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You have a percentage of loyal customers who buy multiple vehicles; consistently buy from your parts and service departments as well as supply referrals. Imagine for a second… a scenario where those specific customers start leaving you for your competitor without giving you any notice or even the opportunity to talk with them about their next purchase.
This happens more than you think in today’s automotive marketplace. On any given day you have a percentage of loyal customers who are in a position to buy a new or newer vehicle with no money down and actually lower their payment. These people exist not only with customers who have equity but also with customers who have negative equity. In your opinion what would happen if one of your loyal customers (who may not even think they are in the market for a vehicle) responds to an ad that just so happens to catch their eye from one of your competitors?
If your competition has the opportunity to show them how to upgrade their vehicle and improve their financial situation that customer is gone – possibly forever.
The real question is what does the customer now think of you? Regardless of great strides in customer service and sales processes, car dealers still don’t rank very high as the most trusted businesses by consumers. What happens when one of your best customers finds out they can buy a vehicle that is two to three years newer than the one you sold them, and actually do it for less? Customers will not understand all the scenarios that made that possible. More importantly to you, they will blame you for giving them such a bad deal the last time. From their point of view, how else could you explain it?
If today’s car dealer doesn't alert customers to this potential savings someone else will. And that just feeds right into the consumer’s fears and doubts.
Think about it; over the years there has been a strong effort with automotive direct marketing to improve customer loyalty. So with all the data mining, predictive models and resources available why hasn’t the percentage of loyal customers increased along with the investment to improve owner loyalty?
Are you focusing your attention on the wrong customers?
We tend to assume that the best prospect is someone with equity or someone close to his or her loan maturation date. In reality the best prospect is the person who is most motivated by your offers. Who is most at risk for buying somewhere else? The customer who paid off their car a few years ago and isn’t making a current payment or the customer who has a current payment and can actually buy a new car and lower it? This doesn’t mean you should ignore customers with equity or who have paid off their loan. It just means we tend to not pay as much attention to people who may have bought eighteen to thirty six months ago with the exception of parts and service advertising.
The reality is the people who have the ability to upgrade their vehicle and improve their financial situation are the biggest defection risks you have – IF you don’t reach out to them first.
Today you have the ability to quickly identify and help your customers who can improve their financial situation as long as you have a good automotive equity data mining and lead generation strategy. This strategy must include direct marketing with a multi-channel approach. Direct mail and email must be completely personalized to the customer’s unique situation. It is not enough anymore to consider their name and address as personalization. To be effective with automotive direct mail and email today you must communicate a message that is one to one – not one to many. Microsites should be included to give the customer more opportunities to respond to you and obtain information. Telephone marketing and support is a must.
Today’s technology allows you to identify which service appointments can qualify for an upgrade and improve their situation. This makes your service to sales process more efficient and effective.
You must have a turnkey direct marketing strategy in place to work with this data to guarantee that your customers know that they can improve their situation right now – from you. These people will not just come in on their own. Many of them aren’t aware that these opportunities exist. It is your responsibility to reach out to them.
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