The dealership that's most likely to be 'liked'
Facebook followers top 10,000 after school cash contests
Dealer Bob Nouri says customers like that his store has thousands of Facebook likes: "I believe it helps us close deals."
Bob Nouri wants people to like him. And his strategy seems to be working.
Nouri owns Norman Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Norman, Okla., and the dealership has racked up more than 10,000 "likes" on its Facebook page since January.
For perspective: Longo Toyota in El Monte, Calif., one of the nation's biggest Toyota dealerships, has about 1,800.
Nouri says the store struggled for a couple of years to build its Facebook base. The turning point came in January, when the dealership began tying "likes" to its charitable work.
In January, Norman Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge and a local TV station began a "Cash for Schools" program, an online contest in which residents voted for their favorite school. The four schools with the most votes would receive $10,000 cash prizes. In order to vote online, a user had to click the "like" button for the dealership's Facebook page (or else vote by the old 20th century method of sending a postcard).
"We literally had 'likes' in the low hundreds" before the Cash for Schools giveaway, Nouri said. "Then all of a sudden, bam, we go to 10,000."
Why it matters
And those likes are a marketing gold mine. On their Facebook "news feeds," the likers regularly get marketing pitches, coupons and new-car specials.
For example, on Monday, July 2, the dealership posted a coupon on its Facebook page to give consumers "employee pricing" on any new vehicle in stock, as long as the consumer "liked" the dealership's page. By Friday of that week, 10 people had printed the coupon and four of them bought a car, Nouri said.
Nouri said that of all the "likes" generated from the school promotion, fewer than 200 have "unliked" the dealership since. He thinks that's because he uses his Facebook messages sparingly, avoiding an annoying barrage that would turn people off.
The page gets updated two to four times per week. And it's not all sales pitches. There also are postings about classic Chrysler vehicles, the dealership's charitable work and local happy-news stories, focusing on such things as the Oklahoma City Thunder's playoff run to the National Basketball Association finals.
The posting is managed in-house by the dealership's digital communications director, says Aarash Ghajar, the dealership's CFO. The dealership's advertising agency, Boiling Point Media, provides input, Ghajar said, but the majority of the work is handled internally.
Nouri says his goal is to get the dealership to 25,000 Facebook "likes" by year end.
The dealership has repeated the favorite-school promotion, and has given $10,000 apiece to eight local schools. Nouri says that while $80,000 sounds like a lot of money, it's part of the dealership's charitable donations budget, which is remained consistent every year.
"We're going to continue our community work," Nouri said. "We're spending that amount of money every year in different ways and areas."
Sales are up
Sales are rising along with the Facebook traffic.
Norman Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge's sales through June are up 80 percent from last year. The dealership sold 840 new cars in the first six months of the year, compared with 467 in the same period of 2011.
But Nouri is reluctant to say that the dealership's Facebook efforts have played more than a partial role in the increase.
"Can I put my finger on if it's paid off for us? No, I can't," Nouri said. "But our sales have gone through the roof."
He says the number of Facebook likes, the dealership's A+ Better Business Bureau rating, its Google Places review scores and other third-party validations are included in what Nouri calls his "book of evidence."
The book, a scrapbook containing those accolades, is handed to customers when they're waiting for a trade-in evaluation, Nouri said.
"When they see so many likes, it gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling because we're not liked as an industry," he said. "I believe it helps us close deals."
Another upshot of Facebook? Nouri says it gives customers a glimpse into "the softer side" of the people working at the dealership.
"We're not always the hard-hitting salesmen who are trying to earn their business that day," Nouri said. "What it does for us is it brings the softer side of us to people. It tells people about who we are."
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