Car Business Lifer shares insider car industry tactics, lessons from celebrities and how to lead an industry | Kathi Kruse
Car Business Lifer shares insider car industry tactics, lessons from celebrities and how to lead an industry to leverage current places people pay attention to
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"Part of the reason I'm so connected to what I do now is because I've worked for a lot of 'not great people' to put it nicely. There are a lot of very shady, uncaring people in the car business which is where I spent so many years. I had worked in it for so long, I’d had my fill. I decided I didn't want to work for or with people like that anymore."
"I was working for a dealer friend of mine who didn't fulfill on his promise to me. I didn't have it in writing. Finally he agreed to mediate. It was like a bad divorce in a business setting with people making lies about me. Had I listened to my intuition it would have been a better outcome."
Favorite part of the entrepreneur's journey
"Favorite part of the entrepreneur's journey is being in charge of my own destiny good or bad. I'm a very creative person which was great for the car business. The car business has shifted to public companies which takes away that freedom to do what makes profits. You have to be diligent about your time and understand it's an asset which has never been a problem for me. My challenge is stopping work at a particular time."
"As an entrepreneur you have to stand back and ask yourself, 'I'm the principle in this business. Is this good for me?' If it isn’t, what damage is it doing or what's going to be the outcome? It's really taking a hard look at why you do what you do."
Biggest contributing factor to my blog's success
"Blogs are imperative. Now, you have clickable share buttons for each article. In the beginning, there wasn't. Writing consistently is a big component. Make a goal and stick to it. Your headline and first paragraph must be catchy. The other thing is to start developing your e-mail list immediately."
Why Listen to Kathi:
Kathi Kruse is an Automotive Social Media Marketing Expert, Blogger, Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Kruse Control Inc. Born in the heart of Los Angeles to a family of “car people”, Kathi’s passion for the car business spans a 30-year career managing successful dealerships in Southern California. Kathi is the author of “Automotive Social Business – How to Captivate Your Customers, Sell More Cars & Be Generally Remarkable on Social Media”. Her Kruse Control Blog is the leading Automotive Social Media blog in the US and Canada.
She likes broccoli and living as healthy as she can. She's also a major advocate for the safety and well-being of animals.
She spent all of her business career managing car dealerships in Southern California. Then in 2008 the financial crisis and credit crunch cratered the economy. The car business wasn't immune. It was one of the hardest hit sectors.
She'd had at her consulting business Kruse Control Inc. on the side. Her main gig up until 2008 was managing multiple car dealerships. Then, she and the owner decided to part ways.
At that time Kruse Control Inc. was mainly an operational consulting firm. She and her team would go into a car dealer and look at their financial statements and operations to offer improvement ideas.
She saw the trend with the rise of online review websites and social media gaining traction. It hadn't yet filtered through the car industry but was just starting to take off.
This new path for her consulting practice was born out of her own experience. She knew a dealer close to where she lived so would always take her car to get serviced there. Each time she had a wonderful experience.
Around this time she had had another excellent experience in their service department.
She went home to leave a review for the dealer only to find they had a 1.5 star rating. She was looking at the website Yelp. She started researching other BMW dealerships in Southern California and California area. All but about four or five dealerships had 1 or 2 star ratings so she could see there was a glaring need to improve their reputation online.
This was her lightbulb moment of a problem in the market she could help fix.
Some Shareables from Kathi in this episode…
Keeping Yelp reviews live
"If you use Yelp regularly there's a really good chance your review won't be filtered."
"When I speak at various events this issue about Yelp reviews being filtered comes up a lot. I hate to say this but those that advertise on Yelp they seem to not have as much trouble with reviews being filtered."
Car business for life
"I never thought I would do anything other than be in the car business managing dealerships. I never played with dolls when I was little. I played with hot wheels and matchbox cars. My grandfather was a dealer in the 1950s in downtown LA. It's in my blood but when I found social I really liked it. I can serve my industry in a different way."
Car Dealers Slow to the table
"When I first started about 5 years ago car dealers just couldn't grasp the idea that leads could come from social websites. We created their content, did SEO, managed their reputation and online reviews, did blogging. But they weren't following up on the leads which during my time as a manager drove me crazy. So I had to pull back into educating and coaching."
"We got the original dealer I was working with in 2008 a total of 92 leads in one month. They didn't follow up with any of them. That was a clear sign but I didn't act immediately on it. I enjoyed working with my friend, the owner, but knew that was a failure and I had to pivot."
On going back to her origin
“If I went back to my origin in business I’d fail more often. Don't be afraid to fail. Failure is the path to success. Our egos convince us, and those around us we feel are judging us, failure is awful but it's not. Learning from it gets you further to where you want to be."
"My boss did an underhanded thing not fulfilling a promise. My mistake was not getting this promise in writing. Being in the car business I know how important getting things in writing is. But he was my friend and I was so busy opening 2nd and 3rd dealerships I didn't have time. I'd started the ball rolling but didn't complete the paperwork. This cost me my golden parachute."
Gloria Allred represented me
"I had a good connection through my networking that got Gloria Allred's office to represent me. She's a long time women's rights attorney who is well known across the country and especially in California."
"I took on a client whose a sales trainer I'd known for a long time from being in the car industry. This was a nontypical client for us. Right away I could tell things weren't meshing. The way they presented themselves in public and my perception of them was different than the way they really were. We parted ways and I asked myself, “Why am I doing what I'm doing? Is it for the money or to make an impact?"
Jodie Foster was a client
"Jodie Foster was a client who drove a 5 touring which is a station wagon. She would send her assistant to drop the car off. Every time the windows would have nose marks from Jodie's dogs. We’d had a good laugh about it and always make sure her car was clean before sending it back. Celebrities are awesome. Harrison Ford, Jack Lemmon, Matthew McConaughey, would come into our service drive."
"When I started the Kruse Control blog the auto industry hadn't yet woken up to the web and social. I started it to tell stories about the car business and eventually write a book. It quickly mutated into social media tips, online marketing, reputation management. I hoped somebody online was listening because in real life all I was getting was push back. I'd use the info there in trade magazines and newsletters also."
"There are lots of get rich quick schemes out there. I'm a fan of choosing your mentors very deliberately. These are people you trust and know they're successful. A lot of entrepreneur's come with grand ideas but when it comes down to really doing it you need to have a foundation. Have a business plan and look at your numbers regularly. Just looking at those numbers, even if you're not a numbers person, will guide you."
To learn more about Kathi go to:
News Media Kathi has been featured in:
- 2014 CPO Dealer Conference
- CPO - The Pre-Owned Conference
- CBT News
- Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition
- Businesses Grow
- Automotive Digest
- Canadian Auto Dealer