In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek (a personal favorite of ours!) unpacks the intrinsic human desire to belong--to connect and to be a part of something. He explains that certain brands (such as Harley-Davidson or Apple) appeal to us on an emotional level, because they cause us to believe what they believe, allow us to feel a kinship with others who believe the same thing, and become markers of the beliefs we hold dear.
This may seem like a bold concept, but consider: what brands are YOU drawn to? What about those companies evoke emotions, and what emotions do they evoke? More than likely, it isn’t because they offer the cheapest option (it’s possible that the opposite is true!), or the best value. Something about the brands with which you most strongly align has won your heart before it has won your mind. This something is connected to what we discussed in Part 1 of this series, The MASTER BRANDING STRATEGY Part 1: Purpose. Dealerships with a clear sense of purpose (your “why) communicate to their communities who they are and what they believe. We have seen dealerships do this incredibly well. Particularly in a small town, the dealerships with the most loyal customer base (repeat customers for 5-10+ vehicles!) are those that connect with their customers on a values level. In fact, a cursory glance at these dealerships’ social media platforms shows perceived values like honest, trustworthy, generous, philanthropic, knowledgeable, and patient to name a few.
As you consider how to connect with your potential customers in an emotionally meaningful way, keep in mind that, at times, it can be particularly difficult in an industry such as ours, to gain trust. Most often, customers are looking for a hassle-free, honest, no BS, ethical buying experience as their top priorities. The auto industry has struggled in these areas, and customers know it. So how do you gain your customers’ trust? Consider, for example, a code of ethics to display in your showroom. Auto Raptor puts it this way, “Being viewed as trustworthy can be challenging for any business, but it’s especially difficult in the auto industry. If being honest and trustworthy is part of your core car dealership branding efforts, this has to be an effort that goes beyond saying 'you can trust us!' Create a code of ethics and prominently display it in your dealership; you’ll reinforce your brand’s commitment to quality service and high ethical standards.” The point is not that you must create a “code of ethics”, the point is that you should put some thought into how to connect with your customers in a way that evokes an emotional experience. Let’s go back to the examples of Harley-Davidson and Apple. Research shows that people have a deep drive to connect to others, feel a sense of acceptance, and feel as though they are a part of something to which they belong. Both of these companies have created that feeling, by creating a lifestyle within their products. Do the same. Find out how to provide this for your customers. Do you give them peace of mind? Do they feel like they’re part of the family? Do you care about making their lives easier? Whatever it is, tap into it and use it to create meaningful relationships between your dealership and your community.