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Using technology to drive local automobile dealer marketing.

Updated on August 13, 2015

Micro and macro response handling

Decisions, decisions... buy or lease... impress my neighbors with a superb vehicle or save a few hundred a month... and as you peel back through them all, the paperwork will be signed with the dealer who managed to gain the consumer's trust.

But what is this elusive trust, and how can we get to it? Let's find out. Any marketing professional knows that a "yes" from the customer is not "an event" but rather a complex "process". You could say that a "macro final yes" is composed of many "micro yes" triggers. Along that road there are many traps which can trigger an alarm in the client, better known as a "fight or flight" response. Many dealers lose countless perfectly good customers because the "micro response" path is not managed correctly. But before we tackle this delicate subject, the art of making someone give us their business and walk away feeling great about what they just did, we need to understand how the consumer mind actually works.

Simon Sinek

The consumer state of mind according to experts. The importance of trust.

In car sales, there is a tipping point, when the client made an unconscious decision they will work with us, and at that moment they switch from raising arguments to working with us. You know when it happens, because instead of trying to convince them, they will be happy to discuss picking a color or an engine size. For this "tipping of the scale" to occur, trust must exist. Unfortunately, a sad fact of our industry is that "car dealer" is almost synonymous with "watch your back". To bring the client to "want" to work with us, the "micro yes" triggers must happen without any perceived manipulation. These milestones of gradually accumulating trust must be made by the customer. Nothing makes a showroom visitor walk out faster than the perception of being intentionally manipulated.

According to the experts at MecLabs (Marketing Experiments), we can go a long way to turn this process in our favor by doing the following four things:

  1. Enhance motivation (an expiration date for your offer is a good motivator)
  2. Raise incentives (discount, low interest, supporting a cause, etc)
  3. Lower the friction (easy forms, don't ask for things you can collect later, etc)
  4. Reduce the anxiety (this is what we will focus on, because this is where many otherwise great marketers lose the sale, drop the ball)

Anxiety exists in an inversely proportional relationship with TRUST. We all have in mind a list of entities whom we trust implicitly. I would gladly sign a contract to deliver 2 containers of electronic part to Motorola even if they pay 6 months later. At the other end of the scale, I would perhaps decline to do the same with The Bank of China, even if they offered to pay me in 15 days. Why? because they are notoriously unreliable, at the whim of government known to interfere in business, and things can change in the middle of a contract which can ruin me. At one end of the scale anxiety is minimal; at the other end it is maximum, it prevents me from closing a deal.

Whether we like it or not, we need to accept the reality that generally, when people walk into a car dealership, their anxiety is high. By now any marketing professional would ask "how can I be more like Motorola"? But before we answer that (and we will), let's look at how detrimental anxiety really is.

Oren Klaff

Neuroscience 101: how the brain communicates

In the last few years, two business leaders have emerged by publishing a few nuggets of neuroscience insight which revolutionized the way we interact with others, especially in sales and negotiation situations: they are Simon Sinek and Oren Klaff. I highly recommend their books, but more importantly, read the bibliography and references, and follow their sources, to get a true insight into the power of these methods. While Simon makes the concept very easy to understand, digest and apply, I strongly suggest you follow-up with Oren Klaff's "Pitch" book, because it explains the same things in more detail, with plenty of examples of how to use it in a "close the deal" situation, while remaining perfectly accessible to the layman.

The core idea is that there is something inherently wrong in the way we communicate on a day to day basis, making a majority of our message to be discarded, forgotten, or even worse, achieving the reverse (convincing them they should not work with us). So it is worth taking the time to understand what happens in the mind when information is received. I personally recommend these two authors to most people. If you have a background in science, and you are versed in split testing methodology, you may also want to look up Daniel Gilbert for some fun A/B split mind tests, and perhaps (for the braniacs out there) the research of Marvin Minsky, a prestigious scientist and living legend, who has spent a lifetime discovering "what makes humans tick".

