Dealership group's sales staffers send personalized greetings on Facebook

Birthday videos court consumers

Dealership group's sales staffers send personalized greetings on Facebook

Preston Automotive staffers make “Happy Birthday” videos each morning for people who have friended the Preston Frogz mascot on Facebook.
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Sure, interrupting the daily grind to sing "Happy Birthday" to a stranger on Facebook can be inconvenient.

But Preston Automotive Group's sales staffers -- whether or not they have the singing chops -- are good sports about it. Why? It's a way for salespeople to reach out to consumers via social media and possibly make a sale by establishing a personal connection.

"It's a pain in the neck to get the salespeople to sing for us every day, but [from] people who actually receive [the greetings], we've gotten some great feedback," said Brent Durham, the dealership group's Internet marketing director.

Each morning, Preston -- which has nine new- and used-vehicle stores in Maryland and Delaware and sold 6,871 new and used units in 2013 -- rounds up sales staffers to record "Happy Birthday" videos for people who have friended the company's Preston Frogz mascot on Facebook. It takes just a few minutes a day, and Durham said the time is well spent.

"It does make a difference to the person when they see it. Not even their friends will send them a birthday video, but a business will. It's really appreciated," he said.

Social media give dealerships new ways to conveniently reach out to consumers in informal settings. Instead of relying on mailers such as form-letter birthday cards, some dealerships get imaginative with digital outreach efforts.

Holtz: Personalization is key

The personalized videos enable Preston to humanize its business, said marketing consultant Ryan Holtz. This is important, Holtz said, because consumers are sometimes apprehensive about going to dealerships.

"It hits two birds with one stone," he said. "You remember your customer. You remembered that it was their birthday. Then you went the step ahead to personalize that."

Preston's birthday posts, with their attached videos, stand out on customers' social media pages among the shout-outs they get from family members and acquaintances.

"I know people who are friends with us who have mentioned, 'Hey, do you do those videos? I really appreciate it.' That sort of feedback is really good even if it doesn't result in a sale," Durham said.

The birthday videos aren't Preston's only posts. On Valentine's Day, its Hyundai store shared a video on its Facebook fan page of employees doing the Cupid Shuffle line dance.

In addition to the Preston mascot's Facebook fan page, the dealership group created a traditional Facebook page for the mascot. Unlike the mascot's fan page, the traditional page lets Preston see friends' birthdays.

Preston began making the birthday videos last fall at the behest of David Wilson Jr., the dealership group's vice president and an avid Facebook user.

But Wilson isn't leading from afar. He sometimes appears in the videos.

Durham said salespeople want prospective vehicle buyers to see them in the videos, hoping that if the consumers visit the dealership they'll say, "Hey, you were in that birthday video for me."

Preston Hyundai does the Cupid Shuffle

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter


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