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Feet; shoulder width. Toes aligned with direction aimed. Knees bent. Hips back. Slow and steady - back swing. Left elbow straight, head down - stay down, Swing past the ball. Follow through throwing your hips in the direction you want the ball to go.
How does this relate to running a business and more specifically, an automotive dealership? The analogy above represents all the things that add up to deliver the end goal and one of the hardest things to do is to look at yourself while you are trying to bring all the elements together to deliver the end result.
As a consultancy with capacity to incorporate design, production and installation in-house, with your best interests in mind, we come into your world with a fresh perspective that is much closer to a consumer than you might be able to accomplish. We actually can have a first impression that is critical to analyzing what your customers experience when they walk in your door. We see our job as assisting in the establishment of a very real and personal relationship that equates to a person coming into a place where they feel at home, because an effort has been made to make them feel that way.
There are a LOT of mechanics associated with driving this ball; your staff being an important part of establishing that degree of trust you may want your customers to experience and your staff, like it or not is usually a very strong reflection of management which is usually a reflection of ownership. After we understand the management and why they think they deserve the business of the marketplace out there, we can help communicate that why.
We specialize in a niche within the overall swing. We help communicate in a very amiable way, why a client should favour you as a solution to their needs. We specifically point out what differentiates you from your competition and not only does that inform your customers; it reminds your staff. We do it by observing your swing with an intention to determine how we can fine tune your presentation to deliver the results.
During a recent walk thru at a high end auto dealership I was struck by the images of vehicles on the walls. The thing that struck me as odd is how the images on the walls competed for attention with the actual vehicles on the showroom floor.
Any visual communication elements in your dealership should be there for a reason. A communication objective, so to speak. Maybe you think that images of cars speak to the heritage of the brand you are selling, but the likelihood is that a customer is already aware of the heritage of the brand and that is what brought them to your store in the first place. Communicating your personal brand or strategic imperative should be your main communication focus because you don't just want a one off sale. You want them to know why they should choose your store to support their automotive needs..
The actual vehicles were on display with all the sensory experiences of sight, touch, smell and feel right there with full accessibility. Why put pictures of the vehicles on the wall other than to reinforce a pride in selling a specific product? Putting pride first is not necessarily a bad thing, but being proud of putting your customer first might be an exercise in humility that actually pays dividends.
In many ways, those celebratory images on the walls of vehicles seems to reinforce the equity of the brand being sold, (especially the heritage statements of historical value) but aren't the actual cars themselves enough to overwhelm an individual, during one of the most enjoyable experiences a person can have; the purchase of a new car? What if you could piggyback on the positive mindset, to implant your dealerships personal brand in the mind of this customer, where their return visit is as important, if not more, to the success of your dealership? You can.
It is never a good idea to under-rate the value of the corporate brand, especially in the luxury car market where status is a big issue. That is also applicable in every brand's effort to illustrate high value as a part of the marketing effort put forth by the manufacturer. They do a great job, using every imaginable media, to make sure those customers walk into your facility. That job has been done. You now have an opportunity to surgically market YOUR brand and it is a bit of a tightrope to balance not you or them, but you AND them.
Staff interaction is one very important way and imaging within the dealership is another critical consideration. Interestingly, you can use internal messaging as much to communicate your values to your own staff, as much as you can use them to illustrate them to your customers.
Imagine the influence when the customer is made to feel like the dealership is there for them, rather than as a celebration of the brand itself. Would there be a positive shift in the business climate dynamic? I think the positive influence is only really measurable over the long term and is only worthwhile pursuing if it is deemed a strategic imperative. It must be supported by a very broad range of tactical executions, of which environment is only one area of concern.
Spending money on long term strategies is difficult when we live in such a short term, results driven now, context. Ownership and upper management does this kind of thinking while those in the lower ranks ensure that the "now" gets handled. The long term thinking for maintenance and growth are considered by leadership. In the car dealership business, everyone is a competitor from the Curber, to anyone selling the same car you as you. How you strategically differentiate is the key to optimizing your volumes and long term effectiveness associated with growing your business.
