The Digital Dealership – Where Are We Now?

The Digital Dealership – Where we are now?

Guest writer Mets Kramer updates us on where we are now in this continuation of his series on The Digital Dealership.

Next week, at the AED Summit in Orlando, I’ll be presenting the Digital Dealership concept in the education series.  During the hour we’ll have a chance to dive more deeply into some of the topics I’ve presented over the past year. Even more exciting, we’ll get to have open discussion.

The Digital Dealership will focus on the transformative impact of information, expectations and the new channels of engagement with customers and your audience.

Over the past 2 decades we’ve seen a massive shift in the business models of many different industries. We’ve also seen the impact of a changing demographics as new generations come into the working world and as the world of digital communication broadens. The result is a growing gap between the old approach to business, and the younger generations. The old approach to business was built by the older generations who are also, frequently the most senior managers.  The newer generations, who are often the buyers, have their own expectations on how they want to carry out business. This collision of generation, technology and expectation creates both the most significant opportunity to differentiate and grow, and the highest risk to existing dealerships. In the past decade alone, we have seen major retailers and corporations lose decades or even a century’s foothold in their industry. Gone are companies like Borders and Blockbuster, and JCPenney almost joined them. Numerous others have simply failed to keep up and been relegated to the margins. Each of these companies failed to react to clear changes in the industry and buyer expectations, while their competitors did.

There are clear differences between the companies that failed or succeeded. Those that succeeded have several things in common. First, they saw the change in the market and buyer’s expectations and changed their business model to address these changing conditions. Second each of these companies started to understand the importance of information to their business and learned how to apply it. Finally, these companies applied these first 2 points to their entire business, they didn’t make it a bolt on to their existing business, which remained operating in the old way.

The first point is probably the hardest to grasp as it’s a combination of 2 inputs each effecting the other to produce an exponential rate of change in buyer expectations. In today’s business world we have 3-4 generations comprising our teams. With some of the last Baby Boomers still in the work force and often in the most senior positions, Gen X is now well placed throughout organizations, the Millennials are getting a strong foot hold in decision making and now Gen Z is entering the workplace. All this means we have some people who started in the corporate world before any computers existed and, at the same time, we have new entries into the business who have only known a world with smartphones and internet. How these different generations see the realm of possibilities couldn’t be farther apart. I’ll admit, I’m in the generation that thinks if the internet goes down, in a store, they should switch to handwritten bills and take cash, but that makes me old.  Some people have never seen this type of POS terminal, it’s completely foreign, so they would avoid a store that still uses it. Furthermore, our youngest generations have always been able to find the information they needed, when ever they wanted. When they wanted something, they can order it from their phone. This collision of generational experience gap and changing expectations will drive the fastest change in business to business buying and business process we have ever seen. Change we’re already seeing in other industries.

Information has both contributed to the prediction of change and the resetting of expectations in all areas of commerce. Many of the most admired and referenced companies in our world have been the best at applying information and technology to their business, vaulting them over competitors, or blasting from obscurity to relevance. Information, and more importantly the analysis and application of information, has allowed organizations to foresee changes in the business. They have fine tuned their operations to trim waste and better apply capital.   Furthermore, the analysis has driven action and change. Change in how companies engage with their customers and meet their customers’ growing expectations. While personal relationships and partnership remain a cornerstone of any business relationship, the expectation for partnership now includes deeper integration and focus on improving the transactional efficiencies. Information has inspired a massive improvement in understanding the drivers in a buyer’s decision making. It has highlighted the small differences in presentation and product definition that impact sales. The best competitors have combined this insight with a growing database of customer data to capture increases in total sales and market share.

When the acceleration of changing expectations come together with information, we see the genetics of the best of the best organizations. Those “Most Admired”. These organizations have used the information they are collecting daily to see the growing rate of change coming from new generations, and new expectations fueled by technology, social media and digital systems.  They apply this analysis to all aspects of the business, changing the structure of the organization.  In some industries we’ve seen long standing businesses either change or be replaced by new entrants who understand what a modern organization need to be. For dealers in our industry, both mainline OEM and independents, it’s no longer adequate to meet these changes with partial measures. Your website can no longer be a billboard, your social media engagement can’t just be advertising, your parts department can’t remain a “call for availability” or a “call to place an order” department. Your sales department won’t survive on “call for details”.   The growing rate of changing expectations is your opportunity to succeed.

Each one of you have no doubt worked with family-owned contractors that saw a change in generational management. The original owner handing the business to their children came not just with a change of faces but came with changes in the approach to business relationships, focus of the business and new expectations on your role and how to be a partner.

