I’m about to give you the single most important principle in automotive branding and marketing. I’m not being cute, I really mean it. So if you are a dealer, GM, Sales Manager, Service Manager, Marketing Manager, or Recruiting Manager I truly hope you will read this. This may take a little emotional intelligence to process, but if you are willing to be vulnerable, I promise you won’t be sorry. Instead, you’ll be ahead!
Ready… repeat after me… Nobody cares.
One more time… Nobody. Cares.
It’s ok if you whisper it to yourself as you are reading this at your desk or while riding the train. It’s nothing personal; it’s just not about you. Your customers don’t care that it’s your anniversary or that your great-grandfather started the business. They don’t really believe that your “people are the difference”, and they certainly don’t care about the award you received from the company who makes the products you sell. That’s like a rib joint saying “Best ribs in town…(In a poll of the owners)“. Seems a little self-serving, doesn’t it?
Customers want to hear about themselves. They want transparency. They want to trust you’re working in THEIR best interest to solve THEIR problems. They want a connection. You have to stop presenting yourself as the main character in the customer journey. You’re the guide. And if your brand message begins to truly reflect that truth, you will begin to see a world of change both in the effectiveness of your marketing and also within your company culture.
To illustrate this point, I like to use this (very) short story:
A woman with an ID badge from the hospital across the street is sitting at a Starbucks taking a moment out of her hectic day. She’s browsing new car leases on her phone when a man in his late 40s interrupts her and says,
“Hi, I’m Jack. Did you know that my grandfather was the fastest talking car salesman in the city. He taught my dad how to do it too and now BOTH of them marvel at how I can sell anything to anyone. The company that makes the cars I sell tells me how great I am all the time. Look at these awards they gave me for making them so much money! I’m like a selling machine! By the way, we have a huge selection of used cars to sell people too! Those are even more fun to sell because there is a ton of room for me to negotiate a DEAL!!! I love making deals, gets me all fired up. Oh, by the way, I know every business says they have great people, but we have the best! That’s why we’re different than all the other car dealers that say they’re different too. You can trust me when I say that, because remember, I have a grandfather who was a great salesman. Hey, next time I see you doing something else, I’ll make sure I remind you again. Yeeeee hawwwwww! (abruptly leaves)”
Ridiculous, right? Sadly, aside from the “yeeee hawwwww”, it’s not much different from the majority of marketing I see today. Some industries are worse than others, but automotive has inherited this marketing approach from decades of dealers standing in lots yelling about sales, selection, and price.
Why does this approach seem so abrasive? Simple… it’s selfish and disconnected. It shows ZERO care for the customer. It doesn’t address any of the feelings, questions, or life situations your customer cares MOST about.
Might I suggest a different approach.
People (present company included) want to hear about THEMSELVES. It isn’t that all of the positive points about your dealership aren’t good things. It’s just that until you do the hard work of empathetically connecting with potential customers, they can’t care, because you haven’t shown them that you care about them. Deploying EMPATHY in your marketing, messaging, and internal communication is the crux of future success.
Same setting…a quiet moment at Starbucks in the midst of a hectic day…
“Hi there. Boy these quiet moments in the middle of busy days are gold, aren’t they? I noticed you are looking at cars… it’s so complicated and time consuming… and you never really know if you’re getting a good deal. That just isn’t how anyone should feel when they’re about to spend so much money on something. I have so many friends that were having the worst anxiety over it that I decided to sell cars in a way that people actually trust. My dad and grandfather always taught me to care about every dollar a customer spends with our dealership. Over the last few years, people who have bought a car from our dealership gave 4.8 star average rating on “trust” and “simplicity”.
So what’s the main difference between the two posts? Empathy.
The second approach makes the customer the main character of the story. The auto dealer is simply the empathetic provider. The one who exhibits and understanding of the customers struggle and then shows that they have made effort to ease the pain and provide a better way that gives the customer what they want.
So the next time you are developing your next marketing campaign or considering your branding, I hope that you will remember this article and start by reminding yourself that ‘nobody cares’. Remember, your potential customer is the main character and your job is to acknowledge their struggles, fears, and needs with empathy. If you adopt this simple mindset, I promise you will build connection with your customers like never before.
Paul J. Daly is the Founder and CEO of Congruent, a BRAND FIRST full service marketing agency. He has more to share about empathy and human marketing in his new book, The Automotive Manifesto: How Brand Connection Can Save Retail Automotive. You can get the first two chapters free if you go to www.pauljdaly.com/maxdigital.
“Empathy” photo courtesy of CongruentStory.com.