With apologies for the verbose introduction, we can summarize "why anxiety kills the deal" in the next two paragraphs. In the first I will explain what we are working with, and in the next I will explain why it works that way.

The three brains that make a mind, and how we use them to communicate

The last 1/2 million years of human evolution has brought with it something unprecedented in the history of the planet. A neocortex (the outer part of the brain) so large (in humans) that it allows us to be self-aware, contemplate the circumstances of our own existence, and communicate the most complex ideas with each other.

The way our brain evolved was in layers; a more complex part started growing on top of an already functional one that continued to do its' job, while the new one focused on new functions. You as a "self" are blissfully ignorant to this separation, every human thinks of him or herself as "one unit". But inside your head you have a reptilian brain, which we share with snakes, birds, crocodiles, fish), a middle brain which is responsible for patterns, many emotions, structure, various social instincts, (which we share with other mammals - mice, cats, dogs, etc are predominantly driven by some aspects of this brain), and the neocortex (last layer), which developed in the last few hundred thousand years, an incredibly short time compared to how much time is usually needed for living things to evolve over deep time. To clarify,this is an over-simplification to avoid a scientific discussion. All mammals share the same brain layers, but the primate neocortex is larger, and the human neocortex is wired to allow uniquely human traits (music, writing, talking, storytelling, art, building complex machinery, etc).

How messages are received is common to most species:

We receive messages into the reptilian brain, which does not think, just reacts. If the messages are deemed safe, they are passed on to other areas of the brain. If not, they are discarded, or worse, chemically tagged as detrimental, so the next time it is encountered it will produce an automatic negative response.

How many times have you heard "first impressions matter"? Your instinctive first impression weighs so much, there is little anyone can do to change it. If I am on a stage speaking, it doesn't matter how eloquent my speech if I am missing a front tooth; that missing tooth determines much of your reaction to me, which is half disgust and half dissonance (does he know how it looks? does he have insurance? I should try not to laugh.) - hundreds of thoughts a minute (which affect your decisions) not related to what I am trying to talk to you about.

And at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, if you live in an upscale neighborhood, and a 12 year old Toyota car with rims that cost more than the car and tinted glass pulls up blasting rap or reggaeton music, you will not walk out asking them if they want to come in for a fresh lemonade or to ask if they are lost. You will call 911 saying "I think some delinquents are scoping my house, could you please come check on them". We have been wired by millions of years of evolution to be very good at staying alive based on first impressions.

So no matter how beautiful and / or logical your message... remember it has to pass through the filter of the reptile brain who doesn't think (let's call this pre-thinking), who has one job, to keep you alive, and ignore every other task. It sees something new and it responds with a few things, which it decides in an instant:

  1. Can I eat it? Attack.
  2. Can it eat me? Run.
  3. Can I mate with it? Go get it.
  4. Can I safely ignore it? Ignore it.

We speak from the neocortex and our communication is filtered through the reptile brain before it is received; so even when we put our best effort forward, and the other party considers us a "non-threat", only a small percentage of what we want to convey actually makes it to the recipient's neocortex.

As you look at the list above, you, the experienced showroom and tradeshow professional, know instinctively, that the rep who looks weak and humble behind the booth, not the most verbose, will close the most sales (see point 1, the client thinks he is the Alpha and will engage far - as long as the dynamic doesn't change); the attractive employee will have clients eating out of her (or his) hand (see point 3 above). These are hard facts about human nature, that most "sales gurus" ignore or refuse to talk about.

But why was Motorola exempt from these primitive filters? Was it because I knew I can't eat it, mate with it, or that it's not a good idea to ignore their order? Of course it was. Let's see how they achieved that.

The perception of success and authority

What you are speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say!

We all have advisors we trust implicitly. I think the biggest lie perpetuated in sales circles is to "dress like your clients". We should never dress like our clients. We must dress like the advisors they trust and listen to. But clothes don't sell a car, first impressions do. How you dress is a small peg on a wheel which is part of a more complex machinery.

