More often than not, businesses are left to turning part (or all) of their operation over to vendors and partners with the reasoning that they're not able to "do everything". In automotive retail the de facto excuse you hear usually has something to do with how selling cars is what gets done and nothing else matters. Well, it's 2012 and everything has to do with selling cars.
News flash: It always has been so.
More likely than not, as we're upon the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) season, hundreds if not thousands of dealers will leave with contracts signed, or nearly signed, convinced that simply punting their responsibilities over the wall is the best way to get 'er done. Fact is nothing is further from the truth.
Dealers must grasp a much more realistic perspective of controlling their business through action, education and accountability or they will absolutely have it taken over. And nobody is saying that's a bad thing, in the event that a business has no desire to be "in" business. While a $6M dealership may not scale, invest, market or operate like a Fortune 100 business, but there is not a single reason why it can't approach and plan business in the same way or using the similar methodology.
A few things to keep in mind as we go into the NADA conference this coming weekend.
- Assess your dealership's needs and gain consensus from your employees on what to return from the conference with
- Plan 90% of your schedule via expo and workshop schedules, focusing on must-have meetings
- Schedule meetings with critical existing and vendors and check out their competition
- Talk to as many dealers as you can outside of your 20 Group, in the booths you visit, about what they're doing and not doing with the vendors you're visiting as well as haven't considered
- Look at vendor and supplier reviews on Google, forums including DrivingSales and other reliable sources
- Ensure the viability of vendor/product deployment in your store prior to signing any agreement
- Talk with existing/new vendors after the conference again, prior to accepting any new agreement
While the above steps are no guarantee against "being had", it should at least put some steps between a mediocre quick decision and a thought out beneficial one.
Areas that seem to be gaining traction and popularity that don't make sense include:
- Reputation management: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of well-deserved gleaming reviews from consumers that just haven't provided them to you. Garbage! Consumers see through it faster, better and more than Google does. Start expecting your staff to obtain reviews when selling or servicing products and ensure a process is in place. Some staff members don't want to do that? Let them go or simply hand over the keys because you're not leading a dealership...
- Social media: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of fans simply because you're a car dealership, with "caption this" or "tell us what you think" on nearly every other post sprinkled with inventory or incentive specials don't say "great place to buy" in the least. If a great Facebook, Twitter or blog presence means 2,000 likes, followers or readers and not more than 3-4 comments, shares, retweets or +1's, you're likely being had. Nobody wants to go to a dealership Facebook page to play Asteroids or Bejeweled 2 and write a title for a photo showing two dogs dressed up as superheros chasing each other, let alone find a tab that doesn't work (for months).
- CRM: services that say their great, train your staff for $5,000-10,000 a day, put in standard templates and tell you to look at reports to create accountability need to start traveling with the Dodo bird. At the same time employees not using CRM for any reason need to pack their neon-green Hulk baggage and leave town as well. Get real, negotiate agreements, expect your account person to visit regularly, get all of management to use the tools and then expect everyone else to in the dealership. If utilization of CRM is under 75% in your dealership, get your vendor to start acting like a partner and put sales and service staff on the bubble. It's not a choice, it's a reality check.
There will be a lot of fanfare, parties, speakers pitching and snow jobs at booths. However, it's in everyone's best interest to see through the smoke and put the rose-colored glasses down. Our entire world is digital, mobile and fast. It's time for 17,000+ franchises (and who knows how many independents) to get so as well. Leave the hook, line and sinker at home, ignore the playmates for as long as you can and get real with your business.
There is a boatload of opportunity for those that want it in 2012 and NADA happens to be a great place to kick it all off or continue down the progressive road if you've already started. It's also where tons of dealers get sucked in by nothing more than marketing and get nothing for their hard-earned cash except for an open liability door.
So go with purpose to NADA. Come back and operate your business properly. Or someone else will take it from you. All of it.
Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results