What’s the ROI on Being Awesome?

(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Have you ever wondered what the ROI is on being Awesome?

How a car dealership is perceived is everything. Customers have a long standing fear of getting the gold-chain wearing, oil salesman who is going to push them into buying without letting them decide for themselves. Pushing them to buy a car for too much money, that will break down right away. People are shopping online more than ever, avoiding coming to your dealership until the last minute.

So? Do you want them to come to you when they are done with the research process, and are ready to buy? Then you better make sure they know you are awesome. How? By being awesome! Make sure everyone who walks through your door, visits your service department, and comes to your website gets exactly what they need. Not only that, they get it in a way that makes them feel good, comfortable, and willing to return.

Be visible in the social media (and real) communities where your customers hang out, and answer their questions. Give away information! (And please, don’t try to sell them anything.) They want to trust in you BEFORE they walk in your door. How can they do that if they have never communicated with you or had a friend recommend you? They can’t! So, get out there. Be Awesome!

What do you think the monetary value is of Being Awesome?


Twitter For Your Dealership: Why & How

(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

At first glance, Twitter might seem a bit silly. I mean, how much can you actually say in 140 characters? I have to admit, after much usage and experimenting, the value I have found in Twitter has been quite a surprise to me. So much so, that I figured I should help you get over that hump and get the most out of Twitter right out of the gates.

Here is a run down on why Twitter can help your dealership and how to get the most out of it Right Now.

Customer Service

The most advantageous way to use Twitter in your dealership is to listen for and encourage customer feedback. If someone is not happy with your service or sales they quite possibly could complain about you on Twitter. By responding to this complaint, you show your willingness to listen and care, not just to the complainer but to all your Twitter followers. It also gives users a quick point of contact if they have questions or concerns.

How: Use Hootsuite to manage your Twitter account. Set up a column of search keywords, use variations of your dealership name to catch any mentions of you on Twitter.


Do you like to chat with customers & prospects? Why not do it on Twitter? By following local people on Twitter you can enter the conversation, whatever it might be. Someone posts a complaint about the weather or traffic or other local interest, you can jump in to show you care. This adds humanity to your dealership, which can go a long way.

How: Use the Twitter search bar to find Tweets in Your Area, and follow those people. Or use Twellowhood to find users in your area. Also follow back customers when they begin to follow you.

Share Expert Advice

Giving quick tips through Twitter about car buying, maintenance or service is an easy way to be the expert in your field. You already have the information in house, start sharing it. This will also encourage your followers to ask relevant questions through the medium too. Someone’s check engine light comes on, and they don’t know what they should do, they can and will ask you on Twitter.

How: Post quick tips regularly on Twitter. You can get a list from your service manager, or ask for specifics when inclement weather or news sparks a little buzz around a topic. If the tip is longer, use bit.ly to provide a short link to a full “How To” Article posted on your website or Facebook.

Customer Appreciation

Create a little bit of incentive or bonus for those who follow you on Twitter. While we try to stay away from selling, every once in a while offer them a deal that no one else gets. A super great service deal. A cash back offer on buying a car. Whatever the deal is, it has to be special.

How: Share a coupon that you have online but no one else knows about with a bit.ly short link. Or simply allow them to mention that they read it on Twitter to get the deal.

Growing Your Reach

With Twitter you have the chance to reach a lot of people. Say you are posting a great tip on car maintenance, you have a chance of being re-tweeted exponentially by others in the industry or car owners who think the tip was good and want to share. This is the easiest word of mouth your customers can give you. Good content from you and one click from them is all it takes to spread your brand.

How: #1 – Good content. #2 – Try and leave room for the Retweet, making the post 140 characters minus your @ handle + 3 characters. So if your handle is @handle – keep your post 130 characters or less.

Keep up with Industry News

Staying in tune with industry and OEM news is a job in and of itself. With Twitter you can follow all the relevant people and organizations in the auto dealership industry to keep up to date. If a huge recall is announced or a new car is launched, it will be on Twitter, in almost real time. By following all the right people you will never miss industry news again.

How: Use the Twitter search bar to search for OEM names and dealership keywords. Follow the people who talk about those things. If you find someone who is prominent in the Twitter-verse for dealerships, look at their Following list and follow those who are relevant to you.

There are many other benefits of using Twitter – but this should get you started. Do you have any great tips to add to my list?


6 Tips For Using Facebook Inventory Effectively

(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Facebook applications are getting very popular among car dealerships with the ever present Inventory Application leading the way. While this is a very cool application and a fabulous feature to add to your Facebook page, what does your dealership get out of it?

Is it simply mimicking your Web Inventory listing on to your Facebook page? Does your Facebook Inventory make it easier and quicker for them to show their interest in you? Does it inspire them to increase the frequency at which they interact with you? Do your customers even know it’s there?

