Close your eyes. Right now. Close your eyes. Okay, open them. I just realized you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the instructions. After you close your eyes, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Share their mindset. I know it is hard, but you have to think like them. When you are ready, open your eyes and see yourself the way your customers see you. The way the public sees you. Are you ready? Go.
Okay, open your eyes. My guess, if you are reading this, is that you followed these unnecessary instructions. Good. Now, in your new frame of mind, take a look at your social networking accounts. Visit your dealer’s Facebook account/fan page. Look at yourself on LinkedIn. See yourself on Ning. Review your Twitter posts. Watch the videos on your Youtube channel. Now I ask you…if you were a customer, what would you actually be GAINING from connecting with your dealership on these social sites? Has the dealership shown you a specific benefit from joining together? Is it advantageous becoming a fan of your dealership? Are you entertained by the dealership’s videos? Is it more of a nuisance to be their friend than a worthy addition?
Now snap out of it. As a dealer, what are you doing with ALL of your social networking sites that make it worthwhile for your customers to connect? Here are some rules that car dealers should follow when utilizing social media as a way of customer engagement.
- You need to preface every single connection you make to your public with a truthful value proposition.
- You must offer Social Networking Friend-only discounts, information, updates, contests, etc.
- You need to put out information that is of value to your consumer.
- You should be filling your posts with “How To” videos, pictures of community involvement, interesting staff pics (celebrating your employees is important), discounts, coupons, recall info, interesting videos and friendly (non-sales) advice.
- Multi-media enriched content, interesting stories, and pertinent information will allow you to engage and enchant your connections provided you post in moderation.
- Recognize that the power of social networking sites is not first and foremost Conquest Business, but Customer Retention.
- Don’t be a sales pitch.
- Don’t post a price.
- They don’t need to see every new piece of inventory.
- Don’t overwhelm them with posts.
- Never ask them to connect more than once. Time won’t change your mind.
- You need to have convinced them that a connection is worthy before they receive the invitation.
As I’ve said before, it is called SOCIAL networking, not BUSINESS networking.
Institute policies in your sales and service departments where in-store customers are told they will be invited to join and there are financial benefits to doing so. The next day, make sure someone is reviewing those service department RO’s and showroom Sold logs and reaching out to these new/existing customers. THAT is called a best practice, my friends.
Businesses on the social networking platforms have just as much opportunity to turn away customers than attract them. Incessant pleas to follow, friend, and fan can be an irritating proposition for your clients. It is imperative every invite is tracked, offered only once, and that posts are not overwhelming. Much debate has been made on whether or not to drag potential prospects away from your website and onto your social networking pages. My suggestion is to proceed with caution. Your social media efforts should be used to beckon customers to your store… to your website. After all, if your website is the most important conversion tool, don’t make it too much of a priority to convert website visitors to social networking friends. There are a couple of companies I’ve seen recently (ActivEngage and Dealer e-Process) that offer a social networking toolbar at the bottom of your website. These toolbars allow the customer to peruse your soc med pages without taking them off-site. This is a great way to have your customers connect from your website in an unobtrusive way without diverting them from their goal.
You know what you should be aiming for. Find a way to give the gift of friendship. Make sure there is a BENEFIT to them for connecting online, not just for you. Think like a customer and develop a social networking campaign that takes their needs into consideration. Be selfless on the social sites. If you do this, you likely will finally see a profit come from all of your social media efforts.