Social distancing doesn't mean customer distancing.
When faced with a challenge, people either buckle under the pressure or get creative. In particular, the new challenges related to COVID-19 have demonstrated who is truly genuine and authentic in their business and those who offer "customer service" only as lip service.
Whether or not there is immediate monetary wherewithal during these times is irrelevant to the customer. They never reviewed your financial statements, to begin with. Therefore, they can only judge you based on what they can see.
They hate the car buying process, in general. They want it to be shorter. Many wish they didn't have to visit the dealership, to begin with.
I've had two recent vehicle purchase experiences. One that happened entirely over email with the vehicle showing up in my driveway 4 days later. The other required multiple visits to the showroom, meeting with the sales rep, the sales manager, the finance manager, and then ended with an 18 day wait for the vehicle.
Which experience do you think I want to replicate the next time I'm ready to purchase?
Those who follow my podcast, The Dealer Playbook, or have heard me speak know that there is a topic that I love more than any other. I often refer to it as the acronym, "BRT," which stands for "Build Relationships of Trust."
Building relationships of trust has been and will always be the currency that matters most to customers. Right now, there is a massive opportunity to plant seeds. Taking actions that equate to a more substantial relationship matter now more than ever. BRT'ing is the KPI that matters.
Why? Because the relationships you build now will equate to sustained generational business growth and customer lifetime value.
The challenge for many dealers is thinking outside the box. Many wonder what they should be talking about since they grew used to speaking only about vehicle sales, products, and service.
Think about it, though — people are sitting at home, bored out of their minds. Anything you can do to entertain them and provide hopeful relief during a time like this will go a long way.
It's crucial to understand that building a relationship has never happened when all you do is talk about yourself.
I often think about the fictional scenario where you walk into a bar, approach an attractive individual and then proceed to talk about yourself for the next hour. How do you think that interaction will go?
Who knows, maybe that's how real-life interactions have gone for you, and you're stuck wondering why you can never get a date… I'm not judging…
The same principle applies here. To get to know someone, you must let the other party do the talking. Fortunately, everyone is on social media right now, divulging their innermost thoughts and feelings. This is as ripe a season as any to get to know your target audience.
At its core, our primary function as sales-related professionals is to instigate conversations. The more conversations we start, the higher our statistical probability of generating an opportunity.
Recently I saw a news article from an individual who is hosting virtual game shows via ZOOM for anyone that wants to have some fun.
What a brilliant outside-the-box approach to keeping himself and his business in front of the community. Does acting like a gameshow host have anything to do with his business? Nope. Does getting and keeping attention have everything to do with his business? Absolutely!
Rather than spinning your wheels thinking about how to talk to your customers about vehicle sales, focus that same energy toward getting creative and building relationships of trust. Luckily, we live in an era where technology can keep us connected, even if we can physically shake someone's hand.
Here's a quick brainstorm of ideas that you could try, or that will spark creativity for you to get attention while everyone is bored to tears at home.
1. Host a music contest
Does anyone on your team play an instrument? Get them to record one track from an original chord progression and publish it. Get the community to download the original track and add their composition on top of it and have them post it to your Facebook page.
2. Host a squiggle game contest
Each week, post a new incomplete squiggle and challenge your audience to complete the drawing using your squiggle as the starting point. Do a Facebook Live Draw at the end of the week for a "Skip The Dishes" or restaurant take out order. Encourage everyone, including children, to compete.
3. Host a kid's joke competition
Send out a message asking your customers to have their kids participate in a favourite joke competition. Submissions will be read on a Facebook Live, with the winner selected.
4. Movie Title Competition
Make a list of movie titles from the 1950s, and get people to write what they think the movie is about without the help of Google. Round it out with a FB live to review the submissions.
5. Hashtag Competition
Ask your audience to share their favourite Kid Quote and post it to your FB page with the hashtag #dealershipkidquotes. FB Live review all of them and pick your favourite.
6. Live Music Night
Host a ZOOM meeting live music night where people can click a link and join an online live music get together. Maybe you have a team member who plays an instrument, or perhaps you can find a local musician that can't perform now that all the lounges, pubs and restaurants are closed.
7. Favourite Recipe Submission
Get your audience to submit their favourite recipe. Do a FB live where you cook the recipe and review it.
8. Virtual Book Club
Does anyone on your team enjoy reading? See if they'd consider hosting a virtual book club with a once-per-week virtual get-together.
9. Virtual Games Night
Play games like Pictionary, Cards, Trivia, Bingo etc. With software like Zoom, you can live stream to Facebook.
10. Kids Cake decorating contest
Get your audience to bake a cake (something to do with their children at home), and submit a picture to your FB page with their decorations. Review the submissions live and pick a winner.
Whatever you decide to do, be consistent. Leverage email and social posts to keep your audience in the loop. You'll need posts that explain what the activity is and when submissions are due. Also, keep them in the loop when you are reviewing them on Facebook.
Don't overthink it. Whatever ideas you have during this time deserve to be explored.
Resist the urge to go heavy on promotion, because your customers will remember you for these efforts more than anything else.
When it comes time for them to buy, you'll be top of their mind with a higher willingness to reciprocate on the support you offered them when they needed it.