Sunday
Aug172008

How To Grow Your Auto Dealership During A Recession

By Jimmy Vee & Travis Miller

“The sky is falling,” so they say. Experts everywhere are screaming recession. The Auto manufactures have been hit hard and dealers are feeling the heat. What would happen to your business if the customers just…disappeared?

By definition, a recession occurs whenever our country experiences two successive quarters with a declining GPD (gross domestic product).

Monetary theorists can’t agree on what exactly causes a recession or how exactly to prevent one…but one thing is for certain: during a recession, many consumers have less cash in their pocket to spend with you.

Recently, while reading a Time Magazine article about the looming recession I picked up in a doctor’s office, I overheard a conversation between two nurses in the next room. They were chatting about pet health insurance.

“Oh…it's only $400 per year…and he's like my son. I have to take care of him.” In this nurse's mind, $400 per year was a pittance compared to the importance of “taking care” of her dog.

This illustrates a very important point—people will always find money to buy the things they want…even if they are broke. Recession or no recession, consumer spending will continue.

As a percentage, the diminished spending will probably be tiny. Historically, since 1940, recessions have been marked by decreases in real GDP ranging from .1% to .9%. But the media will freak out, and business owners everywhere will start running for the hills. And some politician somewhere (who knows, maybe in the White House) will try to convince us that the solution is to raise taxes and increase entitlements.

Nevertheless, people selling commoditized products and services are going to feel the most pain. If there's nothing that really distinguishes you from your competition, you'd better start putting some acorns away or find a way to stand out from the crowd. The me-too dealers and salespeople will find it tough to make money in the turbulent times that lie ahead.

People are going to tighten their spending. They are going to be less trustful and more questioning. People will begin to logically try to convince themselves to stop spending on products and services they can afford to live without. But they will still buy the things they want.

How To Prepare & Protect Yourself

So what can you do to prepare for and protect yourself and your business from a recession if or when it does occur?

The first part of your mission is crystal clear: in order to thrive during the downturn, you must sell to the emotions of your prospects—not to their logical brains. A decision logically made can be logically changed. But logic rarely defeats emotion.

Have you ever been in a heated argument with someone who was very passionate about the topic? Perhaps you were talking about a sports team, religion, abortion, the war, taxes or terrorism. Whenever you debate with someone who is emotionally involved and passionate about a topic, you can't win.

No matter how many facts and how much sheer logic you throw in the debate, logic can't defeat emotion. This may have something to do with the fact that the energy of passion blocks out the ability for the conscious mind to even receive, decode and absorb the logical argument. What good is a perfect argument if the other person doesn't even hear it?

Likewise with consumer purchasing. When someone is worked up about buying one thing or another, it's going to be very difficult to talk them out of it with reason.

It's like trying to convince your wife that she doesn't need another pair of shoes…or trying to convince your husband that he doesn’t need to add the sports package to the cable. Of course they don’t need it. But they WANT it, and they are going to get it.

How To Thrive During Tough Times

There's an even greater mandate that we all need to follow in order to thrive during the tough times. And that is to find ways to extract more money from every customer you do business with.

That's a powerful way to combat the negative forces of recession. You can withstand selling to fewer customers if you can make more money from each one. Not to mention, working with fewer customers is more fun, relaxing and enjoyable.

Plus, by charging more for what you offer, you will almost always wind up working with a higher-end customer. And they are least likely to be affected by a recession.

How To Earn More From Every Customer

So how can you begin charging more for what you offer? It’s actually quite simple—deliver more value. That doesn’t necessarily mean increasing quantity or even quality. You can build perceived value in many different ways; here are just a few ideas.

