Set Yourself Apart from the Pack – It’s time to put pen to paper as you define what differentiates you and puts your dealership head-and-shoulders above the rest.

In the last issue of AutoJournal, we started a conversation about “Unique Selling Propositions,” or USPs. We made the point that when your customers look out at the automotive retail landscape, they should see a clear difference between your dealership and your competition. If they don’t, why would they buy from you? What makes you stand out from the rest?

At this point in time, I hope you’ve taken the idea of USPs to your management meetings, and that you and your team have started looking at ways to uniquely represent your store.

Branding is a hot topic today, and no doubt you’ve heard industry experts talking about the importance of creating your identity – your brand – one that customers can both recognize, as well as feel compelled to do business with.

Reading about branding, or hearing others talk about it, is one thing. Actually sitting down and putting thoughts on paper, is quite another. So where do you start? To help you on this journey, we’ve put together a few ideas that will hopefully get your creative juices flowing.

Identifying strengths

Let’s begin by looking at your store’s strengths – and let’s be specific. Take a look at all your departments, from Service to Sales and beyond. How about your history, or heritage? Is there a story there that you can share with your customers? Perhaps something that connects you with your community? Are you particularly customer focused? Are you getting exceptionally good online reviews? All these points can be turned into compelling USPs.

Ideally, you’ll want to list between four and six USPs that you can share with the world. Try to focus on one from each department, as well as two overall that describe your entire dealership.

Advanced technologies

If your store is charging ahead with new technologies, perhaps embracing social media, or digital communications, let your customers know about your forward-thinking ways? Your ability and eagerness to embrace new technologies is a strong USP, especially for tech-savvy customers who prefer to communicate more like the Jetsons than the Flintstones.

Today’s technologies allow you to do things that were simply impossible or impractical years ago. For instance, one of your USPs could be that you’re available 24/7? “Who would be replying to customer emails and phone calls after hours,” you ask? You could take advantage of a number of services that offer after hours’ operators who can take phone calls, or receive emails, and then convert them to a lead, which in turn could be overseen by a proactive member of the team who sees the value of online leads.

What if you could advertise that you are available via text? That would certainly be an appealing USP, to some. In fact, you could even set up a specific number that customers could text, and then promote that number in both your digital and traditional ads. By harnessing the power of text, you’re sure to improve the customer experience, and you’ll have one extra way to differentiate yourself from the pack.

What about going out on the limb with a culture changer like “No-Haggle Pricing?” I can see how well this might play out when announced in your next “brainstorming” session.  What? You don’t have brainstorming sessions at your dealership?

I don’t mind telling you that these are mandatory meetings at a few of the more progressive stores we work with. This is where employees get to voice their ideas, and find out whether they can see them translated into new processes, systems and customer experiences. If you’re not brainstorming with your staff, I highly recommend you start.

Department specific USPs

What if you were to create USPs for specific departments? What if the Parts department had their own online parts catalogue or e-commerce portal? What if your techs communicated with vehicle owners via video, sending their service recommendations to customers so that they could better understand what needs to be fixed and why?

What if those same customers could communicate directly with the tech via video messaging or text, getting an approval for the job before the thought of taking the car off the hoist even crossed their minds? The realm of possibilities is truly exciting, and each one is a USP!

The competition

You can also turn to your competitors to see what they’re doing, or what they’re not doing. Analyze your competition and identify what they are good at and what they are lacking in. Perhaps you can “Secret Shop” them to see how they react to different forms of communication. You can then choose to copy them, or better yet, improve upon their ideas for more of an impact.

Finally, the best way to figure out what kind of USPs your customer will value, is by asking your customers for their opinions. Set up a questionnaire, or a survey, and then send it out, encouraging your customers to offer feedback.

These have proven to be very useful as they allow the dealer to know what they are doing right, and what they are doing wrong. This type of feedback also gives you the opportunity to correct deficiencies almost immediately.

And when you do get feedback from a customer who is a big fan, you can encourage them to talk about how much they appreciate your store online for the rest of the world to see.

Hopefully, that’s enough food for thought. Now it’s time to turn these ideas into USPs your customers will appreciate.

Article originally published in Canadian AutoJournal, May 2016.

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