The Digital dealership looks at all these items in more details. We will also look at actions any dealer can take to assess the impact of these changes in their business. We will look at what actions can be taken to implement new approaches to the business and remain a leading competitor in the field.

If you’re going to AED, I look forward to seeing you in the Digital Dealership session, and if you’re not, I’ll continue to develop the details in this blog series.

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Operations, Part 3

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Operations, Part 3

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues to explore all aspects of your audience in the digital dealership with Operations. This is Part 3 of his series.

In the last blogs about The Digital Dealership, we looked at the concept of your “audience”, and how an information driven dealership applies information to addressing your intended audience.  The term, Audience, has become more popular in modern digital marketing platforms, but the concept is not new.  Even with old style billboards which line the side of highways, the Audience has always been the people driving down the road.

A focus on your intended Audience makes a lot of sense when thinking about email campaigns, marketing or social media, but it’s equally valid when looking at day to day operations. Audience consists of the customers and the people who work for our customers. The Audience consists of owners, managers, site supers, maintenance people and even, accounting. Each one of these segments are part of an audience that largely consists of people already doing business with your dealership.

This Audience already knows who your dealership is, but also know more about this audience segment than your prospects and the unknown audience. Knowing your audience means you have information about the contacts. It means you can connect with and forward them more detailed information to enhance your connection and grow in engagement.

Let’s look at an example, related to something we’ve looked at before: your website.

The first thing you should consider is, “If I know the customers who visit my website, why are they there?” Each one of your customer contacts have a purpose of why they visit your website.  If they are in service or maintenance, they likely need service help or parts; if they are supervisors or managers, they likely need equipment; if they are in accounting, they need ecommerce.

Just like we often have multiple entrances to our physical dealership, we should also provide our Audience with the same accessibility to the online dealership. Either use specific URLs, for example, “parts.mysuccessfuldealership.com”, or alternatively, and more effectively, recognize returning site visitors and automatically take them to the last place they went, or where they most frequently go. This uses the information you know about the customer and improves the ease of doing business.

Considering your audience and applying information happens in the dealership operations side too. Many dealers already do this when merchandizing. You place products in the parts department targeting a known audience segment, typically technicians. Since this assumption is generally correct, items they need are likely to sell. The Digital Dealership is about collecting and using information, enabling a customized or granular interaction.

For example, imagine a customer or a technician comes in to buy parts. Do you collect their contact information and confirm their role? Do you provide information based on the provided machine serial number on maintenance requirements, parts needed for maintenance on indicators from telematics about potential issues? If not, do you email the customer’s service manager that a technician came in and additional items might be required. If the pickup is by a small contractor and the owner comes in, providing this information creates numerous additional opportunities. Collecting small pieces of information about each transaction creates the opportunity for a customized and more valuable experience. And who doesn’t want that!

In the early 2000s, when most manufacturers were bringing their online parts systems to market, it was immediately recognized that parts sales through online systems were around 10% higher than instore sales. Users went in to find the new pump they needed, but because a diagram was shown of related parts or a list of seals and fasteners was provided, the users also selected and purchased those items. If you have purchased on Amazon, you’ve no doubt seen the “Customers also Bought” section. This is an example of using information learned from past activities to help customers and increase sales.

Collecting information on known contacts, can also provide other opportunities to target messages to your Audience. Most dealers know if their customers are large or small and who are the recipients of invoices. Knowing this should change the additional items on the invoice. If invoices go to your Accounting or AP@mycustomer.com, then include messaging on finance related items like ecommerce options, financial payment integration or similar options. For small customers, when invoices go to the owner, include information on equipment replacement, service needs on their fleet and the like.

In each of these cases, the Digital Dealership collects information on the who they are interacting with to grow the knowledge base and develop actionable information. It applies this information to each transaction or interaction with their customer, throughout the operation. The Digital Dealership places information at the right place and at the right time for team members to make decisions and provide value to the customer.

In 2018, I did my first presentation at AED. It was called “A Granular, Data Driven Approach to Strategic Sales”. We looked at how placing customer equipment data, plus live market pricing data or operating cost information, in the hands of the sales rep which changed the relationship of Sales Rep to Trusted Advisor, giving the Dealership a permanent seat at the table. Arriving at a customer site with valuable and actionable information opened access to the customer much faster than hats and lunches. The presentation also provided a model for using customer transaction and fleet data to predict replacement equipment sales. More importantly, this data provided a much more accurate sales opportunity forecast and inventory model.

