Best Practices

Your Toughest Competitor May Be Closer Than You Think

2018 is upon us, and for many dealerships, that means it’s time to set new goals for the new year. Goals provide focus, direction, and something to work towards. They ensure that a team is on the same page and aiming to accomplish the same thing.

It’s tempting to simply compare yourself to your competition, and attempt to outstrip other dealerships in your area. This might be one factor that you take into account when setting a goal, but it is often more distracting than helpful. You do not have access to all of their data, nor is your business completely comparable to the store down the street. By effectively setting both long and short term goals, you can measure your effectiveness against itself and your expectations. After all, you do know your dealership and what it is capable of better than anyone else.

With that in mind, let’s get down to it.

Setting SMART Goals

It is not enough to simply say “I want to sell more cars.” That might be your objective at the most macro level, but it’s hard to call that a goal. Why? Because it’s not SMART.

All of your goals should be SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Take, for example, a dealership’s decision to start advertising on Facebook. “I want to sell more cars as a result of Facebook advertising” is not a goal. Let’s make that a SMART goal:

  • Specific– What exactly are you trying to achieve? Write your goal as simply as possible, and clearly define what you are going to do. Specific goals include the what, why, and how of your plans.
  • Measurable– This one is extremely important. Your goals should include the metrics that you will track, and the actual numbers you expect to see. Included in our sample goal would be the number of people you plan to reach with your ad, how many sales should come from it, and your budget.
  • Attainable– Make sure the numbers that you decide upon are realistic. Don’t set unreachable goals. This is very dependent on the size of your dealership, your resources, and your current results. Think about how many cars you sell as a result of other marketing channels and how this channel has performed for similar dealerships, and plan accordingly.
  • Relevant– Your goals should be appropriate for your dealership. You know your business better than anyone else, and know what types of things your staff can and should be aiming for, and what they shouldn’t. Each goal should be relevant to the team that is responsible for carrying it out. If you do not have a staff member who will be overseeing your Facebook advertisements, now might not be the best time to deploy this strategy.
  • Time bound– A goal that has no time frame is not actually a goal. If you don’t decide from the outset when you expect to see results, you might continue with bad strategies simply because they are already in place. Set times that you will reassess the effectiveness of the strategy and compare your results to the numbers you expected (see above for the importance of setting measurable goals).

Your SMART goal would thus look something like this: “We will promote our new video on Facebook to a custom audience built off of our website visitors. We plan to run the ad for a total of 2 weeks at $100 per day. We will assess our results every three days and make modifications as necessary. Our expected reach is 5,000 people. We expect to sell 15 cars as a result of the ad.” Now that’s what I call a goal.

Get everyone on the same page…

The process of setting goals shouldn’t take place behind closed doors, between a GM and his or her marketing manager. Your staff will be the ones actually carrying out your goals, and as such they need to know and believe in what they’re working towards. Your employees should be aware of your goals and what you expect from them. This means holding a meeting, or simply preparing a document, outlining your objectives and the types of metrics you plan to track. Your staff will thus focus their attention on these areas, and won’t be surprised when you hold them accountable to achieving certain numbers.

Involving your staff in the goal setting process has been shown to be one of the most effective methods of inspiring motivation. If your salespeople have a say in how many vehicles you think they should be selling every month, they will work harder to make it a reality. Team-wide goal setting creates an environment of accountability and trust.

…including your vendors

In addition to your staff, your vendors are also members of your team. After you set your goals, take a moment to consider how they might affect your vendors and the tools. First, determine if there are any vendors who are not helping you achieve these goals. A tool might be powerful, but if it does nothing to help your specific dealership accomplish its goals, it could be a drain on resources. Further, identify areas in which new vendors might help you achieve your desired results, and consider tools and technologies that might have hit the market since your previous goals were set.

When considering a new vendor, or even speaking to your current ones, ask them– what are your goals for our dealership? What types of results should we expect? Don’t accept vague promises of an “increase in leads,” for example. Remember that your vendors’ goals for your dealership should also be SMART. If they are not, push them until they can give you a real sense of what to expect.

Don’t set it and forget it

Every so often, you need to determine if you are any closer to achieving your goals. This review should be at predetermined times, according to your original plan. If you are exceeding your goals– give yourself and your team a pat on the back! There are several ways to celebrate success, whether simply by publicly recognizing the team that worked on achieving it, or ordering pizza for the staff. After the party settles, though, it might be time to consider adjusting your goals. If you are underperforming, take the time to discuss whether there are changes that need to be made in your strategy, or if your goals were unrealistic. You shouldn’t shift your goals every time you don’t reach your target, but you should be aware that the goal might have been too lofty from the beginning. Discuss with your staff why you might not be achieving your desired results, and ask them for their input as to whether or not the goal was unattainable from the beginning.

With all of this in mind, you are well on your way to setting goals and beginning to achieve them. Gather your staff, set up a big white board, and start crafting your goals. By effectively setting goals from the beginning, you will remove the guesswork when you sit down with your results and wonder, is it working? You won’t need to glance at your competitor down the street to decide if you should switch your strategy, because you’re already holding yourself to the highest standards: your own goals.

Penina Rothner is a Content Marketing Writer at AutoLeadStar, a lead-engagement platform for auto dealerships, powered by artificial intelligence. A w...