Atcheson: How should independent dealers navigate through 2021?



After one of the strangest years ever, how have you prepared for 2021? Election years are usually off the wall, but 2020 was ridiculous. Uncertainties that linger affect how a dealer plans for and navigates through 2021.

To write off 2020 as an odd year that can’t be analyzed and decide to “just go with the plan from the end of 2019” would be a mistake. There are some things to consider for this year that were not necessarily part of the plan heading into 2020:

• Some changes and issues from 2020 will linger into 2021, changing the way you do business.

• Some companies have focused more on digital marketing, communication, and sales because people don’t want to be around too many others because of COVID. However, we are still humans and there are people who want to see the car in person, talk to the salesperson face-to-face. How you do both concurrently needs to be considered for 2021.

• Americans will trust the industry even less. The pandemic, the election, corruption, the media, have caused confusion again and will cause consumers to be less trusting in general.

• Service has suffered. Many companies have used the pandemic as an excuse to offer substandard service. If you can still offer great service in spite of the challenges, you win.

Kenny Atcheson

• Google introduced more machine learning and artificial intelligence. This does not have anything to do with the pandemic. Some companies have missed it. This matters because it can assist but not replace the person who runs your Google Ads if used properly.

• Google and Facebook no longer allow narrow geographical targeting for industries that offer financing, due to past redlining and discrimination. To make every dollar count for our clients, when using Google Ads we target high performing ZIP codes rather than a larger area. We have a different plan for 2021 for our clients due to Google’s new rules.

The savvy dealer will prepare for 2021 using all or most of the methods explained here.

Brainstorm and mastermind

Albert Einstein was a big fan of regular masterminds. He was pretty smart. Your 20 Group is a form of a mastermind group. Utilize it. Get your 20 Group members together to consider new ideas for 2021. Although we all hope it is not like 2020, it will still be a unique year — and unique ideas are needed.

You can also use your team to brainstorm as you navigate through 2021 — not just the management team but everyone. For a brainstorming session to be effective here are a few things to do:

  1. Someone (a moderator) has to be in charge at the front of the room, but it doesn’t have to be management or ownership. Keep in mind that some employees may feel nervous sharing certain ideas in front of management. They may feel like you have shot them down in the past or they may be embarrassed. Th e person running the brainstorm session should have experience doing so. They should know how to “run the room,” engage everyone in the room and encourage participation and open sharing.

  2. Contribute first but stay in control. Everyone spits out ideas and the moderator writes them down. No ideas are stupid. The list gets narrowed. The moderator helps the team determine the pros and cons of each idea. How to do something is important but also who is going to do it.

  3. After the ideas are narrowed to a manageable level, map out implementation and what that looks like. If the team is engaged throughout this entire process they are more likely to perform when it is time to implement. We’ve all had great ideas that were sure to succeed only for them to fail because of a lack of implementation.

Keep your eyes peeled and tell your team to do the same.

Around 1913 a man named Henry heard about a highly productive company in Chicago. It was a completely different industry than his, but he knew he could get great ideas completely outside of his wheelhouse. When Henry visited the Swift & Company’s Meat Packing House in Chicago, he saw how meat hung from a conveyor that moved hog carcasses past meat cutters, who then removed various pieces of the animal.

Henry brought that idea to the manufacturing industry to keep up with the demand for the Model T Ford on an assembly line. This enabled Ford to build vehicles so much faster than they were able to give everyone a raise while lowering the price of the vehicles. Henry Ford is sometimes credited with creating the middle class after swiping a great idea from a completely different industry.

Drive-through windows were created by banks, then fast-food restaurants copied the idea. Now buy-here, pay-here dealers have drive-through payment windows.

Get ideas completely outside of your own industry. Look at other high-ticket sales. How are they selling during this odd time? If holding a brainstorming session, ask team members to be on the lookout for great ideas totally outside of your industry. Tell them to bring those ideas to the meeting. It will stimulate creativity and a great idea may be tweaked to work for your company.

Fresh eyes

In his book, Customers For Life, Carl Sewell reveals that he hires consultants all the time even when things are going well. He knows that no matter how successful he is, he needs others to point out things that he is too close to the situation to see clearly. He also knows that the fastest way to fix something is to bring in specific expertise.

I am often personally hired to analyze marketing and advertising strategies and methods. We come up with new strategies, help the dealer save money and/or help the dealer exploit new opportunities in the marketplace. Sometimes I point something out that should be tweaked and the dealer says, “Oh yeah, I know that. Why didn’t I already do that?” The reason is that you need fresh eyes looking at everything.

If you have your salespeople look at something, they will likely see it with the same perspective as you do — and that doesn’t help you. Or if something is known to be your baby, your employees will not want to point out any potential improvements.

Good luck in 2021!

Kenny Atcheson is the founder and president of Dealer Profit Pros and author of Marketing Battleground: How to Deploy Under-the-Radar Strategies to Explode Your Profits. Kenny teaches workshops and speaks at conventions and 20 Groups. His company offers several marketing and advertising programs, customer service and sales training. His website can be found at

Source : AutoFinanceNews