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Historically, it was difficult for dealers to stay in touch with their customers throughout their lifecycle.  However, with all the communication channels available today, the consuming task of communicating appropriately with your dealership’s active customers is a much more palatable task. 

Do you want to keep your customers thinking of you first? Or do you fear that your competitors are treating your customers like they are their customers?  In order to lead your current customers down the preferred customer path there are two important timeframes and several related topics to keep them thinking they’re your customers. 
 
New Vehicle / Next Vehicle Purchase Timeframe

Your dealership’s Sales Department should communicate with your customers as if their interaction were a date or an event with a close friend.  If you attended a social event with a friend or attended a party at their home, normal etiquette would be to send a “Thank You Note” afterward.  The same would be true following the sale of a car.   Every salesperson would admit that the purchase experience is time-consuming and demanding on all parties involved.  Therefore, knowing the importance of and effort during a car purchase, it is a good practice to send the buyer a note expressing your dealership’s appreciation of their business.  Just as I am sure you would appreciate a “thank you note” from a friend after all the effort and time you put forth hosting a party.

Who doesn’t love to receive a birthday card?  Okay, so maybe the reminder of the fact I’m aging isn’t exactly fun…but it’s nice to know someone is thinking of me on my special day.  Well, car dealers should use this personal event as reason to communicate with their customers by sending birthday cards. 

What about a “Purchase Anniversary Card”?  Your customers need…and should… be reminded of how much you appreciate them as a customer.   On the anniversary of when the car was purchased, it is an opportune time for your dealership to send a card that not only expresses your gratitude, but also includes a special offer or discount to drive them back to your store.

What if you had a way to save a friend some money?  Toward the end of the customer journey, your dealership should communicate “Current Specials” to entice your “friend”, the customer, to purchase their next vehicle from your store.   Since they have purchased from you once before, you’ve maintained contact with them throughout the life of their vehicle and now they need a new vehicle, it is an ideal time for you to remind them of your relationship and extend an offer that saves them money.

Current / Past Service Timeframe

The communications from the Service Department should work concurrently with those sent by the Sales Department.  A “Welcome Note” to your customer, greeting them as a member of the Service Family is a nice touch.  We all want to feel welcome and like we’re part of a family, don’t we?! 

A friendly “Reminder for Minor or Major Services” are in order to distinguish your Service Department and its services.  The same would be true for notifying your customers of their Warranty and Extended Warranty service.  Reminders sent at the appropriate time can create an action by a consumer.  Consumers always want their vehicles to run like they’re new and, if reasonably serviced and maintained, they can.  Make it simple for the customer to see the basics not as extreme, but essential to the good maintenance of their vehicle.  When a customer sees simple value they will react on a consistent basis.  Make sure you think through the offer you are making to that particular customer.  Your customer wants to feel special; make them feel very special.

Consistent Message

Though you want to ensure that the current message sticks out from what you have sent previously, you want your marketing pieces to have a consistent feel and look that the customer recognizes and remembers.  It’s a fine line but essentially you want your messages to make an impact on the customers while making it easily recognizable that it is from you…someone they know, trust and have a relationship with already.  Always use something that they will remember you for.  Always ask yourself: What will your customer think of when they think of you?

Digital Media

In today’s rapidly evolving digital world dealers should remember to take advantage of all the different communication tools available.  A multi-channel approach, which entails utilizing email, text, telephony and social media to spread your marketing message, is the best way to continually touch consumers.
 
Do You Want It?

Last, but certainly not least, when considering your customer communications, maintain a simple philosophy:  If you would not want to receive the message, do not send it.  Be proud of what you send to your customers.  Keep your messages simple, truthful, personalized and make sure they have value to that particular customer.  If you want it, your customer probably does as well.  Stay friendly.  Your customers want to be part of an organization that wants them to be a part of their organization… and chances are, they’ll think of you first.

~ Paul Ryan, Sales Manager of Mail Team @ DMEautomotive

 

Bio:

Paul Ryan brings over 20 years of experience in sales, sales management, marketing, negotiation, leadership and client services. He joined DMEautomotive in February of 2008, as a Regional Territory Manager. With proven success as an inside sales representative selling the FullCircle Solutions’ Bullseye program, he was recognized frequently as Sales Person of the Month and received the highest honor of Sales Person of the Year for 2008. In August of 2009 Paul assumed his current position of Sales Manager, Mail Team. He is responsible for overseeing the entire Mail Division and manages a team of sales representatives.

Paul graduated with a B.S. In Business Administration from Iowa State University.

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-ryan/7/726/b35

Bart Wilson
Good post on taking care of customers after the sale. Don't forget Facebook. Social media makes it less formal and more personal. I like the birthday card and yearly anniversary card, but where could online social networks replace the traditional print or phone call? Or do you add this to the list?
Stacy Mueller
Bart: I like your line of thinking. I do believe that Facebook is a great venue to keep in contact with your customers throughout their "journey". Especially since it can be a wonderful way to facilitate some fixed ops traffic! :) You pose a great question about the replacement of traditional correspondences. Ideally we should assess how customers would like to be contacted, whether it be by phone, mail, email, etc. Once we have that information in a database, they can be communicated to in the preferred method. However, with that being said...I know I (even being the social media fanatic that I am) love to get a handwritten thank you note!
Bryant Gibby
Great post! I completely agree with the importance of a thank you card and a birthday card. The dealership that I work at has never really made it a priority. We have always done well with post-sell follow up, but we have usually done so via phone or email. Do you feel like the cards make a difference? I always found the birthday phone call to be moderately awkward and always wished that we would have gone with the card. This year we have decided to go with 4 personlized mailers per year, so we will see how that goes!
Paul Ryan
Bryant, Every time I have sent someone a hand written note the results have been well received and customers usually make sure to compliment me on taking the time to write the personal note. The same I feel is true to create a personalized message to your customers.
Bart Wilson
I found only one downside to a personal thank-you note. Have you seen my handwriting?

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