I saw a guy this morning in my neighborhood delivering copies of the actual Yellow Pages . It’s winter in Southern California and for us, 48 degrees is pretty cold. He’s out there, bless his heart, going from house to house dropping these boat anchors on each driveway. I sat and wondered why. Other than it’s giving this man a job, having the YellowPages in print form in your house seems, well, quaint. A memento of a buy-gone era.
There’s a certain General Manager of a car dealership. He cares about one thing: selling cars. His plan to get people in the door involves using lots of traditional advertising. You know, the kind that interrupts people. He’s been doing things this way for 20+ years and by gosh, it’s “how we’ve always done it”. Broadcast on every channel available and the customer will drive on down. Not anymore.
This GM treats the customer relationship as adversarial. Why wouldn’t he? The old model of auto retail was to blast your prices to the masses and get people into the showroom strictly because of the price. Today, every consumer has access to the prices of cars and each dealer will usually match what their competitor has offered. The only real thing that differentiates today’s dealers is their level of customer service. If the relationship with your customer is adversarial, they will simply choose someone else…and tell everyone they know why.
Suddenly it struck me: this GM is the Yellow Pages of auto retail! He’s the archetype of a business model that doesn’t work anymore. We have to stop interrupting what people are interested in and BE what people are interested in. The customer is not the adversary, they are our community member. We cherish that sales relationship because we want the customer to return again and again–we want them to refer their friends and family. Customers are connected digitally now over a much broader area so there’s little chance that their experience won’t be broadcasted to thousands of others.
I submit to you “General Manager 2012″. He (or she) understands that relationships equal trust and trust equals sales. They encourage their team to nurture the relationships the store has with the online and offline community. They know that business as usual is the way to a quick death. They become more Social everyday and welcome new opportunities to market and connect via Social Media.
As I outlined in last week’s post, all retail business will be Social in 2012. The consumer is driving these changes and they want to buy from those companies who have shared values and shared perspectives. Social Media is the platform that develops relationships with the customer long before they’re ready to decide on their purchase. Price is always a component in any business transaction, but if there’s trust developed and an alignment of values, then that customer will respectfully pay the fair price.
Auto dealers have an extra layer of trust to work through because of the many years being stereotyped. Unfortunately, a small contingent have lived up to the negative perception the public has and that has done severe damage to the majority who deliver a fantastic customer experience. Social Media is your vehicle for debunking the stereotype. It allows you to develop the relationship with your current and potential customers months prior to their purchase.
Your customer will no more accept the old ways of the business anymore than they’ll use the Yellow Pages to look up your information. Social Business is where we are and in 2012 it’s going to separate the winners from the losers. Which would you like to be?