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On Sunday, April 22, more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2012, with the focus on protecting and preserving the environment. How has your dealership been recognizing the awareness month, or how do you plan to celebrate on the 22nd? Even if you don’t have anything in place, it is easy to help make a difference for your Mother Earth. Here is a simple list to make your customers aware of. They may seem so very basic, but each can make a tremendous impact!

Use Your Cruise Control
Your customers paid for those extra buttons in their car, so remind them to put them to work! Using the cruise control can improve their fuel economy by up to 15%.

Recycle Your Used Oil
Explain to your shoppers that oil drained from their car is a valuable resource that can be re-fined and purified into high quality motor oil. Recycling used oil can conserve our nation’s natural resources. The improper disposal of used oil can contaminate the soil as well as surface and ground water. It only takes one gallon of oil, the amount collected from a single oil change, to contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water!

Maintain Your Vehicle
Make certain your customers understand the importance of a properly maintained vehicle. Having their vehicle tuned up regularly, at least once a year, will go a long way towards reducing air pollution, improving the car’s performance, conserving energy, and saving them money on repairs

Get a Professional Car Wash
Your customers may not know that professional car washes are more efficient with water consumption than the usual do-it-yourself wash at home. According to studies, if everyone in the U.S. visited a car wash just one time instead of washing the vehicle themselves, it would save nearly 8.7 billion gallons of water! And remind them to clean out the extra “stuff” in the trunk and inside of their car, reducing the weight of the vehicle will help improve their gas mileage.

In case you didn’t know, April is National Car Care Month, a nationwide effort that focuses on the importance of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. This awareness month helps drivers understand the benefits and importance of car care for safer roads, cleaner air, energy conservation, and consumer savings.
What a perfect opportunity for you and your dealership to do something nice for your customers and community……with the added benefit of maintaining and building customer loyalty for you! Take the time necessary to help your customers understand how certain repairs can add to their vehicle’s life, improve gas mileage and eliminate future, more expensive repairs.

Focus on one day, or celebrate all month. Draw a crowd by grilling hotdogs and burgers, provide ice cream and goodies. A bounce house will be sure to get you noticed and will keep kids occupied while their parents learn more about what you have to offer. Promote preventive maintenance by offering discounted oil changes with free multi-point inspections. Host free Safety Seat Inspections or have staff teach a “How to Perform Your Own Vehicle Safety Check” class. Offer free car washes with every service performed in the month of April. The ideas and opportunities are endless!

For more tips and ideas to make April a successful month, visit www.carcare.org. Please let us know how you and your dealership plan to recognize National Car Care Month!

Repeat after me, “Facebook and Twitter are not selling tools”, again, but louder, “FACEBOOK AND TWITTER ARE NOT SELLING TOOLS!”, again….
`I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see auto dealerships continuing to sell on these social (repeat…SOCIAL) networking sites. When I posted a tweet earlier, I saw that a dealership had posted 14 different tweets about 14 different listings. How frustrating, and somewhat insulting, for a potential customer to get on their Twitter or Facebook account to socialize and engage, just to find their account full of annoying sales pitches! These sites are not advertising tools, they are PR tools and you are the spokesperson. Be engaging and interesting and be part of the conversations about your brand and with your community. Don’t be the “stereotypical car salesman” that has gone to the Internet to find his prey. That approach doesn’t work in person, so what makes you think it will work online?

Not long ago, I went to the local Ford dealership with my giddy, newly-licensed daughter. She walked briskly about 15 steps ahead of me, occasionally glancing back with the stereotypical teenage eye-roll indicating her frustration that I wasn’t walking as fast and that I apparently did not share her level of excitement. By that evening, both of us were rather excited. Not only had her dreams of car ownership come true, but I had traded in my previous ride for a big, beautiful shiny new truck. We were happy women! Not only was I content that I was driving off in a vehicle with that wonderful new car smell, I was content knowing that I “owned” that salesman! I had just blessed the guy with not only 1, but 2 fairly quick and simple car sales and my expectations were nothing short of high. I had visions of coupons, offers, free oil changes and inspections – all sorts of “ass-kissing” coming from our grateful salesman.

As we all know, customer loyalty is the heartbeat of any thriving dealership. Fostering true customer loyalty requires some creativity and initiative on your part – but just a little effort will result in BIG rewards. Studies show that if you increase customer retention by just 5%, you could increase profits by a whopping 25% or more! It seems crazy then, that according to NADA and J.D.Powers, almost 90% of retail customers are never contacted after delivery. NEVER!

So here I am, just a stat. I fall into that 90% because after the painless sale of 2 automobiles, the salesman has never bothered to contact me. EVER. In fact, I had the hassle of calling him numerous times to get the window tinting done on the vehicles, that he so graciously “threw in” for us. Unfortunately, customer turnover is a fact of business life, but with a little appreciative TLC from the dealership, I would have faithfully returned, over-and-over. Silly salesman, my daughter was only the first of 3 eventual teenage drivers in our household.

