Social marketing may be the next best thing but, like all successful next generation solutions, it is built on the foundation of proven old school wisdoms. Word of mouth advertising pre-dates today’s technology driven social marketing as a proven way to build a business. The fact that people like to do business with people they like and that trust is the foundation for any transaction is a reflection of human nature which is the basis for long term business relationships.
Given that truth, I find it interesting that many auto dealers ignore the low hanging fruit of marketing to their past and present customers in favor of focusing on complete strangers. Relationships already earned in sales and service must be nurtured or they will soon find a new friend in the car business. Fortunately, as these established relationships mature they not only result in superior customer satisfaction and retention but they provide the stories that can drive a successful social marketing program.
The market is a conversation among friends that exists before, during and after their car shopping/buying experience. Auto dealers are tasked with timing their messages to match where customers are within this cycle. Conventional advertising suggests that you continuously speak to the market with your sales or service message and accept that only a small percentage will be interested in hearing it. Social marketing allows a dealer to join in the discussion by delivering content to consumers throughout their ownership experience. The key to a successful social marketing program is to provide content that is relevant to the customer vs. the dealer.
Fortunately, a key advantage of social marketing is that the best content is in the form of stories told by an auto dealer’s past, present and pending customers describing their shared experiences. Of course the stories should be complementary; however, even the bad ones open an opportunity to fix problems vs. their existing in the market without being resolved for both the customer’s and the auto dealer’s benefit.
Technology powers today’s version of word of mouth advertising through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +. However, social marketing isn’t limited to these online marketing platforms or applications that auto dealers use to manage their online friends. For example, data base marketing allows an auto dealer to involve their customer base in the discussion on their social networking communities. Who better to provide stories that would interest potential new friends and customers than people you are already doing business with?
The ability to scale data base marketing messages to keep up with the viral nature of social marketing requires technology based solutions that deliver relevant content to customers in a timely manner. One best in class solution that satisfies this demand is Driving Loyalty. In addition to managing an auto dealer’s data base to insure that it is purged of duplicate customer records and that emails and physical addresses are available to support direct marketing campaigns their proprietary software relies on algorithms that determine exactly where a customer is in their ownership cycle.
Driving Loyalty allows an auto dealer to provide relevant content to customers, such as service alerts for pending required maintenance and equity alerts that advise customers that they can exchange their vehicle for a new one with little or no money down for the same payment or less. Messages are delivered in a transparent manner that allows a customer to shop for a replacement vehicle without involving a salesperson through the use of their own personalized website. A customer can compare their present vehicle to any vehicle in the dealer’s inventory and then compute an out the door payment including their trade-in, taxes and any related dealer fees.
More uniquely, as it relates to social marketing, Driving Loyalty allows a dealer to embed consumer centric messages into all of their communications that can link directly back to the auto dealer’s social network. Local events can be posted in monthly emails, regularly scheduled direct mail and even a customer’s personal website that allow an auto dealer to contribute to the conversation that provides the content that powers their social network marketing.
Simply put, auto dealers must include their real world friends in their virtual social networks and marketing efforts or they risk losing them to the next Facebook friend that works at a competing dealership. Relationship selling has always been part of the puzzle to increasing sales and service for auto dealers. However, in today’s internet driven society more friends exist in the virtual world than in the real world. The trick is to blur the line between the two and invite them to do business with you in either your virtual online showroom or your dealership.
Social marketing starts at home; or in this case, the dealership. After all, what are friends for!