In a Jetsons' World, It's the Flinstone Mentality That Will Win
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In a Jetsons’ World, It’s the Flinstone Mentality That Will Win

But as we continue to try to keep up with constant innovation and make sense of this whirlwind of information, a lot of us have forgotten the most important part of our business: relationships.

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Looking to Past Generations to Success at Marketing Today

“The brands that connect with clients in a real way, will win.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

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With robots popping up in more places, ads that respond to our shopping behavior and flying cars in serious development, it can feel like we’re on the brink of a futuristic, Jetsons-like world. Trip to Mars, anyone? And did you see the recent article talking about how Facebook discontinued its artificial intelligence efforts because “the robots became too smart and developed their own language”?

These technological leaps play a big role in our marketing efforts. It seems like every time we turn around there’s a new concept, a new acronym or a new strategy to deploy, all to reach the same goal we’ve always had: sell and service more vehicles than we did last month, last quarter, last year.

But as we continue to try to keep up with constant innovation and make sense of this whirlwind of information, a lot of us have forgotten the most important part of our business: relationships.

We already know that relationships are the core of our business today — it’s just time to bring them to the forefront of our marketing strategy. And that’s where looking back allows us to move forward.

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Our grandparents’ generation is better equipped to handle this world of social media because they knew the value of relationships, and not just with family and friends, but also with neighbors, store owners and the rest of the community; they didn’t think twice about bringing a casserole to a sick neighbor. In business, salespeople greeted their customers by name and actually knew quite a bit about them.

With this in mind, my challenge for you is this: As we continue to move toward a “Jetsons’” world, it is the “Flintstone” mentality that will win. 

Our social marketing tools allow us to take the best of what we can learn from older generations and scale the heck out of it to both strengthen current relationships and build new ones. To make this mind shift less intimidating, here are three things you can focus on today that will have a profound impact on your customer relationships going forward.

Start With the Customers You Already Have

We get so focused on acquiring new business that we have a tendency to forget about the customers we already have. In fact, when I speak to dealerships, they can generally rattle off stats on how well their Internet department is doing; however, if I ask, “How are you following up with your sold customers?” I get one of two responses: “I have no idea,” or an admission that it is the weakest part of their dealership, which is crazy to think about because we have already done the hard part.

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We know in this industry, more than any other, in the minds of the customer we are the bad guys. So, for us to be able to tear down their walls, build trust and earn their business is a massive victory. It is bad that we aren’t placing more effort in making sure our customers know how important they are to us. But what’s worse: We are relying on the processes within our CRMs to handle all the communication to our most important asset, and these processes are often nothing more than guesswork. You can rest assured that most communication going out is the wrong message, at the wrong time. So, all that work building trust is squandered by ineffective follow-ups that disengage these customers from your brand.

It is time to reengage.

At the very least, it’s time to do an audit on your CRM. What types of communications are going out? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about how you’d feel if you received this communication. I think you will be shocked by how irrelevant the message actually is. Now, if you’d truly like to have this part of your business covered, consider replacing a “time-based” follow-up plan with a “data-based” follow-up plan. Find a partner who gathers all the relevant data on your customers in one place to determine exactly who you need to reach out to, with what message, at what time.

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Empower Your Employees to be Advocates of Your Dealership

Why do customers drive 30 minutes out of their way to visit your dealership? It’s probably not because they heard your ad on the radio — very much more likely they know someone who works there. In fact, your employees hold the key to relationships at your dealership.

And where are relationships being built in today’s world? On social media. The days of “no social media” policies are over, so make it easy for your employees to engage with friends and family by giving them relevant information to share. Your employees have their own demographic reach on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets that your dealership simply couldn’t reach otherwise.

Build — and Guard — Your Reputation

Today’s shoppers pay attention to online reviews. A negative review isn’t necessarily a turn-off, unless you don’t respond, or respond inappropriately. “The customer is always right” is an older generation maxim that definitely applies. Again, it all comes back to relationships, and they’ll put themselves in these customers’ shoes and want to see you treating them well.

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Much like in the past, your reputation can make or break your business — the only difference is reputation went from word-of-mouth to documented online for the world to see. There are online tools available that will help you build positive reviews.

Regardless of what the next “big thing” is, we should always make our decisions based on how they will help foster relationships with our customers. For many of us, this is why we got into the business in the first place — we like people. Care about your customers and they’ll care about you.

The only thing we can count on in this industry is change; however, as we navigate the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, it is the values of past generations that will stand the test of time.

Julian Johnston

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