Relationship based selling systems and marketing messages have always been part of the plan for auto dealers in their brick and mortar facilities and it has been carried over to their new online virtual showrooms. However, the assumption that people and personality serve only to build brand awareness or to enhance the retail message vs. replacing it is a dated concept that must be adjusted to fit the demands of today's empowered customers. Auto dealer's self serving retail messages delivered by their automotive advertising agencies -- regardless of the media -- is no longer perceived as relevant or transparent to online shoppers who prefer to ask their friends and/or trusted third party resources for information they need to make a buying decision.
Digital marketing techniques and priorities established by automotive advertising agencies -- such as focusing on Search Engine Optimization, (S.E.O.), Search Engine Marketing, (S.E.M.) and various other manipulations of the algorithms that determine page positions for the online search engines -- are no longer the best and/or the only way to deliver a call to action to potential customers. The newest opportunity for automotive advertising agencies to deliver a message that will sell new and/or pre-owned vehicles as well as service and/or parts is to have their past, present and pending customers do it for them.
Initial attempts to transfer hard retail advertising using conventional media and even digital marketing on the WWW using auto dealer websites or dealer centric third party automotive advertising platforms were not received well by the typical online shopper who traveled onto the Internet Super Highway to avoid car dealers and fast talking car salespeople. Today's empowered customers prefer customer centric messages sourced from likeminded consumers sharing their shopping/buying experiences before, during and after their purchases.
Auto dealers who marketed directly to these social networking communities were seen as wolves in sheep's clothing as they attempted to sell their products and services from the outside in vs. from the inside out. Automotive advertising agencies were also challenged by their inability to quantify the short term R.O.I. from their efforts to justify their fees.
Automotive advertising agencies first and best resource is to listen, learn and apply the best practices associated with social media and social networking offered on automotive advertising resource portals. I also suggest that automotive advertising agencies continue their education in real world venues like The 9th Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition scheduled Oct. 12-14th, 2010 at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Many automotive advertising agencies and auto dealer/vendor clients will be hosting sessions there on leveraging social media including mine: C2C + B2B - B2C SQUARED; Learn How This New Social Media Formula Provides New Revenues, New Efficiencies And Greater Profits.
As far as leveraging limited resources to promote people over product and price one solution that comes to mind is a vendor client of mine --DealerMouth. They offer auto dealers a master website that allows them to manage and monitor individual sites for each of their sales people and service writers. The sales people can promote themselves to their own spheres of influence in both the virtual world of Facebook and Twitter and the real world at the dealership by directing them to their personal website as a form of online "Why Buy Here Book" or as a personal blog like forum to talk about life. More uniquely, the dealer can make sure that their staff is using their online time in a productive manner vs. planning their vacations on company time by using the built in moderator functions to monitor content and online activities during business hours. The individual sites hosted on DealerMouth are internally linked to the dealer's online resources so it provides salespeople and service writers with a seamless transition to information they need during or after hours to sell a vehicle or service to a friend when the conversation warrants it."
Combine that with the tools available on Twitter and Facebook to manage the salesperson's and or service writer's data base of friends in a productive and constructive manner to sell them something without offending them -- many such tools are referenced in my session at the DD conference by the way -- and salespeople should be able to build enough online exposure to keep them and their dealer in the conversation when someone they know is looking to buy or service a car. Of course salespeople and service writers hosting their own blog site with inexpensive template solutions offered by providers like Wordpress and Ning will also provide them an online platform with little or no associated hard costs -- other than their time and effort!"
Some of the applications that can be applied to manage the auto dealers -- or their staff's -- data base of friends on Twitter to allow their automotive advertising agencies to prove the R.O.I. from their time on the site include, but are not limited to BlastFollow, Tweepi, Twaiter, TweetDeck, TweetChat, Tweet Beep, Twubble, Twitter Search, Twellow, Snip URL, Twee Take, Tweet Burner, Tweet Stats, Twitturly, Cadmus, PostRank... and the lists goes on. Similar applications can be applied to Facebook such as embedded widgets onto a wall or on an auto dealer's website to virally distribute their marketing messages amongst their friends in a manner that can be sourced back to the social channel that started the conversation.
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