One of the most valuable assets that a dealer lost within the world of online advertising and marketing was loyalty to the store, or to a particular salesperson. No longer was it, ‘I shopped there because my father did.’ Or ‘I bought my car from her, because that’s who my mother always did business with.’ In a world where the power of advertising the vehicle all but took the dealership out of the equation, it was only a necessary evil required by the state to sell me a car, is there a way to bring loyalty and a relationship back into the game?
There have been several phases of online advertising, but realistically none of them have really changed how the vehicles were advertised. Think about it. . . the true first phase of online advertising was with sites like cars.com and Auto Trader. Those sites were truly built to replace the newspaper classified listings. Coming from a job at a newspaper, one can still remember the crazy afternoons of Thursday and Friday when the fax machine would spit off piles of papers listing every dealership’s hottest commodity – their used cars that were for sale that weekend. Dealers listed hundreds of cars that way. Just a short period of time ago, The Dallas Morning News, the Belo newspaper in Dallas, TX, broke a record with a 88 page automotive classified section. That’s a lot of cars for sale. The classified ‘liner’ ad philosophy was picked up by the online ‘classified sites’ as they were called in the beginning. It started with a year, a make, a model, a price as a small blurb about the cars.
Sprinkled into the mix of the automotive classified phase of online advertising (which hasn’t gone away, by the way, and can still have lots of improvements to increase ROI and ROE), were the lead generators and the auction sites. The lead generators were a phase that point more value on the email lead itself and less emphasis on the actual car. The biggest challenge that lead generators fought were how to control the dealerships response process, and therefore expectations, to ensure that closing ratios were decent and cost per lead did not sky rocket. Auctions took that communication out altogether and left the vehicle and the site to manage the advertising and the selling process. Outside of eBay, nothing ever really accomplished that in a way that made sense beyond the super rare and the super cheap vehicles.
The second phase of online advertising extended the online classified concept has grown, offering many more features to each of the listing from trackable contact information, multiple photos and videos, robust features and pricing tools that allowed a dealership to change prices in real time to be more competitive, at the end of the day, it was still a newspaper classified advertising model. Now that 88 page auto section has been replaced with 4.1 million vehicle listings on cars.com – it’s like reading every classified section in the country at one time.
So what is next in the world of online vehicle advertising? In the time of ‘show-rooming,’ which is one of the most frightening concepts that threaten your lot today, what can you do to keep a better Vehicle Description or a $200 price difference from someone walking off your lot and never coming back. In an article published today in Auto Remarketing Joe Overby quoted Cox Automotive’s Jared Rowe as saying that “ a lot of it [being successful online] is going to fall upon the unique selling proposition of the dealer . . .” I could not agree more, the dealership itself, and the salespeople themselves are going to have to craft a way to create a loyalty with their potential audience, and separate themselves from their peers. This is a one-to-one advertising world at the moment. We, as consumers, put more value in our mobile devices than our computers anymore. The one-to-one communication gives us the ability to build a relationship, to build trust that no longer require a handshake. How are you, your dealership, and your salesforce preparing to be able to do that?
The good news is, we are not the first industry to have to do this, and the rules are not that different for a sales team at a local Ford store than they are the anchor team on the 5 o’clock news. The key is using social media to create a one-on-one relationship with your audience that creates a value that isn’t available to those that don’t have that relationship. If that sounds like a tall order, well good, because it is. But it can be done, at the individual salesperson level and then ultimately at the dealership level as well. First, as a dealer, you have to get over the fact that your sales people are representing themselves, at the same time as your dealership, across multiple social media platforms. If you don’t like them having that connection, why are they selling vehicles on your lot? If you cannot trust them to represent your store online, how can you trust them to do so in-person?
There are a number of social media sites and processes out there that can be of assistance, and if not managed correctly, can become overwhelming. As with anything, step 1 is coming up with a strategy. What tool, how you are going to use it, and most importantly, where are you going to get your audience? To win an audience, one must become a brand, and that brand has to represent a unique value to the consumer. What is your brand? What is your unique value? Why should I do business with you, as a salesperson, as a store? What is different about our relationship than say one I would have with any other salesperson at any other dealership? Once you’ve created that strategy and that value selling proposition, now you’re ready for the rest of the game.
Stuck on step one? No problem. We at UpShift Digital have a unique perspective on helping dealerships and salespeople create and communicate their unique selling proposition online. Check by here often to get our tips, or simply email us at email@example.com to find out how we can start you creating the store and personal loyalty that sells you more cars!
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