The common phase, “You do 80% of your sales with 20% of your customers”, means 80% of your customers likely don’t hear from you enough or experience enough value to keep them from going elsewhere with each purchase. Applying valuable information about your Audience throughout your dealership operation can change that.

This year, I’ll be presenting at AED again on the whole Digital Dealership concept. If you are interested in the idea of “A granular data driven approach to strategic sales”, I’m available to present this idea or other Digital Dealership aspects at your next sales meeting to help your team think like a Digital Dealer.

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Strategic Segmentation Part 1

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer continues his exploration of the digital dealership. Part 1 of a series, tonight we look at strategic segmentation of your audience.

You customers are only a small part of your Audience

All of us have heard the term “audience” over the last few years.  Long gone is the past association of audience with something the queen granted or with sitcom television.  An audience is no longer a small group of people because the internet has grown everyone’s audience.

Yet, even with the automatic growth of everyone’s audience, many dealers don’t think about their audience as they build their digital dealership.  Many of us think about our customers as audience.   Customers come through the door, call our phones and send us emails.  Our customers work with us daily, weekly or monthly as they use the equipment they purchased, or are looking for newer equipment.   Still, our customers are only part of our audience, even if they are a small and important subgroup.

The broader concept of audience is important for us to consider in several ways.  It’s important first when planning our marketing, second in designing operations and finally in developing our strategy.   For this article let’s start with Strategy, since it lays the groundwork for the rest.

The first thing to think about is how will you define or identify your audience.  What groups of people and companies will you want to draw in and communicate with?   This will vary depending on the type of dealership you have, and will need to be adjusted, as you reconsider who your audience is.  This is called segmentation.

For example, for a few large, well-established dealers the audience tends to be fairly set.  It typically consists of all the users of their brand of equipment, in their territory.  Potentially it might only include those customers with accounts in the dealer’s business system.  Another example is a smaller farm and yard equipment dealership.  Here the number of interactions with each customer will be lower, and the dealership needs to find new customers constantly.   A strategic approach to audience segmentation will be different for both these example dealers, but for both, clearly defining it lays the ground work for their business.

To define a dealership’s focus audience, we need to determine what audience segments fit into your strategy.  Start with these 3 audience segments or categories.   How important is each to your business?

  1. Repeat or Existing Customers
  2. Prospect Customers
  3. Unknown Audience (This is typically where your new leads come from)

Next, consider where your audience members are.

Are they:   Local, Regional, National or even farther?  How far do you want to reach? How will your strategy differ for those near you and those far away?

With all the audience segments identified, and priority segments selected, we can create a strategy for each of them.

For each segment the dealership wants to reach, 4 main things must be considered.   First the message, next the communication channels and third the response method.  The final item to be considered is an important part of what makes your dealership the Digital Dealership, it is the integration of known audience information with each strategy.

In creating the strategy dealers need to think about the message.   This is often the product they want to communicate to each audience segment.  Is the product the machine, the dealer’s experience or something else?   Many dealers think they are selling equipment when a significant aspect of value is the dealership.  When communicating to unknown audience members, they merely provide the details of a machine in inventory, they forget to include the more important value the dealership brings.

The strategy should consider the channel for communication.   Dealers should understand what digital channels and platforms their target audience segments are on, where the audience will see or receive the message.  Channels include traditional communications, social media, email etc.  Depending on the product and the audience segment, different channels should be used.  Don’t use the same channel for everything and assume your message reaches the audience.

An often-forgotten aspect of communicating with the audience is the response method.   Typically, the faster the response from the dealer is the better.  Also, the response method should more closely matched the original communication method.  For example, if people are reading your email, they likely want to respond the same way.   We often see dealers mismatching the channel and the response method and seeing poor engagement.

Finally, before we can look at marketing and operations in the next article, we always need to consider the most important aspect of the Digital Dealership, the use of information. This starts by having clear strategies for each segment.  By using the information already known about the audience to fine tune the strategy, we get a much more targeted strategy.   For example, sending marketing campaigns to customers and prospect customers about a new backhoe, to customers known to have backhoes of a replacement age.   Image if your next email campaign started with “Hi Mets, because you currently own a 2012 Case 580SN, we’d like to share information on this 2017 CAT 430F.

In my next article I’ll continue and look specifically at Marketing and advertising to segmented audiences.  I’ll also post a work sheet for your dealership to work through to get started.

Mets Kramer

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer

Five First Tasks to becoming the Digital Dealer

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues his series on the Digital Dealership with today’s post: Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer.

