(Warning, 1000 words below!)
OK, who's got their 2013 game face on? Nobody? Good, let's make things difficult!!! 2012 was one heck of a year: consumer demand is still up and growing for cars (although demand still outstrips what sold), mobile use is skyrocketing (albeit not remotely matched by dealers providing strong solutions), digital demand is still growing at a breakneck pace (while use of traditional media by dealerships is up), vehicle technology, especially in-car, is amazing and overwhelming (while we still can't truly get a MPG sticker correct without driving like we're dying) and quality is better than even with IQS improving (hand-in-hand with more "media" coverage of massive recalls). Yup, 2012 was quite the year...
So ask a car dealership what they're doing and about 16,500 answers will flutter around "more _________ and less ________ while focusing on our key strengths in _____________". And that, by the way, will be the answer around January 5-15th because, unlike other industries that revolve around retail, we seem to be focused on a date non later than January 5 to close the year. Newsflash: 2012 is done. Make more calls, send more emails, offer more dealer cash/rebates/incentives/consumer cash/financing discounts and leases and you're still not going to sell more. Hello?!?! The "Oh, we pulled 10 more from our competitor" crap doesn't fly. You'll sell what was essentially already in the hopper and be happy with it.
Over the last twelve months we saw highs and lows in the automotive industry, mostly driven by International factors like economy, emerging markets, regulation, partnership and bankruptcy. As a matter of fact, we are more tied than ever to what happens in Europe and Asia, even considering how insular as we tend to be. Whether or not we get to see a new Cadillac in the States depends more on what happens in Germany than ever while BMW's success likely depends on what happens in South Carolina. 2012 saw the continued demise of storied as well as soft brands everywhere.
In the passing of this last year, it's important to reflect on how we actually invited people into showrooms while not making it any more enjoyable (except for the new showrooms which mostly made the factory happy while getting better looking floor tiles and slightly better tasting coffee to customers and some of those neat kids' play rooms we desperately needed). We switched website CMSs, dealership CRMs, DMSs, SMSs and POPs but did satisfaction with dealerships actually go up as much as 2012 IQS? Jaguar is still tops (well, 2nd behind Lexus for 2012 models) on the list and they can't seem to sell the damn cats...
What did 2012 deliver to your business? If you've not asked your customers more than your factory reps, your salespeople and your accountant, you will miss the boat by a larger gap in 2013. Yes, you will continue to sell cars next year and maybe, fortunately more again, but where does that stop based on solely looking back or not at all?
Where your concentration needs to be, right now, is around March 2013 because your next 6-8 weeks are already figured out for the most part. No matter how many "cycles" we have, after 100 years of automobile sales most think that there is some magic to the last few weeks of the year. Bullhooey.
If you want to succeed starting next Tuesday, there is no other way to do it than be steadfast in every aspect of your staff, processes, facility and follow through. Your greatest efforts need to be put into place around the touch points (hint: it's not the cars!). Those are showroom (real and virtual) and people. Nothing else matters without those. We are asked regularly how to "jumpstart" sales to the effect that many talk about in the industry. If you've not been bombarded by spam marketing and videos, it usually sounds like "100 to 500 cars overnight with our processes" and "our sales events will have people driving in from everywhere" and don't forget "our websites will optimize so well (or drive leads so easily), no other dealer will be able to touch your numbers, you'll dominate and just have to deliver cars". Rat dung!
Get the best assets in your business today that understand how everyday people use technology and expect to be communicated with. If that means more green peas, then do it! Training?!?! Tearing down your salespeople to build them back up means you have the wrong people and wrong processes! It's not "that Internet thing" any more than your cars are "those things that have engines and tires". It's time to grow up and look forward. If you 15-pounder 15% of your customers, expect 50%+ of your reviews to scream you suck.
If you want to look at things in a nutshell, read another whitepaper about how great a solution is (6- to 12-months after it's relevant while you signed up to get marketed like mad by the same company) and look backward. Our industry is depending on people who look forward with only what's needed about past performance as indicators, nothing else. Improve incrementally prior to making the huge, sweeping changes like we hear about so much and maybe, just maybe, you'll see about 3-4 months that the big stuff is not so big after all because you were able to move the needle consistently. Overnight success is a short-term facade over impending disaster. Count on it.
2013 can be great for many, even amongst the raising concerns about economic and other pressures. The best always raise to the occasion, it's just that it needs to be done in newer ways more consistently. And remember to make changes with anything that you do by benchmarking and recording first because so many will pull the wool over your eyes and scream "we did it for you!". We see it every day. There are some great dealership partners out there. Remember that opportunity is missed by most because it comes dressed in overalls. It's work and most of the time it's slow.
So relish in the success you've had in 2012, you deserve it! At the same time try not to look back all that much. It will take longer to catch up than you realize. The automotive world moves at the speed of retail. That is the only truth. So stop slowing yourself down more than needed.
Much success in 2012 and thanks for continuing to read...
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results