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Customer Testimonials Fuel Lasting Relationships and Growth Within Your Dealership

Updated: Mar 21

By Matt Hayward

Tell it … don’t sell it. Few truer words have ever been spoken in the marketing world. The best way to grow your business and create lasting relationships with customers is through an emotional connection with your brand. The best way to create that emotional connection is by telling your story, and one of the best ways to tell your story is through customer testimonials. This is particularly true in automotive marketing for dealerships, where you’re selling big-ticket items in a highly competitive (and repetitive) landscape.

In our new reality of COVID-19, we’re all living in an emotionally-charged and uncertain environment. That’s why controlling your brand has become more important than ever. As stated in our article from last month, ‘How Auto Dealers Can Control Their Narrative During COVID-19’, “… you need to drive as many people as possible to your preferred conclusion rather than waiting for your customers to come to a conclusion on their own.” Customer testimonials are a perfect way to do so. In fact, per Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t know. Anecdotally, I would argue these numbers could be even higher during COVID-19. It’s human nature for people to turn to others for recommendations when they’re confused about what information they can trust.

Customer testimonials work…and they’re especially important right now. Here’s how to set yourself up for success through testimonials:

1.) Create Happy Customers: Great testimonials begin here. If you’re a “churn & burn” store, or you’re not focusing on superior customer service, then stop reading this article and immediately reassess your people and your processes before you go down the testimonial path.

2.) Set Up a Customer Testimonial Video Session: This is best done with the help of a professional advertising agency or production team, with high-end equipment. Have your team create a ‘testimonial packet’ which contains time slots for the video session, walks your salespeople through a call-script for reaching out to their best customers and contains a sample gift certificate you can provide to participants. Offering a service coupon is a good way to ensure the customer comes back to your dealership.

3.) Follow-Up: Contacting your customers in the days leading up to the video session to re-confirm their participation is crucial to the success of the video session. Nothing ruins a testimonial session faster than people not showing up. Often you can grab some customers from sales or service same-day, but putting random people on camera rarely turns out as well as using your best long-time customers. Make sure you follow up so that your customers come and stick to the schedule.

On the day of the video session, your advertising agency should find a quiet place to set up the camera and designate a waiting area for customers who are awaiting their turn. Consider providing refreshments in this waiting area, as full stomachs create happy customers on camera! Make sure your agency is getting a standard talent release from each customer, where they agree in writing to be on camera and to be in your ads. Your agency should be asking questions that run the gamut of the customer experience – sales, service, people, selection, financing, body shop, etc. Pay attention to any special or unique stories your customers tell. Drilling down on these can often produce compelling clips.

If there’s time either before or after the shoot, your agency should try to go around the dealership to shoot “b-roll,” which is backup footage of the storefront, inventory, showroom, service bays, etc. For more information on gathering b-roll footage, check out our recent article – Be “Production Prepared”! — Building Your Dealership’s Visual Archive Can’t Wait’. If there’s time, consider getting some of your employees on camera to talk about why they love working for your dealership, what motivates them, etc. These employee testimonials are useful both in regular ads as well as on employee pages on your dealership website.

Once you’ve had a successful video session, congratulations! You now have the raw footage you need to create an entire ecosystem of compelling marketing. This is where your automotive marketing agency needs to shine the brightest. Having great testimonials is meaningless unless they’re used effectively. A good agency will use this opportunity to conceptualize the branding narrative and how it will be carried throughout your marketing. The ideal end result is a spirally-integrated ecosystem of ads, meaning all of your media will be ‘singing the same tune’. No matter which touch-point a customer finds you at, your emotional message will be reinforced. Consider an automotive marketing agency with an in-house production department to achieve all of this. You’ll often get better results compared to agencies that farm production out. Also consider partnering with an automotive marketing agency with in-house media-buying and in-house digital teams, so that you’re making the best decisions about where to run your spirally-integrated message. When the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, everything works better, and to your advantage.

Remember, tell it, don’t sell it…especially during COVID-19. By presenting customer testimonials through a spirally-integrated marketing campaign, based on research and well thought-out media choices, your dealership will have its best chance to stand out against your competition.

When the time is right to discuss the marketing plans at your dealership or group, let’s have a conversation.

Matt Hayward is Director of Business Development and a Senior Account Manager at CBC Automotive Marketing, a Maine ad agency working across the United States with successful dealerships and dealership groups.

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