One Dealership’s Killer Community Support Program

in Mar 06, 2019

Tom Hawkins, Dealer Principal of Hawkins Chevrolet in Fairmont, MN, a cornerstone of his local community, was searching for a way to provide even more support to his local area. He reached out and identified an area that had both a need and a raving group of supporters — animal lovers. Being a big animal lover himself, he contacted his local animal shelter, Martin County Humane Society of Minnesota, and made arrangements for his dealership to sponsor two animals per month, covering their adoption fees.

The animal shelter agreed to promote the sponsorships on social media via branded posts and chooses which animals to sponsor so as to increase the likelihood that the hardest to sponsor animals are promoted for adoption.

The sponsorship costs just $250 per month ($125/animal) in adoption fees, yet each and every sponsored pet posted to the animal shelter’s Facebook page brings accolades from the shelter’s fans – all of whom live in Hawkins Chevrolet’s selling area. It has produced a storm of goodwill with posts thanking the dealership for caring about the animals and sharing these branded “pleas for help” with all of their local friends and family.

In addition, many of the animal lovers also visit Hawkins Chevrolet’s Facebook page and thank them for helping the animals avoid being euthanized.

However, in the end, for Tom at least, it’s about giving back.

Customer acquisition, loyalty and retention are three things that every dealership is concerned with. Acquisition? No problem. Spend enough money and you’ll get some customers. Retention and loyalty, however, are a different beast. People want to do business with companies that share their values. In this case, Tom has been able to be involved in his community while also capturing the minds – and more importantly – the hearts of many of the animal lovers within it.

Social media has a huge reach: the average person on Facebook has 338 friends. In the example above, that post about Kai (who was adopted) was shared 22 times. Exponentially, the reach of that single post could be in the tens of thousands when you consider how many people “could” have seen it.

Have they sold any cars from their 3-month old initiative? Who knows — and I sincerely doubt Tom cares. If he cared he would add “Animal Shelter” as a source in his CRM. You want to know what really matters to Tom? The impact and difference he, as a business owner, can have on the people in his community and his customers.

Oh, and you know the person who ended up actually adopting Kai (the dog in the Facebook post above)? He was so impressed with the support of the animal shelter that he wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper.

Perhaps you don’t believe in social media. Perhaps Facebook isn’t something you even bother to care about. If that’s the case, I guarantee that the article, published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the community’s local paper, IS something you care about. Why? Because you probably write some hefty checks to your local paper to market your dealership and vehicles.

This truly is a win-win situation. Tom did not do this for the accolades, he did it as an animal lover and to support his local community. The small investment has been a huge help for the local community and has paid huge dividends in terms of the dealership’s reputation.

In the end, what’s $250/month to help your community, generate positive word-of-mouth, directly impact a couple of people (and animals) a month and, perhaps influence the decision as to where someone should buy their next vehicle.

It’s certainly a lot less than the $640 per customer spent on average by most dealerships today. And that typical customer acquisition cost comes with none of the side benefits, but at over twice the price. You decide which makes better sense. Kudos to Tom and Hawkins Chevrolet for making a difference.

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