by Jim Boldebook
The Power of Internal Marketing
Power to the People!
Treating the people on your entire team like they want to be treated will pay off with the biggest returns of any marketing investment you make. Over the past 35 years, I’ve witnessed up close and personal the incredible marketing power and influence of dealerships that treat every employee as an associate. In the past 10 years, this management model has become a critical paradigm for maximizing marketing efficiency and effectiveness as Generation X and Millennials become the prime workforce in America.
Why limit your salesforce to 6 or 15 members, when you can have every member of your entire team recommending and referring customers for sales and service?!
Why limit your media efforts to ‘bought media’ when you can have ‘earned media’ from the promotional/publicity efforts of actions by every single member of your team?!
Sell your team…and they will sell your external customers. You have to find a way to ‘tell your story’ to every employee. You can do it with brochures and orientation meetings, but the best way is a video featuring the genesis of the dealership, the founders, the goals and the original brand proposition; a story/timeline of growth, model acquisitions, important milestones. Often the ‘story’ can be most effectively told with testimonial clips from owners, customers, and team members. Have you defined your ‘brand’? Have you clearly conveyed that to every associate? Over the past few years, I’ve offered a free ‘brand template’ to help define your brand from existing perception. It’s available at no cost. Simply fill out the contact form at the end of this article and mention the free brand template in the “message” field.
One of the dealerships I’ve been associated with for over 25 years, Galpin Motors in Los Angeles, has had an employee referral program in place for many years, often selling more vehicles from employee referrals than the average new car dealer sells in a year! The Boeckmann Family has always considered every team member a part of their extended family and it shows in the enormous brand recognition, trust and ‘earned media’ they have garnered in one of the most competitive environments in America.
Ideas on powering-up the marketing potential of the entire Team
- Make it personal! Every employee has an email address. Ask permission to include them on ‘all team’ email notifications for special events and occasions. Include a link that allows them to opt out. At least 4 times a year, share an update of business highlights and milestones via email, a printed piece included with paychecks, or best of all, have a ‘gather-round’ meeting at the dealership staged in shifts.
- Share the love! Recognize team members for events important to them personally: birthdays, the birth of children, special milestones, etc.
- Share the cake! Once a month put out a cake…or maybe a few pans of cupcakes recognizing the birthdays that occurred that month!
- Share the sandwiches! It’s amazing how much you can learn, and how you can endear yourself to groups of team members at a picnic table, breakroom or gathered round a food truck.
- Share the fun! At least once a year, even better if its twice a year, do something fun with the entire team (and even their families), such as team day at a local amusement park, holiday party, sporting event, etc. Make it casual. Get ideas from team members on what they would like to do!
- Take the time to walk the talk! The bigger your organization, the more powerful a ‘thank-you-in-public’ is when delivered by the Dealer and/or General Manager. This is not just for sales, but for every meaningful contribution to the team’s success.
- Ask for input! Often the best ideas on productivity come from a team member who sees challenges and opportunities up close on a daily basis. An occasional, informal survey on operational issues can offer great insight.
- Explain the business to everyone! Every team member should be aware of what the business is all about: how the revenue is derived, what the expenses are, what the competitive challenges are, etc.
- Ask for help in increasing revenue and controlling expenses! Consider an employee referral/friend & family program with recognition and gifts for top performers in every department! Offer rewards for ideas implemented to control expenses as well.
Over the past year, I’ve written several articles on recognizing the importance of dealership employees as the most crucial factor in building brand trust. With every passing day, that factor increases in value. Customers are savvier than ever, with over 80% of shoppers doing research before visiting a dealership. The good news is, customers are doing less legwork; shopping fewer dealerships. Closing rates at the final flange of the funnel are potentially higher if a shopper’s expectations are met and exceeded. The key to that happening is team members who act like owners on every level of contact.
No matter how small the dealership, the owner can’t be expected to have a constant front-line interface with shoppers. No matter how large, the owner can’t afford to hire enough executive level managers to monitor the contact of every customer. It all comes down to the actions and response of every single team member. Every lot person, every service writer, every technician, every receptionist, every single associate must understand what the dealership brand represents, and how important it is to treat every visitor the way they want to be treated.