Managing Your Reputation

I’ve never visited a successful dealer who attributed his or her sales growth to some brilliant marketing scheme. The response I always get is, “We just have a good reputation that’s been built up over the years.” In today’s digital world, though, how you manage your reputation is increasingly important.

Word of mouth, both good and bad, can spread fast on the Internet. There is Facebook, Google business listings, yellowpages.com and other business directories where consumers can find you—and post and read comments about you. Staying on top of all the Internet buzz about your dealership and/or the brands you sell takes a real commitment.

Many of you will say, “This Internet stuff is just not that important … we’ve been around for years and people know who we are.” That mindset might work for now, but here are some interesting facts you should be aware of as you think about where your business might be 10 years from now.

Purchases Start Online – The majority of significant consumer purchases (cars, appliances, etc.) start with an Internet search.

Baby Boomers – This group of consumers age 46-64 is upwards of 70-plus million strong. They are big on first impressions and respond favorably to deliberate, objective information. Believe it or not, nearly 2/3 are avid Internet users and enjoy social media.

Gen-Xers – Age 34-45, this market of 50-plus million consumers values independence, and is very loyal when it comes to people (although less loyal when it comes to big brands and companies). Gen-Xers are pragmatic, prefer straight talk and demand affordable value. They are avid Internet users and enjoy social media.

Millenials – Age 12-33, this market of 75 million consumers represents the next wave of homeowners and lawn and garden equipment purchasers. They’ve grown up with computers and cell phones, which is how they prefer to communicate. They like being part of groups. So it’s no surprise that social media is hugely popular with this demographic.

Here are some tips for managing your online reputation:

Visit Google.com/places, create a free Google account and then create a free Google business listing.

Visit Google.com/alerts and sign up for weekly email alerts. In the “search terms” field, put your dealership name. Type = everything, how often = once a week, email length = up to 50. You’ll get an email every week showing all the different places your business is being mentioned on the Internet.

Create a free Facebook page to promote your goods, services, sales and events. Make it a fun page your fans (customers) will enjoy visiting and participating on.

Ask your webmaster what he or she is doing to make sure your website is “optimized” so consumers can find you.

In today’s digital world, the building blocks of a good reputation—quality equipment, expert staff, timely service and parts availability—are no different than they have been. The only thing that’s changing is how you manage that reputation.

Truthfully, the digital world we live in creates a golden opportunity for independent dealers to accentuate the “human element” of their businesses, which has been a huge point of differentiation for years. The sooner dealers accept this and commit to making it happen, the better off they’ll be 10 years from now.

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