2019 presents a unique challenge for marketers, regardless of the industry that they represent. For the sake of these articles, we’ll convey the ideas in the context of car dealerships, automotive advertising agencies and the automotive industry as a whole. But rest assured, the ideas are universal, relating to the evolving face of brand recognition, reinforcement and consumer valuation. They are offered up for navigational purposes, intending to empower you with the tools necessary to figure out where your own automotive marketing strategies stand in late 2018. Are you ahead of the curve? Are you falling behind? Best to figure that out now, so that you can figure out your next steps ASAP.
The Evolution of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM)
While conversational referrals from friends, family and loved ones are still a very real part of our consumer existence, we have been moving away from traditional WOMM for quite some time. As even intimate conversations have evolved to take place on the digital landscape of texting, messenger apps and social media newsfeed. This is where we are exposed to the largest number of new ideas, serving also as the primary resource that we use to inform our consumer decisions. It is the landscape upon which modern WOMM thrives.
Consider for a moment, this quote by M. Nick Hajili published in the International Journal of Market Research, “Trust, encouraged by social media, significantly affects intention to buy. Therefore, trust has a significant role in commerce by directly influencing intention to buy and indirectly influencing perceived usefulness.”
So, how does this relate to the automotive industry? Well, on a purely aspirational note people of common interests (be it a specific automaker, or particular model) are likely to share content online that increases the visibility of that product in an organic way. And should an individual purchase the vehicle in question, the endless string of “likes’, “reactions” and “comments” serve as the best possible endorsement. After all, positivity reinforces trust.
The Difference Between Organic vs. Amplified WOMM
If we view social media interaction as the modern equivalent of WOMM, it becomes important to recognize the difference between organic word of mouth, and what we call “amplified”.
The former originates from the consumer themselves, representing their decision to become an advocate of a product or service field by their genuine satisfaction and desire to share that, in the form of enthusiastic support. For a dealership, this might come in the form of a positive social media post, or online review. The benefit of a positive social media post comes in the potential for both reach and engagement. If the author of a Facebook post has, say 1,000 FB Friends, your dealership has just been promoted to 1,000+ people at no cost to you.
That said, amplified WOMM comes when a dealership utilizes social media platforms as the means of launching a targeted campaign in order to create a buzz.
Both forms of WOMM are incredibly effective and should be used in conjunction with one another. Together, they empower you to get the conversation started in new and exciting ways, with newly excited consumers who might now be considering buying their next vehicle from you. But it still begs the question, how can free WOMM be more effective than paid marketing efforts?
Here are a few quick thoughts to keep in mind:
- 74% of consumers consider WOMM as the key influencer in their buying decisions.
- According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust suggestions made by friends and family more than those made in an advertising campaign.
- 88% of online consumers trust recommendations and criticisms found in online reviews as much as they trust insights from friends and family.
- And yet, only 33% of businesses are actively working to grow/encourage online reviews.
- Researchers have equated a 10% increase in word-of-mouth endorsements to as much as a 1.5% increase in sales.
Where Is WOMM Most Influential at Your Dealership?
Everything we’ve touched on thus far stresses the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, the single-greatest (and primarily free) advertising tool in your arsenal. Keeping in mind that positive word-of-mouth should be the end-result of a genuinely satisfying experience, this entire conversation comes with the implication that you’ve already got your ducks in a row. By this, we mean that we assume you’re already running a respected, customer-centric dealership based on the creation of lasting relationships with your customers. If you’re not sure that you have, you might be way ahead of yourself, and we recommend you focus on walking before you run.
But let’s assume that you’ve got all that covered. Positive word of mouth effects three crucial areas of your dealership’s reputation.
First, Brand Loyalty. It is estimated that the acquisition of a new customer costs up to five times more than the cost of keeping an existing one. And those savings can be exponentially profitable if positive word of mouth keeps customers (i) coming back and (ii) referring customers who continue to come back and refer new customers. It’s such a simple means of measured growth, driven by reputation and perception. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you.
Second, Brand Trust. We mentioned above that the majority of consumers trust the insights of a friend, family member (or even an online review) over a less-organic marketing attempt such as an advertisement. That said, WOMM allows for an endorsement of your dealership to be presented in the most trustworthy means possible.
Finally, is the ability to Create Buzz. With the role of marketer played by professionals, social media influencers, and amateurs alike, you never know what might go viral. On the positive end of the spectrum, it could be the story of an enthusiastically satisfied customer who wanted to share their stellar experience with your dealership. Stories can grow and gain traction with lightning speed, and you might find yourself with 10x, 100x, or even 1000x the reach and engagement that you’d be used to thanks to the right party sharing the story.
Are You Getting People Talking?
What steps are you taking to get your clients and the community around you talking about your dealership? Do you offer social media incentives, or encourage online reviews? Whether built around the enthusiasm of a satisfied customer, to the good-natured sharing of headlines regarding your community involvement, it’s never been more important to get people talking. Not only will it strengthen your reputation of integrity, but it just might offer the best possible ROI of any marketing initiative (let alone a free one).