When I started as a service supervisor, part of my job was closing invoices.  On average, I probably opened (and therefore should have closed) 2 work orders per day.  Yet my metric target was 9 days average invoicing cycle   That meant 9 days between the last day someone worked on the machine and when the invoice was sent.  At the time I thought that seemed quite reasonable.  There were always some outstanding items on the work order, or more commonly I was too busy to close them faster.  The metric was an average number of days, so some work orders were much slower to invoice.  Unfortunately, as we all know, invoices sent well after the end of work are more likely to be disputed and less likely to be paid.

Years later, now responsible for all service operations, I started to ask myself where the 9 days came from.  Why not 10 or 8 or 7 or any other number? There was always some reason to be found why an invoice couldn’t be sent yet.   Then I started wondering why, when I send my car in to get work done at the dealership, do I get an invoice right when I want my car back.  Why don’t they wait 9 days to send me my bill?   I came to realize the reason was because the car dealership had figured out how to make sure every part and charge was on the work order before the work was done.  They do this because they won’t get paid if they give your car back before they send a bill, and they can’t hold your car until the bill is ready.

The car dealership had done the work and created tasks to remove all the problems that delayed getting everything on the work order on time.  So, I started the same process at the branches.  Finding out what stopped invoicing the same day and found ways to remove the hurdle.  It included using purchase orders with confirmed values, real-time digital service reports and even just better vendors. We even changed the metric on invoicing cycle. 75% of work orders had to be closed within one day, 25% could average up to 5 days.  This new metric created tasks for people to figure out how to prevent delays and we showed it was possible to invoice same day in almost all cases.

It’s what Ron calls the Art of the Possible.

In 1993, I got my first dial up internet access, via my 14.4 modem, on my IBM ThinkPad 700.  That’s almost 30 years ago.  Clearly the internet has been around for a long time.  Now, in 2021, here we are talking about the digital dealership and still have open tasks and reasons why we aren’t as digital as most other industries.  The truth is, it is possible!  Possible to have our dealerships capable and positioned where we want them to be.

The Art of the Possible, is about completing the tasks you know exist, to achieve your goals.   It might be a matter of getting some additional help to complete the task.  Either because of manpower, knowledge, or technical limitations.  Sometimes it’s as simple as implementing what you already have in existing systems.   Many of you will agree, you have software systems in the dealership with capabilities you don’t use.  Even though it would make the dealership better.

We’d like to help. Make some time to send Ron Slee or myself a list of 3 – 5 tasks you want to complete. These tasks should be oriented toward a goal aligned with becoming a Digital Dealership and from any department. Examples can include “I’d like to allow customers more flexible ways to communicate with us” or “I’d like to store and use information properly to drive sales”.  Send us your open tasks and we will help you work through implementing them.

A few years ago, I went to see a dealer after my presentation at AED.  I presented on using customer fleet data to predict sales and drive sales activities.  This dealer had all the capacity to implement this concept, and even agreed they should be doing it, but it was still an open item on their list, for the last 20 years. Don’t let small hurdles get in the way of being a better dealership for your customers, don’t let a list of POSSIBLE tasks stop you from becoming a Digital Dealer.

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The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer brings us to the bright side of technology in the Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers.

One of the best things about computers is they do the boring tasks of wading through data.  It’s a concept that is generally well understood, yet too many dealers are not applying this capability.

For all the years I spent running departments at dealers, I was never a fan of reports.   Reports, to me, are long lists of printed out or on-screen data that I need to read through to determine if there are any actionable situations.  It’s time consuming, especially if done on a regular basis.  I’ve always preferred getting the reporting system to do the work for me.

I LOVE indicators, indicators are the action items you get from a long boring report.   Indicators are the result of analyzing the report data and determining what we should do.  A great example is a customer account balance statement, where we look for people over their credit limit or with aged invoices.   Rather than read the whole list, we often just print the over limit customers and hand them to a credit manager or sales rep to call the customer.

In the same way, the Digital Dealership uses its data, computers and an analyst to create actions from data.  These action items are pushed out through various methods to improve the business or support the customer.

There are 2 main types of actionable data.  First there are activity or event triggered actions and the second are analysis or derived actions.

Activity or event-based triggers are implemented often to follow up on past events.  Great examples are notification to the sales rep 30 days after a customer purchased a machine to schedule an initial service or follow up on performance. Similar triggers are post rental follow up, to find out how the customer’s rental experience was.    The Service department can do a similar follow up after a customer receives their maintenance inspection check list with quoted items found during the service.   If the customer declines them initially, the Digital Dealer follows up to make sure they got done, frequently gaining that work.

