- Social Media Tip: In the “Thank-you Economy” don’t outsource or automate your thank-you’s.
- Social Media Trend: Community building skills are becoming more important than pitching or selling.
Establish Your Personal Brand as a Car Salesman
Just about every profession has turned to Social Media to generate sales, establish expertise and create a personal brand, with the exception of car salesmen. Of all the professions with an image problem these guys could really benefit from a Brand Makeover or a personal brand. The public perception of the whole car buying experience is one of dread and apprehension.
Recently, I was contacted by someone that was just starting out in the industry as a car salesman and he was wondering if creating a blog or website would benefit him. What an interesting idea that really had not occurred to me. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to be different and establish yourself as someone that truly wants to help in the buying decision?
That led me to thinking, what would I do if I were a car salesman to change the public image of my profession and let people know that I am different?
Personal Brand – Step 1 – You Are the Brand
First of all, I would brand my name and purchase my URL. Even though I may work for a certain car dealership, I would want to leave the door open in case I should change dealerships down the road. My object here is to create trust and credibility with my name and the buying public.
Personal Brand – Step 2 – Start a Blog / Website
Incorporate Social Media by first creating a blog to project an image of professionalism and share information. The great thing about the blog is that there are so many ways to communicate trust, expertise and establish a reputation of being a “different” kind of car salesman.
Here are some key ideas for a car salesman wanting to start a blog:
1. Definitely use your personal picture that is friendly. Also, a short video that projects a positive image of being genuine, reliable, honest, knowledgeable, collaborative – not pitchy will set you apart from other car salesmen.
2. Use the About Me section wisely. Talk about how you are about creating and changing the customer experience in buying a car. People want information, people want “space”, the ability to talk freely and make decisions – talk about these things.
3. Become a resource of information. Use the blog for articles that provide information on car types, financing, comparisons, safety features. Show people that you have their interests first. Incorporate key words for terms that people will search the internet for in making a car purchase. Very few people are doing this and you could get a customer from being found online. Research your brand and gear your articles to feature your brand’s best attributes. This could come from magazine reviews, fuel consumption reports or other industry articles. People search online for information to arm themselves before approaching the dealership. If you are the source, you could be the one that they ask for. Offer to answer their questions on your blog and provide an easy way for them to contact you.
It is said that 90% of car buyers today use the internet to research and shop for a car before they ever get to a dealership. People no longer go to multiple dealerships to make decisions and some select the car and dealership from internet shopping. The biggest reason is that they want to avoid that “pushy” car salesman. This is your chance to show that you are not that person.
4. Put your web address on your business cards and let people know that they can search for important information on your site. You could have links to Consumer Reports and other publications that make it easy for people to conduct searches. This is a very low key way to selling, but you are selling your personal brand as the expert car salesman.
5. Use your blog to feature your cars. Take a video and post it that describes the key features that make your cars unique.
6. Ask satisfied customers if they would mind doing a short video testimonial on their car buying experience, their experience with the vehicle or their experience with the service department.
7. Be sure to include either articles or videos on the negotiation process because this is where customers end up hating the whole car buying experience. If you supply them with helpful tips, knowledge and offer assistance this would go a long way in creating that personal brand of professionalism. Read the rest of this entry »
In a previous article, How Real Estate Agents Can Benefit from Mobile Marketing, I touched on a cutting-edge marketing tool called QR codes. Short for Quick Response, QR codes are a type of matrix barcode that can be used to store large amounts of data. The technology was first developed for the automotive industry, but has found its way into mainstream society.
Much of the popularity of QR codes can be attributed to the rise of smartphones. With the right app, smartphone owners can read the data contained in a QR code. In the article I wrote, I suggested that real estate agents use these codes on their For Sale signs to provide potential homebuyers with additional details about the homes they are looking at. However, other industries can use the codes in a number of ways:
Business Uses of QR Codes
* Retailers can add the code to magazine advertisements that, once scanned, will take readers directly to a web page where they can buy the product.
* Cafes can provide a way for customers to check-in with Foursquare and other social networks whenever they visit the shop.
* Insurance agents can place a QR code on the back of their business card that will take the person to an insurance quote web page.
* Tech-forward businesses can allow customers to pay for their purchases by scanning a QR code.
* Funeral homes can use QR codes to create dynamic memorials for people who have passed on.
While QR codes can be used in an infinite number of ways, the real question is whether or not your company needs to start using them. The answer? Absolutely!
