The world wide web has replaced car row as the place to shop for a vehicle. The consolidation of brick and mortar facilities may have been accelerated by a shrinking economy and government dictates; however, the writing has been on the virtual wall for some time. Technology has always served as the catalyst for change and the Internet has proven to be the platform to introduce the next evolution of the auto industry.
The world wide web has matured as an efficient information resource to replace the real world auto dealership as the place of choice for car shoppers to gather the information they need to select a vehicle and a dealership — in that order! Internet based social networking is the virtual version of a Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, Community Event, Fraternity, etc., linked together by a technology that serves as a central communication and distribution tool.
The importance of relationship based selling in the real world is supported in every sales training manual based on the observation that people like to do business with people that they like. The logic to Sell yourself, sell the dealership, sell the vehicle and then justify the price is an accepted wisdom that is based on the one constant that has survived in both the real world and the world wide web — Human Nature! Internet based social networks represent an online community of like-minded consumers who have a strong influence on their online friends. Auto dealers must invest and involve in these online communities as people not as an auto dealer.
They must prioritize the interests of their new online friends before, during and after their buying cycle to earn their trust and consideration when they have a need for a new vehicle or to service their present one. After all, what are friends for!
Once a need has surfaced it is critical that the transition from casual conversations to focused selling processes is transparent and comprehensive to move the consumer seamlessly through their online shopping experience. Technology can communicate the information needed by both the consumer and the dealer to move forward into a transaction. However, the processes must build on the personality and relationship built on the social networking site that surfaced the opportunity. The unique differentiator between the dealers down the street selling the same product is not the price, but the people that started the dialogue built on an earned relationship and trust.
Viral marketing is a natural extension of social networking that distributes a message in such a way that it will be forwarded by the recipient in a geometric progression enhanced by its valued content, unique creative, entertaining production or some quality that will motivate the initial consumer to share it with their spheres of influence. The exponential growth of this type of online distribution channel affords an extremely cost effective media to distribute the initial message to a diverse audience that may or may not be interested in the content, but even a small percentage of conversions represent a superior short term and quantifiable R.O.I. to conventional marketing media. The buzz created by the extended online community also develops long term branding recognition that enhances the reach and frequency of the message with less measurable results but similar value in developing top of the mind awareness for future customers.
By extension, social media as it is applied for the purpose of marketing for the retail auto industry is a channel for distribution of both viral and targeted marketing messages through controlled blogging forums as well as expanded spheres of influence through online communities such as Twitter, Face book, LinkedIn, Naymz, YouTube, etc.
These online social networking communities have unique profiles that attract different types of users. Twitter and Face book, for example, are more universal and personal in nature while Naymz and LinkedIn are more professional and focused on business to business networking with YouTube using video to express the message. These online communities will be part of your extended social media channel, however, more specialized networks targeted to the auto industry should be the core channels based on their applicable content, audience and related links.
It should also be noted that recent market studies confirm that the efficiency defined by Twitter – in that they limit their postings to 140 words – has served to differentiate them from other sites with a superior growth curve to prove it. Conversion rates from Twitter users who access online banner ads or similar commercial messages are twice those of social networkers who do not have Twitter in their online profiles. The revelation is that many online networkers are overwhelmed by the fragmented online communities that they participate in and limited time requires them to seek out more effective ways to manage their online and real world lives.
New platforms that link these diverse online communities into one central access point now exist that provide efficiencies beyond those provided by any single site. Power.Com — for example — functions as a layer or home page that represents this one stop social networking site philosophy. Newly developed marketing platforms serving the auto industry, like ronsmap.com, integrate social media with their vehicle listings with localized search engine functions — think Google Local! ronsmap is a game changing online car buying/selling site for both consumers and dealers that makes car buying fast, comprehensive, transparent and live. Their proprietary technology gives customers unparalleled buying and negotiating power over the car buying/selling processes including the opportunity to accommodate For Sale By Owner listings. It provides auto dealers with unprecedented levels of sales intelligence on consumer leads and it enables automotive advertising agencies to promote and engage consumers via social networks.
The ability to offer both B2B and B2C marketing messages supported by relevant social networking forums is an efficient combination of business and pleasure that will attract today’s time challenged consumers. Of course, business opportunities must be subordinate to providing relevancy and interesting content to the end users — the car shoppers — however, the convenience of providing a locally targeted inner circle of connected real world friends through an online communication tool is an example of the leveraged and efficient resources that are emerging on the Internet. Marketing to consumers in social networking communities requires resources, tools and skill sets to compliment and supplement auto dealers existing online selling efforts and ronsmap provides all of these elements in a cost effective scalable manner while delivering market intelligence that enables the auto dealer to maximize their conversion rates and preserve gross profit in their online negotiations.
Finally, many dealers have learned the value of integrating customer generated content onto their websites through blogging forums and other methods to present past and present customer experiences to potential future customers. These dealer sponsored social networking platforms are often suspect and dealers tend to filter negative comments on their own site which limits participation by customers and adversely impacts the confidence of visitors in the value of the content. A more proven platform has been for auto dealers to support third party micro-sites that distance the dealer from the online community. The site can then expand on the messages it presents to include issues of interest to potential customers. Links to community organizations and related information resources supported by the dealer do not require a sales message, which would likely alienate the online community. The value of developing relationships with the site visitors on the common ground of your shared support for the activities coordinated on the site will plant the seed that will grow when they are looking for a friend in the car business. youtube social shares