The second type of trigger is derived from data or rather the analysis of historic data.  These are often more complex and look for changes in the historic norm to determine if something has changed, which would require action.   This is something we all do in the parts business, for example.  As sales of a part drop off, we analyze the data and, if the part is used on an old model, we determine the need to stock less of them.

Triggers based on data trend analysis often let us get ahead of a problem.   Think of a customer who normally purchases every 6 weeks but has shown no activity in the past 8.   The Sales Rep should be able to connect with that customer and find out why.   What about a customer who was spending $100K per year on service labor, but in the past 6 months it’s been $25K?  In these cases, it’s likely important to understand what’s happening.

Triggers, from analyzing data history or events and put in front of the right person, lead to action.  These action triggers can be as simple as an email notification, or, preferably these triggers are listed as exceptions on a digital platform such as your CRM.  In a CRM the indicator can easily lead to a page listing the customer’s contact information or even instantly connect the call.  Once the call is done an activity is created capturing the story from the customer, and possibly generating a new sales lead.

One of my favorite indicators in Vizybility is “Customer that need follow up”.  Set a contact frequency for an existing or target customer, and the CRM reminds you to call on that interval.  These are great to avoid missing sales for a low volume customer.

In all of these scenario’s computers do what they do best, track and analyze data.   Analysts learn from the data and, in conjunction with a manager, create triggers when certain scenarios are seen.  These actionable decisions, or triggers, are fed to people in the operations through CRM or other systems to support customers, avoid problem.

Next time you’re reading through a long report list and deciding what to do, think about how you could create automatic triggers in your Digital Dealership.

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The Digital Dealership: Information is the Core

The Digital Dealership – Information is the Core

At the core of the digital dealership is information. Tonight, Mets Kramer shares more about the key information you need.

Perform an Information Audit to develop your Digital Dealership

 

In our last podcast about the Digital Dealership, Ron and I discussed what some of the first steps are that any dealership should take to become a dealership of the future.  Since the basis for the digital dealership is the complete use of information, I suggested the first step should be to review how the dealership is currently storing and using key information.

Key information, in the Digital dealership, revolves around the customer and equipment, and especially customer equipment data. To become an integrated dealer, making the most out of the information available, information needs to be collected, analyzed and shared among all areas of the business. It’s important that areas of the dealership don’t become information silos. It’s especially important that the different areas of the business don’t operate on disconnected versions of the same data.

To do this means a few things:

  • First, information should be kept in a single database or “single source of truth” for each type of information. Whether it’s customer, account, equipment or contact information, there should be one primary place to store that information, and no more. Whether it’s equipment information on work orders, customer information and contact data in CRM or unit number information in parts, they all need to draw from and update the same single source. This is especially true if the information is also needed in the other departments.
  • Second, information needs to be shared out to all departments to help make decisions. The Sales team should see equipment information on machines serviced by the shop, they should see parts sales by machine from the parts department. Service needs to know about machines sold to customers before they come in for their first service work, and everyone needs to know the engagement of customers on marketing and digital platforms.
  • Third, information should be enhanced with data from outside sources and inhouse analysis should be performed. When the sales team looks at a customer fleet list, they need to know how much should have been generated by each machine through parts and service, not just the actual numbers. Sales should be able to see market price on equipment when they review a machine, not have to ask the office to get this. Service should be able to see if customers have open quotes and deals on replacement machines when advising the customer’s techs about required repairs. The Marketing department should see what activities are generated from their marketing activities or customer engagement.

To prepare you for your dealership’s journey toward becoming a digital dealership the first step is to review existing systems, available information and the areas where information is missing.  This Information Review identifies what needs to be done, where the problems lie and what systems are limiting your dealership’s efforts. This review is often hard to do with in house people. Most people are too busy running the day-to-day transactions in your dealership, but it’s also hard to find the things you don’t know to look for.

If you’re looking for a detailed review of your information systems, a strategic plan of issues to resolve and initiatives to complete on your Digital Dealership journey, my Company Strategic Evolutions (https://www.strategicevolutions.ca)  can provide this service for you.  With a week onsite, reviewing your systems and talking to people from marketing to service, we’ll prepare a detailed presentation and provide recommended activities to make information an important driver in your dealership’s growth and future.

Are you ready to see your Digital Dealership grow?

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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The Digital Dealership: Change and Remaining the Same

The Digital Dealership – Change and Remaining the Same

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Mets Kramer continues to speak on the digital dealership with a look at change, and remaining the same.

I often hear, and most of us have said, the following word.  “The equipment business is a relationship business”, “Relationships make the difference”.

