Introducing Coaches Corner

Introducing Coaches Corner

Learning Without Scars is pleased to present the very first in our new series, Coaches Corner. Please feel free to click the link to read the welcome post authored by Floyd Jerkins.

Introducing Coaches Corner.

 

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Lifelong Learners

Lifelong Learners

In this week’s blog on education, curriculum designer and writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the big picture of why we do what we do: lifelong learners.

In education, we like to express the most important goal of any classroom as creating lifelong learners. This takes shape in different ways at different ages. At the younger ages, it is obviously the standard reading, writing, and arithmetic. As adults, it becomes a bit more complex,

We have to ask about goals and the big picture when it comes to adults. As adults, we want to move forward: we want promotions; pay bumps; increases in job title.

I would posit that what we really seek is GROWTH.

Realistically, growth is what we all seek.

As employers, we want hires who know the business. We are noticing that students are not graduating school with the necessary skills for the business. Trade skills are in short supply and require more education than the standard K-12 that is available to students today. Funding at the high school level for the trades has been reduced to a point where students are graduating high school without the necessary skills for our industry.

Take our industry out of the equation.

What does it say about us that our graduates are not prepared for the world of technical work?

I think it says that we are in a situation of catching up. Academics are not quite at the point we need them to be when it comes to “work ready” employees. We can’t expect high school graduates to know everything they need to know when they graduate high school. The reality is, if you invest in your people, they will invest in you.

What we want to see at every level are people committed to learning. This doesn’t mean the stereotypes of the ivory tower. This means having people who consistently strive to better themselves, who push for higher levels of understanding and accomplishment.

At the end of the day, education is all about creating the foundation that leads to lifelong learning. Lifelong learners are known for consistently striving to better their performance and their results.

Aren’t lifelong learners what you want to see in your business?

As Ron would tell you, the time is now. When it comes to your commitment to learning, I would posit that the time is always.

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Technician Shortage? Grow Your Own Techs!

Technician Shortage? Grow Your Own Techs!

Tonight, Learning Without Scars is proud to introduce readers to our new guest writer, Steven Johnson. In his debut post, he writes about a crucial issue we are facing: Technician Shortage? Grow Your Own Techs!

Steven Johnson retired from Associated Equipment Distributors in 2020 as Vice President of Academic Accreditation. While there, he grew the number of AED Accredited college programs to forty, and established AED Recognition of equipment programs for high schools. These include CAT ThinkBIG, John Deere Construction and Forestry and Komatsu ACT technical college programs. A robust online technical assessment and system were also created to measure students’ technical knowledge prior to matriculation and upon graduation. Established in 1919, AED is an international trade association based in Schaumburg, IL, representing over 500 construction equipment distributors, manufacturers and industry-service firms in North America. Established in 1991 and directed by AED members, The AED Foundation addresses
school partnerships, career promotion and research in the industry. This includes AED Foundation Accreditation of college diesel-equipment technology programs. Steve earned his MBA degree from Northern Illinois University. Prior to AED, he was Director of Marketing & Customer Service at I-CAR, a large not-for-profit collision industry training organization. Before ICAR, he was Director of Marketing and Manager, Market Analysis & Planning at Chicago Rawhide, a business unit of AB SKF, a global bearings manufacturer based in Sweden. Steve is currently an independent contractor and advisor to Learning Without Scars.

Technician Shortage? Grow Your Own Techs!

It’s an issue that has challenged the equipment industry for many years. That is, “Where do I find qualified technicians to hire?” Commonly, many employers have approached the problem by luring technicians from their competitors with money and other incentives. While that has worked for some, in many cases, it turns into a vicious cycle of who will pay the next $2.00 per hour more and instability in the local workforce. Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side, however, I’ve heard of techs who went back to their original employer, even though they were paid less, because of the odious conditions “where the grass seemed greener.”

Dealers have also lured technicians from other industries or hired inexperienced technicians and used on-the-job training to bring them up to speed. That can also cause problems. Absorption rates can fall as experienced techs spend time overseeing the work of the inexperienced. In some cases, that can mean less money for the experienced techs depending on how they are paid. This is a form of growing one’s own techs, but it can take a long time to train these people to the level of an experienced shop or field tech, maybe 6 – 8 years. There are many excellent 2-year technical college programs in equipment technology. These schools allow a dealer to hire someone who can rapidly grow as a working technician. The issue here is that the schools currently do not even come close to supplying the numbers needed by the industry.

