Since we like to combine our topics of discussion here on our blog, I decided to try something new today: Facebook, Twitter and why should BMW dealerships care about the new social media.
There is no secret anymore, us here at BMWBLOG have been active in the online media community for years now, I dare to say that we were even pioneers in many areas, one of the first few blogs to experiment with the social tools available out there and learn how to leverage them and MOST IMPORTANT, how to connect to the community.
Since there are many BMW dealerships representatives that read us daily, I am going to offer some free advice, a short marketing lesson, free of charge. Some of you out there are already involved within this communities, but maybe you can learn something new today.
Let’s start first with Facebook….I’m sure most of you know what Facebook is and already have an account on it, either an active one or more of passive type. Regardless of that, Facebook is THE most important social medium out there, a platform that has changed how people connect with each other, how they communicate and how they leverage that information. We went from a nation where privacy was the most important thing to being open and transparent. Many businesses saw potential in Facebook and early in the game, decided to open Fan Pages that will create a communication path between the company and its customers, fans and employees.
If used properly, Facebook can really be one of the most useful marketing tools out there and on top of it, IT IS FREE. So how does it relate to BMW dealerships? Very simple I would say and the next few steps will outline the connection:
Create a Facebook Page dedicated to your BMW dealership
A marketing person employed by a dealership can simply open a Facebook page dedicated to the business. Next, make that Facebook Page identify itself with the brand, the company you represent, so make sure that your dealership contact information is listed, address, website and last but not least, the branding elements(logo, banners). But now the tricky part starts, how to get people to become fans of your page…..
Use any existing marketing campaigns to promote the Facebook Page
If you’re in the car business, then you are most likely using printed, radio, TV or billboard ads, so try to leverage that. Beside the dealership name and address, add your Facebook Page to it and I guarantee you, that name will stick. If I were to run a BMW dealership, I would also require all my client and service advisors, managers or anyone employed by the dealership, to have the Facebook Page listed on the business cards. In the end, these are probably the most handed out items at a car dealership: “Here is my card, call me!”.
Same applies to any flyers or printed marketing materials that are being handed out, make sure the Facebook Page is listed on there, think of it as a second web URL associated with the business. Some of you that are very active within Facebook are probably already thinking how would I add that URL since it has one of the weirdest naming conventions: www.facebook.com/pages/BMWdealerships/29719107778 or something along this line, you get the idea.
Well, Facebook has made it easy for all of you: starting this past Friday, everyone can login into their Facebook account and select a custom name for them or their pages, of course, based on the availability of that name. So, let’s say that your page is all about the Classic BMW in Cleveland, Ohio (Disclaimer: They are our sponsors also), then you would like to sign into Facebook and make sure you reserve the name Facebook.com/ClassicBMW. From here, all you have to do is keep continuing promoting your page at any event or by any means possible, eventually the fans will come.
What next? I’m your fan/friend on Facebook, but what can you do for me?
So by now, you might have a few hundreds or even thousands of fans on Facebook, what do you do next? You start communicating with them, you listen to them, you interact, you try to solve a problem they might have. In the end, if I’m your fan, that means you have something I want or need, either a new car or a service appointment issue. But the most important thing is: you stay active, you show interest without trying to spam anyone. First, try to help them, answer any financing questions they might have, gave them information about the availability of the cars on your lots or simply setup an online service appointment for them.
Once you create this connection between you, the BMW dealership, and your peers, you can start slowly to do business. And you might ask yourself: how do I do that? Very simple, start promoting deals available ONLY for your Facebook fans, from a free set of BMW floor mats, to a $500 or more discount on a 335i and a lease financing rate offered at the buy rate rather than marking it up. Anything you can give them extra and you everyone will see the value in actually being your fan. Bottom line is that you want to offer an incentive to these loyal people and give them more than to someone that simply walks into your showroom. Of course, these customers are just as important, but once they leave the showroom, you have no other way to communicate with them or make them return in the future.
Let’s look at this scenario: I become your Facebook Page fan, I go on there and start seeing all sort of BMW deals available only for us. I decided that you’re in the same state or near by as myself, I drive to your dealership, I get my Facebook advertised incentive and drive off in a new BMW. Six months from now, my wife wants a brand new spanking BMW….what do you think I would do next? Will I start driving around at all the BMW dealerships shopping for the car I want to or would I rather do the most obvious thing: go on your Facebook Page and see what are your latest offers since obviously, I was a happy camper the previous time.
Okay, I got it, but what else….
