It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again. The Internet has changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions. The vast quantity of information online has shifted power into the hands of consumers when it comes to how educated they can be before making a purchase.
In no industry is this more apparent than in the automotive sector.
In my own recent experience, I spent many hours researching before making a new car purchase. Not only did I go through traditional sources like magazine and newspaper reviews, I also joined a few Facebook fan pages and online forums. It was from the owner fan pages in social media where I was able to get some very direct pro and con advice from a large pool of owners of the cars I was most interested in. Many owners were also quite open about sharing pricing information and negotiation advice.
Best of all was all the research that I was able to conduct entirely on my own without the influence of the manufacturers.
By the time I got around to test driving a few cars I knew exactly what I wanted and the price I was willing to pay. On top of that I also knew, from all the owner advice I got, what to expect and what to look out for once the test drive began. I was a buyer with a much higher level of education and comfort in the product – that would have been unheard of only a few years ago!
In this new world it’s clear that car manufacturers face a huge challenge when it comes to attracting customers to physically come visit their dealer lots. There is a huge opportunity however in online channels where dealers can leverage owners to provide user testimonies to encourage others like myself to visit the dealers who provided them with a great product surrounded by great experiences. Message to dealers: turn happy customers into active advocates.
This is an organic marketing process that some dealers are beginning to explore with impressive results.
In just 90 days one American dealer who kicked off an advocacy initiative engaged with over 726 customers who visited their website, service department, and sales department. Their effort uncovered 126 advocates that communicated their personal and authentic dealer recommendations to over 16,377 people in just 3 months.
Rather than relying exclusively on traditional advertising channels to attract new customers it’s clear that it can be equally, if not more, effective to use today’s social channels to build a base of new customers by leveraging your best asset…the customers you already have.