Nothing could be truer about this industry.   Our products create long term relationships because each of the products have a long-life cycle during which we need to engage with and support our customers.  Relationships make all the difference during many phases of the machine’s life cycle.  I first learned this lesson dealing with 330 Excavator issues.  This work horse machine was relied upon by many customers, just it had lots of issues.  Cylinders, pumps and final drives to name a few.  Having a strong relationship helped us navigate the problems with the customers and come up with workable solutions and agreements.  Through it all, we maintained the relationship and the next generation of the same machine still had lots of buyers.

So, this is often what I hear from dealers when talking about the development of the Digital Dealership. “Digital isn’t important, it’s a relationship business”. As if relationship is all it takes to maintain a customer. If that were true, we would all still have a roll of quarters in the truck and be looking for pay phones to get a hold of the office and the customer, rather than get a cell phone to get better.

The Truth is, while relationships matter, the digital transformation has supported it all the way and needs to continue to do so.  It’s naive or “old fashioned” to get stuck in the glory of the past.   Just like your cell phone caused the demise of the Pay phone because it allowed you to do things better. The rest of the digital world is there to support you. Not replace you.

This past week I sent my 4Runner in for service.  Just for fun I went online, found the nearest dealer, booked an appointment, chose my preferred communication method, got a quote for the service and discussed additional required services at my mileage. Then I got to the Dealership and talked face to face with the person I’d been emailing with. All my car information was entered, and we wasted no time.  I built a relationship with Jallone the Assistant Service Manager.  He looked after my needs and I tried to steal him from automotive to the equipment business, because he did a great job. When the service was done, he followed up with electronic invoices and discussion on open items.

The Digital dealership supports and improves your existing operations, it does not destroy the value of relationships, it only makes them easier to create and maintain.

Take this example I heard from Alex Kraft at Heave.co this past week. A contractor told him he’s been waiting for 3 weeks to get a quote from his sales rep.  All this customer wanted was a piece of paper (or electronic quote) for a machine, but the sales rep is too busy or the process too onerous to get a quote out. How is it helping that dealer and customer not to have the dealership invest more seriously in digital systems to provide quotes faster. In the end this contractor went to a new platform that exposed his needs to dozens of other dealers, who quoted him automatically or saw the Quote request and responded.

Digital supports your business; it doesn’t take away from it; unless you decide to implement it poorly.

How else does Digital augment your relationship?

A core aspect of the Digital dealership is the use of information.  As the equipment expert your customer relies on, you need to be seen as the trusted advisor, not a quote provider or order taker. Find ways to use digital information to be ready to support your customer with all the equipment related information you can. Specs, performance, analysis, operating cost and market pricing data. When you become the Digitally enabled Trusted Advisor, you’re always welcome.

Oh, and don’t forget to have inventory info at your fingertips and be able to price something.

Years ago, I had dinner with a colleague in Chicago during my only 1.5 years not in the construction equipment business.  He told me a story of being a young regional manager, sitting with his customer.  He proudly boasted about the improvement their business had made in delivery.  He told his customer “We can now ship any product we have in stock to you in a week”.  He was so proud of the giant gain in delivery speed.   His customer looked at him and laughed “You’ve got to be F@#%@ kidding me, from stock to out the door in seven days???”    Expectations are the point.  Your customers have a learned experience of what’s possible.  No matter how good you think you are, if someone is doing it better, that’s the new standard.

Creating a strong Digital Dealership, however that applies to your dealership, improves your relationship with your customer.

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The Digital Dealership – Self Serve

Digital Dealership – Self-Serve 

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Mets Kramer continues to speak on the digital dealership and the freedom it gives us when it comes to self serve.

Satisfying our Self-Serve Desire

Last Month, I did something I haven’t in a long time.  On a trip back home, I came across a Full Serve gas station and used it! These used to be the norm, no one pumped their own gas, and every teenager had a job. Then the world started changing. Gas became more expensive, as did the teens, and self-serve became more common.  Why pay extra and wait for the slow teenager to pump your gas when you just do it yourself and get it done faster and easier? In the same way more and more things have become self-serve.  Self-serve gives us the feeling of moving at the pace we want and reduces the need to interact with other people.  It’s not that we’re asocial, but it does feel like other people slow us down, or we have to wait to get access.

So, now we live in a world that has been designed and tooled to allow us to do things for ourselves, often from our phone.   Even the most “Full Service” new trend is really just self-service.   Ordering your dinner though an app such as Uber Eats, or Door dash is really about satisfying your desire to make things easy and at your pace.   Multiple restaurants are presented to you to review and decide what you’re “cooking for dinner”, payment is processed online, and the food shows up ready to go.  A full Self-Service Experience.

