Aug. 10, 2009: Identifying — then acting upon — your reason for being

Steve Jobs was off for six months. Health. But he made it back to Apple in July of this year, and the first thing he did was change the model name for the new iPhone.
Change? Did I say change?
He took out one little space. Didn’t add a thing, just changed the model designation from 3G S to 3GS.
And you should have heard the press. Nobody had dared say it, but they were all struggling with how to pluralize the name 3G S. Was it 3G Ss (which looks ridiculous), or … what!? In the meantime, press releases were slowed, and the public and press alike were confused about the way to refer to the new model.
Then back comes Jobs. Within minutes, the model name is changed, the world press heaves a great sigh of relief, and the news machines gin up the free publicity that will reach every corner of the globe.
Raison d'être in French, the language of origin. Reason for being, in English. I hear this phrase again and again as companies struggle with difficult decisions. In hard times, when cuts must be made, the first question asked is, “What is this person’s reason for being?” Steve Jobs returned, makes one small but swift decision, and a major product takes a leap forward, unencumbered by a bad name choice. That is his reason for being. That is what he does. And that is why his return was highly anticipated, and hugely influential.
So what is your reason for being? Yes. You. The owner. What is it that you do in your dealership that makes you necessary, and in fact, indispensible? Here are a few items that should fall only to you. Consider:
First, our market has changed forever. If you are still using the tools of 2002, you will not survive this great shaking-out that is happening in 2009. Radio? Newspaper? Remotes? Billboards? Sure, great tools in 2002 and even today, but what percentage of your advertising budget should they receive in 2009? Move over traditional. If you don’t have at least 30 percent of your advertising budget online, you are losing market share. Some stores are as high as 85 percent and happy to be there. Analyze your market. How tight is it around a geographic center-point? Can you really use traditional methods that are based on geography? Or should you move to cyberspace where the world (as well as your local customer base) can see you?
Next. CRM. Customer Relations Management. If you’re not on it, you’re not in the game. And I’m not talking door-swings and birthday cards here. It’s now the full range of managing a relationship with an individual. It is establishing and maintaining an ongoing series of “touches” with your customer, and really, genuinely, becoming a trusted partner with them in many of their life’s choices. And we, much more than any auto dealer or lawn-care service have something to talk to them about. We have a lifestyle that is fun, fulfilling and family oriented. Have you ever seen your local auto dealer in his car at the head of 300 of his customers in a long line; rolling down the freeway on a beautiful Saturday morning, headed for Laughlin, the Sierras, the Uintas or Sturgis? Didn’t think so. We have something special here, and our customers like it. CRM will keep your finger on the pulse. Without it, you talk to 10 people a day and you think everything is just fine. Not. Get a real CRM program and get the full picture.
Territory. Guys, stores are closing — and at the rate of one per day from my vantage point. From a compassionate point of view, that is difficult and sad. But last I checked, our business runs on compression, not compassion. For those of you who are still standing, you jump on that map and you draw new lines. Your market area just took a big increase, and you’d better find out exactly what that means. Can you buy a list of orphaned customers? Can you get a list of registrations and get that direct mail piece out welcoming them to your family? Can you plaster your service manager’s face all over that deserted town and make him a household name? Can you spell out warranty work done here? Get on it. Lemonade. You know that old line.
Work it, work it, work it. It takes more effort now than it ever has before. Your job used to be to meet with the suits, go to the conventions, plan the new buildings, sign the paychecks and ride your demo. No more. You are the head of the creative team that will pull your store out of this recession. Or not. It’s up to you to come up with the ideas, the initiatives, the programs, the funding and the monitoring to see that it all works. Do it, and you will be around next year. Focus only on the “good ol’ days”, and you will be history. This is your reason for being. Be the Steve Jobs for your store.
Find your space, fix it and dominate this new landscape. If you don’t, somebody else will. And then they, not you, will be riding that demo. Bummer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *