Every dealer knows that video is an essential part of any marketing strategy, and it’s a great way to create distinction in local markets. Our next guest, Ryan Norris, has capitalized on this idea with a grassroots digital marketing strategy that includes a weekly vlog called Ask Ryan. Filmed every week at Ryan’s dealership, Toyota of Easley, he answers customer questions and tackles topics like leadership, motivation, and culture.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us on another edition of CBT News. Today I am so happy to have with us Mr. Ryan Norris, who is the dealer principal at Toyota of Easley. Thanks so much Ryan for joining us today.
Ryan Norris: Thanks Jim. Thanks for having me.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. How’s business?
Ryan Norris: Business is great. We’re having a great year. August was a record month for a lot of the southeast Toyota dealers, so things are good. Can’t complain.
Jim Fitzpatrick: When we speak to dealers here on CBT news recently, they tell us one of their biggest challenges is getting good people with such a low unemployment rate. Obviously it’s good for auto sales, but when it comes to finding good people to work at your dealerships, it’s makes it tough. Do you find that to be the case and if so, what do you do to combat that?
Ryan Norris: I do think it’s tough to find extremely good people, I think it’s all about your culture and I think you sort of have to change the mentality of how people think about the car business and really try to get the word out there that it’s a wonderful business that people can make a really good living and have a good job that’s something that they can count on. I mean you say car salesman and a lot of people don’t want to do that, but when you think more like a product specialist, people don’t need to be sold a car the way that they used to 20 years ago because they have so much information available to them online and all kinds of different ways that they don’t need someone to give them every bit of information.
Ryan Norris: It’s more of someone just to help them through that process and not just in the car sales end of it, but the service end and parts end. There’s some really good job opportunities for the people out there in the automotive industry.
Jim Fitzpatrick: There really are and more specifically, NADA said we’re going to need about 76,000 service technicians a year for the next four or five years. What’s your take on that? Are you fully staffed and, and if not, how do you find good technicians? That’s a tough nut to crack isn’t it?
Ryan Norris: It is. And there’s a lot of young people that are interested in going into that field and we team with a local technical college here right outside of Easley, South Carolina and at any given time we’ve got four to six apprentices working here with us at the Toyota dealership learning that trade from some of the technicians we have here. And it’s been a really good pipeline for us just to hire people right out of this tech school into the industry.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. Switching gears a little bit, you guys do some things a little different there. I know that you came off of TV, I think and said, “Well look, let’s still have a video presence.” So you took that video presence to the next level. Talk to us about your video podcast or video cast and what that is and how it’s changed things there at Toyota of Easley.
Ryan Norris: It has changed things and we got completely off of all traditional advertising back in … we sort of slowly. It didn’t happen all at one time. I think first was print and then radio and then we did TV for a few more years and really just decided we would try to to cut the cord on all of them and not really cut the advertising budget but put that money towards digital advertising that you can really track and sales have gone up since we’ve done that the year and a half since we completely got off TV, radio and newspaper print.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.
Ryan Norris: But we were trying to think how can we be relevant in the market in digital and not just putting our money into Google and the search words and advertisements on social media. If we decided that we would really like to try to show us here at Toyota of Easley and what we’re about is sort of just pull back the curtain a little bit and let the customers behind the scenes of what we do. And we came up with a weekly, I guess you call it a video blog and it was just an idea that that I had with our ad agent, Paul [Potrats 00:04:34]. And it was one of those things that we decided just to start letting customers send in questions to us and I would answer the question in a weekly video. And it really turned into a lot more than we ever imagined and it really took off and has been a great success so far.
Jim Fitzpatrick: What sort of questions were consumers asking you? Were they asking you to, “Hey, what’s the real deal on how to work a deal with a car dealer?” Or what sort of question were you getting?
Ryan Norris: We thought that it would be that and we got some of those questions and we answered them. I mean we had is the last day of the month really the best day to buy a car? I mean we’re just honest with them and it could be if the dealership’s close to hitting their number, yeah it’s a great day to buy a car. Get a better deal. But we started getting questions that really surprised me about leadership, about the car industry, about different positions here at the dealership that we touched on just a second ago. And that was another way that we’ve gotten good employees. We’ve actually recruited, not recruited because we didn’t go after them in that way, but we’ve attracted good employees here by seeing sort of the way that we do things behind the scenes. So not just that we sold cars from it, but we’ve also hired some really, really good employees from it.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s fantastic. And it’s a weekly series so that, so your consumers and your marketplace, your customers, stake holders and such, can you count on it. What day of the week do you push it out?
Ryan Norris: It comes out every Wednesday and it’s called Ask Ryan. I know that’s very original, not, but it’s one of those things they-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Makes it simple. Simple works.
Ryan Norris: Yeah keep it simple. They send in questions and we give an answer and the viewership of it is what has really surprised me is that how many people are watching this in our community. And we have gained followers mostly on Facebook even though we do release it on video form and YouTube and some of the other social media outlets. But what we really focused on Facebook and having a following here in our community and right now I think we’re between 12 and 13,000 and in our small town, that’s a lot.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That is a lot.
Ryan Norris: And we’re getting even more views than that on a lot of these videos. But it’s a way that we can reach out to our local community and customers instantly.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. And I know you guys do a lot for the community. Talk to us about the importance of giving back to the community you’re doing business in.
Ryan Norris: We have done that for years and this community is huge. It supports us. The people here have been so good to us over the last 40 years that we’ve been in business and we believe in giving back specifically to our local community. We pick a charity every year. Not that that’s the only one we do, but every May we choose a local charity. This year we chose one called Feed A Hungry Child Pickens County. And I didn’t realize that there was a need that over 700 children in our county only eat while they’re in school. And so this was an organization that sends food home with them. I just think that it’s important, not necessarily just it’s not something used as a sales tactic. We really don’t even put this out there.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.
Ryan Norris: But we do want to make a difference in this community and believe in giving back.
Jim Fitzpatrick: And you know, things like that are not a bad thing to be part of, not the sales approach but be incorporated and blended in the marketing because people want to do business with those businesses that do give back. You know? We see that with a number of the hospitals that are out there that are doing great work for cancer, kids cancer and things like that you just feel good about doing business with a business or vendor that is giving back, right?
Ryan Norris: That’s right.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Yeah. Nothing wrong with that. So talk to us about the next level of this. Is it something that you see going further on the video? Maybe a daily vlog or?
Ryan Norris: It’s funny you mentioned that. We have in the works, we already have a few recorded already, but we came up with that idea that we’re going to start, I know everybody uses the term podcast a lot right now, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to start doing a podcast once a week with some of our customers and with all the people that we do business with, there’s some really interesting stories that our customers have to tell.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, that’s for sure.
Ryan Norris: So we’re just going to find people in the community. Business leaders, interesting people that have stories to tell. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I’ve got a World War II vet coming in that actually stormed the beach at Normandy. He’s 94, 95 years old.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh my gosh, wow. That guy’s a treasure.
Ryan Norris: Great customer of ours. So we’re going to let him tell his story and it’ll be sponsored by Toyota of Easley and we’re going to start that as well.
Jim Fitzpatrick: So for those of dealers that are listening right now that want to check out your shows and such to see how you’re doing it, where would they go to? Is it askryan.com?
Ryan Norris: No. You can go to Facebook or YouTube and search for Ask Ryan and it’ll come up that way.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay, great. Great. I was on it just before in anticipation of this interview. Your material looks great. You do a great job. In fact, maybe you can take my place here one day at CBT News and let me take some time off.
Ryan Norris: I don’t know about that. I know for some dealers that it’s confusing of how does this sell cars? It’s really about you’re branding yourself and your dealership. And we’ve even gotten some of our employees involved and they’re doing Toyota of Easley pointers and we’re releasing that weekly as well.
Ryan Norris: Maybe a technician explaining why you should flush your injectors, salespeople talking about product, but it really brands your store and brings you to top of mind in your community when people think about buying a car and it’s working so far for us.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Ryan Norris, I want to thank you so much for joining us on CBT News today. It’s been very enlightening and I’m sure dealers and managers are going to check out your material on Facebook and YouTube, so thanks so much for joining us.
Ryan Norris: Okay, thank you, Jim. Thanks for having me.
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