The truth is, each of us are becoming more accustomed to and preferring of Self Service.   It lets us do things when we want, where we want and at our own pace.

Your dealership should be no different.  Your customers are people, like yourself, who increasingly prefer the self-service option.  They want to have more information presented about their decision than if they call a person.  Just like you, your customers research and look up information about what they need on a plethora of sites.  Then they find the easiest way to acquire what they want or need.   This is a significant change from the mindset of the past, which looked to person to person contact for the highest level of service.

So, what are the main aspects of a self-service approach in a Digital Dealership

  1. Provide information
  2. Support the preferred communications methods
  3. Deliver the product/service

First, don’t be short on information.  If you have information to help the customer, make decisions, present it while the customer is in the research phase.  If they don’t find what they are looking for, they, like you, are quick to do a second Google search for what they need.   This information can be presented on open webpages, but also presented only to trusted visitors to your digital dealership.

Next allow your customers to communicate with you the way they want, but don’t “Drop the call”.   Too many dealers drive their customers to forms that end up in email boxes.   The response rate and times are terrible.  If it, was you and any other method, you wouldn’t stand for it.  So why do this to your customers.   Make sure every channel is viewed in real time, during extended business hours.   Make sure contact info is checked and related to your CRM data and finally make sure you respond quickly, and preferably in the format the customer contacted you.

Finally, enable delivery.  By delivery I mean take the transaction as far as possible.  If you’re listing items or services through any of your digital channels, enable an immediate action option.  Call it a “Buy it Now” button.   We are all familiar with that.  This doesn’t mean you have to provide digital payment processing, but you can capture commitment from the customer.  In this case we want to enable and cement the customer’s decision.  When you offer the customer a “Contact Us” form to fill when they want to buy, it leaves the door open for them to keep searching.   A “Buy It Now” button allows the customer to feel like they have solved their problem.

We all think our time is valuable.  We want to make sure the time we spend on resolving a need, is efficiently spent.  This is what has driven our Self Service digitally enabled world.  When I go to Starbucks and order my coffee, I now do it from my app.  It remembers what I want, it pays for me, and I just walk in and grab it from the counter.   That’s a Digital Coffee Shop, supported by a bricks and mortar building with a real human barista.   I always have the option to walk in and have a chat while I place my order, but I can use a digital channel if I’m in a hurry.

Your digital dealership shouldn’t be any different.

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Equipment Data and the Digital Dealership

Equipment Data and the Digital Dealership

Tonight, to accompany the podcast released on this subject today, guest blogger Mets Kramer continues to educate us on all the digital aspects of our business with a look at equipment data and the Digital Dealership.

When I started Strategic Evolutions in 2017, it was based on two things.   First, I wanted to help smaller dealers do a better job and grow their business. Second, I wanted to show people how to use information to do exactly that.   One of my first engagements was to speak at the Associated Equipment Distributors on the topic “A Granular, Data Driven Approach to Strategic Sales”.  The focus of my presentation was the value and importance of using information, specifically customer equipment data, to drive dealership activities.

Customers work with you, the dealer, for one reason: they own equipment. (And let’s not forget, it’s also because you’re great people!)

Numerous people in the industry have pointed out the value of customer equipment information.   Most frequently, and in the topic of my presentations, the customer equipment information provides a clear indication of future sales opportunities.   Our industry is focused on equipment with a predictable life cycle.  If you’re a dealer representing any OEM, you should be using this information by now, to drive potential sales opportunities and providing your sales reps with new leads.  Furthermore, by analyzing and predicting the replacement time of a machine, it’s the easiest way to make sure low volume customer aren’t lost to competitors.  Think about the customer with only a few machines, who doesn’t engage with the dealership frequently. These types of customers are often lost because they didn’t connect on time. However, if they had used a CRM system to notify the sales rep to reach out at the right time, we could have prevented this loss.  How do you get this information?  Either through the sales team or by digitally engaging with the customer.

Equipment information is just as valuable in aftersales at the dealership. We all know having this information makes parts and service support easier.  For example, customers call with unit numbers because they don’t use serial numbers to reference their equipment.  With a CRM, your team can quickly find the serial number of the customer’s unit from the database.

From a marketing perspective, equipment data can help you measure the potential size of the aftersales market.  If you’re selling maintenance contracts, you already know how many dollars per hour of parts and labor each machine should produce.   With a complete fleet list, you can estimate total potential revenue and market share.    Now, you have a sales lead for your aftersales PSSR reps.

