Sometimes the success — or very survival — of a company can hinge on one pivitol decision.
Bill Page Honda faced a pivitol decision such as this when the dealership, then a Pontiac franchise, decided to start selling Hondas in 1971.
“At one point, Honda came in and said, ‘You’re going to have to make a decision: Honda or Pontiac’,” said Brian Kanyan, partner and CFO of the dealership. “Thank goodness Mr. Page made the right decision. Not only was it the right business decision, it was a fantastic life decision.”
Located in Falls Church, Virginia, William H. Page founded Bill Page Honda in 1950. In an area once considered “farm country”, the dealership faced some initial struggles getting customers in the door. “They had to work really hard to get people to come out to this area,” Kanyan said. “It took a great competitive spirit to get shoppers out into the country.”
That rural country landscape has changed around Bill Page Honda over the years. Falls Church is now considered part of the Washington D.C. Metro area and is filled with people from different countries and cultures — all with diverse needs. In an effort to grow and adapt to the area’s changing demographics, as well as the evolving automotive marketing landscape, the dealership needed to modernize. In 2014, Bill Page Honda demolished its original 1950’s building and constructed an all new state-of-the-art facility, allowing them to meet new challenges and take advantage of greater opportunities.
Growth Through Change
Kanyan is no stranger to change and growth. In 1988, he graduated college with an accounting degree and became a CPA where he worked with various clients, some of which were automotive groups. During his four years as a CPA, he was introduced to owner Bill Page, and sparked a conversation about taking on the Controller position in the dealership’s accounting department. “I was excited for the change and to be able to specialize in something, so I came to work for Bill in 1992,” Kanyan said.
As time went on, Kanyan realized he could do more for the business. “I asked Bill if I could train and learn more about selling cars, and how to get more involved in that end of the business,” he said. “For two or three years, I worked in sales and sales management while still holding my position as Controller. From there, it just grew.”
There were many long hours and late nights as Kanyan filled both the Sales Manager and the Controller positions, but they were worth it. “I enjoyed the opportunity and I loved what I was doing here,” he said. A few years later, Kanyan was given the opportunity to buy into the dealership with Page and his son, Bill Page Jr. “[Bill Page] is a very generous man and gave me a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I was able to grow with the company.”
Kanyan, who is married with two sons, said he feels like a true member of the Page family. “I love the family environment of this dealership and I love what I do,” he said. “They’ve welcomed me in with open arms. These are good people all around.”
The Importance of Family
Kanyan explained that the “family feeling” permeates throughout the entire dealership, and the partners wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re proud to be a family-owned and family-oriented dealership,” he said. “We don’t believe in a corporate environment where it takes six months to make a decision.”
“Encouraging an atmosphere where the team is free to voice thoughts and opinions is one of the dealership’s strongest characteristics,” Kanyan said. “We have an open-door policy, where all our employees are encouraged to speak up with ideas and concerns,” he explained. “We listen to any idea brought to us. We might not agree with every idea, but we’ll absolutely listen to everything. We’re not afraid to try new things.”
While some of the ideas might not be game changers, the leadership at Bill Page Honda won’t immediately dismiss anything. “We know we can turn things on and turn things off as we see fit,” Kanyan said. “Empowering our staff has been invaluable to our organization.”
The dealership relies on employee input to mitigate its challenging location. Not only does the dealership face competition from four other dealerships within a nine-mile radius, but Washington D.C. is different from many metropolitan areas due to the cultural makeup of our nation’s capital. While most would see the cultural diversity as a hindrance, Kanyan views this as a positive.
“One thing I love about the area we’re in, besides being densely populated, is the cultural diversity,” Kanyan remarked. “At one point, we spoke eight languages in this dealership. It’s very interesting to meet different people from different backgrounds.”
The dealership embraces the diverse market by including the team in marketing decisions. “The sales and service staff help with advertising regarding all the different demographics,” Kanyan said. “They’re essential in this process because they are the ones in contact with our customers everyday. Their feedback on where or when we should be advertising is valuable because they know what customers are looking for.”
