That may seem like a strange title for a discussion about technology and the virtual world we live in and conduct business in. Keeping it real means keeping the human element of our business at the forefront, at least, in terms of communication and interaction. People are involved in every sale that your store completes and the human element should be prevalent in the design and execution of your dealer website and at your actual dealership.

Let’s start at the top with the General Manager. Meet every customer who completes a sale, give them your business card, and if your cell phone number is not on the card, personally write it on the card. The GM is the Captain of the dealership and is generally respected by customers. Making this personal connection with your customers will pay big dividends in the future with positive word of mouth and return customers. Turnover is high among sales people, especially green peas. GMs, even in our volatile market, still stay at their stores a longer duration, so it makes sense for you to make this connection. If you are not on site, make sure your GSM is on the same page with you and makes the introduction in your place.

The personal touch can be most easily conveyed through a website that highlights your staff, the heritage of your store, and the personal service the customer will receive when they visit your store. On the home page, instead of a big image of the latest vehicle, put in an image of your staff, from the sales people, to fixed ops, to the porters. We already know you sell cars! Text that describes the heritage of your store, whether it is 100 years old, or 5 years old, shows that you have a story to tell. Once again, including the GM’s cell phone number here will go a long way towards building trust with your customers. Make this content easy to find on the site. With every other site pushing the latest deal, having imagery and content that adds the human touch will really stand out.

Regular and personalized contact with your customers, and even prospects, will also go a long way to make a lasting and profitable connection. Communication that only covers the latest vehicle, or sale, without an element of personalization will not make a lasting connection, and your future emails may end up in the trash. If the customer only hears from you when you want something, and there is nothing in it for them, your email program will fail. What do you think your customers would say if you called them a week after they received their new vehicle to see how the car was working out? The more sales you make, the more calls you make. Is that really such a bad thing?

None of the recommendations made here are new, or miraculous, or the latest marketing fad, yet, most stores are not making consistent effort to add the human touch to their business. Anything less than “keeping it real” will not work, your customers know the difference. My email address is and I welcome your comments.