You have invested in a dealership that has a central focus. The corporate entity that invests in those brands spend a lot of money to build an equity you can rely on to bring in customers, who instantly recognize the quality that they are being courted to purchase. Hopefully at your establishment, this is all a given. What has changed are consumer expectations and as all evolution; the catchphrase is more. More services. More efficiencies. More attractive...
There was a time when you could park your cars in front of your gas station and sell cars, but times have changed and branding matters. It doesn't end with the big corporate logo on your pylon sign out front. Every dealership wants to express why they are the best choice, for the brand that is carried within the cross-over geographies that exist, which the internet is making even more complex.
So, how do you standout in a crowd, while taking the benefits of that big brand that you have invested heavily in?
The challenge is to find the way to combine the power of the big brand with the power of the…dare we say?... personal brand.
That very real personal brand is a reflection of the ownership/management and is as distinct as anything possibly could be. The difference may be in your people, but saying just that has become rhetoric, especially if you can't prove it. Taking it to the next level to express how your people do it in reality, is key for the benefit to really resonate and close deals.
At the Dealership Design Group; it is not a question of either/or? It is finding the way to piggy-back on the advertising dollars invested by corporate offices that send strong quality/reliability/styling selling signals to the market place, while at the same time stimulating the more personal client relationship benefits that your dealership offers. All of our projects start with getting to know management and what they deem important to their team for their customers. Some are strong community supporters. Some focus on extreme convenience. Some focus on price, history, solutions, choices and the list goes on..
Call us to request a consultation that is really a mining expedition to identify what matters to you as your serve your customers.
I saw this brilliant picture recently and it made me think about how much we all work IN our businesses, rather than work ON our business. Sometimes the day to day activities make us think we are being productive, when in fact a little proactivity can make all the difference in factoring up our ability to make things really happen.
I'm going to be very upfront and suggest something that is self-serving to us, but important to you. We can walk into what can only be described as a boring car dealership with one redeeming feature; the stars of the show. The vehicles on the sales floor. And here is something to think about; If you put Jennifer Lawrence or Leonardo DiCaprio on a poor set; it will still be less than it can be as a movie.
What the Dealership Design Group does is allow your stars to shine in a Oscar calibre movie. We take care of the screenplay, the set design and create a dynamic that customers can feel when they get on the stage itself. We put up imagery that lets your customers clearly realize that they are in the right place now, and have reason to return time after time. Not to mention contribute their opinions to friends and family. Networking is the new paradigm in marketing for people to want to come in, versus being invited by you to come in.
Very few businesses really care about the next visit (at least in their behaviour during a primary interaction) and that is the sign of a strategic thinker, not a tactical executioner. It's important to close that deal now, but you may be surprised on how an attitude associated with wanting your customer to return leads to more closing now.
Look at our site to compare the environments we have created and try to imagine how your potentially blank walls are being experienced by your customers…and your staff. Let us help you make your movie so you can be there when the closed sales equate to, "And the winner for best dealership is…You"
I had a fascinating experience today. I was sitting with a dealer who convinced me that he actually cares for his customers as more than…well…customers. He cares for them as actual people. It kind of stunned me, firstly by the way it was expressed with passion, and secondly that he actually meant every word. This statement was made in the luxury car dealer segment and sometimes it's easy to think that status and money are measurements for success, but there is one fundamental common denominator that all customers share; they are people first.
Our mandate at Dealership Design Group is to do more than make a dealership look pretty. It is to create an impression that leads to a customer not just having to come back, but wanting to come back. And to allow them to use the original social media device; the human voice, to sing your praises. To do this, the claims we try and express within the dealership are the very real attributes that make you different than your competition.
Back to the dealer. We were talking about how a customer "feels" when they enter the drive through. We came to the conclusion, as I'm sure you will too, that it is very possibly anxiety. Even if it is a regular, scheduled maintenance, it is exactly like a medical check-up; what if they find something wrong? This is not necessarily the right place to try and sell them something new. If you are going to promote services in the drive through, tie them to things in a way that considers how to alleviate anxiety. You can do this with humour, or strong feature-benefit statements that meaningfully influence a sense of preparedness.
The drive through has become the first point of contact for returning customers. Before the receptionist and in some cases before the service advisor. It has become a crucial location within the dealership to establish a higher receptivity mindset on the part of your customer, before they encounter a staff member who has the very real function of generating revenue that makes your dealership viable.