Luckily we are more than satisfied with the vehicles we purchased, we LOVE them – and I will admit, they are affectionately known to us as “Shelby” and “Ladybug”. Yes, somewhat goofy, my truck has a name. Goofier than that, however, is that I cannot recall the name of the man that sold me Ladybug, seems he foolishly never gave me reason to!

For those dealership’s with a Twitter account, I am sure you have fallen victim to the “What do I post now?!” blues. No need to fret, it happens to the best of the Tweeters out there. Sometimes it is difficult (at times, impossible!) to come up with anything unique and interesting to tweet. As a dependable back-up, we share links to articles we’ve read, along with the article headline, and call it a day.

Sound familiar? UH OH! Unfortunately, making this a routine practice can lead to heavy-lidded Twitter followers that have a tendency to nod off while reading your ho-hum tweets. Fight off the potential threat of link boredom by mixing up your Twitter strategy and not simply linking to someone else’s content.

Tweet questions – People love sharing their thoughts and ideas, and asking a question is a great way to get a response from your followers. Make it personal for them, ask what their first ride was, or something nostalgic for them to respond to.

Tweet tips – People love anything that can make their lives easier. Followers will appreciate (and hopefully re-tweet) automotive tips, as well as household, family, travel, cooking tips…and more.

Tweet opinions – Don’t be timid, tweet your opinion on everything from current world events to local community gatherings. The sky is the limit, with no need to fear the “What do I post now?!” blues.

You get the idea here, just mix things up a bit and you will be rewarded with an engaging Twitter presence and tweets worthy of being shared!

As we have all heard for several years, customers are on the Internet LONG before they step foot into your dealership. While online, hopefully your website content is interesting and engaging enough that the curious car shopper can’t help but to up the phone and give you a call. And once this critical connection is made, make sure you hold onto them with all your might and reel them in!

One thing that is really important to your sales team is good phone skills. I know, you think that seems too elementary, right? Everyone assumes they have good phone skills because they can operate the device, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am talking about phone etiquette.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Think about it, every time you talk to a salesperson on the phone, you are left with an impression, I know I am. It may not be an honest representation of the service or product they are offering, but regardless, something sticks! If the person on the line appears disinterested, distracted, rude or rushed…. I cannot get off the phone fast enough and NOT do business with them! On the other hand, if the salesperson is courteous, knowledgeable, attentive and respectful….then they have my full attention and, quite possibly, my business.

The employees at your dealership need to be trained on proper business phone etiquette because every call is an opportunity to “WOW” a potential customer and influence them to want to do business with you. A phone conversation is usually a consumer’s first personal contact with your dealership, to insure it is not their last, make a positive and powerful impression that can develop into a memorable (and profitable!) customer relationship.

As we all know (at least I hope you all do!), you can never really have too many photos to help highlight and market your vehicles, right? Well, it isn’t just photos you need, it is good, quality photos that make your inventory “POP” and help market your vehicles effectively. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when photographing your inventory.

The absolute best natural lighting conditions for you to photograph your cars will be early in the morning or just before sunset. If at all possible, avoid shooting in harsh, glaring mid-day sunlight, or you will end up with color-faded paint on the car’s top surfaces and murky shadows on its lower regions. Your best shooting days are those that are overcast. Keep an eye out for any separation in the clouds, as this may cast unusual and uneven reflections on your vehicles and lead to unusable pictures.

To help get some of your best images, a basic rule of thumb is to set your camera to “Forced Flash” or “Fill Flash”, not on “Auto Flash”. It is really important to use the forced flash mode in bright sunlight. I know, I know, it sounds like you should do the opposite – but you are not actually “adding” more light to the picture, you are “redistributing” the light. This will illuminate the shadowy areas of your car and reduce the glare from the bright areas allowing you to capture a much better image of the vehicle.

As far as an automobiles color is concerned, the best time to photograph your darker vehicles is in the evening or the morning, when the sun is below the horizon. Bright cars are better to photograph when there is some sunlight present, but again, not harsh, overhead, mid-day sun.

For capturing your best interior shots, a white card, like a poster board, can be used to bounce some light off of the headliner to illuminate the inside of your vehicles. To best highlight all the bells and whistles in the dash, the white card can be propped on the backseat to reflect some light on the dash and show off its features

While shooting, be aware of your surroundings and all the extra distractions near your vehicle. Signs, telephone wires, trash cans, poles and customers wandering your lot are just some of the things in the background that can take all the focus and emphasis off the car you are hoping to sell.

A really simple trick for making your shots more appealing is to wet down the area where the car will be photographed. This will darken the pavement and provide a nice “highlight” effect. Remember my previous tip, though, and make sure you don’t leave a “distracting” hose or bucket lying around!

Unfortunately, chances are you are not going to be shooting your inventory in a comfortable studio with perfect temperature and lighting conditions. Don’t let this worry you! Even if you have to shoot your “subjects” outside, there are plenty of opportunities for capturing some fantastic shots on your lot that will “WOW” your customers.

