Few businesses have given me more fodder for sales and marketing discussions through the years as car dealerships. The mere mention of car dealerships and salesmen usually elicits groans.
Many groups are therefore surprised when I tell them that we could do worse than borrowing a few strategies from car dealerships. Before losing all credibility with audiences, I quickly point out that I’m not talking about their high-pressure sales tactics.
But I give credit where it is due. Car dealerships are the best at letting the world know who they are, where they are, what they sell, and why you should be interested.
And while some businesses may match their traditional marketing efforts in newspaper ads, billboards, radio ads, and television, few are as committed to simply getting noticed by passersby.
Driving through one of my former hometowns this week, I had to smile as we approached a busy intersection seemingly being guarded by a massive inflatable turkey. My kids began joking about the giant turkey and asked why it was there. I explained that people are busy when they are driving and wouldn’t notice the car dealership.
But it’s hard for folks to miss a gigantic turkey.
This dealership has been in the same spot for 30 years. Many folks would think that if a business has been anywhere for that long, surely everyone would know where it is… right? But you don’t stay in business for 3 decades thinking that way.
That dealership realizes that all of the “traffic” in the world is of little use if folks are looking elsewhere. And the busier the road or more visually stimulating the area, the easier it is to become part of a disregarded backdrop.
Of what value is a “high traffic” location if nobody notices you anyway?
Whether you are in a high-traffic grocery store or along a busy road, that question is a valid one. Folks tend to confuse how many “potential customers” they notice driving or even walking by each week with how many actually notice them.
But remember, you’re always focused on them. They’re always focused on a hundred things besides you.
Outlandish or subtle, have you made any visible changes around your branch recently? Static settings become ignored.
There will be thousands of folks within eyesight of you today. Will anything in, on, or around your branch grab their attention?
I was reminded of the amazing life-enhancing benefits of technology this weekend. And no, I wasn’t interacting with a financial, medical, or even governmental institution. I was ordering pizzas.
After reading about Domino’s new online ordering system, I felt compelled to give it a test run. I was not aware of what a Luddite I had become when it came to pizza delivery technology. Heck, I learned that folks can build Pizza Hut pizzas on their IPhones. And Papa John’s allows text orders.
We played around with the toppings on the Domino’s site to see how it altered the look and price of our pizzas. This process gives you time to think about exactly what you’re in the mood for. And I know we ended up considering and adding toppings we would have otherwise skipped.
After building our pizzas, I entered my credit card info (I didn’t have an account set up yet) and the order was placed. I was able to monitor that Andrew was working on our pizzas and when he placed them into the oven. If I were having them delivered, the system would tell me when the driver left their shop. This time, I chose to pick my order up myself.
The young man at the counter likely wondered if I worked for the competition. I asked him questions about their system and had him point Andrew out to me. I think I lost him when I started rambling about what a cool mass-customization tool they were employing.
The fact that many franchisees resisted the new system at first rang a familiar note. Besides the initial investment in technology, it required a significant change in the way they had always operated. But after a year, 20% of their orders (and growing) are coming in through this channel.
I made a mental note while driving home that the Domino’s pizza delivery system will be added to the slides I show bankers while discussing how technology continues to change how businesses do business.
Does anyone really want to argue that customers will accept less control and interactivity from the technology of their bank than from the folks delivering their large pepperoni and sausage pizza?
Technology will continue to change our jobs. Get used to it. But contrary to what some fear, new technologies do not lessen the importance of our personal interactions. In fact, as technology levels playing fields, our personal service skills only grow in importance.
What level are you delivering today?