Challenges in Advertising
Over the past few years, Bill Page Honda has evolved its advertising philosophy to take advantage of new technology and changing trends. “It’s all about staying in tune with your customers,” Kanyan said. “With four other Honda dealers within a nine-mile radius, it’s a competitive market. Being responsive to customers is crucial.”
Reassessing their marketing efforts changed the way the dealership communicates with its customers. “When we moved into the new building, we cut back most of the different types of advertising,” Kanyan said. “We did keep some of the cultural advertising, but from a generic standpoint, we got rid of a lot of the big names you think you need to use within the automotive industry.”
The dealership wanted to make more focused marketing efforts, rather than the out-dated “spray-and-pray” approach. “We made the decision to partner with one organization and focus on one consistent message at a time,” Kanyan said. “We wanted that consistent message to resonate throughout all of our advertising. If we were running a vehicle-exchange program, for example, all our marketing said the same thing. Having one consistent message across the board proved to be so successful that we have stuck with that philosophy to this day.”
Maintaining Marketing Focus
Bill Page Honda partnered with Team Velocity Marketing to revamp its marketing approach and explore new avenues of reaching consumers. “About 80 percent of our marketing budget is focused on digital advertising,” Kanyan said, “which allows a more structured approach. My thinking is we can only sell a pre-owned car one time. I don’t need 50 leads on the same car.”
Team Velocity worked with the dealership to streamline its marketing strategy and figure out where the marketing dollars could be the most effective. “We use Team Velocity for our direct mail, email and all of our digital advertising,” Kanyan said. “They make sure we have a consistent message and give us transparent reporting so we can see what’s working best.”
Team Velocity Marketing’s Apollo Technology Platform® has been especially helpful for Kanyan and his team. “Apollo offers a wonderful Opportunity Dashboard where all our customer data and leads are aggregated in one spot. We can identify service customers who are in positive equity positions and target them as a sales opportunity in our service department, as well as work customers who have been active in their Consumer Portals. Bill Page, Jr. oversees business opportunities and calls generated by Apollo. It’s been a great partnership with Team Velocity Marketing.”
Working in a densely populated area, Bill Page Honda has found a more localized marketing approach to be the most effective strategy. “We just try to take care of our own backyard,” Kanyan said. “We don’t try to target our competition. There are enough people within our area to be successful. If we do a good job penetrating our market, we’ll continue to grow year over year.”
The dealership’s marketing strategy is designed to take full advantage of the concentrated market. “We do a lot of mining our own database and working our service department, but targeting the right customers is critical. Even from a digital standpoint, we can target customers who are further down the sales funnel,” Kanyan said. “We keep most of our marketing within 10 miles of the dealership but saturate the area.” Our goal is to set up a long-term relationship with the customer. With the traffic we have in this area, if someone living 20 miles away buys from us, we’re probably not going to see them back in for service. We will sell to everyone, of course, but we’re truly trying to target people in our own backyard.”
A highly targeted integrated marketing strategy not only keeps business close to home, but has a proven track record of growth for the dealership. “By implementing a targeted data and integrated marketing strategy, via the Apollo Technology Platform, we have seen tremendous year over year growth – overall sales are up 9 percent, new car sales are up 9 percent, used car sales through April are up 18 percent, and service RO’s are up by 16 percent. Relative to our competition and the flat market, we are thrilled with those results,” stated Kanyan.
Growing Towards the Future
Bill Page Honda has been around since 1950, and attributes focusing on the right growth pattern as a key secret to their continued success. “We’re not looking to be a ‘one-hit wonder’, grow an exorbitant amount and then flat-line,” Kanyan said. “We want sustained growth and we can do that. We can’t focus on things out of our control, like world events or the economy, but what we can do is focus on what we can control — our people and our processes at the store. If we can continue to establish these long-term relationships with our customers, which are built around trust, then we can sustain that growth year after year.”