Turning Customer Relations Into An Advantage

Customer RelationsIf you’re like many people, you may have a car that is at least 12 years old. If it’s been that long since you have bought one, you might be surprised that your next car buying experience may be shorter and more pleasurable. That’s because customer relations has changed.

Mark Sweeney, President of Mark Sweeney Buick GMC, shared with me his perspective on how to treat customers and why it is so critical to his business.

After listening to his insights, it may make sense to assess how you are handling customer relations for your business.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM MARK SWEENEY, PRESIDENT OF SWEENEY BUICK GMC

HOW DO YOU ADJUST TO CHANGING CONSUMER PREFERENCES?  (1:45 in)

In Mark’s words – Even though things have changed, the customer really hasn’t. We try to make them feel at home. It’s an atmosphere where they won’t feel any pressure from the sales people or the managers. We realize that it is a more educated buyer.

Insight – The more educated buyer makes more informed decisions quicker. The mating dance to a sale is quicker. Today’s sales are made by facilitating information rather than hard selling the buyer.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU TRY TO EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS? (3:02 in)

In Mark’s words – Free loaner cars, car washes, valet pick up and drop off, after hour sales to cover all bases.

Insight – By doing customer relations the right way, by making it easier for customers to do business with you, the more business you will get from them.

HOW HAS THE INTERNET CHANGED YOUR SALES PROCESS (3:31 in)

In Mark’s words – The buyers are more educated so it makes it easier for us to make the sale. Just ask qualifying questions in terms of how they found the vehicle, how they found us. If they saw it on an internet site, we know that they know the pricing.     

Insight – Decisions are made easier when the buyer feels comfortable and trusts the seller. Sweeney creates a casual atmosphere, including having dogs on the premises, to make the buying process a more pleasurable experience.

HOW IMPORTANT IS INTERNET ADVERTSING TO YOUR BUSINESS? (7:27 in)

In Mark’s words – We have found definitely the internet is the place to be. Seventy-five percent of our sales are generated through the internet.

Insight – Although the internet is paying off in a big way, the dealership realizes that traditional advertising on TV, radio and through events is important too for product and dealership awareness.

HOW MIGHT THE INTRODUCTION OF A NEW BATTERY OPERATED CAR AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS? (10:37 in)

In Mark’s words – Anything new does help but you have to stock more cars. Technicians have to be trained. Anything new like that is a learning process.

Insight – With any product addition or subtraction, it’s important to consider all of the other aspects of the business that may be affected – logistics, personnel, advertising, marketing, sales, finance, etc.

HOW MIGHT THE INTRODUCTION OF SELF DRIVING CARS AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS? (12:11 in)

In Mark’s words – It will be a small percentage of the market. It’s hard for me to imagine that someone doesn’t enjoy driving a vehicle.

Insight – Having an ear to the ground on how consumers respond to this change early on should give auto dealers sufficient time to adjust to any significant new trends.

 

Why Use an Advertising Agency?

Why Use An Advertising AgencyHere’s a question that crosses the mind of many small business owners. Should I work with an advertising agency for marketing my business?

The answer is in your response to these questions.

Are my marketing activities working for me or not?

                 Am I more comfortable collaborating or being the lone ranger?

The avenues for reaching consumers today is much broader and more complex. Expectations of clients have changed and the services agencies provide now are more comprehensive.

Listen to Bryan Holland of Holland Advertising: Interactive discuss the value of a client – agency relationship and what’s the difference between one that works versus one that falls apart.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRYAN HOLLAND OF HOLLAND ADVERTISING: INTERACTIVE

WHAT FUNDAMENTAL THINGS SHOULD BUSINESS DO TODAY TO MARKET THEMSELVES EFFECTIVELY?  (3:26 in)

In Bryan’s words – You’ve really got to figure out your strategic brand story. Marketing one on one is differentiation. Why choose your brand, your company from the competitors.

Insight – Determine what is your unique selling proposition and what you want to achieve. Make sure you are telling this story on your website and through the use of other marketing tactics.

WHEN HIRING AN ADVERTISING AGENCY, WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I BE ASKING? (7:26in)

In Bryan’s words – First and foremost is chemistry. Do you like this person? Is your mission in alignment with theirs? Do they have success stories? Have they handled problems similar to yours?

Insight – Seek to find the agency that puts your priorities ahead of theirs.