Improve the packaging of your dealership, making it appear more appealing, inviting or desirable

Create a more exclusive version of your dealership

Enhance the way you are perceived personally by your customers by positioning yourself as an expert and trusted advisor

Include helpful information with your existing product or service

Bundle your product or service with other related items

Increase the convenience factor of doing business with your dealership

Target your product or service to a more specific audience

Involve a celebrity

Make doing business with you more fun or enjoyable

Turn one time purchases into renewing purchases to save your customers time and energy

Determine what makes you, your product, your service or your dealership unique and incorporate that into all you do so that it makes direct comparison nearly impossible

By delivering more value you can justify charging more. The more you charge, the more you make. Interestingly, customers who pay more in exchange for greater value are more likely to do business with you again and refer others.

This word-of-mouth exchange will be critical in the times that lie ahead. And by focusing on the emotional benefits your customers will derive from your product or service rather than the logical reasons they should buy, you can shield yourself from the detrimental conditions that will afflict many around you.

Thursday
Feb072008

How To Revitalize Your Dealership Using Powerful, Low-Cost Marketing

By Jimmy Vee & Travis Miller

heartbeat.jpg

If you're like many dealers today, what you’re doing to attract customers is not working the way it should be—or the way it once did. There was a time when you could just buy a small ad, handout business cards at a networking event or mail a postcard and get clients. That’s no longer the case.

Haven’t you been wondering what’s changed? Where has all the business, ups and traffic gone?

The extinction of buyers is two fold. 1. The traditional model is broken and the old way of doing things is worn out and ineffective. 2. Automotive marketing incest is rampant. Dealers tend to copy what other dealers are doing, often with no regard for the effectiveness of the pilfered strategies. This incestuous marketing behavior creates stale, unoriginal marketing and lackluster sales.

Too many entrepreneurs, business owners and sales professionals are wasting their time, money and opportunity with traditional marketing practices that are washed up, worn out and do not deliver profitable results.

Listen up. I you are a dealer that wants more…more prospects…more sales…more money, you can have it all no matter what the economic conditions. The caveat? You must be willing to do something different.

So what’s alive? What's working? What can you do today to make a difference tomorrow without breaking the bank?

Here’s a sure-fire approach anyone can take immediately to make a dramatic impact on the bottom-line:

1. Stop Thinking Media

Most dealers jump right to asking, "Where should I place my ad?" Then when the chosen media doesn't perform the way they think it should they state triumphantly, "______ doesn't work." Fill in the blank with whatever media you've tried and were disappointed with. Then that media gets crossed off the list of possible choices and you're one step closer to finding the magic media. Or so you think.

If you continue this trend and this way of thinking, you will quickly run out of media options and be left with only bus benches and match book covers. With every other media crossed off your list you'll be forced to come to the conclusion that marketing doesn't work. That's certainty not the case. It just doesn't work the way you're doing it…the traditional way.

You have to stop thinking about where the ad should go and start thinking about who the ad is for.

2. Stop Selling Cars

What? Perhaps we should say, stop MARKETING vehicles. Everyone sells vehicles and features. Whether you're selling one brand or another most consumers could care less about what you offer and have a thousand options. So why should they pick you?

If you fail to create a compelling reason for people to buy what you're selling, you will wind up right in the middle of the commodity market where logic dictates the sale and you’re left with no option but to compete on price and selection. That’s when your lead flow dries up and your profit suffers.

3. Start Selling Outcomes

Instead of talking about the features of your products and services, start talking about the specific reasons a prospect should choose you over everyone else and what they have to gain from the transaction. Declare to the world, “I am the obvious choice! Doing business with anyone else would be foolish.”

You want to make concrete offers and tie those offers to powerful benefits. What are the big obstacles your customers are facing? What do they have gain by working with you? What do they have to lose by not working with you? What are your competitors missing? What do you do potentially better than anyone else?

You are selling dream fulfillment!

Your potential customers are dying for a buying preference that makes their decision making process easy. So, make your claim, back it up with a promise and a guarantee and tell the prospect exactly how and why you will make their life much, much better.