This posting is to introduce you to the idea of preparing your customer for a great experience ahead. How we visually accomplish it will be the message of a follow up blog. Feel free to follow if you are interested in how we take the visceral to the actual execution at the specific dealership in question.
While the answer may seem obvious, I am starting to wonder if retailers, and automotive dealerships in particular, really understand who their in-store communication elements are speaking to. I don't want to single out corporate brands here, because some dealers within the network do it right and some most definitely don't.
During a recent consultation, I encountered a general manager who had recently taken a new post. He immediately recognized the short comings of his buildings ability to communicate important impressions that would engage his customers. It started right at the driveway entrance. We walked the exterior of the building and asked ourselves what is the customer thinking here…and here…and here? When we looked as objectively as possible, there was a repetitive response: Confusion. This response was reinforced by the manager who cared, by reviewing traffic patterns in his lot on a busy Saturday and saw people pull in to his lot and watched them aimlessly drive around only to pull out and leave. It is very easy when you come to work every day to know where you are going, but a first timer may just not be willing to feel, to whatever degree, uncomfortable.
When faced with confusion, a proactive dealer who cares about his customers, will alleviate the problem by addressing it. Clear, concise directional elements that anticipate questions and answer them. Easy to prevent a first impression of confusion, that has a good chance of being reinforced as they enter an environment where they are looking for technical expertise.
Let's step inside. The obvious product on the showroom floor, which is why a customer is there, and images that reinforce the brand versus the dealership. Some brands have a power through their logo and the brand building equity that brought the customer to the front door in the first place. So, now what happens? A reinforcement that they made the right decision to be motivated to walk in the door? Not a bad approach to communicating to customers, but like anything, balance is critical. I'm not suggesting all brand, or all consumer-centric images to provide a "sense" of comfort that they are in the right environment. What follows is not for the weak. A mental patience is required to fully deal with a complicated issue that aims for understanding that most complex of creatures; the customer.
What is the hybrid environment all about? A combination of visual stimulation that reinforces the heritage of the brand itself, with a complimentary suggestion of the heritage of the dealership. Lifestyle images to assist a customer by suggesting how a particular model suits their needs. Another key objective of your graphics should be to suggest that something is going on, even if there are no other customers in the showroom at the moment. Have you ever decided not to go into a restaurant that was empty?
A "why we are the right place, with the right product?" What makes you different? Why should they choose you? And all done in a way that is not blatant, but reinforces the personal interaction that you people want to have with a receptive, open minded, relaxed, customer. Why keep it non-blatant? Because the thunder is already there with the product that most people are excited about. The solution is the product itself. However, the dynamic of your retail environment should be aimed towards how to put your customer in the most receptive frame of mind.
At the Dealership Design Group; we think from the perspective; what makes this dealership special and why should customers choose to buy here? We take that thinking a step further. Why should they come back?
When you first read that question, your first glance might precipitate a reaction of "Huh?", but let's start by considering what both environments have in common.
Both are places where people want to be educated towards making buying decisions. Another very important component of both is that it is where people come together to find people who can answer questions. Establishing productive relationships between people is the absolute fundamental function of both environments. Once this is clearly understood, the objective of establishing functional environments that facilitate those relationships should be what drives the tactical executions that support a communications strategy.
An effective trade show booth should stop a visitor first, so anyone manning the booth can establish a relationship with a capacity to support. An effective automotive dealership environment should do the same thing.
With the paradigm shift of consumers doing most of their automotive research on-line; the value of the environment they ultimately choose to do business becomes much more important. They already know what they want. They need to now choose and establish a personal relationship with a consultant they can trust. The graphic enhancements within the dealership support that critical issue. Bombarding a customer with sell, sell, sell is not conducive to making them want to buy, buy, buy.
Communicating the "value added" that a dealership offers is that point of differentiation that allows for why they should choose your dealership over a competitor, both alternative brands and same. Understanding what your fundamental principles are and illustrating them clearly, while not stealing the thunder of the product is a balancing act, that when successfully executed, puts the emphasis of allowing the personal relationship to grow.
