TADA: Beyond Borders

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Attracting new Canadians to your dealership takes the right people and the right approach.

Like any other business, dealers are always looking for ways to attract new customers to their dealerships. If you really want brand new customers, you have to go after new Canadians.

Some dealerships do it very well, while others have yet to figure out what works for their market area. “Everyone thinks it’s about language,” says Justin Poy, President and Creative Director of The Justin Poy Agency. “But it’s not. It’s about culture.”

Normal vs. offensive
To understand what Poy means, you have to think outside the language box. Business, including the buying and selling of vehicles, is conducted in different ways in different parts of the world. What’s considered normal here in Canada may be completely offensive in parts of Europe, Africa or Asia, for example.

Each individual culture has its own way of communicating, negotiating, and even paying for purchases. When new Canadians walk into your dealership to buy a vehicle, they will often look around to see if they can spot someone from their part of the world to deal with. They’re not simply interested in someone who can speak their native tongue. They’re looking for someone who understands the way they want to do business.

Negotiating a final price is a good example of cultural differences. “You might end up at the exact same price and terms as if they had dealt with anyone else at the dealership,” Poy says, “but how you get there is really important.”

Financing a purchase can also be a challenge, when there’s a cultural barrier. What kind of questions can you ask? “If I walk into a dealership here and they start asking a lot of personal financial questions, I think nothing of it,” Poy explains. “Somebody coming from China, on the other hand, would be very offended, especially if they’re very wealthy.”

The solution is to hire staff for your dealership who understand the cultures you want to do business with. “A sales person who comes from China, and has sold cars in China, will know which questions to ask and what to avoid,” Poy says. “They’ll eventually get the same information, but it’s how they get to that point that matters.”

Marketing to new Canadians
The need to understand a culture begins at the marketing stage of the car sales process. Poy uses the example of a Chinese immigrant agai/n. “In the old days,” he says, “dealerships would run ads in local Chinese papers. But these new Chinese immigrants don’t want news from local sources. They will go on the Internet, and get their news from the same websites they used to visit back home.”

That fact alone creates a marketing barrier that you need to understand. “There’s a social media app called WeChat,” Poy explains. “It’s larger than Twitter, and it’s just for the Chinese population. In fact, if you talk to any successful sales rep who does business with the Chinese community, they get most of their customers by creating a WeChat group. If there’s a special at their dealership, they post it on their WeChat group and the calls start rolling in.”

The trick to making this work is to employ a person who knows how to run a WeChat group successfully. “We work with a dealership that has Chinese sales reps, but they’re all from Hong Kong,” Poy says. “They don’t use WeChat. It’s completely foreign to them. So I told them, ‘They won’t know how to manage the WeChat groups,’ and I wouldn’t event recommend they go that route.”

What makes China unique from other countries is that all the social media and search engines we use in the West are banned in China. Google is the gold standard around the world, except in China where Baidu is their version of Google.

That’s why Canadian dealers who want to do business with the Chinese community here in Canada should do pay-per-click campaigns on Baidu, and not on Google.

“When people come here with their phones, they will usually maintain a Chinese operating system,” Poy adds. “Even if I go on Google using a phone with a Chinese operating system, and you’re running an English pay-per-click campaign, your ads won’t actually get served up. You have to place ads on their Simplified Chinese network on Google, and then Google recognizes that they’re using a Chinese OS and starts serving up Chinese ads.”

Getting started
If you’re serious about attracting new Canadians to your store, find out which language groups and nationalities you want to target. Who is moving into your area? Who is buying homes in your neighbourhood? What languages do they speak, and where are they from?

Once you know the cultural groups you want to market and sell to, you’ll want to hire individuals who can speak those languages fluently, and who understand all the nuances of those cultures.

Know your neighbourhood, know your potential customers, and hire the people who can not only bridge the cultural divide, but who can navigate the confusing waters of cultural nuances and idiosyncrasies. It’s the only way to successfully attract and do business with immigrant populations that may currently be out of your reach.

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