As I spend time with dealerships to discover what their “brand” is, I find they sometimes confuse the “brand” concept with the brand of vehicle that they sell, or their logo. But that’s not what “their” brand looks like.
A dealership has a personality, whether it was established by the founder long ago or evolved from a set of values molded over the years. Some dealerships’ brand and brand image is not good because their core values are not established or have not cascaded down through management to the sales and service staff.
If you have no idea what your brand and brand image looks like, be brave enough to call these two groups of people:
Repeat customers, who are your “brand ambassadors”
Customers who are not fans or who have expressed dissatisfaction with your dealership
Ask them these questions:
- Why did/do you choose us over another dealership?
- What was your favorite part of working with us?
- Why would you refer your friends to us?
- What do you think our dealership means to the community?
- Where did we go wrong?
- What do you think about our standing in the community?
- What was the worst part of your experience?
- What, exactly, would you tell your friends about our dealership?
The responses from the latter group can be eye-opening and probably painful, but if you want to know how your brand is perceived, you HAVE to know what the critics are saying. You also have to be willing to be open to this dialog and open to listening to the truth – good or bad – and then sharing these results, humbly, with your team.
Core Values/Core Purpose Experiment
As defined by Your Dictionary, “Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. There are many different types of core values and many different examples of core values depending upon the context”
Then I found this at Harvard Business Review:
“Core values are the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of a company’s actions; they serve as its cultural cornerstones. Collins and Porras succinctly define core values as being inherent and sacrosanct; they can never be compromised, either for convenience or short-term economic gain. Core values often reflect the values of the company’s founders—Hewlett-Packard’s celebrated “HP Way” is an example. They are the source of a company’s distinctiveness and must be maintained at all costs.”
Defining the core values of your dealership can be daunting, so here are some characteristics to consider:
Working with your team to define which of these best defines your dealership is the best way to get buy-in from everyone on your staff.
Once you’ve defined your core values, your brand will begin to develop. When you start living your values daily, top to bottom, your community will know your brand and know who you are and what your dealership means to its employees and to the community.
At this point, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “I thought I knew what our brand was – we’re a Ford dealership. Ford is our brand!” Am I right?
But this is not right. Your dealership may be called Reliable Ford – so what does the “Reliable” portion of your name mean to your consumers? That’s what we’re looking for when we say “your brand”.
You need to determine what “Reliable Ford” is all about. Who do customers think they are? What do the employees think about the dealership? What does your competition think about you?
It’s not Easy
I was recently privileged to be included in a group of leaders who helped to define a dealership’s core values and core purpose. This was completed in a workshop environment, and we asked the tough questions:
Who do we think we are?
Who does the public think we are?
Who do we want to be?
How do we get there?
When I say we, it is important for you to understand that your leadership team needs to buy into this process. If it doesn’t, how will your employees know that this is truly who you are? How will the core values cascade down if the leadership team does not embody them every day? They need to make every decision relating to the dealership with these core values in mind.
Now, we’ve consumed a great deal of this blog speaking of core values. Why? Because your true brand will emerge from this process, and your brand will become apparent to the leadership team and employees – and then to the consumer.
If you need clarity and assistance with this process, my team of branding experts would be honored to help you and your leadership team with a workshop to help define your core values and, ultimately, your brand.