If there is one thing positive that can come out of the chaos, fears, frustrations and uncertainty automotive sales professional and car dealers are experiencing these days, it’s the ability to use this forced downtime to reinvent how they will acquire customers, fill back the pipelines, and re-engineer the buying experience.
It’s not a big secret; everybody in the car business knew that the industry’s customer acquisition systems and the sales experience were broken way before the health crisis hit us.
Showroom traffic was down because people preferred to use the Internet to educate themselves about their next vehicle purchase.
Listing your vehicles on car portals and classified sites was ridiculously expensive and generated, for the most part, weak inventory leads.
Pay-per-clicks ads on the search networks were so expensive; it’s been years since I’ve seen any search campaign generate car deals profitably.
Existing customer databases were bruised from constant abuse.
People, in general, hated the in-dealership experience; and a full-fledged dealer-centric e-commerce solution didn’t really exist.
I’m talking about one that would not only allow customers to build vehicles, get a rough trade-in appraisal, and estimate their payments so you can get an online lead; but an e-commerce solution that would genuinely enable dealers to bring salesmanship to the online shopping and buying experience.
As you know, salesmanship sells cars. Cars don’t sell themselves; they never did.
But even if the system as a whole was broken, we kept the faith in our duct tape solution because we were still selling vehicles and paying the bills.
I understand. It’s hard to jump off a freight train moving at 300 miles an hour!
So we all stayed on for the ride, some complaining, others dreaming of a better way, and the most willing only able to make small incremental upgrades to the way we attract and serve the prospects and customers we seek to serve.
But this crazy train has come to a stop.
Getting off is no longer just an option, but for many, an obligation.
What’s going to be your next move?
Are you going to wait on the sidelines, hoping for things to get back to normal, whatever the new normal will be? Or will you take your customer acquisition processes in your hands so you can grow back your income, secure your future, and shield your business?
If you’re leaning towards the latter, I want to share with you a unique roadmap that will help you build a customer acquisition machine that will allow you to predictably, consistently and profitably turn total strangers into paying customers and raving fans!
Instead of hitting the wall, many of your peers will crash in during the health crisis, and after, you will be creating awareness, engaging prospects, generating leads, converting them into buyers, advocates and even promoters of your personal or dealership brand.
You Have To Be Willing To Think Differently
The first thing that will be required from you to survive these extraordinary times and execute on the roadmap I’m about to share with you is to have the ability and willingness to think differently.
I believe the world we will live in once this planetary crisis is over will be very different than the one we used to know.
People’s financial resources will have been eroded, their confidence in the economy shaken, their life shuffled, and it will be hard to know what priority will be at the top of their to-do list.
Don’t take me wrong. I don’t think the world is going to be worse, just different.
With that in mind, the prospects that used to respond to your communications might be in a very different state of mind, and the messaging that used to work to get them to take action might leave them indifferent.
Just like a fisher who likes to go back to the fishing hole where he caught his trophy, it might be tempting to pull out the old bag of tricks and launch the tactics that kept you going before the crisis in the hope that one of them will be the silver bullet that will jumpstart your sales.
But in my humble opinion, you will only be wasting precious time and resources, and delaying your financial recovery.
For this reason, I recommend you use the downtime to “Reboot” how you think about the car business.
Yes, just like when your computer starts to run slow or act weird, and you push the restart button to flush the Random Access Memory (RAM) of your processor, which handles short-term tasks and data; you should also flush all the random, unimportant, and temporary data bogging your automotive mind down.
Once you stop thinking about how car sales used to be, you’ll be free to reinvent a whole new experience for potential vehicle shoppers.
Guy Laliberté wasn’t satisfied with a better circus; he reinvented the whole experience and created Cirque du Soleil.
Steve Jobs wasn’t satisfied with a better phone; he created a whole new device with the iPhone.
Netflix is not a better TV station; it’s an entirely new viewing experience.
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to own a travel agency and compete with Expedia, a record store and compete with iTunes, or a video rental business and compete with streaming services, right?
So why would you want to put back together the pieces of the old broken model of selling cars when you can reinvent a whole new experience for your customers?
Let me show you where to start.
Think Of Your Customer Acquisition As A Sequence
Imagine for a moment this scene.
A young man, on one knee, holding between his fingers a shiny diamond ring; and a girl, standing in front of him, smiling, and barely able to keep herself from screaming YES to the marriage proposal.
Now we all know that this scene had a happy ending because there was a sequence of events that led to this crucial moment.
I’m sure the guy did not get down on one knee for every woman he saw in the park until one of them said yes. I think you know that would be wrong. But in many ways, that’s what we do with prospects when we pitch them prices and incentives trying to sell them a car.
Which sentence sounds the craziest:
Want to fly down to Vegas and get married?
Want to sit down in my showroom for 3 hours and buy a $50,000 vehicle you’ll pay over the next seven years?
The point I’m trying to make is that marketing is sequential, and the sequence is crucial.
