Processes. The one thing I love working on in businesses more than anything else. 

We know businesses will change because of the coronavirus pandemic. Like Amazon’s impact on logistics,  there will be a shift in consumer behavior that will likely center on communications. 

I’ve committed to making automotive and transportation my only vertical until things get back to a more normal pace, but the beauty of these principles is that they can be applied just about anywhere. Now is the time to write these into your processes and prepare for scale. 

 

All things digital. 

The automotive sector talks often about Digital Retail, but there has been little reason to lean into it. Then all the dealers in California woke up and that’s all they had in the toolbox, and none were ready to go from start to finish online without overthinking. 

Part of the problem is the contracts and signatures, with some banks and state regulations behind on the capabilities of e-signing. Besides that, how robust and clear is the online purchase process? If you’re not ready to do it all online with a chance of zero personal interaction, this is the time to bend the curve in your favor. 

If you call this a blip and think things will return to the old normal, don’t be surprised when digital-only retailers see a spike in sales relative to yours. They are looking at the data and tweaking their digital presence even as you read this. 

 

Change of voice.

One thing I’ve never understood about automotive is the marketing messages. They never seem to provide any value for the customer except a “deal.” When you compare it to the content marketing mix of high-end brands like Lululemon, Nordstrom, or Outerknown, it’s no wonder customers swipe left to delete (or unsubscribe altogether). 

I met with Eric Taylor of RQ Construction early last year because I really like their processes and how they market themselves. I didn’t know it at the time, but RQC was going through a rebranding initiative. I asked Eric what his secret was, and he responded, “There’s no secret; I steal ideas from my church.” 

When I got home, I pulled out my whiteboard and pulled up the website to North Coast Church. If you think about it, churches across the world have always had the same messages based on the Bible. Making the messages timely for believers and non-believers alike is the challenge. 

Even if you’re not a churchgoer, you can still see the benefits of simple and sincere marketing by checking out what you personally spend time reading. Write like you talk, toss out the templates, and dig into your content and message. You can’t always be selling, or your customers will stop listening and never open up again. 

 

Lean up. 

I’ve always believed in operating with the least possible amount of employees and resources. Running lean demands efficiency, promotes organization, and draws out the best resources. Provided the business runs properly, scaling is relatively easy. 

I’m also a proponent of something called margin. The definition of margin is an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary. When you run lean, you need to work backwards and build margin into your schedule to leave yourself room to breath. If you’re a one-man band, you will have to learn to turn down projects or clients that don’t bring you joy. 

Running lean doesn’t have to harm the customer experience, either. The goal is to give the customers more control over their path to purchase, while also providing clear next steps. Sync the purchase funnel, the CRM process, the marketing message, and the digital and physical branding, to give the most to each opportunity. 

 

Train deep, build wide. 

I’ve got serious pride in our team. We work together to make sure things run right, which is very unlike most automotive dealerships. If you’re out just for yourself, it won’t be a good fit. It comes down to being good humans, but most importantly we’ve found that teaching each other what we know is central to teamwork. We train deep. 

We also build wide, providing access to information as much as possible to all our stakeholders. This is done in part because we want to build the connection, but after a while we realized that we were answering a lot of the same questions several times a day. So we ask ourselves what are people asking, and our content gets built around that as a value proposition. 

Obviously there are certain things that need to remain confidential for various reasons, and I’m not advocating you share your entire life story or something illegally. But you can’t lock up your knowledge and expect to make friends, that’s not how this place works anymore. 

I’m taking things day-by-day like everyone else, and though I’ve been working on some of these items for almost 18 months, it took an event like the coronavirus pandemic to shine a light on the darker corners and reveal hidden strains. Hang tight. If you want to talk, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Reach me at peter@brechtgroup.com, and as always thanks for reading. 

Originally published March 23, 2020. 

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