Marketing tactics and activities are often designed to reach a broad audience and connect on a macro level. Businesses want to maximize the impact of their messaging and connect with as many potential customers as possible. What about repeat customers or customers that the dealership hopes will be repeat customers?
Ideally, every customer should enjoy their experience so much that they remain loyal to the dealership. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Others may offer a better culture or price. How can dealerships boost customer satisfaction and gain repeat customers? Use these 10 tips to personalize dealership marketing to make every customer feel appreciated and valued:
- Start a rewards program.
- Ask if they want to join the mailing list.
- Host a customer appreciation day.
- Connect often.
- Be active on social media.
- Understand their needs and meet those needs.
- Create a welcoming culture.
- Ask for feedback and listen to it.
- Give back.
- Respond to criticism positively.
Rewards Programs are Rewarding for the Customer and the Dealership
Loyalty or rewards programs are designed to help frequent customers feel valued. Different companies or businesses could offer a unique loyalty or rewards program that fits their business model. For example, a coffee shop could award points for every beverage purchased and provide a free coffee when the individual receives a specific number of points.
Other businesses might create an ‘insider’ type program that offers discounts to individuals who participate in the program. Loyalty or rewards programs also could provide coupons or special offers for those that participate in the program.
Some businesses issue a card that tracks rewards points, while others utilize an app-based loyalty program design. In the past, small businesses punched a card that denoted points earned or to track the number of purchases.
Dealerships can design a program that works for their business model. A dealership might award points for every service appointment or purchase. When customers reach a specific point milestone, perhaps the dealership awards them with a free oil change or other service.
There is no right or wrong way to track points and customer loyalty programs. The dealership can review its marketing budget to better understand the monies that can be allocated towards creating this type of program and any technology that might be necessary to track it.
Create a Mailing List and Invite Customers to Join
Dealerships that don’t offer customers the opportunity to join a mailing or text list are missing a prime marketing opportunity. When a customer makes a purchase or schedules a service, ask them if they want to sign up for the dealership’s mailing list; like rewards programs, a mailing list could offer customers unique promotions and coupons.
Emails delivered to the mailing list can include a variety of communiqués to keep customers up-to-date about the dealership. Use the list to promote new car models arriving at the dealership or to distribute coupons or more information related to upcoming sales and promotions.
While some dealerships could favor email lists, others like text messaging options. However, some customers might not want to sign up for text messages as their data plan could be limited and these texts could result in charges from their service provider.
Give customers the opportunity to enter their email or cell phone number to receive updates and notifications. Not only could these communication activities keep customers in the know about new models and sales, but it also allows the dealership to remain connected with and in front of past and current customers.
Host a Customer Appreciation Day
Show customers how much the dealership appreciates their loyalty by hosting a customer appreciation event. The event might include a special sale or discounts related to services. The dealership could give out ‘swag’ or offer a drawing for prizes.
Dealerships can host the event during early sales hours. The dealership also could create the event to be exclusive to only past and current customers; invites might be distributed through mail or email.
Some dealerships include family activities like face painting, games and other activities. However, only take on what the dealership’s staff is able to manage.
When the customer leaves the dealership after a purchase, what happens next? How does the dealership connect? A repeat customer is one that feels valued, but radio silence from a business likely won’t leave a positive lasting impression.
Have a plan for post-sale communication. Send a thank you note, and, before the customer drives off, ask if they would like to sign up for email or text updates (or a rewards program if it’s offered). Make sure the customer has the business card of a sales person and that the customer knows whom they can contact if they have a problem or concern.
Be Active on Social Media
Facebook is the most popular social media platform. With more than 2.9 billion monthly active users, Facebook has, by far, the largest reach on the internet. In addition, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok also are popular platforms for staying connected online and expanding visibility.
Customers are on social media, and car dealerships need to be social to connect with current and potential customers. If an individual is researching a dealership, they might research social media accounts. Be available on social media. Post quality content, keep customers and the public updated about hours, sales and new models.
Let the dealership’s unique culture and personality shine through on social platforms. It’s ok to post fun content or memes (keep it clean and kind, though).
Understand Customer Needs and Meet Those Needs
No business can be everything to everyone. However, dealerships need to remain connected to each customer to understand their needs and how to meet those needs.
Customer loyalty is driven by many factors. Some customers might love the culture, while others might feel that the sales team goes above and beyond. Satisfied customers become return customers. Are sales staff members having conversations to fully engage customers to find what they want and what they need? Or is the focus more on a hard sale?
Buying a car online is now a possibility, and this means that the physical dealership experience isn’t the only choice buyers have when shopping for a vehicle. For this reason, the in-person experience is more important than ever. If the customer feels pressured or ignored, they likely won’t be back.
Create a Welcoming Culture
Auditing a company culture is always a good idea if a business feels as though their sales are slipping or if they are not retaining customers. The in-the-door experience sets the tone for some customers at car dealerships.
The atmosphere, the mood and demeanor of the sales staff and the overall approach of the sales experience can help customers define and assess the dealership culture. If the sales team is unhappy, if numbers are always more important than providing a positive experience and if there is no consistency with the way team members are treated, the atmosphere might not feel too welcoming.
For dealerships that worry that morale is in the tank and is creating a toxic culture, Automotive Training Network offers 11 tips to transform the negativity into a positive and welcoming environment. Two tips on the list include setting concise expectations and embracing kindness.
Ask for Feedback and Listen to It
Staying active on social media ensures that dealerships can connect to and engage with customers and the public online, but it also offers another unique outreach opportunity. Facebook and other sites let dealerships and businesses create polls that allow customers to provide feedback and make their voices heard.
Create polls for anything the dealership wants or needs to know from customers. Polls can even be fun and just for entertainment (like polling followers about a favorite food). Social media posts also can ask customers to provide feedback on their experience or even about the dealership’s hours. Use social media to identify what customers expect and to better understand their needs and opinions.
Get involved in the community. Volunteer at a local food bank, sponsor the local high school team or host a toy drive during the holidays. Giving back demonstrates to customers that the dealership is vested in the community.
Respond to Criticism Positively
Be kind with criticism. Personalized marketing means that dealers respond to negative reviews or opinions online in a positive manner. Don’t snipe back. Other customers will read those responses. Respond to both positive and negative reviews, and always provide a proactive response. Thank customers for the feedback and leave contact information.
Dealership marketing might be targeted to a broad audience or specific demographic via online content, ads or other messaging. However, marketing can and should be personalized whenever possible. Create rewards or loyalty programs, host customer appreciation days, stay in contact via social media and email or text alerts. Make customers feel valued, respected and appreciated; the impression they have once they leave the dealership can be a lasting one. Make sure customers leave knowing that they had the best experience possible and that there is no other dealership for them.