Is a Facebook Inventory Application nice to have? Yes, of course. But it’s only going to do something for you if you are vigilant about engaging with your customers in a valuable social way – and if you get your customers to leave their Facebook Home Page and visit your Dealership Fan Page.

Here are some simple ideas on how to get the most out of your Facebook Inventory Application:

  • Advise current customers that your inventory is viewable from Facebook. You can do this when they are in your service department, when they are in the showroom, you can include the message in Emails, Direct-Mailers, and even share this information on your Facebook Wall every now and again.
  • Change your settings so that non-fans who come to your Facebook page land right on your Inventory Tab. This may seem a bit “un-social” but everyone knows how to get to your Wall, not everyone pays attention to your other tabs once they are on your Wall.
  • Make sure the Share button on your Inventory is prominent and the share box that pops up has an eye catching thumb-nail and a great headline.
  • Start a very geographically focused Facebook Ad campaign, inviting users to shop inventory on Facebook so that they can share their choices with friends — getting help in the decision making process.
  • Give a special incentive to Facebook shoppers; a small referral fee or cash back can go a long way to drive new people to your dealership, so that they can find out how awesome you are.
  • Keep a good stream of conversational content on your Facebook page so that when you do talk about Inventory in your feed (on occasion) you have an audience. Once someone stops following you, you lose them indefinitely, so try not to scare them off with sales pitches.

With 500 million users on Facebook every day, how are you making the most of your Inventory Application? What other services do you think you could offer right on Facebook to add quality to your Facebook Fans’ experience?


6 Hard Truths to Guide Dealership Social Media Content

(Originally published in Fall of 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

There are no cut and dry rules for using social media as a marketing tool. What works for one, may not work for another. And getting started can be a scary daunting task that is all too easy to abandon if you are not getting the amount of interactions and conversations you want.

I have uncensored my self in an effort to help your dealership approach social media with the right attitude, even if it is hard to for you to hear.

People Don’t Care About You (the dealership)

Your customers do not care how big you are, how busy you are, or how important you are in the dealership world. They just don’t. They care about what you will do for them. So to make it very clear, do NOT post things like:

“We’re the biggest x dealer in blah blah blah U.S.A.”

“Dealer Name is working hard to bring you blah blah blah car stuff.”

And rarely, if ever post “We’re having the biggest sale in x years .” (Fans will skip right over content if you post sales too much. Keep it fresh, so when you do post a sale, they read it.)

People Distrust You

Few people trust car dealerships. It is just a long standing stigma that you have to deal with. The best way to do that is to put faces and personalities out there, humanizing your dealership. If your fans can see that Joe in the finance department just welcomed a baby boy, they can relate. If your customers get to hear the news that Sara in the BDC is part of a winning local roller derby team, they can relate. If they get to see pictures of the dealership owner cheering on his basketball playing nephew at the local High School game, they can relate. People like to connect on a personal level, so don’t be afraid to share.

People Need Incentive to Act

Why should people follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Would you follow you? Give them some incentive. Create content they care about (see Truth #1), and once you establish a stream of good content, draw in your relevant crowd with a giveaway or contest so that they can see your great content and make a decision to stay or go.

People Want You to Care About Them

By replying to people within your social media community for everyone else to see, you show that you care. Let the person running your page have an opinion on some things, making them realistic. For example: If a user posts a recipe for chocolate covered pickles – your social media team can reply that the recipe sounds disgusting. Keep the opinions in the harmless sphere of non judgmental Likes/Dislikes (don’t touch politics or religion or name calling) to create a good discussion. After all, if everyone agrees there is not much to discuss.

If You Don’t Listen, They Won’t Either

Pay attention to who your followers are and what they care about. If you post a comment about country music and no one responds, it is possible you don’t have many country music fans following you. Pay attention to what your followers are saying, and constantly alter your strategy to match their likes and interests. If you continue to post about the stuff you know and like – ignoring your fans interests, they will un-follow and you will have a hard time getting them back.

They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

Do your customers even know you are on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube? They aren’t likely sitting at home searching for their local car dealerships on Facebook or Twitter just for fun. Tell them! Put a few signs around the Showroom and Service department. Add the logos to your newspaper ads and mailers. And for goodness sake, tell them in person. Don’t you think that service customer would love to know that they could have saved $5 on their oil change if they were a Facebook fan? Tell them!

Your most Important Audience is Not made up of Men

This might be the hardest point to get across. Dealerships are notoriously filled with male employees. It is just the way the industry is. That being said, your key audience is NOT men. So, what makes you and all your employees read on, laugh, get involved – is not what gets your customers attention. You need to really pay attention, because in a family situation, the woman is making the decision. If you can get her on your side, then you are going to be that much better for it. While you still have male customers, you need to be sure to embrace ALL of your customers.

Dealership Analytics = Elementary Math Lesson: “Double-check you work.”

(Originally published in July 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

What would Mrs. Miller say if she saw most of us today? Would she be sorely disappointed that we have all abandoned the process? Would she grab us by the ear and walk us to the front of the class making an example out of us?

