It's one of the most overlooked components of a modern automotive internet marketing strategy. Some do it naturally, expressing the way they want the dealership to be perceived by customers and potential customers by instilling a unified sense of direction amongst employees, on their website, and throughout their online interactions such as on social media or when replying to reviews. Most have not set up a personality in the traditional sense and are just trying to get by day-to-day facing whatever obstacles come at them.
Your dealership's personality shines through regardless of whether you've established one or not. For most, it's one that is friendly, inviting, and competitive. This works. It just doesn't work as well as it could if the dealership took a more holistic approach to all customer-facing activities online and offline.
So, what exactly is a personality as it pertains to a dealership (or any business for that matter)? Let's start there...
Understanding Your Business Personality
It's not the easiest concept to understand. Sure, we all have a personality that shines through from the top, permeates to our employees, and (hopefully) manifests properly to our customers. It could be as simple as a "whatever it takes" personality, one that tries to communicate to customers (and employees) that we're here to earn your business and we're not going to let price get in the way. For others, it could be a community-effort personality, one that focuses on the family-owned-and-operated component that builds trust and lets customers (and employees) know that they can count on your dealership to be there for them.
Some go a more direct route. This is where the old television commercials come in with men screaming about amazing deals. This type of personality is often frowned upon, but it has been effective in the past and is, to some extent, still effective today. How long that will last, nobody knows. I would anticipate that the effectiveness is waning.
What is your focus point? That's the start of establishing your personality. Do you focus on being the volume dealer that can has the right vehicles and that can deliver the best prices possible? Do you focus on being honest and personable, making low pressure and pleasant experience the trademark of your company? Is your dealership fun with the owner wearing crazy hats and blow-up giant monkeys gracing your roof from time to time?
Whatever your focus is, you can build your personality around it. Now, let's look at the importance of establishing your personality from the dealership level straight through to websites and social media.
Why a Personality is Important
You can't be everything to everyone. You can't tell them on one hand that you're a volume dealership that does anything and everything to put them in a car, then try to be the low-pressure, awesome customer service and experience dealership that relies on repeat and referral business. You can try, but it doesn't work.
The only way to control the public perception of your dealership is to craft your personality around a single focus.That's not to say that you can't be a volume dealer that uses a low-pressure style and has a monkey on your roof. It means that you shouldn't try to communicate all of those things to your potential customers in your advertising and marketing. Different things appeal to different people, but more importantly different things turn people off. They may not care whether a dealership claims to offer the lowest price because they think that all dealers will negotiate down to the same price, particularly on new cars. They might have had a bad experience in the past with a dealership that claimed to be low-pressure, only to feel like they were getting ripped off.
The more personality types you try to maintain, the more opportunities you have to turn someone off about the dealership. Consolidate. Pick the single component of your potential personality that you feel will resonate best at the dealership and through your marketing.
Make sure it's real. If you're a dealership that questions the salespeople any time they take an up that doesn't make it into the showroom, you can't take on a low-pressure personality because your salespeople will not give that impression to the customers. If you hold gross and refuse to cater to the undercuts when your competitor down the block keeps giving away cars, don't try to take on a price-beater personality.
When you have a singular personality that resonates across all channels, you'll be able to attract customers who are seeking this particular type of dealership. That's not to say that you will be turning away the invoice minus half of holdback customers if you express a hometown, good-experience type of personality. It just means that you're targeting a particular type of customer specifically and avoiding having too many personalities that can turn more people away.
Once you've decided on a personality, it's time to make it a reality.
Building the Company Culture
Some of you have already established a true company culture and now need to make sure it's applied to your online marketing efforts. Those of you who fit this bill can skip to the next section.
For the rest, it's an absolute necessity to get the company culture built. Sounds hard. It's not. It really only takes an email or two and maybe a mention in the next company meeting.
You know who you are. Let your employees know. All of them. Here's a quick example of an email that can be sent out:
To The ABC Motors Family:
We wanted to thank you all for your commitment to our success and communicate with you some of the goals we have as a dealership. For starters, we are moving forward with a plan to adjust our marketing preference around the fact that we do business differently than our competitors.
As you know, we strive to give our customers the best experience possible. We want them to know when they buy a car or service their vehicle here, that we're going to go out of our way to make the experience an unexpected surprise. Car dealerships often have a bad reputation based upon the business model itself. At ABC Motors, our goal is to delight our customers. We need your help.
When you're communicating with customers, always be mindful that our company culture is centered around giving them an outstanding experience. We hold this with the highest regard and we will want you to as well. If you have any questions or suggestions, please email Ralph@ABCMotors.com.
When was the last time you sent out an email reaffirming to your employees what your company culture really was?
Translating the Company Culture into an Online Personality
This is the tricky part. How can you sculpt your message to accomplish everything that has been outlined here? You have the overview. Now it's time to make a plan. That's not something I can do directly in an article; it differs from dealership to dealership, personality type to personality type. What I can do is give you some things to keep in mind while you're formulating your holistic strategy:
- Make Your Website Match - There's nothing worse than a generic website. Despite what OEMs have been telling you (and thankfully some are finally starting to change their tune), a unified look and feel with your competitors is not a good thing. People are no longer "internet-challenged" the way they have been in the past. They know how to navigate any dealership's website very quickly regardless of how many they've visited. Make sure that the message that you're sending out through your website matches the dealership's personality.
- Focus on Certain Pages for Personality - You have a limited number of opportunities to communicate your personality to the dealership. It's not just a matter of putting a slogan in your header and calling it a day. Every important page of you website should reiterate the personality. The "important" page include About Us, Vehicle Details Pages, and the most overlooked but highly trafficked page on your website, Hours and Directions.
- Build Ads with Your Personality in Mind - Whether it's television, radio, online videos, or banner ads, you should set the tone properly. If you're loud and fun, don't use boring colors and boring voices. If you're down to earth and family-focused, put the kids or grand kids on the ads. Communicate your personality consistently with a slogan and, whenever appropriate, expand on that personality by making a longer commitment in every ad.
- Respond to Reviews with the Right Voice - There should be a consistency that flows in your response to all of your online reviews (you are replying to all of your reviews, good or bad, right?). That doesn't mean that you're saying the same thing over and over again. It means that the tone and personality flows through your responses and establishes a consistent voice. This is who you are. This is how you reply to customer complaints. This is how your reply to happy customers. Keep it unified.
- Center Your Social Profiles Around Building Your Personality - The vast majority of dealerships do not have an appropriate voice on social media. This is different from your review response voice. It's your way of interacting with past and potential customers that reinforces that personality. There is a ton of potential symbolism involved here as well as the need to build on your presence through your personality. I will go into further detail about this in the next post in this series.
Getting the right personality in place is one of the keys to success in 2013. Most dealers have been pushing forward and having successes and failures online with their advertising and marketing. For 2013, let's eliminate the failures and improve on the successes. It starts right here.