WHAT EXPECTATIONS SHOULD CLIENTS HAVE OF AGENCIES? (8:18 in)

In Bryan’s words – We’re going to be able to let them know whether (their goals and objectives) are realistic or not. We’ll help guide and direct them.   

Insight – Seek to find out what can be accomplished for what you have to spend.

IS THERE A PERCENTAGE OF BUSINESS REVENUE THAT OUGHT TO BE PUT INTO MARKETING THE BUSINESS? (9:05 in)

In Bryan’s words – Yes. There are industry averages. So depending upon the industry there is a rule of thumb.  

Insight – Assess how aggressive you want to be in marketing your business. What the industry norm is may not fully address your goals. The clearer you can be in what you want to accomplish will help the advertising agency in right sizing a budget.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO FIRE A CLIENT? (11:23 in)

In Bryan’s words – We’ve done that several times. The client had unrealistic deadlines. They expect results and if we in our heart doesn’t feel it’s going to work, we’ll walk away from it.

Insight – Synergy between client and agency on goals, strategy, tactics, and deadlines are critical.

WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT’S MISSING IN THE MARKETING EFFORTS OF THOSE BUSINESSES WHO GO IT ALONE? (13:17 in)

In Bryan’s words – Thinking strategically about a brand tagline that differentiates why choose your brand and what are the key points that make it authentic, credible, believable.

Insight – By developing the right brand identity, the message and materials used in selling become easier to create and communicate.

Five Steps to Shape Business Culture

Business CultureWas there a time in your life when you hated to go to work? The business culture was uncomfortable. Rather than finding your work and association with colleagues engaging, you were looking for the way out.

A few years ago the co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey and global business professor-founder Raj Sisodia released a study on the performance of companies that sought to work for values, not just profit.

In that study 28 companies labeled as practicing “conscious capitalism”, outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times during the period from 1998 – 2012. Is there a message here today about culture?

Brad Brezinski, Founder and Chief Strategist at Strategy2Action, shared with me a personal experience and a definitive series of steps leaders should take to shape or turn around its business culture.

See if you agree with Brad’s recommendation. Because culture can have a significant impact on business performance, they’re worth noting.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRAD BREZINSKI, FOUNDER & CHIEF STRATEGIST – STRATEGY TO ACTION

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPANIES THAT HAVE A STRONG BUSINESS CULTURE? (2:27in)

In Brad’s words – An organization that communicates better, that’s going to innovate better, they’re going to problem solve better, and they’re probably going to have lower turnover.

Insight – Ask the question, how engaged are my employees? Chances are that if they are fully engaged, they have a clear understanding of the charge given by leadership.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CEO IN SHAPING THE CULTURE? (3:50 in)

In Brad’s words – Ultimately the CEO has full responsibility for the culture. The exhibited values of the leadership team are what shape the behavioral norms, are what shape the decisions that guide the culture.

Insight – Think about your decision making processes, how decisions are made, who makes them, who is recognized for the decisions made and how are people held responsible for decisions.

HOW IMPORTANT IS CULTURE TO A START UP COMPANY? (6:57 in)

In Brad’s words – Don’t think in terms of culture, think in terms of your values. Roy Disney said when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easy.

Insight – In hiring, make sure that your values, the values you want the organization to hold and those of the people you’re seeking to hire are aligned.

WHAT UNDERMINES BUSINESS CULTURE? (8:56 in)

In Brad’s words – The first one is hollow values. These one word ideas (in wall art displaying the word – teamwork, for example) that no one can wrap their hands around. The second quite simply is weak leadership. It’s the responsibility of leadership to exhibit (values) day in and day out.

Insight – Back up values with actions and behaviors that are applied daily.

HOW HARD IS IT TO TURN AROUND THE CULTURE OF AN ORGANIZATION? (13:52 in)

In Brad’s words – I don’t think it’s hard if leadership will commit to doing it. The pace of change is four levers – articulate, communicate, demonstrate, and tolerate.

Insight – Articulate the kind of culture you want. Communicate this to everyone in your organization. Walk the talk. Don’t tolerate actions at any level of the organization that are inconsistent with the culture and values you’re working to establish.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF IN A MERGER OF TWO CULTURES? (20:10 in)

In Brad’s words – You can’t really assess culture but you can articulate the values. Then you’re looking for what values are incongruent with one another.

Insight – Determine if the values of both companies are aligned or not as it relates to its handling of employees, how it treats customers, what is its risk tolerance, etc.