Therefore, I return to the topic of “growing your own techs.” I define this as establishing a full program for identifying and educating candidates who have the potential to be solid technicians. Here is what that looks like:

  1. Efforts start by dealers working with high school, or even middle school students. That may sound a bit early but consider that today’s technicians must be good in mathematics and science. I heard one involved person say that a pre-engineering type of high school education is the ideal. Students like that often have made initial career decisions early on in high school, or even middle school. Parents often have already discussed their views on careers with their children by then. And parents often are the most important decision- influencers.

This means getting the word out early on the excellent careers in our industry, talking with the students, parents, high school career counselors and other decision influencers. Employers can present at middle school and high school career days, start “diesel” clubs at the schools, provide guest lecturers, host career days at their dealerships, and develop career materials to be handed out at such events. All of this helps, in turn, to change the old all too common misrepresentation of the “grease monkey” to the correct image of “the high-tech professional technician.” And each time a student decides on an equipment tech career, it’s an image success story.

  1. Employers should support the students who made a decision to educate themselves in equipment technology. This includes scholarships, loans, helping with tool purchases, summer or work/study employment and mentoring. Finances can be a real barrier to entering the field. We all know that an initial good tool set can run up to $30,000 or more. Not everyone has the money to finance a college education either. Get creative. For example, one way of handling a student loan is for the employer to forgive that loan after three years employment at the dealership.
  2. Establish solid relationships with your local high schools and technical colleges. Offer to help with teaching resources and guest lectures on technology. Offer technical training to the instructors. One of the most important things is to serve on the schools’ Advisory Boards. This is a good way to help schools improve in the ways you see are needed. It is vital for forming long-term, positive local and school relationships. By “being there,” you demonstrate your commitment to students and schools. By “being there,” one may also identify promising students to recruit for your dealership, provide assistance, and mentor in the above ways.
  3. Support and hire from the technical colleges in both good times and bad times. It leaves kind of a sour taste in one’s mouth if during the bad times, you are nowhere to be seen, and in the good times, you show up asking, “Where are my techs?” Put yourself in their shoes. Even in the bad times, there are ways to support these programs; the last thing you want to see is them no longer in existence.

One final thought here. Shoot for the long term. If you start working with middle school students, it could be eight years before you hire them. From high school, it could be six years. However, one you establish a managed stream of graduating students at each level, you will be controlling your own tech destiny by “growing your own techs.”

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Do You Really Need PRODUCT SUPPORT PSSRs, or CSAs?

Do You Really Need Product Support PSSRs, or CSAs?

Guest writer Bill Pyles shares all the ways we really do need Product Support SRs or CSAs.

Most larger equipment dealerships have a robust PSSR (Product Support Sales & Service Rep), CSR (Customer Support Representative) or CSA (Customer Support Advisor) that has been in the making for years. This group of Product Support men and women are an integral, value-added, sales and profit generating part of the entire dealer organization.

But maybe you’re a smaller dealer and looking to get to the next tier of the Product Support ladder. 

This blog is for you!

The CSA acronym is my personal favorite as I truly believe the words customer support advisor best describes the position. The CSA is the direct link between the dealer and everything Product Support related. A well-trained CSA offers the options that meets the financial and equipment requirements of the customer. Should a failed engine be repaired, rebuilt, or replaced? Is the machine a production machine or a backup? Is the machine scheduled to be sold out of the fleet within the next six months? While the machine is down, are there any other critical areas of the machine that need inspected and repaired before going to failure? Customers get very angry when a leaking final drive went to complete failure, resulting in a machine down situation just after leaving your shop.

If your dealership sells and services tracked type equipment (excavators, dozers and tracked loaders) I know your aware the largest cost of ownership is the undercarriage. The undercarriage is a system into itself. Your CSA should have a complete understanding of the undercarriage system. A simple proper track adjusting discussion with the customer demonstrates a knowledge that will save him dollars and downtime. Getting a customer maximum undercarriage life will save thousands of dollars over the life of the machine. 