In the Digital Dealership, aftersales should also be utilizing equipment data.   By integrating the equipment data with your Digital Dealership, you can present equipment information in the online parts store, but more importantly, all over your Digital Dealership.  You can promote Parts Kits, PM kits or Maintenance programs to the customer when they visit.  As a comparison, the digital world’s success started when websites stopped being static and started to tune the content to each visitor.  It’s no different with your Facebook, Amazon and countless other social sites.  These businesses present you relevant information based on what they know about you.

To make this all work, it is as simple now as it was 20 years ago.  To build an information driven dealership, your systems need to be up to the task.  An ERP, DMS or CRM that can store customer fleet data is critical and should be a key item to consider when switching to a new Dealer Management System.  If your current system can’t handle customer fleet data, and you’re not switching, get an integrated CRM. Next, make sure you have your sales and aftersales teams think about collecting this data.  If it becomes a normal part of your conversations throughout the dealership, and a focus of your customer service, gathering the data gets easy.

Finally, invest in a partner or team member who’s full or part time job it is to analyze the data and implement programs using the data, with the business unit owners.  Your sales manager or product support manager needs support.  Most of the dealers I know have limited resources in house, so it might mean a new person or finding a vendor to help you.

One thing is for sure, and you see it all around you, the most successful businesses today, have a strong digital presence and use the information they have to their advantage and their customer’s benefit.

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Your Company Legacy and the Digital Dealership

Your Company Legacy and the Digital Dealership

Tonight, guest blogger Mets Kramer continues to educate us on all the digital aspects of our business with a look at your company legacy and how it fits in with the Digital Dealership.

“In the past, the model for an organized business was a phone and a Rolodex (younger readers can Google what that is). The new digital platforms like your Website, CRM and marketing tools are now the modern Rolodex”

When my team started our marketing efforts, I was stunned to learn there were over 15,000 equipment dealers of all sizes, in North America.  A huge number of these dealers were small organizations, of 1 to 5 team members, who do great business buying, selling, or renting equipment.  In this blog, I want to address the value of Digital Dealerships and brand development for small organizations. This is especially important for those of you who started your dealership and are trying to find ways for your business to support you into your future.

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to work with many small dealers. I admire their tenacity; it takes a lot for these dealers to take their own fate into their hands. Often these dealers are smart and entrepreneurial; most come from larger dealers.  They saw a gap in the market, a niche, they could exploit and make a good living. Now their future depends on how well they execute.   For most of these dealers, their eventual legacy will be what sustains them into retirement and their future generations.

So how does this relate to the Digital Dealership?

One of the great things about the digital revolution in our industry is the potential to become, with a little investment, more than a person with a Rolodex. The Digital Dealership, or your digital presence, can help you extend your legacy well into the future in several ways.

  • First, your digital presence is like having an extra team member or sales rep. You’re existing and new customers can learn about you, answer questions they have for themselves and initiate communication with you all by going through your digital profile. I have seen lots of small dealers work hard to keep up with quotes, rentals and inventory information in a very laborious way. Each time sending emails with additional information like pricing. A well created digital presence can take some of this burden off you. Now, even if you are a team of one, you are actually a team of two, or even three. Creating and investing in a Digital Dealership establishes an effective sales path that’s open 24 hours per day. Now, you can focus on getting out to see customers instead of being stuck behind the desk.
  • Second, for a small growing dealership with big aspirations, a digital presence and platform helps you standardize. In many cases over the years, I have come across great dealers who are heavily dependent on one or two key salespeople. Usually, these key players are the owners, or a highly effective salesperson. The problem with this situation is repeatability. If one key person exits the business, it’s hard to recover. Creating a digital presence and a standard process, including CRM, makes your business repeatable. It lets you add new team members, set a standard operating practice so you can repeat what’s working, with new people. Your Digital platform can help to transition your customers and maintain the goodwill you’ve built over the years.

By creating a digital presence and developing a consistent brand, you become more than just a one-on-one relationship. Your hard work over the years, and that of your team, creates a legacy which can be easily understood by new people joining the team. This lets your customers feel like they are still dealing with the original creator of the business, who they first trusted to serve them.

More and more, we see new business relationships initiated from digital platforms. Buyers are looking for solid information, in addition to knowledge and great service.  In the past, the model for an organized business was a phone and a Rolodex. The new digital platforms like your Website, CRM and marketing tools are now the modern Rolodex. They help you organize and maximize the efforts you have put into the business for many years. Now you have the tools to have your business support you into the future.

To build is to have something that lasts; to create a legacy.

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