Here’s an important distinction: we’re not talking about spending money on marketing or advertising in order to “get your name out there” or “build brand.” That's traditional and tends to be a waste of money for smaller businesses.

We’re suggesting that you communicate these ideas through a compelling story or message that causes people to take action and allows you to measure your results.

Most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t know this information and many of the ones who do know it are too stubborn, too lazy or too afraid to do anything with it.

The wise person who takes this information and runs with it will be in striking distance of dominating their market, making their competition impotent and ending up with a lead producing machine so powerful that they're actually able to take a few days off each week to spend with their family because the marketing is so effective.

Thursday
Feb072008

Sell More Cars By Eating Lunch

By Jimmy Vee & Travis Miller

cleaver.jpg

We had a little company outing the other day…we ate lunch at a local Tepan Grill. You know—where the guy makes a volcano out of the onion, throws eggs in the air and cracks them on their way down, makes the shrimp dance and jump and land in his chef's hat?? One of those places.

As we were marveling over his craft we got to talking to him and he made a very powerful statement which has very strong implications about success, both in marketing and life in general.

As he finished performing some remarkable feats with an egg, he explained to us that he learned the tricks by practicing outside in his back yard…in the grass. He realized that if he practiced in the grass, there was a chance the egg wouldn't break when it hit the ground. And he could try again with the same egg. He said he began with 4 dozen eggs. And after 48 tries he still hadn't gotten it right a single time.

He said he considered giving up. He knew all kinds of other tricks with shrimp and onions, etc. And he could toss the knives as well as anybody. Who needed to crack eggs mid air anyway? But he persevered.

The next day he went down and bought another 4 dozen eggs and tried again. This time, he got it right! But only once…

Once again thoughts of quitting entered his mind. But he remembered that he had committed himself to perfecting this routine. The next day…another 4 dozen eggs.

This time success came quickly, and more often. He went down to the store and bought another 4 dozen eggs. After consistent effort, his practice finally yielded excellent performance.

At this point in the store I was looking for light soy sauce and thinking how lucky he was that eggs were cheap. You're probably thinking…I get it…don't give up. The little engine who could…etc.

But that's not the point.

He went on to demonstrate that the margin of error was less than an inch. If he launched the egg outside of a tiny "sweet spot" on the surface of the spatula, the egg would fly up an the wrong angle and end up in somebody's lap. But when he hit it just right, it would fly straight up and come straight back down, striking the side of the spatula and landing as a scrambled mess.

Here's the interesting part…he said that if he gets nervous he gets timid and misses the sweet spot. And it's when that happens that he screws up and makes a big mess. But when he boldly goes for it, perfection.

What a striking statement. We have found the same thing to be common in marketing. You see, there's usually this "sweet spot" where your offer, your language, your market, the timing all come together and the marketing really works!

The bad news is that if you're outside that sweet spot, even just a little, your campaign may fall flat on its face.

That's where most people get to. They try to market a time or two then call it quits because it just didn't work. Well trust me…marketing works. Jimmy and I are two regular guys who will generate several million dollars this year out of a rented town house for an office with little more than a couple of sticks to run together and some good marketing brains.

The key is to learn how to hit that sweet spot. That's what we try to teach others through our coaching, training and consulting.

But the other key is to not be nervous. See, we realized a long time ago that when you are timid…and you're using scared money…and your marketing effort has to work…that's when you have a big problem. The timidity causes you to lose your edge and you blow it.

You ever notice that when you need to get that one big client…and everything will be OK when you land it…but then you never do? But when you have lots of irons in the fire and you're busy, the clients keep rolling in and you hardly have time to deal with them. That's because when you NEED to get the client, you won't. Who knows why. Probably because the client can tell that you're needy and that causes unease.

So how do you deal with it?

Well, first of all you have to know what you're doing. If you're just guessing and praying, forget it. So you need to learn the marketing craft from someone who knows what they're talking about. Buy a course, join a coaching program, hire a consultant, whatever.