I’m glad you’re still with me, stick around, plenty of good advice to come. Here is one thing that many BMW dealerships omit to do: we, the bimmer fans, LOVE to drive any new BMWs, I mean, any of them, we like to brag about that and we like to compare the hell out of any cars out there. But here is where we hit a wall, many times your BMW client advisors are too busy to waste time with all these individual test drives, especially if someone would like to test drive 2-3 cars in the same day.
So you, as a BMW dealership, have options now. Remember all those hundreds or by now thousands of people on your Facebook Page, well, they are there waiting for you to offer something new, unique and interesting. So all you have to do is simply organize a large test drive session once a month, with a predefined driving route and an extensive fleet of different BMWs, and these people will come. Do you know why they will actually come? Because they will not feel the pressure they have to buy something, they simply would love to test drive these cars.
Of course, your next question as a dealership representative is: “What’s my return in all of this? How do I get the value back for my time”? Well, most of these “Fans” that stopped by to drive the cars are potential customers and one of them at least, has immediate plans of buying a BMW. Sure, you might say that one is not enough to justify the time you have used up, but I can guarantee you that these sessions will not go unnoticed and they will return as customers in the future.
Without getting into many other details, I would like to point out a few more ways to use this great tool that Facebook really is. You can really use your account as a photo hosting medium where you can post photos of any BMWs sitting in your lot and would like to get more exposure for it. Or, how about posting some photos of the first BMW X6M that is available in your state? Upload these photos up and let the community do the advertising for you. All of your fans have the option to comment on photos, ask further questions or simply share that photo with their friends, turning your entry into a viral marketing campaign.
And don’t forget, it is all FREE to you.
This brings us to my favorite social media platform in the last few years: Twitter. Some of you might have heard of it recently after all the famous people started using it or promoting it, but the truth of the matter is that Twitter has been around for a while and it is turning into one of the GREATEST marketing tools ou there, and once again, IT’S ALL FREE.
I’ve been studying these type of microsharing platforms for years and always looked at ways to leverage them, to engage with my readers, to connect with them and again, to turn the impersonal voice of a blog into a more fuzzier one, personal. Did we manage to do so? Absolutely, we have engaged with many readers on Twitter, answered questions, concerns, solved issues they have with their BMWs and iPod connections, and many others.
You as a BMW dealrship can do the same, even more, so stay focused and listen to my FREE advice as it flows below.
You’ve all heard of Dell, right? The famous computer maker that sells tons of different products, from desktops, to notebooks or LCDs….well, these folks at Dell are quite smart. Back in 2007, they jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon and started to advertise deals only for their followers. Yes, Twitter calls your friends or fans, FOLLOWERS.
So, two years and 600,000 followers later, Dell announced that they generated over $2 million dollars in sells from its Twitter account. Pretty impressive, right? Allow me to say this: FREAKING AMAZING!! And once again, this was all free marketing and the community did most of the work for them.
And this leads us to your BMW dealership. In the past few months, I’ve started to see the first BMW dealerships signing up on Twitter, but unfortunately, many of you have not understood from the beginning how to use Twitter. You started using it to create a sales platform without offering anything else beside it. You’re not DELL and people will not immediately jump to buy that expensive car, so you need to start again connecting with your followers, answer their questions, offer to help. Once you have a decent amount of people following, start combining the personal tweets with business related ones as well.
And Dell has set a great model for you: start offering Twitter exclusive deals, similar to what I have mentioned in the Facebook section. Offer some decent incentives and people will do the marketing for you, they will re-tweet it, tell their friends or simply contact you for more information.
But do you what the best part is? Anything you post on there is indexed, everything is saved and whoever will do a search in the future, can always come across these deals, which implicitly means more potential customers for you.
Of course, there are many other ways to best use Twitter, but maybe I’ll take the time in the future to offer more advice.
For now, I would like to give you a last final tip: use Twitter as a customer service platform as well, either through the same account or a separate one. You will be surprised how BMW customers are unhappy with their shopping or service experience and they go on BMW forums or blogs to rant. That obviously ruins your reputation and it also makes it harder to defend yourself. Instead, allow these customers to simply go to your Twitter account and address these issues. Let them “tweet” their concerns, problems and all you have to do is to assign a person responsible to handle these claims and ultimately, improve your brand quality. And the best company on Twitter when it comes to customer service, it’s actually Comcast (http://twitter.com/comcastcares) , they will address any issues you have within a few minutes and if needed, they will take the problem offline and communicate further with you.
I hope these free pointers will help your business and most important, I hope it will help you move towards a new direction where new marketing methods are being developed daily, most of the time at no charge for you. Open your heart, be open minded and your BMW dealership might grow even bigger than ever.