A new generation has taken over and they have a much different approach to loyalty that their predecessors. Customer service still matters, but other things matter just as much. Maybe more. Long-term customer loyalty is more important to the success of a dealership than ever before, but it takes more work than ever to achieve.
This new generation puts heavier value on things like time, beliefs, and empathy. And it isn’t just their perspective on these; they’ll factor in the perspective of their friends and others on the internet who weigh in with reviews and other commentary. It’s all connected more than ever before and the way to earn long-term loyalty is to take connection seriously.
You must connect.
The following is an excerpt from my recent book, “The Automotive Manifesto: How Brand Connection Can Save Retail Automotive.”
“Connection has always existed. It is a primal component of humanity; primarily, for physical safety and survival. Now, in addition to these baseline needs, our modern society allows us to connect in much deeper and more frequent ways.
Human connection now occurs on every level. From important things like new babies, down to the most superficial of things like your friends’ weekend outing, your team’s latest free agent signing, or that funny noise your dog makes when asleep.
Either way, social media has made it possible to generate countless touch points. All of which determine our level of connection and affinity, or lack thereof to the world around us.
You must connect, but what does that really mean?
Connecting doesn’t mean networking, or throwing generic ads at demographics, or getting social followers, or generating fake enthusiasm for something you don’t really care about.
Connection is the feeling people get when they hear your name, or meet your team, or consider your products, or buy your products, or consider working for you, or even start working for you.”
Sales conversion vs brand conversion.
What do you get when you convert a lead? One sale. What do you get when convert a person? Religion.
When you truly connect your brand with a person, you will get their loyalty because you have become a part of what that person believes they are. This is why brands like Tesla, Nike, and Apple are quickly forgiven when they make big mistakes. Because they have become an element of identification for those who do business with them.
I continue in the book:
“If you think this level of connection isn’t possible with a car dealership, you are wrong. I’ve seen and been a part of it. I’ve witnessed many dealers across the country who are tapping into this level of brand connection. It is possible.
And for those who successfully pursue and execute to achieve this level of brand connection, there is a very, very handsome reward. Lower ad spend per car, more cars sold, and, best of all, an insane level of repeat business and loyalty. Forget the sales funnel!
Brand conversions move your customers completely outside the funnel. They choose to come straight to you before they are even identified as an in-market shopper. Why? Because you have become a reflection of the type of person they are.”
The best time to start.
I heard an adage once that went something like this:
Question: If you want a mature tree in your yard, when is the best time to plant it?
Answer: 20 years ago
Question: When is the second best time to plant it?
If you are serious about building (or re-building) long term customer loyalty with this new generation of consumers, you should start today.
The best way to start.
My suggestion is that you always start with strategic brand development. That’s a fancy way of saying you need to do the following: be honest with who you are as an organization, do the work to understand what is important to your customers and potential customers, craft messaging and visuals that get their attention thereby earning a connection. Then you are ready to begin caring for their needs and gaining that ever-valuable long term loyalty.
Honesty. Empathy. Attention. Connection. Care.
Those are my company’s values which double as the process we bring clients through. It works…but that is a conversation for another day.
Long-time customer loyalty is critical to your continued success as a dealership. Now you get to choose whether you are going to re-commit to the journey of earning it, or if you just want to keep complaining that things aren’t like they used to be.
I hope you choose to pursue connection. The industry is counting on you.
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Paul J Daly is the Founder and CEO Congruent: Automotive, a full-service creative marketing agency and the author of “The Automotive Manifesto: How Brand Connection Can Save Retail Automotive.” Paul founded his first startup in 2003 (Image Auto / Rim Doctor) which was acquired in 2018 by Dent Wizard International. With almost two decades of auto industry experience and a deep understanding of the retail buying psyche, Paul’s approach to the challenges and opportunities facing the modern dealer is clear and human. Paul is a prolific contributor on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and is the host of the weekly Clarity Compressed Podcast who has featured guests such as Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia, vAuto founder Dale Pollak, and business marketing master Gary Vaynerchuk.