You’ll also need a good machine population file. It’s tough to forecast sales not knowing your opportunity. A good machine population file will identify the aging, location, and hours on the equipment. By the way a good population file is beneficial to sales, many machines are removed from the fleet after so years and hours. New sales opportunities!

Typically, the 80/20 rule is the typical CSA customer list. The top 20 customers assigned to a CSA typically take of 80 percent of their time and resources. Dealers will need to develop the unassigned fleet customers and the “middle segment”, customers who have your equipment but do not purchase any parts or services.

You’ll need an annual CSA meeting to discuss trends, sales forecast, changes in the market and to celebrate over and above accomplishments (just picture your last whole goods sales meeting).  Is the GM or dealer principle attending? The GM and or dealer principle must make an appearance to show support and comment on the current business environment and congratulate the high performing CSA’s. A well-developed CSA program will give you much to celebrate!

But who does the CSA report to? The dealer principle? 

I once worked for a regional vice president who upon returning from an executive meeting was convinced, we should terminate the CSA program, all of it, today, now.

This executive meeting was held during one of the severe cyclic downturns in heavy equipment sales. Dealers were struggling to survive and expense control was job one. Elimination of the CSA program would save accelerating expense dollars. His rational was simple, if severely flawed. We have a good product and if a customer experiences a failure, he will simply pick up the phone and call us. And with our new snazzy web site, the customer will simply log on and make arrangements for needed parts and or service. After thinking this over maybe for 60 seconds I countered with the elimination of the whole goods salesmen using the exact same logic; we sell good equipment and if a customer needs a new machine or a long-term rental, he will simply pick up the phone and call us. Fortunately, neither plan was put into action, we survived the downturn and came out stronger on the other end.

The sales manager? Maybe not a good choice as the sales manager has enough on his plate with inventory, inventory aging, salesmen, OEM programs, order windows, financing and fleet deals. A CSA reporting to the sales manager may turn into a delivery driver for a bucket, gathering hours for a trade in or running out docs to be signed.

The parts manager? Maybe not a good idea as most part managers are outstanding at managing their inventory, over the counter fill, stock orders, counter activity but not managing a parts and service sales person.

The service manager? Not here either. Service managers have many balls in the air dealing with shop service, field service, training, warranty, the pothole in the parking lot (a little sarcasm) OEM’s and technicians. Not much time to manage a CSA. 

A CSA without a direct supervisor soon becomes a “floater” or Product Support orphan employee.

A better solution would be a Product Support Sales Manager or a position with a similar title. This person would have 100% accountability for a successful CSA program. He or she would work closely with parts and service management in writing CSA goals that are in alignment with company goals. The Product Support Sales Manager would do the CSA’s bi-annual and annual performance reviews as well administer incentive plans and salary increases, create annual sales forecasts and work closely with the OEM representatives regarding OEM Product Support programs.

A Product Support Sales Manager is the mentor, manager, and coach in developing a CSA. CSA’s must have a career plan with defined goals in sales and service activity. I worked at a dealer who had an outstanding Product Support Sales Manager, super high energy. I truly believed this man could inspire CSA’s to sell snow plows in Miami Florida! 

A CSA MUST participate in technical training for the products the dealer represents as well as management level training in negotiating skills and people skills. A successful CSA will have a basic understanding of oil sampling, why on time PM’s are important and an excellent understanding of repair, rebuild or replace options. These skills development can be better managed by a qualified Product Support Manager who reports directly to the dealer principle.

CSA Vehicle: Car or Pickup Truck.

I’ve had responsibility for CSA’s and have experience with both the CSA company vehicle being a car or truck; pros and cons for both. If you give your CSA a car allowance and he or she uses their personal vehicle, you’ll soon find the car parked and a company truck “borrowed” for the day to run out some rebuild pumps and a cylinder or two. Car allowance or not, the CSA will be reluctant to damage or have spilled oil in the trunk or floor. In my opinion a pickup truck sporting the dealer’s name and logo is your best choice. Graphics today look sharp on the job site and rolling down the highway. And when on site, if there is something that the CSA can help out by running something back to the shop, it will not be a problem. However, you’ll want to avoid your newly minted CSA into becoming a parts runner. I do suggest that when a CSA plans his day, he or she will check with will call to see if there are some parts he can bring out and check the service WIP (Work In Process) to see if the customers he’s calling on today have any equipment in the shop and get the status, the customer will ask, be prepared!

