The Essentials Of Marketing Ourselves (Part Two)

by Michael D. Hargrove     


I hear time and time again that customer loyalty is a thing of the past, that today’s customer will take their business elsewhere for a mere $50, and that long term follow up and going the extra mile for our customers simply doesn’t pay off.

And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, I”ll ask these salespeople how they came to this conclusion. Most struggle to answer that question. If I press them into telling me what long term marketing efforts they are currently using or have used in the past, they almost always respond by detailing some poorly designed follow up system that they half-heartedly administered, and abandoned much too quickly to ever reap any results.

Then, usually, I’ll tell them that because of my job, I get to meet front line car salespeople from all across the country who make six digits a year, year in and year out. Virtually all of them have the majority of their business come from repeat or referral customers, and a few don’t even take fresh ups anymore. Some choose not to work evenings or weekends anymore, and a few even have their own secretary or assistant. There are several people like this in every market we go into.

Now, here’s what blows my mind. When I share with them what these top producing car pro’s have told me they do to build their clientele bases, almost always I see their eyes glass over or hear them explain that they don’t have enough time to do all that or I hear some other lame excuse. I guess they simply don’t believe me, or maybe they just aren’t willing to pay the price for long term success.

In part one, we had already established how a well planned and executed delivery can serve as the foundation of a successful long term marketing program. Here’s a brief overview of the short term and long term elements of most successful marketing plans:

Thank You cards: We’ll need to send these out immediately after the delivery, preferably before we talk with our next customer. We’ll need to make them personal by either hand writing them or by adding a hand written line or two if we use preprinted thank you notes. We’ll also need to include several of our business cards.

24 hour phone call: This call is primarily to answer any questions our customer may have, note any problems, and thank them again for their business. We do NOT ask for referrals. This call is for them.

72 hour phone call: This call can also be used to answer any new questions that may have arisen, note any problems, and thank our customer yet again for their business. Here, however, is where we make the transition into our marketing efforts. We’ll ask if they received our card yet or at least to expect it. We’ll point out that we’ve included a few of our business cards, explain our referral program (if we use one), and ask that they think about sending us referrals. (“Mr. Customer, I know in the next week or so you’ll be showing your new car to your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. When any one of them mention that they too might be in the market for their next vehicle, new or previously owned, any make or model, would you please do me a favor and give them one of my cards? I promise I’ll show them the same respect and work just as hard for them as I did for you.”)

1 week phone call: This is primarily a marketing call asking for referrals and an opportunity to thank them again. (“Mr. Customer, have you given out any of my cards yet?” or “Mr. Customer, should I send you some more of my business cards? You’re out of them by now, aren’t you?”)

1 month phone call: This is primarily a marketing call asking for referrals.

Quarterly newsletters: We can use quarterly newsletters to keep our name in front of our clientele base. Sometimes we can include new model info or service coupons and specials but we do need to be careful about making our newsletter “just more junk mail”. The best results come from those that include such things as recipes, puzzles, motivational stories, humor, “how to” tips, family updates, etc.. We do need to detail our referral program (if we use one) or mention how much we depend on repeat and referral clients.

Note cards or post cards: We can use these in conjunction with our quarterly newsletters to make sure our name gets in front of our clientele base every forty five days or so. We can use almost any excuse for sending these like Fourth of July, Ground Hog’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. Just a quick note and a brief P.S. mentioning our referral program or asking them for referrals.

Anniversary letters: We can use this along with quarterly newsletters and post cards to round out our “every forty five days or so” marketing program. Again, just a brief PS is all that’s needed to remind them of our referral program or to ask for referrals.

E-mail or faxes: If we come across an article or story that will be of particular interest to a customer or group of customers of ours, we can zip them one of these. Just affix a simple F.Y.I. note and send it along!

Daily service check: This is where we check to see if any of our customers have brought their car in for service. We can use this as a way to drop them a brief note just to say “Hello!” and to mention that next time they should drop us a quick e-mail or voice-mail to let us know their car will be in for service. That way we can check on its progress and make sure that it’s washed and gassed before they come to pick it back up. (Most stores already wash serviced vehicles and filling it up with gas doesn’t need to cost us any money. We simply get permission from the service manager or dispatcher to add a line item and pass on the gas charge to our customer. By stapling the gas receipt to the R.O. our customer will see that we didn’t mark up the gas and filling it up was simply for their convenience.)

Birthday, Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, etc. Cards: When we send these out, we need to make sure we send each client the appropriate one. If we’re unsure, a simple Season’s Greetings will work. We need to make sure we send them out in plenty of time to arrive a bit early. Affix a stamp, don’t meter these and make sure we DO NOT mention referrals or even include a business card. These are NOT overt marketing opportunities!

In the next installment in this series of articles on marketing essentials, we’ll cover the various methods we can use to maintain and manage our client database. We’ll also review what kinds of referral programs are currently being used across the country and which ones get the best results.

Remember, we don’t get wealthy in the car business by simply selling each client a car. We get wealthy in the car business by creating a relationship with each client that allows us to make a reasonable profit, five or six times, over the next twenty years.

© Copyright 2013 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved. Michael D. Hargrove is the founder and president of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc.

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