This applies to any retail environment. Use interior signage with a softer approach of communicating lifestyle benefits your customers can relate to, so the ground troops have a more receptive audience who are open to reasons to buy. That's what closes deals in a trade show booth, or on the showroom floor of an automotive dealership.
This Ford dealership wanted to warm up their environment in an effort to illustrate why a customer should want to come to their dealership over the many available choices. A brief consultation resulted in our awareness that Okotoks Ford was home to some seasoned experience in the car business, with a community oriented pride in serving an area with strong family values. The concept established was to merge the heritage of the Ford Motor Company, with the dealership creating exciting graphics that spoke to the community about their community.
We were able to blend the use of a Model T Ford on display with some images that reinforced that heritage and illustrated the evolution to technological advancements on the current offerings. Other graphic features promoted the lines and services being offered and used the equity of national scope messages, notably the "Built Ford Tough" slogan right into a customer buying environment where trucks are a big part of the community lifestyle.
It was a privilege to work with a team genuinely dedicated to supporting their customers by exceeding expectations. That is what separates the winners, from the not winners in this retail category.
What is your dealership doing to stand out from the crowd?…and it really is a crowded competitive market. As consumers decide on the car they want on-line; the next obvious decision is "Who am I going to buy from?' This is where differentiation plays a vital role in clarifying what makes you the right choice. You can't always categorize your demographic into male, female, 35-54, affluent, family, youth…the list goes on. You have to be all things to all people and if you can't figure that out, you can be sure your competitors will be trying.
At the Dealership Design Group we start with the fundamentals. We want to get down to the core of what you, at the dealer principal level, consider your approach to attracting and more importantly maintaining your customer base. We have heard the "We treat you like family" line so often now most people automatically filter that out as white noise. It's time to get creative. Here are a couple of important things that could be your claim to fame.
You opened your first dealership in 1971. Do you know that is 44 years in business. Do not underestimate the value that presents to a customer about to part with a big chunk of their personal monthly revenue. If you got it flaunt it. We can help deliver images that reinforce the equity in that history.
It's harder to really play this card if you are one of many dealers in an urban area, but if you are the only dealer carrying a brand in a smaller town. This is important. It has to be real too. If you are going to shout from your rooftop that you care about your community; be genuine and receive the benefits that are incremental to the benefits of supporting your community. One dealer we know keeps track of the percentage of people who use their boardroom for community meetings, that come back as customers. It's a double digit percentage. A graphic illustration on one of the walls in there that shows dealer involvement in the community speaks quite clearly about what matters to you, is them.
Best value for the dollar; not cheapest
At the very beginning of the relationship stress value. Low price does not usually equate to best value. How do you give them MORE for their money. Is it professionals who give them a reason to buy, versus selling them the left over ice that the Eskimo didn't need? The message of value is an important message to promote, but it has to be real. If everyone on staff doesn't buy into the program, customers can spot a fake a kilometer away.
A great way to do this is by having a testimonial wall. A percentage of your customers are what are called by Malcolm Gladwell, Marketing Mavens. If they are thrilled with your service they will tell the world for you. Recognize these people. Get a testimonial from them and place it on a wall that potential customers can't help but notice. Are you taking potential customers on a tour of your facility? You should be and you should have a planned tour that reinforces why they will prefer coming back to you instead of that place where they can't help but wonder if someone is taking advantage of their lack of knowledge.
Do your hours reflect what's best for your customers or what is best from an operational standpoint? Do you offer shuttle services that make it easy for their vehicle to be serviced without them having to grit their teeth in agony while waiting…and waiting, Do you offer space where people can get work done while waiting. Do you use greeters to ensure every customer is acknowledged and accorded respect for them having chosen your building to have their automotive needs fulfilled.
If this is you; how can you communicate these issues so they can become a part of the equity in the brand that is YOUR dealership? We do it with the right communication images to reinforce the reality of what you offer. Not platitudes. Turn a blank wall into a communication medium to clearly let your customers, AND reminds your staff every day, that the customer really is your priority. Not necessarily their wallets. Convince the customer that they really are the important issue and their wallets have a habit of being somewhere nearby.
Check out our website at www.keepthemcomingback.com and see how we have helped other car dealers illustrate their claims to fame.