Can you top this for a bizarre story? Imagine John Onak’s surprise when it was brought to his attention that there was a dead man riding in his passenger seat! Tuesday morning the driver “unknowingly” struck a pedestrian along Interstate 45 in Houston. Not only was the impact strong enough that the victim’s leg was left at the scene, but the rest of his body smashed through the windshield and landed in the front passengers seat. As astonishing as it seems, Onak was unaware of the gruesome body in the car beside him and continued driving down the road! Two miles from the accident, a county constable spotted the severely damaged front end of the Mazda, pulled the car over, discovered the victim’s body, and questioned Onak about his “unusual” passenger. Unbelievably, it wasn’t until then that the driver even noticed the dead body! title=”Gruesome Ride on the Gulf Freeway!”>http://bit.ly/lOj43B

In this digital world, customers have powerful technology on their side. The Internet has fundamentally changed how automobiles are bought and sold. Car buyers have infinite choices, instant access to information about every potential purchase, and the ability to competitively compare prices. Customers are gaining more control of, and contributing more to, their own consumer experience and decision making process – making it more difficult for sales people to engage and making every deal more competitive. These are the most empowered consumers in history, and make no mistake, THEY are in the driver’s seat!

Before they step foot in your dealership, today’s average car shopper has thoroughly researched and educated themselves on everything to do with a possible car purchase, in fact, the need to actually visit the dealership is sometimes completely eliminated! In some cases, they just may know more about the car they are considering to purchase than the salesman that greets them at the door with a smile and extended hand!

This new generation of Internet-empowered car buyers is tough, the negotiation advantage is now in THEIR corner! They are demanding greater transparency in the buyer-seller relationship. They expect consistency and value, quality and service. The sales focus has shifted from price haggling and payment to consumer needs and value. Your sales force must quantify the advantages of owning your brand versus the competition. Differentiating your competitive value is key, and will allow you to shift from selling “price” to selling “value”. Gone are the days of the stereotypical pushy, hard car sell – these “Vigilante Consumers” will not be intimidated! They are smart, savvy and informed, and perfectly willing to go elsewhere to get what they want.

It’s a jungle out there – dealerships that recognize this empowerment and the importance of developing relationships and delivering a consistent customer experience will gain and maintain the competitive advantage!

I know, I know, you are tired of your Internet marketing vendor telling you “Your dealership really needs a blog!”. You’re probably still trying to grasp the whole social media trend, and getting your head wrapped around Facebook and Twitter.

Well, in all honesty, and I am sorry about this, but…..your dealership DOES need a blog!

Your dealership has a website, right? A sharp, spiffy website that hopefully you are very proud of. Well, a nicely-done blog does 2 very important things for that sharp website of yours.
1. It makes it easy to add and update content, so there is always something fresh and interesting on the site.
2. It helps establish a relationship with visitors, which are potential customers, and build a climate of trust with them.

Yes, a blog does require some commitment, but it isn’t nearly as big-and-bad as most of you make it out to be. I will give you the “blogging basics” of what is required of you and hopefully you’ll realize that yes, in fact, a blog on your site would not only be do-able, but a benefit to your dealership.

Post to Your Blog Regularly
Blog search engines value consistency and rank fresh content over older content. The search engines will find you based upon your content and users will come to your blog and read what you have to say when they begin to pick up your posts on a regular basis. People will only continue to visit your blog if they get something new every time they visit your site, so reel them in!

Post on Other People’s Blogs Regularly
You need to get out on the Internet and find related automotive blogs and forums, read these posts and make interesting and intelligent comments. Make sure you link back to your own site, or better yet, directly to relevant articles on your own site. This builds the association between your blog and the other blogs in the automotive field. The more you comment on blogs, the more people will notice you.

Share Your Content
Share your blog across your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Help your audience share your content as easily and quickly as possible by including the social sharing buttons, “like”, “share” and “add this”, on your blog post pages. Include your blog URL in your email signature and on your business cards. Get your dealership
blog out there!

Make the Search Engines Aware of Your Blog
Registering with the top blog search engines and blog directories will help get your dealership’s blog noticed in the right places. This is as easy as visiting the websites and filling out the forms. Some of the major directories to register on include Technorati, BlogCatalog, BlogHub and Globe of Blogs. Some important blog search engines to be noticed on include Google Blog Search, Digg, StumbleUpon and Bing. There are countless more that you will want to register your blog with, they are simply a Google search away!

Set up an RSS
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML-based format designed to share headlines and stories from your favorite websites. The best way to create an RSS feed is to use a blogging program (such as Blogger, Movable Type or WordPress, which is what Liquid Motors uses) to automatically create the headlines, links and descriptions and the HTML for you. In order to receive RSS feeds, you subscribe to the websites from which you want to receive content. When those websites update their site, the info will be delivered automatically to your RSS reader (Google Reader, NetVibes and Bloglines are a few) and by clicking the headline link you will get the full article. The bottom line about RSS is that it adds to the places your blog can be listed and found, which means more traffic for your site.

Now, be patient! With persistence and good, solid content on your blog, you will build your online brand and pick up leads, which will eventually lead to customers and profit.
Your blog is the gateway in promoting YOUR dealership and YOUR inventory. It is an incredible tool for sharing information and expertise….so, sorry, but……

Your dealership really needs a blog!

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