Then, you have to properly fund your effort. That doesn't mean you need a million bucks. But you do need to be willing and able to lose the investment without losing your ass (or your business). Jimmy and I and our partners NEVER make a marketing investment we're not prepared to walk away from. And that was true even in the beginning days of our business (we opened our business with $200 in the bank account and our first client paid us $1075, so that's what we had to work with).

Think of the guy who had 4 dozen eggs. He wasn't too concerned with losing an egg.

Next you have to put the money and the knowledge together and yell "GO!" Don't be a wimp and say, at the last minute, oh I think I'm going to back down on my offer. "GO!" means you make a strong offer and take a gutsy approach. Anything else is forgettable. Usually, if a marketing piece doesn't make us at least a little uncomfortable, we re-examine and try to embolden it some how.

We once had a car dealer for a client in Dallas who spent about $250,000 per month on radio advertising. That's a lot to spend. Of course, when we met him, he spent about $30,000. But we ramped him (and his sales) up with a systematic process. These days he cranks out about $2,000,000 in gross profit per month. Well…he would always get on our case if our commercial for the month didn't generate a lot of complaint calls. He would accuse us of losing our edge or going soft. And he was right! There turned out to be a direct correlation between the number of complaint calls and the number of leads and new customers.

I'm not recommending that you be offensive in your ads (necessarily) but I am pointing out that this guy hit the sweet spot. He didn't get nervous and back down. And as a result, he got really, really rich.

So next time you're getting ready to place an ad or send a letter or do some other kind of advertising, think of that guy launching eggs from his spatula at the tepan grill. And think about what you can do to hit your sweet spot.

Thursday
Feb072008

Bam! A Lesson From The Kitchen

By Jimmy Vee & Travis Miller


emeril.jpg 

Over the weekend I was watching a show on the Food Network, Chefography. As its name suggests, its the biography of a chef. I watched the episode about Emeril (BAM!) and Paula Dean.

While watching both episodes, something struck me...something so clear, so pure, so true.

Here are the stories of two very successful entrepreneurs. They're both authors, restaurateurs, and TV personalities. They both have found success. And in both stories, this striking chord resonated.

Paula Dean began catering out of her own house. Then she moved into the kitchen of a Best Western motel. After a few years, she was burning out. She was spending all of her time at the restaurant, but wasn't making any money and wasn't spending time with her family. Sounds like a familiar tale, doesn't it.

Then she decided to offer a country style buffet and shazaam! the restaurant took off. Soon she was able to get an upscale location in downtown Savannah and now it's the most popular place in town. As she tells the story, she says, "I just decided to give the people what they wanted." Sounds simple...she gave them what they wanted, and they responded.

Now on to Emeril. In his interview he explained that he loved doing book signings. Why? Because, he explains, "I get to talk to hundreds of people...and they tell me what they want...then I give it to them."

Eureka!

They both said the same thing.

Hmmmmm.

Many times, small business owners get so caught up in finding new customers (marketing) and convincing people to buy (sales) that they forget the most basic premise.

Give people what they want. It really is that simple. It's very hard to sell and market something nobody wants. But it is embarrassingly simple to sell and market something everybody wants.

So think about this in terms of your offering. Does anybody want it? If not, what can you do to change?

 

Thursday
Feb072008

What Simon Cowell Knows About Auto Marketing That Can Make You Rich!

By Jimmy Vee & Travis Miller

simon_cowell.jpg

This morning we listened to a brief interview of American Idol's Simon Cowell. Something Simon said jumped out as important—perhaps life changing. Certainly something worth discussing here. The interviewer was reminiscing of the days when American Idol was an idea, not an icon. Simon made the point that nobody thought that a talent show where the public decides who wins-would be successful. "Perhaps that's exactly why it was successful," Simon explained.

Holy Toledo! What a simple, yet brilliant, concept that is. American Idol was so outrageously successful specifically because nobody thought it was possible. In other words, it was a risk.