CSA Salary & Expenses

CSA salary and expenses are usually split 50/50 between the parts and service departments. I’ve heard arguments that a CSA will sell more parts than service and parts should pay more of the percentage. Most CSA programs are salary and commission based. Another responsibility of the Product Support Sales Manager.

But keep in mind, a dealer’s best margin comes from labor sales. It’s the responsibility of the Product Support Sales Manager to steer the CSA into higher labor sales. If a customer needs a reman engine and the CSA provides a quote for the reman engine, the labor to do the remove and install must be included. I think Michael Jordan once said he missed every shot he did not take. The same applies here; don’t quote the labor and you surely will not get it. Your competitors may be quoting the same reman engine AND the labor. The customer likes the turnkey repair and asks your competitor when they can start. Always provide a professional estimate/quote and follow up with the customer. Add value and close the deal!

Customer Support ADVISOR

When I was a newly minted Product Support Sales Manager, I thoroughly enjoyed customer visits and scheduled customer meetings. I’d wait for an opportunity to ask the customer if a recent issue, wrong parts, late service call, etc. he brought up was discussed with his CSA (I did not use the CSA’s name). If the customer replied “oh you mean the guy who measures our tracks” then we’ve failed to make the ADVISOR relationship with the customer. A good gap we need to close. CSA’s need to listen when the customer talks and suggest solutions to equipment problems. I know we’re providing value when the customer asks the CSA “what do you think?” When the customer says those words, the rest is up to you to deliver the outstanding Product Support that makes you the “go-to” dealer!

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Digital for Data’s Sake

Digital for Data’s Sake

Our new guest writer today is Sara Hanks, sharing her knowledge about going digital for data’s sake. In her own words, Sara introduces herself: My career launched 22 years ago as a mechanical engineer but shifted quickly into continuous improvement when I became a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Early on, I learned the value that could be extracted from data and the importance of digitally collecting that data. After several years in manufacturing, I transitioned to leading programs and teams to do Digital Transformation. Eventually, I was promoted to the Senior Director of Data Analytics, leading a team of data scientists, gaining firsthand experience with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Currently, I am the Director of Continuous Improvement at Wabtec Corporation, a supplier in the Rail and Mining Equipment industries.

I enjoy bringing joy into the workforce by solving a problem, creating user friendly digital products, or providing easy access to data. In 2020, I launched Leverage 4 Data to provide a platform to do all three – create a solution to digitize workflows with an intuitive user interface and accessible data.

Digital for Data’s Sake

Digital transformation has been a buzzword that has been talked about for years, yet many people struggle with what it means. Often, when asked about digital transformation, more jargon appears, and we are swimming in a sea of acronyms and terms like CRM, ERP, and Digital Twin. What exactly is a digital twin? I am not going to go into that here, but I will talk about digitization. I like to simplify the concept by talking in terms of the business processes. Digitization is taking an existing business process and transitioning it into the online digital world to drive value. Improving the customer experience or implementing technology to retain younger talent are some of the benefits to digitizing processes. However, my favorite outcome of digitizing a key process is the creation of data. 

Focusing efforts to extract value from the data can be daunting. Here are four examples of how data from a digitization can improve operations, costs and even culture.

Creating KPIs to Measure Performance

Recently, I had a dental procedure done. When I arrived and was checked in, I noticed that the receptionist looked at a paper logbook to verify my name. The same logbook was used to make my next appointment. I was shocked! They lacked a system to track a major part of their business, managing appointments. How could they know who failed to show up or how often people canceled? What about tracking how long the actual appointment took vs. the scheduled time to make sure procedures were planned well. It is difficult to improve what you don’t measure.

The easiest place to measure the effectiveness of a process is with a time-based metric and a quality metric.

