Becky's blog

A Message to Dealers: Changing the Industry Culture by Rebecca Chernek

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I recently read an article written by Jeremy Cato, a multi-award-winning journalist and senior writer for the Globe and Mail. Twice, he was named the automotive journalist of the year. His credentials are sterling.

Mr. Cato attended the February 2013 International Autoshow in Toronto and was guest speaker to a large group of car dealers. He was asked, “How can dealers be better at serving their customers?”

He looked over the room and saw nothing but middle-aged men. His response was the same as many of us who have shared his 25 years working in the industry. “Hire more women for your sales force and find a way to keep them.”

Cato advocates having 30% of the sales force be women. So do I. And dealers nationwide should have a woman in the #finance department as well. A well-qualified female #F&I manager has never been more important than right now. This truth will become increasingly essential by 2014 and beyond.

Why? Because your buyers are Generation Y and M women, and they have a different life plan than Traditionalists, Boomers, or Generation Xers. Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce. And, according to Levi’s survey of 1,000 female Millennials at the end of 2010,

  • 96% list “being independent” as their single most important life goal,

  • 87% define success as being able to shape their own future, and

  • only 68% say becoming a mom is on their priority list.

Why is this such important data for #car dealers to ingest and diligently digest?

Because knowing this and doing something about it for the long term will positively effect profits, elevate community respect, and communicate the message that actions speak louder than words. Women on the floor demonstrate commitment.

Because a recent survey showed that 74% of these #Generation #Y and #M women feel misunderstood by automotive marketers, yet they account for the purchase of 65% of all new cars and 53% of used cars, and they influence 95% of all auto purchases. (Road & Travel Magazine) Read that again!
Generation Y/M women are a significant number of the 80% of all women who control national spending. They are vocal about their likes and dislikes, have grown up with computers and cell phones, and have huge (and valuable) numbers of social media contacts.
Consider these facts:

  • 56% of U.S. women use social networking sites daily.

  • 58% of Facebook users are women.

  • 64% of Twitter users are women.

  • 82% of Pinterest users are women. (Source: Mashable, 2012)

Why do these social statistics matter? Because if understood, they should influence how dealership marketing is done in 2013 and beyond. Social media marketing is no longer a choice; it’s a must. Generation Y/M women will someday be leading the majority of American businesses. Establishing their brand preference and store loyalty should start early, and social media marketing is a proven way to do this.

Dealers should understand that the above statistics will account for a whopping increase in their female customers’ buying power, especially if they’re using social media to communicate with these women and their family, friends and neighbors in an ongoing dialogue as part of their new social marketing plan.

Generation Y/M women will click on the dealer’s website, if they like the tone of the dialogue and if the other participants pass on praise. If the dealer’s website is designed to hook these independent women with easy-to-find and understand information, they’ll be more apt to call the dealership for specific facts. If the salesperson who answers the phone provides superior customer service, is thoroughly trained and knowledgeable, and creates such a trusting rapport with these callers that they visit the showroom, wise dealers will ensure that these women do not see only sales men.

One more thing. Statistics show that women prefer to make such an important purchase as a car from women. They trust them. They speak the same language. And when women buyers see a significant number of saleswomen in the dealership and are ushered into the office of a female #F&I manger to seal the deal . . . they are far more likely to make additional purchases and that should make everyone in the dealership happy.

Any dealer reading this message should first make an honest personal assessment that includes identifying generational blind spots. Times have changed. There are literally thousands of Generation Y/M women with the sales experience, personality, drive, education, ability to teach and lead and who are interested in establishing working careers in auto dealerships, not temporary jobs.

Women in sales and finance can and will make a huge difference. Find them. Train them. Encourage them. Support them. Praise them. Start now to change the good-old-boy auto dealership culture, one shop at a time. For the long term.