The young couple probably met somewhere and made eye contact, then maybe shared a conversation where one of the two got brave enough to ask for the other person’s contact information. They probably went for coffee, laughed and enjoyed each other enough to go on a second date, a dinner, meet the parents, talked about the future, kids, and marriage.
The preceding sequence naturally graduated to the marriage proposal and the happy ending.
Let me ask you a question: What is your dealership’s sequence to turn total strangers into customers happy to give you their money in exchange for a vehicle, service, parts, etc.?
Just like the guy on one knee who wants a yes to his marriage proposal, I’m sure you want prospects to say YES to your marketing or when we ask for the sale.
But did you create the sequence that will lead them to that moment!
Did you know your prospects will have completed 57% of the shopping cycle before they reach out and connect with you or your store?
How much of your dealership’s content will have contributed to that 57%?
Is your current sequence setting you up to meet total strangers, or is your sequence providing so much value to prospects that you are meeting ready-to-buy-customers who already know you, love you and trust you?
As you can see, the sequence is everything. Unfortunately, most dealers I talk to these days don’t have a documented customer value journey and a blueprint for turning total strangers into paying customers.
Let me show you what the ideal sequence looks like.
The Automotive Customer Acquisition Formula and Value Journey
The ideal sequence that will allow your dealership to turn total strangers into paying customers has, from the prospect’s perspective, eight steps or stages. They are:
These stages are not arbitrary steps I felt were buzz-worthy enough to be part of the sequence.
They are natural stages humans progress through when creating intimacy with other human beings.
Remember that there’s no such thing as B2B or B2C… it’s always H2H (human to human).
You can see these same stages in the example of the young couple in my earlier story:
The young couple probably met somewhere and made eye contact (AWARENESS), then maybe shared a conversation (ENGAGE) where one of the two got brave enough to ask for the other person’s contact information (SUBSCRIBE). They probably went for coffee (CONVERT), laughed and enjoyed each other (EXCITE) enough to go on a second date, a dinner, meet the parents, talked about the future, kids, and marriage (ASCEND).
…which probably got both of them to share with all their friends how wonderful the other person is (ADVOCATE AND PROMOTE).
Can you see the natural flow between each of the stages?
You need to do the same thing for yourself or your dealership and develop each of these steps to provide prospects with a customer value journey that will make them want to give you their money and promote your brand.
What are you doing to create awareness with vehicle shoppers on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn?
Are people engaging with your content by reading it, viewing it, sharing it, liking it?
Once people engage with your content, are they subscribing to your channels, email list, or giving you their mobile phone numbers so you can automate the conversation with them?
Do you have a process to convert your subscribers into appointments at the dealership or online?
Did you intentionally build a moment in your time with prospects to excite them so they can experience an epiphany moment where they fall in love with your brand, beliefs, core values and the dealership as a whole?
How well designed is your customer value ladder so you can ascend your customers and providing them more and more value in exchange for more and more money?
Do you have a process or tools in place to allow happy customers to advocate for your brand with testimonials and reviews?
Finally, do you reward your raving fans when they want to turn into ambassadors and promote you or your dealership to their colleagues, neighbours, friends and family members?
These stages might feel a little overwhelming at first, if you don’t currently have a sequence. But once you get the gist of the steps, it becomes second nature to refer to them when you think about automotive marketing and how to turn strangers into paying customers.
If you would like to get a free automotive marketing audit of your current sequence and identify the areas of potential growth that could immediately help you generate more opportunities during the health crisis and speed up your recovery, apply here.
I could use this section to talk about content marketing, paid ads, social media, campaign optimization, community management, analytics and a million other tactical aspects of what will be required from you to survive and thrive in this new economy. But a good strategy beats the tactical stuff every time.
Unless you apply the growth triad and have in place a well-documented customer value journey, defined your avatars, scripted the right core messaging, and identified actionable metrics that will allow you to make educated decisions; the tactical stuff is useless.
For example, I see many dealers focusing their energy on implementing e-commerce solutions so they can sell online during the crisis, but failing to take the time to analyze who are the prospects the most likely to push on a BUY NOW button, and what is the sequence that will lead them to take action.
It reminds me of the story I tell of the Wright Brothers who took the time to build a plane the glided before adding an engine, while most of their competitors were strapping larger and larger engines to ridiculous planes in the hope the horsepower alone would get their contraption off the ground.
My recommendation: Build a system that predictably, consistently and profitably turns total strangers into paying customers and raving fans, and then go after the tactical stuff.
If you would like to learn more about the mindset shifts required to survive and thrive during the health crisis, check out this free automotive training I created.
But if you would like to get an automotive marketing audit to evaluate your readiness to face the weeks and months to come and learn how to position yourself and your dealership to maximize the speed of recovery, simply request some time with me using this link:
It’s not the time to retreat; it’s time to prepare your comeback!
Sean Cassy is the Digital Marketing Specialist and Co-Owner of Turbo Marketing Solutions. You can contact him by email here or reach him by phone every weekday at Turbo Marketing’s head office.