2016 was a very busy year. Ireland brought home two Olympic medals thanks to the efforts of the O’Donovan brothers in Skibbereen. There was the commemorations for the centenary of the 1916 rising, celebrating Ireland’s fight for Independence. An attempted coup In Turkey, Trump voted as the new USA president, Brexit, where the UK voted to leave the EU, Terrorist attacks in Brussels, Munich, Berlin, France and New York. A year that will live on and have many repercussions for the future.
As for myself, I have also had a busy a year. I have finally completed my MBA studies after two years of hard graft at the University of Limerick. We have had a new addition to the family (bringing the kid/adult ratio to 3:2 – we’re now officially outnumbered) and I have settled, full time into my role at CAB Motor Company as Marketing Manager. A great company and one in which I am proud to play a part.
Unfortunately, however the end of 2016 saw the passing of a good friend and mentor, with whom I worked with for many years – Jack Lyons, former sales manager at N. Conlan & Sons BMW in Kildare and Dealer principal at N. Conlan & Sons BMW & MINI Limerick. He will be sorely missed by his friends, co-workers and family, his passing has left a void which shall never be filled.
I have spent most of my professional life within Ireland’s motor trade (with some moonlighting as a consultant). It’s an industry I’m passionate about and one which has experienced major change in recent years due to politics, technology and economics. It’s an industry that definitely tracks consumer sentiment, making it particularly susceptible to external forces. Brexit in particular is a great worry due to its unknown impact on business operations in 2017. All in all, 2016 was a very good year and without the uncertainty that Brexit brings to the table, there would be far more optimism for 2017. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to be associated with a solid brand that is proven through good times and bad and has been trusted by Irish motorists for over 100 years – that brand is Ford. It is also interesting to note that the company I work for has been a Ford dealer since 1925, which further cements the idea of the Ford brands longevity and ability to navigate turbulent times and maintain a solid customer base.
2017 is a year in which the focus is on the consumer – it’s all about first impressions. In a world saturated by brands telling you how customer service is their focus and their products have more features, flashing lights, dowickies and gizmos – it’s hard to cut through and deliver your message.
From a marketers perspective it’s time to go back to basics and dumb down our approach. The KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). If one can build on a solid company structure and focus on keeping promises made, effective communication (internally and externally), being active in the community, investing in staff and a focus of Corporate Social Responsibility is the key to success. Marry this to ever growing digital channels and trends to improve productivity and it will provide a huge opportunity for business. In the case of a franchised motor dealer you must have faith in the brand. Let the product sell itself and instead invest in the relationships that facilitate the sale.
The pun from the Kevin Costner movie “Field of dreams” is appropriate. “If you build it, they will come”. Build the relationship, follow through on promises made (whatever they are) and ensure that first impressions are excellent, then. . maintain those standards and improve upon them.
This is not easily done, such change requires significant effort and resources. A solid support structure and teamwork is needed to facilitate success. The rewards however will greatly outweigh the investment/effort.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. “ – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let’s stay positive and have a great 2017.