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Building the virtual F&I office really shouldn’t be that difficult. If you know how to overcome an objection, you already have your first post.

February 1, 2012

Last month I made it pretty clear where I stand with the Internet. Now I want to share with you the opportunities the Internet presents. Before I do, I want to make it clear that I don’t hate the Internet because I prefer to see my name in print. Our company’s web director once accused me of that. Truth is, I could care less where my articles appear. Take away the paper and the copy still reads the same.

Heck, on the Internet, my stories can have videos, photo galleries and more. Even better, I can link old stories to new ones so my work gets to live a little bit longer. I understand that going online provided me with opportunities that I never had before. And well, these same realizations can be the basis for a shiny new virtual F&I office.

See, it is my belief — and I have nothing to prove it — that the digital realm offers an opportunity for the F&I office to be front and center with customers. Yeah, people love to look at new cars, but they also want to know how to maintain and protect them.

So, why aren’t you on Facebook talking about vehicle maintenance? And why aren’t you talking about how your F&I products can help customers save money in the service drive? Why aren’t you available online to answer questions from customers who still don’t understand how service contracts work and, if something does come up, how much money they stand to save if they take advantage of that protection?

The same goes for chemical products. I just think your customers would be amazed to find out, for instance, that chemical providers have created formulas that protect against such particular threats as the rugose spiraling whitefly. It can only be found in Florida, and it can really damage a vehicle’s paint.

While reading a recent thread on the F&I Forum, I was amazed at some of the information being shared on how to sell key replacement. Yes, I could see how replacement costs could work when handling an objection, but I wondered why that information wasn’t appearing on more dealer-managed Facebook pages. Heck, why wasn’t it on the homepage of their stores’ websites?

Then there’s Tony Dupaquier’s article on Page 24. It details an objection-handling technique for GAP that I’m pretty sure insurance companies won’t like. It definitely is a good tool to have in your toolbox, but I also think the article offers some nice content for your website, Facebook page and whatever else your store is into these days.

I also hear a lot of complaints about how customers don’t know a good deal when they see it. They’re so stuck on that zero-percent financing offer that they don’t know you’re trying to get them a better deal. So, why not explain that online and break down the calculations. Shoot, I know my mind shuts down when people pull out a piece of paper to run through calculations. So why not post those calculations on Facebook or on your Website and let customers digest the information at their own pace?

My point is this: Social media is our opportunity to help consumers see beyond the dealers-are-at-it-again exposés. Yes, you can probably get around those types of things in the box, but why should you have to when a quick post does the same job?

Now, I personally don’t believe in dealership blogs. I just think you’ll have a tough time building an audience. But that’s not to say it’s impossible. In fact, last May, we wrote about Wally Higginbotham’s very successful blog, “Porschebahn,” which he launched in 2008. Higginbotham had already attracted 640,000 views when we spoke to him last year. Not bad for a general manager of a South Carolina Porsche store.

The key for him, he told the magazine, was focusing on his love for the brand. But, from time to time, he said he uses the blog to announce special promotions from Porsche Financial Services.

Yes, I know people talk about not promoting on Facebook, but I don’t think that means you can’t educate. Heck, just look at our Industry Trends page last month. We focused on a recent social media survey and, if you saw it, you know that the No. 2 reason consumers connect to brands via Facebook is to learn about new products.

Social media is still a new frontier for marketers. And I believe many of the strategies employed today are still a work in progress; things that worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. That’s why I believe you need to stop waiting for someone to successfully create a virtual F&I office and start building it yourself. You’ve really got a blank canvas with social media, so start painting.

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