  1. A time-based metric. Speed is everything – how fast are customer orders being fulfilled, how long does a service event take, what is the cycle time associated with procuring parts? When the process is managed in a digital platform, such as an eCommerce platform, or an ERP, there are time stamps for each event, providing the ability to measure the total time, as well as the time it takes for each step of the process. Creating KPIs for overall process can create a mechanism to add urgency and improve the time.
  2. A quality metric. Whenever a time-based metric is introduced, it is important to balance it with a quality metric. I remember when my team introduced a cycle time metric on customer issue management, unfortunately a quality metric was not added. The solutions to the customer issues were delivered quickly but occasionally resulted in rework, and sometimes costly rework. When the data is in a platform, it is possible to calculate the rework or first pass yield of a process. 

Improve Operations with Insights

I’ve seen plenty of operating rhythms that reviewed KPI scorecards. Bringing a scorecard with red on it to the leadership team, was sure to be met with scolding. What I found surprising was how little the leaders asked questions when the KPI was green. Wouldn’t that be insightful? I like to understand why the red exists, as well as the green metrics. This is where dashboards and visualizations can help. Visualizing the operational data in a dashboard is one of the simplest, yet impactful ways to use the data to improve operations. 

My teams have made some amazing analytics dashboards and visualizations. One dashboard built allowed the service teams to visualize the best performing shops against the worst. The user could drill into why product needed service to see which workorders impacted quality. Nobody used it, even though I thought they provided a ton of value. The biggest pitfall was not connecting them to the existing KPIs.

Now when I approach dashboard development, I start with the KPIs. Perhaps they are KPIs created to measure time and quality, or they are something else that is already adopted. With a cross functional team, we brainstorm all the possible data points that could impact that metric. A visualization is built to provide an exploratory experience to drill into the data in a consumable way. I recommend bringing the visualization into the operating rhythms and use the dashboard to answer questions in the meeting. A scolding leader is likely to become intrigued. 

Reduce Stress

Another use of data from a digital system is never talked about but is probably relatable. We’ve all been there. It’s 4:30 on Friday afternoon and you receive a call from a customer or your boss. They are upset about something, and you need to find answers. The panic sets in and you start to put together the story to provide an answer. This usually involves digging through papers, email and perhaps phone calls to colleagues to find information. Data retrieval is difficult. I remember one issue took 19 hours of rummaging through paperwork over a 3-week span to identify which parts were impacted by a quality issue. When the process exists in a digital system, and the critical data is captured, answering the mail becomes much easier. The stress in these situations is reduced, making it much easier to enjoy the weekend. While the ROI is not clear, spending time fighting fires is certainly non-value add. Extinguishing them quickly is a win.

Increase Revenue from the Data

Finally, the operational data collected in your digitized processes is to identify revenue opportunities. For example, the historic services data can be used to predict future service events. Offers could be targeted to those customers to provide those services. The historic service data could be used to cross sell during a maintenance event as well. For equipment that is serviced on a regular basis, are there probable breakdowns between planned events? Additional preventive services or upgrades could be offered at a discount during the maintenance as an alternative to fixing a failure. Could the customer buying patterns identified by the dealers be useful to the OEMs, providing leverage for the dealer? 

Netflix transformed the movie renting experience by making it more convenient, i.e., going digital, but their revenue gains were from using the data to provide binge worthy shows and keep people on their platform. Imagine the possibilities for equipment dealerships.

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A Special Announcement from the AED Foundation

A Special Announcement from the AED Foundation

 

AEDF Announces Partnership with Learning Without Scars to Provide New Programs

 

AED Foundation (AEDF) is excited to announce the addition of two new programs to its catalog, in partnership with Learning Without Scars.

 

The In-Store Selling Fundamentals Program is designed for parts counter employees looking to advance their product support skills. It includes individual courses on teleselling, overcoming objections, in-store merchandising, and buyers’ needs.

 

The Service Writers Program offers instruction in the core service department functions most relevant to service writers. It includes individual courses on service organization, work order process, time management, and inspections.

