Market share shifts in times of uncertainty. And we’ve NEVER been more uncertain. Nearly 60% of consumers have tried a business for the first time since the pandemic, and 89% of them plan to stay with this new option. The pandemic is terrible, but it’s also the single greatest opportunity you will ever have to grow your dealership. To do so, you must REWIRE relationships with current and prospective customers. And as so many transactions move online, you must close the uncertainty gap for consumers. In this “next normal,” we can assume nothing regarding what customers know about your dealership.
In his opening keynote address for Digital Dealer Virtual (Oct. 6-7, 2020), Jay Baer will share the six steps necessary to rewire customer relationships, convince them to shift their spending to you, and turn them into your greatest marketing and sales advantage.
In the following interview, Jay talks more about his background, the future of marketing, and his upcoming keynote.
DEALER MAGAZINE: To start, can you tell us a little about your background and what led you into the marketing space?
JAY: Like a lot of people who were early to digital, it happened somewhat accidentally. I was a journalism major in college initially and wanted to be an investigative reporter. But I took a class on political campaigns and fell in love with the concept of marketing a person or a cause.
I began my career as a political campaign consultant and worked on elections for US Congress, Governor, and even US President. But, like automotive, it’s a tough business! I decided to get out, and I moved into what we would now call “traditional marketing and communications.
I was working as a spokesperson for a stage government agency and decided working in the government was not a good fit for my entrepreneurial nature. I was having a beer with some friends of mine, and they started the very first Internet company in Arizona in late 1992. They told me the company was growing, and they needed marketing help. So I marched into the office the next morning and quit, even though I’d NEVER been on the “Internet” (these were the days when, for the vast majority of people, the “Internet” meant the closed gardens of AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy).
And from there, I started several companies, mostly in the online marketing world. Having been in this space from the time when there was NO BROWSER to today, I’ve had a front-row seat to the growth of digital as a marketing, customer service, and societal force.
DEALER MAGAZINE: How do you see the pandemic impacting the marketing space?
JAY: This pandemic is one of the great tragedies of the past century. It has forced all companies and organizations to fundamentally rewire how they interact with their customers. And that’s hard. But it is also the single best opportunity you will ever have in your lifetime to shift market share.
Companies that do a better job of helping and re-educating customers will succeed disproportionately. I firmly believe how you handle your business over the next six months will have a huge impact on your revenue over the next six years.
Today, it truly is about helping rather than selling.
I think about Jet Blue airlines. They are massively disrupted and have had the worst quarter in the history of the company by a colossal margin. Yet, they donated 100,000 free flights to front-line healthcare workers. Will that pay off for them down the road? I believe it will, yes.
DEALER MAGAZINE: As dealerships return to running their physical showrooms at full capacity and ramp up their marketing to bring consumers in, what advice do you have for them?
JAY: It’s all about information right now, which is why Youtility (marketing so useful, people would pay for it) is so vital at this time. Customers do not know what to expect. Do they have to wear a mask? Can they test-drive a vehicle? How does financing work now? Everything we used to take for granted informationally, can no longer be taken for granted.
Going back to my Jet Blue example, there has been a huge spike in Google searches for the query, “Are airlines still in business?”
You have to create all-new FAQs and get that information out to your customers and prospects so that they know not only that they are safe but also how everything works in this period of next normal.
DEALER MAGAZINE: The theme of Digital Dealer Virtual is “Reconnect, Reinvent, Reignite.” What advice do you have for automotive dealerships who are looking to “reinvent” new ways of doing things?
JAY: It’s a perfect theme because every dealer is going to have to reinvent, whether they wanted to or not. And the reality is, a lot of processes and norms that have shifted due to the pandemic were on the way to changing anyway (contactless financing, for example). But what COVID-19 has spurred is 36 months’ worth of digital transformation and process rewiring into 36 days.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What digital trends or channels do you see as opportunities for automotive dealerships either right now or in the near future?
JAY: Anything that doesn’t require face-to-face interaction with customers. AR and VR test drives. Text-messaging. Remote service diagnostics. Subscription service plans. And also anything that ramps up convenience for customers. The LAST thing people want right now is an unnecessary hassle.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Can you tell us more about what you plan to focus on during your keynote? What specific marketing strategies and best practices will you share?
JAY: I’m going to talk about the intersection of information and customer experience and will demonstrate how dealers can create sales velocity by being useful and helpful rather than relying on straightforward sales techniques, discounts, and other tactics from pre-pandemic days.
My talk will focus on how to create marketing so useful, people would pay for it, and how now more than ever, helpfulness and humanity will create and strengthen customer relationships that will pay dividends forever.
DEALER MAGAZINE: And what message do you hope will resonate and help professionals in auto retail?
JAY: You cannot assume your customers know anything any longer. The pandemic has erased customer knowledge and customer bonds. Now, every dealer is essentially a startup again. This means getting back to basics, recreating and resting everything, but with a renewed focus on help… not hype.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Any closing thoughts or tips that you would like to share?
Jay: Excited to see (virtually) everyone! Until then, for advice on digital marketing and customer experience, you can find numerous articles on our website.
This interview was originally published in the August 2020 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the August 2020 Issue here.