I don’t know about you, but nightmares of that embarrassment keeps me on the straight and narrow in regards to doing my best and double checking it when I am done. In business the best way to begin checking your work is through Google Analytics and Webmasters Tools.

Just one scenario of analytics saving a website; we redesigned an entire dealership homepage 10 days after we launched it, for a seemingly insignificant design choice. By watching where people clicked we found that from their perspective it was not clear that the Used Car link was indeed a link. By adjusting that feature we were able to get users to the used cars inventory as quickly as possible. Check your work, check it often, and fix it if it isn’t working. Here’s a small clip [of Mitch] from an Analytics discussion we had at Insights Group the other day.

Do you know how many leads your site generates, do you know how much traffic your site gets and where they are coming from, do you know how many people get to your site and bounce right out, do you know where you rank in a search engine, do you know if your site is optimized for google keyword searches, do you know if people are finding what they came to your website for?

If the answer is no, we recommend you call your web provider and have a discussion about your Google Analytics and Web Masters Tools. You will want to watch your analytics regularly, and look for areas of improvement.

3 Reasons Why Dealerships Should Use Foursquare

(Originally published in July 2010 while writing for Xspond.)

Foursquare is a Geo-location phone application that allows users to “Check-in” wherever they are at using their mobile device. This allows the business to see who is coming and going, and it allows the user’s friends to see where they are. Which is in essence letting everyone know where their friends shop, getting your business an automated word-of-mouth.

I know what you’re thinking, “How can Foursquare be of benefit to my dealership when people only buy cars once every three years?” Here are some quick reasons and ways that Foursquare can help you.

Promoting Customer Loyalty

Mayorship awards. By rewarding the person who is at your dealership the most it will create a game among local patrons to win that coveted role. To do this they would come to your showroom to check out the new cars, come to your service department for oil changes and other maintenance, and come to your parts department to pick up anything they need. If they are the mayor you would provide them with a very special deal that no one else can get. This deal you give them should be a discount on your services, so that when they visit you, they get an incentive to keep coming back.

Offer a frequency based deal. For every x number of visits the user gets a discount. This could be a perfect set up for a car dealership service department. If it is recommended to rotate their tires every third oil change and you can cater to their exact needs by giving it to them for free every third visit, that will encourage them to get their oil changed with you to ensure they earn that free tire rotation. They have to get their oil changed anyway, they might as well earn another service for free while they do it.

Notifying People in the Immediate Vicinity of Current Specials

Offers Near By. Setting up offers to automatically alert people who are in the vicinity allows you to capitalize on your locality in a major way. Anyone who check in to Foursquare while sitting at the coffee shop next door can get an alert offering them a coupon for an oil change. The application will use the user’s GPS location to offer them any deals that are currently in the area. This can be a valuable tool for someone who may need a reminder that their oil needs changing. They are right next door or right across the street, they might as well swing in.

Finding Out the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of your Visitors

When you set up your dealership on Foursquare you get immediate access to real time stats about your visitors. Similar to the way Google Analytics helps you know more about your Website visitors, it gives you invaluable information about your physical visitors. Here is what you can learn and how it can help you:

  • By knowing the most recent visitors who have checked in to your dealership you can find out if your employees did a good job getting contact information. This could be a great checks and balances tools for Customer Service.
  • Knowing the most frequent visitor will allow you to create a welcoming community for this frequent guest. By doing this you can find out why they frequent you so much. If they are browsing your used car lot for a specific car they cannot find, maybe you can help them find it elsewhere. If they are constantly in your service shop, you can offer them a courtesy ride to wherever they would like to go, along with a discount on the services they are using so often.
  • What would you do if you could tell the number of unique visitors each day, and find out who they are? Would you be interested in tracking the return rate of these unique visitors? Would you be interested in finding out if you have a huge group of returning customers and very few new customers? This information would prove to be invaluable in how you market yourself. If you have tons of return customers and not a ton of new, then you would certainly adjust your advertising efforts accordingly.
  • One of my favorite bits of information that Foursquare can provide is the time of day people check-in. What if you find that people are frequenting your lot after hours? Or better yet, what if they are not frequenting your lot during open hours? This can help you adjust your employee schedule to help you minimize expenses during typically slow periods of the day.
  • For a long time we’ve been able to track customer demographics through sales made, contacts made, and web customer tracking, but what if you knew the demographics of those who visit your lot but do not share their contact information? This would certainly allow you to customize your on-site efforts to cater to the specific people that are coming to your lot. Maybe you find that young mothers are on your lot a lot more than anyone else? Would you do anything different to make the experience better for them? Would you put your best family cars out front?

If you want to know more about what Foursquare actually is, please check out their website. And please keep in mind that this is just a tool, one of many, and should be used in coordination with all of your marketing efforts.

What Foursquare offers have been successful for you?