We know that the record sales we’ve enjoyed in recent years cannot—and will not—continue much longer. Soon, dealerships may have to look elsewhere for ways to maintain their revenue and profitability.
Fortunately, the best path forward is already right in front of you. Or, better put: The best path forward puts you in front of the customers you already have.
By staying top of mind with your existing customers, you become their go-to for parts and service. And they become the fixed-ops solution to your sales-revenue shortage.
A recent report indicates that a 5% increase in customer retention can yield a 75% increase in revenue. So, how do you get in front of those customers—and stay there?
See every sale as something more
Studies indicate that 60% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service than they did just a year ago. It’s so easy to interact nowadays that customers want every transaction to be part of a larger, more meaningful relationship. In fact, they expect it.
As a result, dealerships can’t be the same as they were a few years ago. They can’t just sell cars—they have to be socially conscious members of the community, too.
And they have to be human. That means ditching the faceless corporate communications and meeting customers where they live, at the right time and with the right message.
Find the right channels
There are many different ways to connect with customers, but what you need to know is how your customers want to connect with you.
Your best bet is to ask them during the purchase process, but even if you don’t manage to capture their preferences then, you don’t have to guess blindly. Demographics can tell you a lot about how your customers connect with the world.
Younger generations tend to focus heavily on social media and texting. Gen Xers, however, still use email as their primary communication tool, whereas baby boomers and older generations prefer phone calls and direct mail.
Of course, these aren’t hard and fast rules, just jumping-off points. It will take a bit of experimentation to dial in your strategy based on your specific audience.
Social media, in particular, can seem daunting, simply because there are so many options out there. You don’t need to use them all, however.
You need only use the ones where you’re seeing the most engagement. Make “follow” requests part of your sales conversations, and see which channels are most popular with your particular audience.
Remember, you will need customers to opt in to text- and email-based communications, so make sure you get their permission before you reach out. You can use your CRM to keep track of permissions and preferences, as well as any other information (birthday, relationship status, sold date, etc.) that will help you personalize future communications.
Get the timing right
Once you’ve identified the channels that work best for your audience, you have to nail the timing. Contact customers too frequently, and they’ll get annoyed or tune out entirely. Reach out too rarely, and it’ll feel random.
Connecting once a month is a good rule of thumb, but you should also make note of special circumstances that will make your messages feel particularly relevant. This is where personalization starts to come into play. By sending a card on customers’ birthdays or on the anniversary of their car purchase, you show that you care about them as people, not just potential sales.
Customized, well-timed maintenance reminders can also go a long way toward reinforcing your relationship. Down the line, when you send an email asking if they’re ready to look at newer models, they’ll already be warm to your approach.
Make your message meaningful
In this era of increased connectivity, consumers are sensitive to being seen as just another sale. Make every message about your business, and you’ll quickly lose their trust.
Fail to tailor your communications, and you’ll come off as insincere. To build a genuine relationship with your customers, you have to be genuinely interested in who they are and what’s meaningful to them.
At the same time, your ultimate goal is to grow your sales, not your list of pen pals, so you have to be thoughtful in the mix of messages you convey. There are three basic types of messages you should send to your customer base:
- Stop in and spend. These are the maintenance reminders, service discounts, warranty-extension offers, and new-vehicle upgrade offers that bring customers back into the dealership.
- You might want to know. These messages spotlight the dealership’s local community involvement, or call attention to safety awards or recalls related to the customer’s specific car model.
- How’s it going? These are your birthday greetings, holiday wishes, and congratulations—casual, personal touch points that take your relationship beyond the transactional.
Own the relationship
The single element that ties together all three of these variables—channel, timing, and message—is you. You’re the constant across all of these communications. You’re the one customers grow to trust, and you’re the one they look for when they call or come into the dealership.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be the one creating every message. Lean on your marketing department, or seek out a college student or intern who is comfortable and familiar with social channels.
Just remember to make sure every message has value for both you and your customer. Once you’ve hit the sweet spot with your messaging, you’ll see it reflected in your sales and service revenue, customer lifetime value, online reviews, referrals, and social following.
Brian Schmid is the dealer marketing manager at VinSolutions.
Latest posts by Brian Schmid
- How to Stay Top of Mind With Your Existing Customers - April 17, 2017
- 4 Ways Customer Retention Will Keep You Profitable in 2017 - January 4, 2017