Madison, a vivacious, 5-foot-2-inch, outdoorsy blonde who speaks in rapid-fire sentences, uses unorthodox techniques to build referrals, mainly by tapping social media such as Facebook, Twitter, You-Tube and Pinterest.
She paid $3,000 to have her personal car wrapped to promote her Web site, lauratoyota.com, not the dealership's. About every 60 to 90 days, Madison makes a sale from someone who saw her car, she says.
Madison spends $200 a month to host the site and download the store's inventory to it, she says. She writes blogs, posts dealership news, offers tips for test driving and how to achieve good gas mileage and supplies product information, including up-to-date video walk-arounds of new vehicles.
Updating her site is a more productive use of her time than, say, brushing snow off cars, Madison says. The site gets about 300 unique hits a day and leads to possible future sales for her.
If a customer goes to the dealership's Web site, toyotaofbozeman. com, Madison says, "that lead doesn't always come to me, it goes to the staff. So that's a lead I would lose."
She regularly sends notes to her customers saying things like "It's your car's birthday," Madison says. She aims to have her nearly 600 customers hear from her every 60 days and starts addressing Christmas cards in October. "Hallmark totally knows me," she says.
She plans to hire and pay her own assistant.
Kayser, 46, says: "It's been a long, hard three years with Laura Madison. It's been really hard," especially "if you're an old-school car guy."
Kayser is co-owner of Ressler Motors in Bozeman, which also has Chevrolet and Cadillac stores. "I've accepted what she's doing, but I've had to sit down with my four other managers and explain that she is different and she's not going to do some of the things we've been doing."
He stuck with Madison because her approach works.
When Madison started in 2011, the store averaged 213 new and used cars a month. This year it will average more than 330, he says. Madison sells about 20 cars a month, up from 12 when she started three years ago, and Kayser predicts she'll top 30 a month soon.
In 2013, Toyota of Bozeman ranked fifth in customer satisfaction for sales and sixth in sales retention among the 74 Toyota stores in the region, a Toyota spokeswoman says. In 2010, before Madison arrived, Kayser says, "we were never close to that. We were always in the middle of the pack." He credits her 600 clients, who are intensely loyal to her, for helping to boost those numbers.
"I've never seen anyone market themselves the way she does," Kayser says. "I don't have many salespeople who'll spend $30 on anything, yet she'll spend $3,000 of her own money marketing herself."
He adds: "You'd think some of these people who've sold cars for years would try doing some of the things she's doing, but they're not. Those that try can't keep up."