Time to revamp that drip system approach?

By Neil Pascale

Columnist

It’s an unpleasant reality for many of you in the larger U.S. markets: You will have to improve your business acumen to sustain your sales.

Why? Because the competition landscape in many of your markets is changing.

I recently visited two large powersports markets in the span of three weeks and found the same scenario occurring in both places. Poorly-performing dealerships are being acquired by companies with more resources and a history of building profitable businesses. In other words … the competition just became much fiercer in a largely flat market.

You’ll have to perform better to sustain your piece of the pie. That’s daunting, but it’s reality. And many of you understand that. In fact, I had GMs in two different cities acknowledge this. They will end the year with vastly improved unit sales, but they’re not focused on that. They understand the market dynamics are changing, and what led to their 2014 increase in unit sales won’t necessarily be repeated next year. In fact, it probably won’t. Which is why the GMs and I spent our time together not discussing what led to their sales increase, but what they could do better in the next calendar year.

And that’s inspiring.

My recommendation to both GMs facing this challenge was the same: “You and your staff are obviously doing a lot of things right. Your customer service record is strong, so you have a healthy repeat business. The only problem is that this crucial business report card of yours — your customer service and repeat business — is spread largely by word of mouth. That was fine back in the days when we delivered more handshakes than texts. That’s not the case anymore.”

Relying on word of mouth in a more demanding marketplace is like using a drip system rather than a sprinkler system to water your lawn. It’s fine if you don’t mind a mostly brown lawn.

Now don’t get me wrong. Word of mouth is fine. It certainly has a track record of success, but it’s slow. For those of you in markets where competition has suddenly heightened, you don’t have the time to wait for a drip system to reach your entire customer pool. You have to act faster and use more efficient channels.

Like Facebook, for instance.

Most of you have a Facebook site, but you probably don’t use it to communicate your customer service record or your frequent repeat business.

That’s a mistake.

Remember the guy who drove 45 minutes to purchase that one unit from you? That is a dream of a public relations story to relate to your Facebook followers.  The post could be as simple as “Bob of Roseville, Minn., drove 30 miles to purchase a new Bonneville from us. You can bet his ride home was much better than the trip here!”

What does that post say about your dealership? Loads! First, there has to be a very good reason for someone to drive 45 minutes to buy a unit they most likely could find much closer to home. Did they drive that far because of your terrific customer service? Or was it your special financing? Whatever it is, you can bet the enthusiast on Facebook will ask himself those questions.

If that enthusiast starts reading not only about Bob but one or two other folks doing the same thing every week, do you think that could impact where he buys his next unit? Absolutely.

The problem is we’re relying on Bob to spread the word about our wonderful customer service and why he would make the drive again. Don’t do that. Don’t waste a perfect opportunity on Facebook to have one customer tell hundreds or thousands of others why he went out of his way to do business with you.

That’s a rewarding and believable statement about your business that you have to publicize in a more challenging competitive landscape.

Neil Pascale is the industry communications manager for Dominion Powersports Solutions, the provider of the DX1 Powersports dealer management platform. He can be reached at neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

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