 

Each program allows the user to earn IACET approved CEUs that are recognized by universities, junior colleges, technical and vocational schools worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Our Colleague John Sessums

Introducing our Colleague John Sessums

Our new guest writer John Sessums is the owner of Mechanic and Techs LLC, based in Baton Rouge,  Louisiana. John’s career spans 38 years involved in equipment dealership management, and he is also an AEMP Certified Equipment Manager. As a Senior Product Support Manager and later as Wholegoods Sales Manager, Johns’s focus has always been on increasing sales by providing superior customer support. Once retired, he formed Mechanic and Techs and now offers a unique buffet of affordable Product Support Growth Solutions. M&T provides Consulting, Recruitment, Speciality Job Boards, On-Line Search Systems, LWS Skill Assessments/Training/Testing for those in Service, Parts, Sales, and Rental. 

I have been a past student of Ron Slee’s Quest Learning Centers, and I credit that training as the foundation of my success. As a Regional Manager of Product Support and later as Whole Goods Sales Manager, I have sent many of my employees and managers to Ron’s training seminars to learn from the GOAT himself. They each returned with a three-ring green binder that held the secret of success for themselves and their employers. Using Learning Without Scars, all companies looking to grow now have a proven method to succeed.

Every dealership is looking to grow, but most are more focused on handling day to day issues

Six years ago, after 38 years in the heavy equipment business, I launched a recruiting company focused primarily on recruiting higher-level equipment technicians. Our team created a buffet of employee management services for equipment dealerships across the country centered around LWS.

About two and a half years ago, Ron and I discussed a client who was having trouble finding the number of techs they needed. As we talked, I shared with Ron my main challenge was locating and vetting qualified people. Like everyone else, I had to take a candidate’s word that they actually had the skills they claimed to have.

Considering my company offered a performance guarantee, I needed a proven method to confirm a candidates’ knowledge and skill level before recommending them to clients. Being an old equipment guy, I also knew guarantees and refunds were great, but what I valued most was hiring qualified and committed people the first time. After talking with Ron over several weeks, I knew I had found the exact answers I needed.

Ron and I took part in an equipment industry article about five years ago about the coming technician crisis. What will now follow will be a rapid rise in wages and a gradual decline in overall tech competency and efficiency. As with technicians, the last train carrying needed Product Support replacements has already left the station and is rapidly heading towards that same bridge. Thankfully, all manufacturers offer excellent technician training, so that crisis will hopefully even out over time.

LWS will be at the forefront of product support employee training. Ron and his team have been busy formatting and transferring his thirty-plus years of knowledge and teaching onto the new LWS site for the past several years. Ron’s training seminars, books, and consulting have been considered the Gold Standard for Capital Goods dealerships across the U.S. and translated into several languages worldwide. Senior managers in dealerships across the country have vetted and approved the LWS courses. An equipment industry senior service management expert developed the Technician Assessments. While the site’s content was time-tested, duplicating Ron’s unique delivery method and personality online took time to perfect. You can now visit Learning Without Scars and view firsthand what our friend, along with his daughter Caroline, and the entire LWS team have been up to for the past few years. I think you will be very impressed.

Our company, Mechanics and Techs LLC., was designed and is staffed by seasoned semi-retired equipment industry corporate managers. We have successfully managed multi-branch Service, Parts, Outside Product Support Sales Teams, New and Used Sales teams, Rental groups and worked with a wide variety of brands and types of equipment and trucks.

We combined our many years of hands-on dealership experience to create a unique selection of affordable Product Support Growth Solutions specifically designed for our equipment industry clients. We provide Consulting, Recruitment, Specialty Job Boards, Web-Based Online Candidate Search Systems, LWS Skill Assessments/Training/Testing for those in Service, Parts, Sales, and Rental.

We will introduce you to more of our services, in more detail in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to having Mechanics and Techs working with learning Without Scars for years to come. Thanks for welcoming us as a Colleague.

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The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Marketing Activities, Part 2

The Digital Dealership, Your Audience: Marketing Activities, Part 2

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer continues his exploration of the digital dealership. Part 2 of a series, tonight we look at marketing activities for your audience. 

Digital Marketing to your Audience

Anyone who’s read marketing articles or blogs or attended a course will be familiar with the 4Ps of marketing, along with many similar acronyms.  Product, Price, Placement and Promotion sum up the core tenant’s marketers need to consider when creating a marketing and advertising plan.  In digital marketing and for the Digital Dealership this is even more important.

