truck, Ray lifted the hood and found that the reason the car didn’t start that morning was because it had actually caught on fire the night before and put itself out!
In 2011, most every car in its designated class is reliable, the pricing is comparable and some would say they even look alike. So how do dealers differentiate themselves from their competitors? Relationships. In fact, that’s the part that hasn’t changed at all: word-of-mouth has always been the preferred form of marketing. In a recent eMarketer study, 84% of consumers say a referral from friends and family influences their buying decision. Social networks facilitate word-of-mouth referrals.
By developing a “Social” relationship with your customer, they give you permission to market to them. You stay in touch with them just as if you sent them mailers or put ads in the paper. Relationship building is how dealers can win in a level playing field. Developing interest in your store through Social Media marketing generates leads for your sales, parts and service departments. Your store’s Social Capital is how you attract buyers today.
Think about and communicate what makes you different. Tell your story and create a bond with the customer. Build a community of Raving Fans. Your story and your delivery of that story is what makes the difference to the consumer. Give people a compelling reason to buy from you and they will.