Take Action to Retain Dealership Customers in 2019
In our last article, we talked about why customer retention is critical if you want to grow your commercial truck or heavy equipment dealership. We noted that, like all aspects of your dealership’s marketing plan, building loyalty among your customers requires forethought and follow-through. There is nothing accidental (or automatic) about it.
You need a customer retention strategy. And then you need to implement it. As promised, here are five action items you can put into play right now to establish and reinforce long-term customer loyalty.
Web Visitor Data: the More, the Merrier
Continuously refining your marketing efforts is the only way to keep pace with customers and set your dealership apart from competitors. You need detailed data to accomplish that.
You’re already doing the basics to capture website visitor contact information (aren’t you?!). But are you giving those visitors every possible chance to convert themselves into a lead? Every new contact represents someone who exhibited some sort of interest in your dealership, a piece of your content, or one of your products or services.
Knowing those interests or preferences as well as their email address lets you engage with each new prospect and lead in directly relevant ways, such as email or paid ad offers that entice them to share more nuggets of data about themselves.
The more you know about web visitors, the easier it is to stay in contact and build trust in your dealership as a resource – and, when the time is right, to buy. Trust is the foundation of customer loyalty. Initially, prospects trust you to provide useful, on-point information. Later, as they get to know your dealership and eventually do business with you, every interaction serves to strengthen that trust.
Or not. Fail them with bad, or even indifferent experiences, and you will lose them to a competitor. In fact, studies now show that even formerly loyal customers will depart for friendlier pastures if they don’t get the quality experience they expect. Customer loyalty is a gift, never something you should take for granted. With a deliberate customer retention strategy in place, however, you can become a business partner of sorts, helping customers grow their business through credible advice and good-value deals.
One easy and highly effective way to establish and reinforce a sense of trust is by providing “social proof.” Knowing others trust your dealership builds confidence in prospects and reminds existing customers that they made a smart decision when they chose your dealership. Social proof is third-party verification — reviews and ratings from high-profile sources, awards and special certifications you’ve received, even memberships in leading industry organizations. For example, your truck dealership may have achieved Elite Support status from Freightliner.
Tell everyone! Emphasize these things distinctions that confirm your dealership is outstanding. Displaying links or images that identify these achievements on your website and in email and other marketing instantly conveys credibility and trustworthiness.
Marketers have been talking about personalization for some time now. But today’s customers expect to you know a lot more about them than their name. Generic emails that start with “Hi, John” won’t cut it. No one is fooled or impressed. Again, you need to know your customers’ individual interests, preferences, and behavior patterns (both when they’re visiting your website and their purchasing history).
There’s an “app” for that – your CRM and marketing management software should integrate seamlessly to gather, synthesize, and automatically use customer data to offer each web visitor the most pertinent information. And to trigger relevant, timely follow-up marketing offers whether you’re using email, retargeting or paid advertising.
Your technology should also work behind the scenes to boost your customer’s website experience – recognizing them when they visit and then recommending content they might like.
People respond to and buy from those who make them feel most comfortable. That’s always been true. But today’s customers are looking beyond a happy greeting and a handshake. They want to know about your values — “who” your dealership is as a business, and as a member of the community. Do you follow environmentally-friendly practices? Do you support or participate in community causes as well as industry-specific causes? Shared values foster trust and loyalty.
As with your dealership’s accomplishments, however, you have to spread the word about who you are and what you value. Blend these points into your product and service pages. Highlight them on your home page. Talk about them in your social media posts. Email invitations to customers to join you in supporting a favorite community event, too, because shared experiences are one of the best ways to strengthen personal relationships with customers.
Keep the Ball Rolling
Email marketing isn’t only for nurturing leads. It’s an easy – and very effective – way to stay in touch with existing (and even lapsed) customers. Send targeted alerts about new products or services. Send “have you seen this?” links to important industry updates. Automatically notify customers when a machine will soon be due for service. Ask for their personal assistance in growing your dealership, via surveys. And, of course, send a personal thank-you every time the customer makes another purchase or rents another piece of equipment.
Customers want and expect a comprehensively positive experience, with every touch. They want to know you know who they are. They want you to anticipate when they want, and help them determine what’s best for their business. Personalized engagement shows you care. But, owner-operator or regional powerhouse, every one of your customers also wants and needs to mind their budget.
A formalized loyalty program that thanks frequent customers with meaningful rewards and incentives is essential. In our next article, we’ll take a closer look at trends in B2B loyalty programs.