Article

To Catch A Customer

The magazine’s from-the-trenches columnist offers a few insights on how to get the most out of your customer communications.

February 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Courtney Cole

When was the last time you looked at the communications being sent to your customers? Are your letters generic? Could they put you to sleep? Do you have anything interesting in the subject line of your e-mails? How many times are you attempting to call your customer? Are you texting them?

What happens when you check your mailbox? I am talking about the mailbox at the end of your driveway. I bet I know exactly what happens: You get the mail, you bring it inside, and it goes into two piles. One pile is for junk mail and the other is for mail that needs to be opened. So, how do you decide what to open? Does it have a real stamp? Is it exciting? Or does it look like a typical corporate piece of mail? If your customer communications look like cor- porate mail, stop. Use colored envelopes, real stamps, fonts that mimic actual handwriting, etc.

Furthermore, do not send customers e-mails with boring subject lines. If you do, they will get trashed. Most people receive an overwhelming volume of e-mail every day, so you need to stand out and stay out of the spam filters. Want some ideas? Look at the gossip magazines at the local grocery store. The techniques they use in their headlines can be applied to the car business to create attentiongrabbing subject lines.

We have a series of phone calls, e-mails, mailers and texts that go out to our database on a regular basis. Our six-month, no-service subject line reads: “Search Party Is Looking For You.” When opened, the e-mail contains a picture of us on top of the service area with binoculars looking for the customer. Our 11-month, no-service e-mail has a subject line that reads: “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” We try to entertain our customers while offering a discount. That’s because we literally want our customers to look forward to receiving a communication from us because we are so different.

Somewhere it has been said that you should attempt to get the sale a minimum of seven times. With that said, why do salespeople think customers will actually call them back just because they left a message? The customers will not call you back, especially if you left a boring message. Look, it is the salesperson’s job to be creative enough to get the customer to want to call back. And the way to do that is by offering something interesting or exciting. All of our operation’s communications make an attempt at contacting customers seven times before they go into our regular funnel of communication, which includes weekly e-mails and monthly newsletters.

Yes, I just said weekly e-mails. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking my cus- tomers will unsubscribe because they do not want to be bothered. Well, if you’re delivering boring and irrelevant content, you’re right. However, customers do love to know more about you and your business, and you can actually be very interesting if you present yourself the right way. Furthermore, 65 percent of the population stops doing business with someone because of indifference. What that means is there is a perception that you quit caring or paying attention to them.

However, once customers get to know you, they are extremely loyal. Think about Facebook. It is so successful because people are addicted to knowing about and seeing pictures of each other. So, if you send out weekly e-mails, tell a very interesting story in the beginning. It can be self-deprecat- ing and humorous. You can even talk about your dog, your family, whoever. Just tell a story and then tie it back to the dealership with links to a couple of deals. What that does is put a face to your store, and consumers like to do business with companies with which they can identify.

From time to time, dealers talk about how slow the market can be. But with the type of technology available today, that excuse is no longer valid. There are several companies offering services or tools designed to help dealers market to customers who are either in a positive or close-to positive equity posi- tion with their current vehicle. This is gold!

Think about it: How much fun is it to call a customer and tell him or her that if they purchase a car, you can actually lower their current car payment and put them in a nicer vehicle? This is powerful stuff, and there are at least five or six compa- nies that offer this technology. Get your processes together and chase down these customers. Trust me, they want to be contacted.

For 2013, don’t worry about what the media is reporting or what your competition is doing. Just concentrate on standing out from the crowd by being creative. The business will be attracted to you, and you will be a one-of-a-kind operation in your market. Just remember, the car business is not a commodity when you are the dealer of choice, because no one is quite like you.

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