In the Digital Marketing world, we often speak about engagement.  Engagement is critical to digital marketing success and why reconsidering the basic tenants of marketing is so important.  In the digital world, what we see and what we want to see are determined by Engagement levels.

Over the past couple of years, you’ve heard a lot about the engagement algorithms used by social media sites and other platforms.   These platforms have two main goals, to create user engagement with the platform and extend the time spent by users on the platform.   To do this the platforms have highly intelligent algorithms that present content it calculates will be of interest to people.   This is often based on the type of content or early engagement with it.  If content has low engagement the algorithm effectively buries the content and, even if you have lots of connections, most of them will not see your content.

Creating content and marketing to your audience through digital media requires careful thought to be effective and this is where defining, segmenting and building strategies for your audience is important.  Take a moment at this point to think about how you interact with various types of digital marketing, you’re someone else’s audience segment too, it will help with your own strategy.

In the first part of this series, we looked at defining who’s in your audience, and segmenting them.  These segments can be defined by any criteria, from sales volumes to location to fleet size and industry.  What’s important is to have segments defined to create strategies.  You can define these for known contacts in your audience, but you can also create these segments in the unknown audience.   For each of these Segments of the audience, consider the tenants of marketing.

First, what is the Product you want to present to each segment?  

Is it the dealership, the experience of the people in the dealership, is it machine inventory or is it services like rental, your shop or parts?  Each of these items is of varying degree of interest to your audience. Content should be created for each of the products your dealership has to offer.   Your existing customers may want to learn more about service products.   Your prospect customers may want to know about the inventory you have for sale or about the brand you represent and the capabilities of that brand.  Your unknown audience likely needs to learn more about who you are and about the dealership in general.  This will help them to recognize and consider your other products, like machines, in the future.  Regardless, it’s important to understand all the products you have to offer as each audience segment will find different values on each product.  Furthermore, don’t forget, your content needs to be engaging, so try and use video, audio, closed captioning and imagery.

Second, what channels will you use to place the content for your audience to see, engage with or react to?

There are traditional channels, like advertising sites, billboards and magazines.  There are digital channels including email campaigns, your website, Linked In, Facebook, Instagram etc.  and there are also physical channels like signage, brochures, posters and even invoices.  What is important is to understand what audience you’ll be addressing through each channel and what the purpose of the content is.

The Channel selection can be approached from multiple directions.  Consider for each channel, “what audience segments use the channel?” or approached from the other direction, “what channels do your target audience segments use?”  You need to determine this for each audience segment.

In the last few years, I’ve seen LinkedIn be corporation and brand development focused, Facebook focuses on small contractor and community focused, Instagram looks to be Brand, Product or announcement focused etc.

Third, what will be your plan combining these 3 main aspects. Audience Segment, Contact and Channel?

For this step it is often helpful to create some matrixes.   For each defined audience segment create a grid with 2 axes.  One for Product content and the second axis for Channel.  This work will help you really think through what content to place on each channel to engage your audience.   For your digital channels this is critically important, and the work done to define your audience and your product content will help you make sure the content is engaging.  Content placed on the right channel designed for the audience in the channel will always get you higher engagement, and in return, your content will be viewed by more of your audience members.

Finally, as a Digital Dealer, how will you use Information to augment your marketing?

Using and collecting information is the hallmark of a smart and digital dealership.  Analyzing information about your audience, including feedback from marketing and advertising efforts, help you to fine tune all the above 3 aspects, content, audience and channel.  Here are some examples.

  1. Add user specific information to Email Campaigns. “Hi John, because you own motor graders, we thought this inventory item might be of interest to you”.  This can be done though tagging in the mail software and merge codes.  This content will be many times more engaging.
  2. A Dealer website that recognizes returning customers and provides shortcuts to frequently visited pages or functions, and filtered inventory or promotions based on existing Fleet. “Welcome back Bill, this section lists the functions you often visit; Online Parts, Machine Specs.  Your 410 is due for a service, here’s a link to the filter kit”

Spending time analyzing your audience always pays.   They can be your existing customers, local contractors or people you don’t know.  Building a marketing plan, for each of the audience segments you’re interested in, will help you retain the customers you have and funnel in new customers to your sales and after sales operations.

