Bridging The Gap
Dealer Insight from Edmunds.com

Volume I   Issue No. VIII December 2009



Reputation Management & Social Media

You cannot discuss one today without the other. They go hand-in hand. You cannot run, you cannot hide. You cannot dig a hole in the sand and wait this one out. The implications for your business WILL be profound.

  • 75% of online auto shoppers read dealer reviews.
  • As many as 1 in 4 of the 75% of online shoppers will change his or her mind about where to purchase a car based on the ratings and reviews.

Since there is so much material to cover on this topic, and because we firmly believe it is essential to the ultimate success of your business, we will be dedicating the next two newsletters to reputation management and social media.

"You can't build a reputation on what you say you are going to do." — Henry Ford

In sales, I was always trained; "Ask for a testimonial, a letter of recommendation, or a referral." If you do a good job for a client, then he or she will be happy to sing your praises and endorse you. Word-of-mouth always was and continues to be the most effective and cost effective form of advertising. If you can add a social networking strategy to an existing strong word-of-mouth reputation, your business can ignite like wildfire. Just ask Mary Kay, Amway, Tupperware, or the Bernie Madoff folks! Word-of- mouth, positive outcome stories and good buying experiences within social groups (offline as well as online) move people. You can't buy that.

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." — Warren Buffet

Across the board, dealers, dealerships and car salespeople are not held in the highest regard. As a lump sum group, car dealers are reputationally challenged. And, you can either accept that as a given delimiting fact, or you can view it as an opportunity. If you can stand out from the crowd, if you can stand out and above the basic car salesman reputation, then you can make a difference. If everyone else is a louse, it shouldn't be that hard to come off as a decent guy to do business with. In the digital age, repairing automotive sales perception is a must to be successful. This will not be a sprint, but a marathon and the course will change along the way. But there are tools available to you like never before that can help you turn that handicap into a huge win.

5-Star System

If this picture of the five stars doesn't ring a bell, then you just haven't been paying attention! Adopted first by the early e-Commerce pioneers such as travel sites, the 5-star system has become the default measure for just about all e-Commerce. Amazon and eBay helped establish this standard. The 5-star rating system could make or break an online seller.

Due to its ubiquity across the Web, Edmunds adopted the same format.

While the formula for the ratings system may appear simple, the impact it can have extends far beyond simple math. Negative ratings and reviews can bury you, and not just on the Edmunds site. Bear in mind that Google aggregates reviews(mostly from Edmunds and a few others) , and then indexes them for search results and displays "stars" right in the local results. Your negative ratings, or your lack of any reviews, may be the first thing a customer sees when they do a Google search . Here are some examples:

How can you manage your online reputation when it appears to have a life of its own? Automotive has been late to the game as far as reputation management is concerned, but it seems about to explode. As you can see, even the aggregated reviews only amount to a miniscule percentage as they relate to sales. Some eBay and Amazon sellers have hundreds of thousands of reviews!

"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving." — William Shakespeare

Management

You should be reaching out to your satisfied customers and asking them to submit a review about their experience at your dealership. Be mindful that disgruntled customers with an ax to grind are quicker to the review boards than satisfied ones. You want to avoid at all costs, having more negative reviews than positive ones, or worse yet-having no reviews whatsoever. Technology, mobile apps, and perhaps your own online lounges may be where reviews about your business are being submitted. I have been told on more than a few occasions about people submitting poor reviews from their cell phones in the service area waiting room.

Considering the dealership closings and shifting brand consideration, managing your reputation in front of these potential new customers can make your business-or blow it.

Check what's currently out there. Run a Google search for your store, and RSS the feed so that you can keep tabs on how your dealership is doing in the public online arena.

Due to Edmunds' reputation as the #1 trusted online source for new car information and pricing, Edmunds' user-generated entities are considered ground zero for dealership reputation. If you do nothing else as a result of this newsletter, explore these links to Edmunds user-generated content and see what consumers are saying about you and your brand(s).

Edmunds Forums
Edmunds Daily
Edmunds Answers
Dealer Ratings & Reviews

All user-generated content posted on Edmunds is and always has been moderated by Edmunds staff members-paid professionals who moderate content, keep it honest, discourage inflammatory exchanges and monitor abusive behaviors.

Automotive dealers will transact with literally millions of customers, many times in all departments. Customers are talking, and I feel strongly that this is the year that the percentage of transactions reviewed (and posted for the world to see) will explode. Edmunds will be adding prominence to its Dealer Ratings and Reviews. Your ratings on Edmunds may soon be appearing beside your name in the Dealer Locator and the revamped New Car Inventory Listings. They may already be sitting next to your listing on Google Search results. Stay on top of it.

 

Good Selling!

John Giamalvo

John Giamalvo, Director, Strategic Marketing
DealerInsight@edmunds.com


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