Seamless Integration is the Future with QR Codes
The Internet has become deeply integrated into the fabric of society. However, there is still a certain amount of disconnect between the two. A woman who sees a sweater in a magazine that she likes will have to stop what she is doing to find an access point to the Internet. Once on the Internet, she will have to search for the closest place that sells the sweater or find a website with the lowest price and go through the checkout process to buy it. That disconnect, though, is slowly dissolving thanks in part to QR codes and smartphones.
Using the right apps, a person can set up their smartphone with their banking information, location, and product search preferences. Now when that same woman finds a sweater she likes in a magazine, she can scan the accompanying QR code and have it shipped to her home with just a few clicks. If you think this type of integration is still far off into the future, consider this.
Tesco is quickly rising to become the #1 grocery store in Korea because of their smart use of QR codes. Realizing that Koreans are too busy working to go grocery shopping, the company set up a virtual grocery store in a subway. Using their smartphones, people can scan the products they want, pay for them online, and have the groceries waiting for them by the time they get home. While there are still a few kinks being worked out, the service has quickly become very popular in the country.
Getting Started with QR Codes
* Decide what you want the QR code to do – Think of how you can improve the customer service experience with QR codes. For example, you can place a code on electronic merchandise that will take customers to a tech support channel.
* Determine the best place to display the code – The QR code can be placed on any surface that can be scanned. However, where you place it should be tied to what you want the code to do. If you want it be a check-in point for customers, for example, then placing the code in a store window or at the check-out stand are good places.
* Market the code – Since these codes are still fairly new, you will need to draw attention to them. Be sure to provide an incentive to your customers to use them. Give a coupon, for instance, to people who check-in to Foursquare using the QR code.
* Track your results – Like any other marketing you do, track your results to see how well the campaign is working for you. If things aren’t going well, keep experimenting until you find a strategy that produces results.
QR codes are the future. Give your company an advantage over the competition by integrating this simple technology into your business.
Can You Do SEM On Your Own?
Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are an essential part of doing business online. Social networking is great, but when people want answers to their questions, they still turn to the search engines. If you want your business to do well online, then you have to pay attention to how well your website is ranking for the keywords relevant to your business.
While you can do SEM on your own, it takes a lot of time, effort, and experimentation to really understand the ins and outs of search engine marketing. If you would rather spend your time working your business, then you can hire an SEM company to do your search marketing for you. But before you call the first company that comes up in the search engine results, be aware that there are plenty of bad SEM companies out there ready to take your money and run.
The inspiration for this blog article came from a post I read in a forum. In the post, the person stated that instead of deleting the spam that was posted on their site, they started contacting the companies whose websites were being advertised. Surprise of all surprises, these business owners had hired what they thought were legitimate SEM companies. But all they got for their money were angry emails, a ruined reputation, and banned websites.
SEM: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Bad search engine marketing companies entice their victims with promises of getting their websites advertised on thousands of websites cheaply, and helping the company rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for their chosen keywords. What the business owners don’t realize is that these companies use black hat techniques that are bad for business.
These tactics include using questionably legal software to leave thousands of spam messages on blogs, forums, and other websites, filling the company website with content of dubious value, keyword stuffing, using fake doorway pages, and a whole assortment of bad search marketing tactics that search engines hate.
The worst thing about this scam is that it works…at first. The SEM company will happily take your money and show you reports detailing how well your website is doing in the SERPs. But then the hammer drops, and your site stops performing like it used to. Worse, you start getting angry messages from people demanding that you stop spamming them. The reputation of your business gets shredded, and the company you hired is suddenly nowhere to be found.
Tips for Hiring a Good SEO/ SEM Company
There are reputable SEM companies out there that can help you obtain good results using ethical methods. But how do you separate the good from the bad?
* Good SEM companies don’t promise the sun, moon, and stars – Bad SEM companies prey on our weakness for wanting big things done in a hurry. Rank #1 in one week! Get 1000 backlinks in 24 hours! Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? The reality is it takes time to get good results when you do SEM the right way. However, the results you get are long lasting and won’t ruin your reputation.
* Good SEM companies understand the holistic nature of search engine marketing – There is more to search engine optimization and marketing than just getting a lot of links to your website. There is onsite optimization, content creation, and pay-per-click marketing to name a few. If the SEM company is only focused on one thing, keep shopping around.
* Ask for a portfolio of their work – The sales person should be able to produce a list of websites the company has worked on. In addition to checking out their results, contact the site owners for feedback on what it was like to work with the company.
* Industry experience – The longer the company has been in business, the better. While new companies can certainly do a good job, a company that has been around for awhile will generally have more experience with the vagaries and quirks of search engines.
Good rankings in the search engine can bring a lot of traffic to your business’ front door. However, don’t sacrifice your company’s good reputation for a quick fix. Take time to find the best SEM company who will protect your brand and improve your bottom line by marketing your business the right way.
