Change or Die…You’re Not Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks or Dominos

by Herm Brocksmith, President, PIN Business Network

What is your brand?  I’m not talking about your franchise; I’m talking specifically about what sets you apart from the competition.  What is your “Why Buy from My Dealership” proposition?  Advertising experts call this your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or UVP (Unique Value Proposition).  What your customers want to know is what makes you different than the dealership down the street or across town with the same franchise? 

Recently, I was working with a dealer group that has been in business for over 50 years.  It is a family dealership run by the third generation of nice, family dealers.  I asked the dealer principal why a customer would choose his dealer group over any other dealer in town.  His response was that this group has been in business for 50 years, they have great customer service, very little employee turnover and outstanding facilities. I then asked the general sales manager what she thought.  Her response was that they offer super competitive prices, a big selection, fast delivery process, and great customer satisfaction.  Similarly, I asked the new car manager, used car manager, finance manager and received several different responses.  When I asked the fixed operations manager, he said it was because the service department has great customer satisfaction, great prices and a friendly staff.  While these are valid reasons in the dealer’s mind and in his managers’ minds, this means absolutely nothing to his customers.  Clearly, this dealership group, not unlike the majority of dealers across the country, did not have a defined “Why Buy from My Dealership” strategy.

If you don’t have a defined “Why Buy from My Dealership” strategy, then your product is simply reduced to the lowest price.  And, you wonder why you are experiencing margin compression…hmmm!

Let’s look at some large companies, name brands, and see what they do and how you can apply it to your dealership.

  1. Coca-Cola has spent the last 130+ years keeping its brand identity and product consistent. Coke has worked hard to stay the same albeit trying new brands within the brand and even changing the formula for New Coke a while back.  Their consistency with the Coca-Cola brand and in product offering is communicated in its iconic logo and its soft drink’s great, familiar taste.  Your consistency must be rock-solid in reach and coordinated, consistent messaging on two primary fronts: a. What makes you different than your competitors, and, b. Making sure that all of your marketing channels are promoting the same, correct, cohesive messages. Coca-Cola goes to great lengths to ensure their product delivers a great experience each and every time a customer takes a drink.
  1. Apple is another iconic marketer. What did Apple do that others have not?  Apple did something that you can do at your dealership!  Apple created a movement that happened with the brilliance of Steve Jobs.  Every piece of the company’s marketing and advertising directed people to believe that having their products and services were life-changing with cutting edge technology, ease of use and mind-blowing innovation that consistently made you feel hip, on top of the world and made you say wow!  It is cool to have an Apple product.  The company created a nation of individual fanatics.  You too can create a fanatic base of customers that rave about your company. So, how do you go about doing this:
    • Create a “Why Buy from Me” message and package of the “Goods” people want and need. Make this a comprehensive offering of high-perceived-value items.
    • Deliver on the “Why Buy Promise” everyday!
    • Consistently repeat.

That’s what Apple does.  Just visit an Apple store at a mall near you and see what makes them so special.

  1. Another iconic brand is Starbucks. Nobody can deny that there is brilliance in selling a Five Dollar cup of coffee that brings people back day after day.  But the brand is more than just the coffee.  Starbucks has cracked the code for Social Media dominance.
    • Nearly every message Starbucks produces has a custom photo or images that Starbucks fanatics can easily relate to.
    • Starbucks tweets back to customers using emojis and full, unique messages. They even have their own app with Starbucks emojis so you can message a friend a Starbucks cup or an emoji of a unicorn drinking coffee out of a Starbucks cup.
    • Response time is super-fast!
    • Starbucks messages about popular trends keeping a pulse on what people are talking about…even the opening of a new Starbucks in South Africa where people stood in line for hours and hours just to get a cup.

Clearly the strategies Starbucks deploys for social media are not a willy-nilly last minute idea, but a well thought out, multi-faceted series of tactics that are executed consistently.

Social Media remains an untapped landscape for car dealers.  It’s not about the number of “Likes” you have; It’s about the number of people engaged and interacting within you messaging.

Successful marketing and advertising strategies don’t thrive because of big, over-blown budgets but by having a consistent strategy that is relevant to your dealership and to your market.  What is your “Why Buy from My Dealership” strategy that makes you unique from your competition?  When you and all of your staff can answer exactly the same, have a dedicated web page stating exactly the same and create messages to your customers and prospects stating exactly the same, then you can say you have a “Why Buy from My Dealership” strategy. Take the time to ensure that it has all the right elements.  If you need some help, I am happy to give you a few strategies.

About Herm Brocksmith:  Herm entered the retail automobile business in 1986 and has held every position in a new car dealership and used car dealership up to and including dealer principal.  In January 2016, Herm joined PIN as the President. He can be reached at hbrocksmith@pinbusinessnetwork.com.