Consumer Generated Content Based Strategies for Car Dealers
It's a question that is raised from time to time, particularly by sales managers and internet managers. Should employees, in particular the sales team, be allowed to connect with their customers through Facebook and other social media sites? It's not a question of whether or not they should encourage their customers to like the dealership's Facebook page or follow the dealership's Twitter account. It's about a personal relationship. Should employees become social media "friends" with customers?
For some, the answer is a clear "no". There is simply too much turnover in the automotive industry and allowing connections with customers can be akin to allowing a book of business to walk out the door. This is silly for many reasons but it's not the type of opinion that can be easily changed, so we'll leave it as an opinion with which I disagree.
The other big reason is time and distraction. Some dealerships and businesses in general do not allow their employees to use social media on company time. It's a time waster, after all, and one that cannot be easily monitored or controlled.
The argument against that thought is that unless you're willing to take everyone's smart phone away during business hours, you aren't really taking them off social media. They're still checking. They're still updating. They're still "LOLing" the viral cat picture that's circulating on any given day.
If we can assume that the negatives associated with allowing social media to be used as a business tool by individual employees can be outweighed by the positives, then you can continue reading. If you are unwilling to accept it, then there's no reason to read on.
Here, we get into actual strategies...
The toughest question asked about connecting through social media also has the easiest answer. "How can my salespeople connect with their customers on Facebook?"
The answer: "They ask."
The action is easy. As long as they give them a reason and use their sales skills to make it happen, they'll be surprised at how well it works. Here's a sample talk track:
"Mr Customer, I follow up with those who buy a vehicle from me from time to time, usually just a few times a year. What's your preferred method of contact? For me it's Facebook."
"I won't bug you on Facebook - I know it's a personal thing and I treat it as such. You won't see much of me other than an occasional follow up message and some pictures of my kids. Can I add you as a friend?"
You'll be shocked at how often they say, "Sure."
This is where the real magic can happen. First and foremost, the employee must follow through with what they promised. If they said they're going to follow up with them from time to time, they need to do just that. Don't send a message the first day of the new friendship. Wait a week. Wait two weeks if you're organized.
Just send a quick message, "Hi Mr Customer. I just wanted to check in and make sure that the Mustang was still cruising along nicely. Did you get your free oil change certificate in the mail yet?"
From there, it's a matter of acting normal and NEVER overposting. Two or three updates a day. All natural content. Thoughts, pictures, etc. - keep the business components away from your Facebook profile the vast majority of the time.
Once, maybe twice a month, put out a call for referrals. "It's been a slow month so far which is weird because we're loaded with inventory. Anyone in Cincinnati know someone who needs a car. We're dealing right now and I have some referral money to give you if you send anyone my way!"
That's it. Rinse. Repeat. Be a good social media user most of the time. Be a salesperson some of the time. Be a networker all of the time. Don't forget birthdays - Facebook tells you everyone who has a birthday today. Send them all messages. Post interesting content. Be real.
Some people hold the sanctity of their social media profiles in high regard. If they love their Facebook and do not want it polluted with customers and promotions, so be it. Never force it. For decades, there are sales people who sell cars from 9 to 5 and there are sales people who sell cars anywhere and everywhere at any time.
You can't force one to become the other. It's inherent.
This stuff works. It's no different than keeping a rolodex of customers with pictures, birthdays, and the names of their kids on an index card. Facebook and social media in general can be your rolodex, but you have to be willing to make it happen.