After more than 20 years in sales, I can frankly tell you that sales is not "jazz", it is an "orchestra" with a conductor. Hiring an experienced salesperson begins with a lot of promise. Without guidance, they will be eager to "try new ideas". Three months later when nothing happens, they will be unhappy with their job, you will be unhappy with their performance, and you lose a good man (or woman) simply for lack of structure. This problem does not begin and end with people, it affects every aspect of your marketing. A big yellow sign with red letters that says "clearance sale" does not evoke feelings of "let me walk in and get an amazing deal", it simply evokes the thought "there is a cheap sign - they are asking me to spend money while they are doing everything in their power not to spend any". Not a very good start to reducing anxiety, if you ask me.

Is it enough to do what the next guy does?

When yours is the nicest dealership in town, you have a lot going for you. When all the dealerships are nice, that benefit is greatly diminished. Actually, continuing to spend to make yours nicer, is perhaps, not as effective as you may think. Let me explain:

As a professional film producer I have spent years learning what makes people bored or excited, surprised, scared, feel content, laugh out loud, or be indifferent. A movie starts. Suppose I slowly start showing you (the audience) the corner of a desk and we pan in one direction revealing more as we close in. Lots of papers. We are close enough to read now, these are secret documents. We pan more we see a phone. A hand reaches out for it. You have a million questions by now: whose hand is it, what are these papers, etc. Now we show a wide shot of the whole room, and give you time to take it all in; you see who is in the room, what they do, and what the papers and the phone conversation is about. If I go back to my initial shot, slowly revealing the desk, papers one by one, phone, hand - it lost the effect, it doesn't impress you anymore, because you already know everything about the room.

The same thing with architectural improvements; if you do what everyone else is doing, even if you do it nicer, there isn't enough novelty to create the same allure as when you were the first nice dealership on the block, no matter how much you spend.

However, fortunately, there are ways you can get that "Motorola kind of unquestionable trust" and impress the wallet out of their pocket, at a much lower cost than raising a new building. Let's see what these options are. It's not a fluke our company name is Option Quest. We dig deep to find scientifically proven insights into how the consumer mind works, and how these insights can be applied in business.

Transparency turned on

Transparency turned off offers an affordable way to raise the "wow" factor

One of the most impressive ways to make an outstanding first impression is You could get the laminated electric glass, or if you are on a budget, you can just get the film and apply this electric, remote controlled film to your existing glass panels.

Imagine you press a remote control button, and your transparent glass turns white. Push button privacy is impressive in its' own right; yet, when the film is opaque you can actually write on your glass just as you would on any erasable whiteboard (on the glass side). Because the white is achieved with liquid crystals, you can have a projector behind the glass (rear projection) turning your glass into a screen for... whatever you want. A presentation, a movie, advertising messages, public announcements, etc.

The applications are countless. Medical reception rooms, cubicle dividers, conference room on-demand privacy and presentation, and more. Some ambitious adopters of this technology turn their entire glass building into a huge projection screen, making the movie projected on the glass visible from the street. I don't even need to tell you this turns your building into a local landmark. So when you think "local marketing" stop thinking small; it is not so much about the local directories where you are listed. It is a lot more about getting the local residents to want to talk about you.

Electric switchable film allows you to remotely turn glass ON (transparent) or OFF (the glass instantly becomes an erasable whiteboard or a large rear projection screen at the push of a remote control button).

This is one easy enhancement (cheaper than raising a new fancy building) which causes natural emotional "anxiety response"; not in a negative sense, but in a "Motorola - these people are so technologically advanced, all my doubts about trusting them were silly" sort of way. which is why we wanted to share it with you.

To learn more about how you can enhance your interior or exterior glass, or as we say "raise the IQ of your glass", read the Responsive Glass press release here:

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