I recently read a story by Ian Altman, a contributor to Forbes magazine, where he outlined the top business trends for 2017. Some of them seemed custom-tailored for dealerships, with ideas to implement immediately— as well as a few warnings to heed. You can read his complete list here and here are 6 trends in particular that dealers should watch.
1. Subject Matter Experts Become the New Rainmakers
Dealers repeatedly tell us that it’s difficult to find good employees. In terms of finding effective salespeople, try looking around your dealership first. “Most organizations have a stable of subject matter experts (SMEs) who currently do not play a role in growing revenue. The best organizations offer integrity-based sales training to build a sales culture within the organization and empower the SMEs as keys to growth,” Altman says, “With SMEs, businesses place a premium on proper lead qualification and narrow focus on the right opportunities to make efficient use of scarce, yet highly effective resources.”
Perhaps there is someone at your dealership who is already highly motivated, knows your products and your dealership and is someone in whom customers trust. With a little sales training, they could be your rainmaker in 2017.
2. Sales and Content Marketing Become Fully Integrated
Over the last few years, dealers have done a good job of improving websites and launching their social media accounts. However, it can be challenging to find good content to keep your online presence fresh. Lately, it seems some dealers are relying too heavily on sharing posts from their manufacturers. They look good, but do little in terms of engaging with customers.
Instead, turn to those subject matter experts. Find out the questions customers are asking and use that to develop information for your website or Facebook page. “The goal is to ensure that when customers search for risks, challenges, and implementation strategies associated with your solutions, they will find your content to address their questions,” Altman says.
3. Video Becomes Essential
According to a recent Forbes study, more than 80% of people say they are watching more online video today than they were a year ago.
RLD columnist and retail expert Mike Wiles shared his thoughts on the topic in a “Managing the Store” column, “We’re in an industry that begs for video. While working at a dealership, I realized that the rural lifestyle tractor customers needed extensive training that could be offered through videos and I started a website called AskTractorMike.com. Once a week, I post a training video as well as answer questions from viewers all over the world. My success is due to the growing segment of the population going to YouTube for training and because today’s rural lifestyle customers don’t know many of the basics of tractor operation and maintenance.”
Rely on your experts and take advantage of technology such as Facebook live or smartphone video capabilities and start building a video library to post on your website or share in an email campaign. Wiles offers these steps to get started.
4. New Collaboration Tools Require Rethinking Email
Collaborative tools like the mobile app Slack are replacing email for internal communication, according to Altman. Slack has more than 4 million daily users, including Doug Nord, owner of Nord Outdoor Power. Nord uses the mobile app to save time and keep better track of what’s happening at his dealership.
“A tough problem is trying to get updates every day on what is going on in the sales department. As an owner, you like to have a recap but you might be on the road and unless you have a meeting before hours, it will invariably get interrupted when a customer walks in. I have a private ‘channel’ in Slack.com for a sales daily report, so my sales team can give me a quick update when I’m on the road or on vacation,” says Nord. Read more about how Nord uses Slack.
5. Brick and Mortar Stores Without Expertise Disappear
Dealers share a lot of concerns about growing their business, but no one has mentioned the possibility of disappearing altogether. Altman says that businesses should consider this possibility if they don’t cultivate and promote their expertise. “Brick and mortar retailers that let you find things on your own will continue to lose market share to Amazon and others. If you have to discover the products on your own, it’s easier to do so online.”
Consumers are already using mobile apps and the Internet for purchasing high-ticket items like cars and homes, so may be expecting more sophisticated tech solutions for tractor purchases as well. (Check out this list of the top mobile apps for car buying and selling) The more immediate danger is that they go to your store to check out the machine and then go online to order it somewhere else. The added value you bring beyond supplying the machine is where you’ll keep that customer.
6. Recurring Revenue
According to Altman, “When sellers either feel a need to lock you into a long-term agreement or get payment up front, they are implying that you might find a better alternative. If the vendor assumes the risk of delivering and maintaining value by not requiring the long-term commitment, then the customer will reward the seller with more trust.”
The logical tie-in is in your service department. It’s time to get creative about your service packages, how you charge customers and how you keep them coming back.
Let me know your thoughts on unique ways you are building recurring revenues — or any other ways that you are turning trends into business strategies.