Saleswoman Laura Madison markets herself and the brand she sells, Toyota, but not her dealership.
Ms. Madison, 25, won't help clean snow off cars at Toyota of Bozeman in Bozeman, Mont. She won't take "ups" -- walk-in customers. She hands out her personal cellphone number instead of the dealership number, so customers' calls are not routed to other salespeople.
Her unconventional approach to sales has riled some co-workers. But her boss, dealership co-owner Jeff Kayser, says he wishes he had "10 more people like her."
"If she would have worked in any other store, she wouldn't have lasted because we really had our blows," Mr. Kayser says. "But she's worth it. It may not be the way we want to sell cars, but it's going to be the wave of the future."
Indeed, Mr. Kayser has tweaked his store's rules to accommodate Ms. Madison and now hopes to reshape the dealership to mimic her marketing approach.
Relying on referrals
Ms. Madison, a vivacious, 5-foot-2-inch, outdoorsy blonde who speaks in rapid-fire sentences, uses unorthodox techniques to build referrals, mainly by tapping social media such as Facebook, Twitter, You-Tube and Pinterest.
She paid $3,000 to have her personal car wrapped to promote her Web site, lauratoyota.com, not the dealership's. About every 60 to 90 days, Ms. Madison makes a sale from someone who saw her car, she says.
Ms. Madison spends $200 a month to host the site and download the store's inventory to it, she says. She writes blogs, posts dealership news, offers tips for test driving and how to achieve good gas mileage and supplies product information, including up-to-date video walk-arounds of new vehicles.
Updating her site is a more productive use of her time than, say, brushing snow off cars, Ms. Madison says. The site gets about 300 unique hits a day and leads to possible future sales for her.
If a customer goes to the dealership's Web site, toyotaofbozeman. com, Ms. Madison says, "that lead doesn't always come to me, it goes to the staff. So that's a lead I would lose."
She regularly sends notes to her customers saying things like "It's your car's birthday." She aims to have her nearly 600 customers hear from her every 60 days and starts addressing Christmas cards in October. "Hallmark totally knows me," she says.
She plans to hire and pay her own assistant.
Mr. Kayser, 46, says: "It's been a long, hard three years with Laura Madison. It's been really hard," especially "if you're an old-school car guy."