For software that can help you do well in the search engines, check out MyBrandingSystem. This comprehensive blogging system can help you kick off your search engine marketing campaign and get your business ranking for your preferred search terms. Check out the features they have available.
Criticism Multiplied Online
It was Leo F. Buscaglia who once said, “The person who risks nothing and does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing.” As a business owner, you will have hits and misses when it comes to dealing with customers. The hits help you build a profitable business. But it’s the misses that, unfortunately, will earn you your bitterest enemies.
In the past, customer complaints had limited reach. At best, an unhappy client could tell their story of woe to maybe 20 to 30 people. If you messed up bad enough then your mistake was the topic of the six o’clock news, until it was overshadowed by another scandal.
This is the age of transparency, however, and customers today are not afraid to air their grievances online. Some companies have the dubious honor of having entire blogs dedicated to showcasing their every misstep in Technicolor detail, and social media outlets allow the disgruntled to reach thousands of followers with just one tweet. If that’s not enough, all of your flub-ups can easily be uncovered with a quick search on Google.
Recent Criticism Online Yielded Results
Bank of America is an excellent example of a company that has its dirty laundry consistently aired in the public. The last time it happened, they were forced to change their banking policy in the face of public outcry over their proposed plan to start charging customers $5 per month to use their debit cards.
In reaction to losing the debit card fee war with retailers, banks were looking at ways to pad their profit margins since they were effectively blocked from raising the fees they charged retailers to process debit card transactions. Bank of America thought the answer was to charge customers for the “privilege” of paying by debit. The reasoning was obvious. The bank wanted customers to switch to using credit cards (or credit transactions) which earned it more money.
Pre-Internet days, the bank probably would have gotten away with it. Today, however, it was easy for people who were tired of being victims of corporate greed to raise the alarm over this issue and even simpler for Bank of America customers to stage a boycott of the company. The bank’s previous missteps were dragged into the conversation over and over again. Facing even greater profit losses, the bank abandoned its plans to charge for debit card usage. Unfortunately for the bank, the situation left enough of a bad taste in people’s mouths that many still moved their accounts to different financial institutions.
Just after I posted this article, Verizon shot themselves in the foot with their $2 service fee for online payments. Now I took personal offense to this ridiculous charge and was delighted to see that the Internet Criticism won again! They will not implement this charge due to the overwhelming negative response.
Getting the Scoop on Yourself
So how do you counteract negativity directed at your brand? For starters, you need to find out what people are saying about you behind your back. It can be tough to listen to criticisms of your brand, but ignoring negative chatter won’t make it go away. In some cases, it can make things worse.
Your first task, then, is to setup a funnel that directs all feedback about your business to you or someone you assign the task of monitoring the company’s reputation. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do:
* Set up Google and Yahoo alerts to be sent to your inbox whenever something regarding your company is picked up by search engines.
* Use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to pick up mentions of your name on Twitter.
* Conduct regular searches on your company name and your name online. You should rank at the top of the search results for both.
Dealing with Public Online Criticism
If your monitoring uncovers criticisms about you, your company, or its representatives then you need to decide what kind of action you are going to take to counteract it.
1. Handle it – If the criticism is warranted, then you need to deal with the issue the person is complaining about. Despite the horror stories you hear about sociopathic customers who enjoy bringing misery unto everyone they come in contact with, most people are reasonable. If you reach out to the person with a sincere desire to make things right, you can usually turn the situation around into your favor.
2. Respond to it – Some complaints have nothing to do with your company’s product or customer service. Rather, it may be about your business processes or your company’s stance about a particular issue. In this case, it may be a good idea to write a blog post or send out a press release explaining your thoughts on the issue.
3. Delete it – If the criticism is posted on your Facebook page or company blog, then you have the option of deleting it without responding to it. This option should be reserved for posts that violate your brand’s standards or are simply valueless, personal attacks against you, your employees, or your company. Obey the golden rule of the Internet: Don’t feed the trolls.
4. Let your supports respond – If you’ve done things right, then you will have a built-in advocacy group called “Happy Customers”. Typically, these people will come to bat for you if they see negative criticisms levied at your company. Sometimes these people can be more effective at defending you than a PR company.
Consider criticisms of your company an opportunity to win new fans of your business. Maintain a friendly but professional demeanor at all times so that no matter how much mud gets slung your way, you’ll always come out smelling like roses. Blogging is also an excellent way to combat criticism about your company online. My Branding System is a complete article and personal branding system that can help you rank for your name on Google and show customers your best side.