Risk is frequently discussed in business. To even get started in business is a risk. And certainly getting out of bed each morning and continuing is risky. But the type of risk Simon took is different than the kind most of us usually endure.

You see, when big production companies, record execs, and broadcast networks get together to produce a show, they're always risking money. And big deal—they have plenty of it. One show succeeding or failing doesn't really make a difference in the grand scheme of things for these big companies.

But this different kind of risk seems to transcend money. It goes straight to the core of who we are as intelligent beings: our ego.

Simon and the gang had plenty of money to risk. The real leap of faith was the potential ridicule they faced. Their strength was the ability to forge ahead even when everyone else said the idea was a bad one. Sometimes that's all the encouragement we should need (none).

Marketing a business or yourself is really no different. If you were to develop and refine a marketing campaign that was extremely successful, then asked all your friends, family, neighbors, customers, country club members and church congregants what they thought of your campaign, you would find that nobody really liked your campaign.

That's because effective marketing isn't about what people like. In fact, effective marketing usually stings. It hurts. It makes you uncomfortable enough to move—take action!

And if you reversed the process and held a focus group and did surveys to come up with the next idea for marketing your business, you would have a losing campaign on your hands in most cases.

Good ideas often times have whiskers. Mark Twain said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work." Once you allow people to start changing your ideas to "fit the mold" the idea will be destroyed.

But the biggest mistake people make is stopping before they start…surrendering before the fight. The world's best marketing efforts can be found scattered along the cliffs of friendship & marriage and around the walls of country clubs across the country.

One of our former private consulting clients was marketing directly to physicians, inviting them to attend a financial workshop. Nothing new. But rather than invite them with the standard invitations, we use hand-written notes and printed newspaper articles—the whole package appears to have been sent from a fellow doctor (and it has been since one of the partners is a physician himself).

In the process of seeking out testimonials, they have acquired a vote of confidence and recommendation from the director of the medical society in their local county. However…in order to use her words, she has requested that she sign off on the package they are mailing.

Well I am almost certain that she will not sign off. The "hand-written" note has scribbles and scratches and looks a mess and the newspaper article (advertorial reprint) is loaded with heavy duty statements. No "normal" person would sign off on this. It violates standard practice. It isn't normal. And it shouldn't work.

But guess what? It does work. Physicians respond. The question for this client becomes, do they have the fortitude to withstand her criticism, forgo the testimonial, and keep going with what works? We think they do. We'll see.

Another private consulting client of ours has spent almost a full year trying to decide on an image to paint on their fleet of trucks. Last year we told them to slap a headline and an offer on all sides of the huge trucks and see what happens. They didn't take our advice (we're almost certain the owner's wife shot the idea down…"what would our friends at church think??").

So for months they've been driving around with blank, white box trucks—getting no value from the hours of time each truck in the fleet spends in traffic each week. Wasted opportunity. And now, they're about to settle on a watered down image that will mean nothing and deliver no impact. Wouldn't want to offend…

But for you the question is, do you have the guts to run an ad or send a letter or put up a web site or make an offer or run a promotion that everyone else thinks is bad? Or are you willing to try an idea without asking anyone else's opinion? We hope so, because after all, what do they know? Usually, when it comes to marketing, not much.

When marketing, frequently the best ideas fail and the worst ideas win. Why? Who knows. But the lesson is that it's not about perfection; it's not about beauty; it's not about gloss; it's not about public opinion. It's about tapping deep into the primal desires within each one of us and uncovering the skeletons in our closet, the bumps in the night, those things that keep us up at night and give us heartburn during the day—then swooping in and magically curing those ills and saving the day. And if what you deliver is a gift, who cares how you got there?

What if Simon had heeded the advice of the naysayers? What would we do on Tuesday nights? More importantly, imagine the impact the show has had on modern culture (like it or not) washed away having never existed.