Thursday, March 24, 2011

Faith-Based Dealerships?

Too many dealerships seem to practice as “faith-based” businesses—not faith in a higher religious power (which might actually help!), but faith that their GM, GSMs, salespeople, marketing, etc. will work as they always have.  That they can somehow resist modern business changes from sales to processes because they have magical faith both in people who don’t even know that they need modernized thinking and in processes that are breaking every day

The Internet is relentless now, and there’s no going back to the Stone Age of Car Sales where people waited for the UP Bus and dealers only had to have good ad-cars in the local newspaper.  If you maintain operating under that history today, you will soon be history

And the processes in place to convert visitors into sales, from the showroom to the service drive, are more important than ever.  I’m reminded of what my friend, Scott Falcone of World Hyundai and Presto Reviews, says about reputation:  Fundamentally, you have to consistently deliver great sales and service or no one can help you with it.  I’ll add that excellent sales results still ultimately come from people and processes that deliver excellence to the customer.

I only have my own observations, but it seems to be 10% of the dealer body “gets it”, and about 40% of the remaining dealer body will follow as much of what the top 10% are doing as they can afford.  Or stand, really, as oftentimes it’s a “fear factor” that holds them back, not really understanding what they are doing and not wanting to change.  And do their processes still stand in the way of their success, even with all the help from the modern marketing items?

Yes!  Internet marketing efforts, social media, reputation management, QR codes, data mining, email blasts, targeted direct mail—dealerships must modernize around these items, but none of them will overcome the losses from bad processes.  That is the challenge, to modernize and then meet the success of modern marketing with modern sales processes.

Faith will always have its place in human culture, but at dealerships it is no replacement for actions that are necessary for good business.

So, which will really make you successful:  Chanting magic over a newspaper ad in the service drive at midnight, or embracing and implementing modern marketing combined with modern sales processes?

If your answer could involve a stone altar, you need to change.  And soon.

By Keith Shetterly,

Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

P.S. If you are looking for help, consider attending Brian Pasch's Automotive Marketing Bootcamp just before Digital Dealer 10 in April.  I'll be teaching a session there there, as will other great folks.  Come learn! 

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Does Your Software Vendor Support You?

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved
Support.  It's not something that a good product can do without.  Ever.  The best training will not overcome the need for it.  So, with the products you have, do you get Product Support?  Do you know who to call?  And when?

I spent some time last week talking to a dealer who had installed a key, new piece of software at the dealership.  Training had been great.  Software was installed.  Then an issue came up:  Software was failing because of problem at the vendor.  Data was corrupted.  Support was needed.

Except you can only dial Product Support during a set number of hours each day.  And they had no answers except that it was "being worked on"--and are still having that problem, as far as I know.

I had once looked at this same product for one of my clients.  My client selected something else, but I really liked this product.  Who knew support was such an issue?

On another point, I spoke late last year to a great consultant.  A rock star in the automotive market.  I was talking to him about a different product that I'd used for years (inherited it at the dealer), and I found out that he was recommending this product to his clients--which I would NOT do.  I asked why he was recommending it, and he said he's installed it at several of his clients, and that he was happy with it.

I asked about Product Support, because I knew intimately this had long been an issue for this product vendor.  They had JUST added a Product Support area at their company because they finally realized its importance, but that support was still young and iffy.  Anyway, the consultant replied to me, "Well, I'm not around, typically, when support is needed.  But it's a great product!!"  Let me explain.

Before I came into this industry years back, I spent many years developing, marketing, and selling software.  Nationally and internationally.  I am still shocked at how little Product Support is understood in automotive.  Or even asked about.  If a vendor won't invest in product support that fits YOUR needs, no matter how good they seem, walk away. 

So, before you buy a software product that you're betting your business on, perform these three tasks and review the results:

1) Determine the hours of coverage and whether they close support at 5pm on a Friday--do you want to be down with this product before and through a weekend?

2) Insist on ten current references for the product.  Call all of them and ask them about support issues.  If you can find dealerships that are using the product but are NOT on this reference list, much the better--find out what THEY say, too.

3) Call support yourself and see what it takes to get through.  Do they create a trouble ticket so you (and they) can track the issue resolution?  Surprise!  The second product I talked about above did NOT generate a trouble ticket for reference on subsequent calls for the FIRST FIVE YEARS IT EXISTED.  Yikes!

And choose the software vendors that provide the best answers to these items--they are the ones that will support you.  The ones who know great software needs great support and provide it.  I'm proud to know a few of them myself.

So . . . it's Friday at 5pm, and the software is down.  You need product support.  Is your vendor there for you?

They better be.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Extinction Event Sale! This Weekend!!

Extinction Event Sale!  Every Weekend in 2011!!  With some dealers, that’s the business they are in, and they don’t even know it.  And they need to adapt to instead survive!  Here’s what I mean:

Extinction?  Scientists say the fossil record of bones indicates several sudden mass extinctions of life during the history of the earth, called "extinction events", possibly due to large meteor impacts.  Even if that’s eventually determined to be wrong, I believe we are poised at a real extinction event for dealers who do not get aboard the Internet.  2011 will be the beginning of that.

And don’t think this is the “chicken little” cry you heard over ten years ago—it’s real, and you can see it today at our conferences:  Who is there talking about “starting the Internet” and who is doing business ON the Internet NOW?  Who is the dinosaur in threat of extinction and who is not?

The Internet is not something you write a check to someone about and say “Handle it!”  It’s as fundamental to a dealership’s business now as any advertising and sales effort has ever been.  As fundamental as the need for air.  It cannot be ignored by any modern dealership, and it cannot be misunderstood by any modern dealership.  At least, not dealerships that are ready in 2011 for the fullest impact of the Internet on their business that they have ever seen.

Who will survive the Internet meteor?  Who will succumb and be extinct?  Really, which do you want to be?  The survivors, of course.

How to survive?  Get your website, online inventory, social media, online reputation, mobile website, and SEO/PPC modernized and in place.  Get rid of as much newspaper as you can stand.  For any direct mail, do targeted direct mail to the right customers ONLY.  Get email blasts going for sales and service.  Install the best CRM/Internet Lead Manager (CRM/ILM) that you can.  Film and host short video testimonials from happy customers, as well as videos of your cars for sale.  Focus on your fixed ops Internet presence, allowing customers to get online for appointments, status, and sales/offers.  And learn to answer the PHONE the right way:  Stop answering phone calls that cost you $2-300 to get with an $8-an-hour receptionist who answers/routes wrong, and if your sales staff is answering the sales calls then train them AND hold them accountable.  And just give up that blue inflatable gorilla on your roof for good.

Otherwise, you’ll soon join the fossil record of dinosaur bones in the transportation retail business that already includes those who couldn’t understand the change that the telephone brought.  Or print advertising.  Or that the automobile was taking the place of the horse!

Bones are like that:  Some scientist may dig them up and study them one day.  Who knows.  However, for now in 2011 it’s not too late to survive the Internet meteor.  I have one word to help you with that:

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

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