Mets Kramer

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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Learned Helplessness

Learned Helplessness

In tonight’s post, guest blogger Bruce Baker walks you through a struggle we are seeing all around us: learned helplessness.

Many business owners and CEOs we partner with suffer tremendously due to being in a state of learned helplessness.

It is astonishing to see people that reach out to us at Workplaces simply because they are in a state of pain and the challenges they have or perceive they have don’t have a resolution.  After lengthy discussions, the challenges they have “tried everything” to solve become less daunting and transition into something inspiring. At least four out of five times, we have the privilege of partnering with these individuals to better their business situation and ultimately achieve the goals that they work so hard to achieve. Unfortunately, once they experience solving these challenges (something they never thought possible) and, of course, do their “celebratory dance,” they fall right back into their learned helpless state due to a new challenge they face yet again.  This constant state repeating itself seems to be a drug that people seek to justify the pain of their challenge and their perceived inability to solve it.

As time goes on, the more resilient the Business owner/CEO inevitably becomes, the more they transition their business and themselves to an ongoing and sustainable state of success. This is not because they now have “better business tools” necessarily, but because they reduce falling back into a state of learned helplessness.  Those who persevere and learn this new conditioned response to challenge and, at times, failure becomes more successful consistently.

To conclude, I wanted to share a powerful story (author unknown) that I have always turned to when I feel this way and need a path back to a positive state. The story goes like this:

As my friend passed the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused because these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to, but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to escape.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. Then, as they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something simply because we failed at it once before?

How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

You do not deserve to feel this way!  Your business should be a source of pride and achievement for you, whether you are significantly challenged today or are feeling helpless because you can’t find a solution.  Don’t let your ego and your feeling of learned helplessness be your guide in building your business; you will fail and not return. Instead, reach out to someone you trust, someone that will hold you accountable and show you that the solutions you seek are not far away.

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Principia for After-sales – part three

Principia for After-sales – part three

Today, Ryszard Chciuk continues his blogs on Principia for after-sales with part three of the series.

In several posts starting from Principia for Business, I am sharing my way of defining and implementing the main principles (values). In Principia for After-sales part 2, I presented my point of view on the potential conflict between private and company values, on the importance of constant reminding and following of the main principles, and how I was writing their definitions.

Now, let’s go back to my after-sales team’s main principles. They were listed in Principia for After-sales part 1. It was my adaptation of our corporation’s main values: Quality, Safety, and Environmental Care.

The No 1 is “Integrity.”

The notion of integrity is mentioned on about 500 million of webpages (only in English). So, what did it mean for us? I decided to use the Stephen L. Carter definition: Integrity, as I will use the term, requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong. It was not easy to explain that definition in simple words. Lately, I found the more useful explanation. Charles Marshall in Shattering the Glass Slipper wrote: Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to — when no one else is looking or will ever know — when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so. Where is the man who will do the right thing, no matter what the cost? Is there anyone who will act with integrity even if it means losing a job or an important business deal? Where is the woman who would be willing to act in openness and honesty if she knew it meant losing a significant relationship or a large sum of money? Are there still people in this world who would sacrifice their pride, relationships, or profit in order to maintain their integrity? Are you such a person?

These are hard questions, but you have to answer them if you treat seriously your values. And do not forget to discuss with your people how it is working. The best way is to analyze examples taken from your company life.

The No 2 principle is “Care of people and environment.”

It translates into “Always take care of your co-worker, customer, supplier, investor and of all kind of life”. Obviously, it concerns safety, too high fuel consumption, respect for the environmental regulations, stable and decent working conditions, etc.

The No 3 principle is “Profitability.”

It refers to all players of the business game you are in. You need to earn enough money to stay in business. When you fall, your customers will not be supported at the same level, at least by the time another provider takes over your business. Also, you will not be able to support customers if you kill your suppliers, and this happens just after you force them to supply products at the same quality, but for a much lower price. Then you will also be a loser. If you want to increase your department profitability by the reduction of your employees’ remuneration, they will decrease their loyalty and your company will die soon.

The No 4 is “Excellence.”

This means: “We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do”. Today I would remove this principle from the list. Why? If you want to be recognized as the man of integrity you do not do things in a sloppy way, isn’t it?

Next time I will present some examples of how we utilized our values.

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