Budget Friendly Customer Retention

We’re all familiar with the rule that it’s less expensive to keep an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one – up to 5 times less expensive according to some sources! With this in mind, how can your dealership improve how it retains customers?  While there is no substitute for great customer service, there are some “tactical” approaches that you can leverage.  The good news is that they are both effective and affordable. Check them out below.

Use Email to Improve Customer Retention

Your customer email list is one of your most valuable assets so put it to good use!  Most dealerships do a pretty good job of sending service offers or promotions via email but there is so much more to email marketing than promotions.  To give you an idea of what to send and when to send it, try mapping out the various stages of ownership.  Here are some examples:

Post purchase

In this stage customers are evaluating their purchase and looking for attributes to support why their decision was a good one (or a bad one).  Ensure this is a positive time for the customer by sending them an email to welcome them to your dealership and to ensure they are happy with their new purchase.

Early ownership

In this stage your customer has had the vehicle for a month or two.  This is a good time to point out some of the more advanced features of the vehicle that may require a little configuration or explanation.  Try sending them a link to a video or other resource that may be helpful.  Its small touches like this that will leave your customer with a positive feeling and may even earn you a referral or two.

There are plenty of other stages of ownership.  For example, middle-ownership, end of lease or financing, etc.  Each stage represents a perfect opportunity to add value to your customer’s ownership experience and will greatly increase your chance of retaining them in the long run.

*Pay close attention to your timing to make sure you are sending the right email at the right time.  Sending a “Welcome” email to a customer 3 months after they bought a vehicle likely won’t leave a positive impression.

 

Surveys

It’s pretty common for a dealership to send a customer a survey after they have been in for servicing but there are plenty of other opportunities to gather feedback. For example, why not survey them on your website or even about the sales process itself?  Not only will you gain some valuable insight that can improve how you run the dealership but doing so will also show your customers that you are a progressive business focused on improving their experience.  Remember, people don’t just buy products and services, they buy the overall experience!   Try to keep your survey as short and easy to complete as possible. This will ensure a higher response rate and encourage customers to partake in more than one survey.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to improve your customer retention.  But before you go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars on that new Loyalty Program, try leveraging your customer email list first. Fantastic customer service will always greatly increase your odds of retaining a customer but why not go the extra mile and leave a lasting positive impression with your customer?  One that is likely to have them returning to your dealership for years to come.

Attract Millennials to Your Dealership with Technology

Are millennials the key to the future success of dealerships? You will have to decide for yourself.  Regardless of your outlook though, it’s pretty clear that millennials can add value to any organization. For starters they are excellent at building rapport with fellow millennial shoppers – a segment that will only continue to grow. They also tend to have an affinity for social media and technology, both of which are very important to the current and future success of all dealerships. Lastly, given the right environment, millennials have been proven to be highly driven and will most definitely move the needle when given the chance.

There’s just one problem – working at a dealership is low on Millennial’s list of ideal places to work when compared to other potential careers. This is supported by a recent survey conducted by Roadster which asked millennials which occupations they would prefer to avoid.  59% of them selected “Car Dealer”, which ranked just slightly lower than “Politian” at 64% and “Tax collector” at 62%.  Why do millennials want to avoid being a Car Dealer? It’s the technology – or more accurately, the lack of it.  The reality is millennials have grown up with technology all around them and in most cases, they’re great at leveraging it as a tool to do their job more effectively and efficiently. Occupations that limit or deny them access to tools or technology are avoided.

So how can dealerships attract more millennial talent? You guessed it! Technology! In fact, the same survey revealed that 59% of those surveyed would change their mind about not working for a dealership if more technology was utilized in the sales process. This could mean giving the sales staff access to tools like iPads, speedy computers at their desk and of course the latest CRM technology, which they will use to help refresh and invigorate what is today a very tired sales process.

Sure there are other ways to attract millennial talent like compensation packages that favour salary over commission,  or flexible work schedules that are in line with a millennial’s need for job satisfaction.  But at the end of the day, it’s a pretty sure bet that any dealer will have trouble retaining a millennial without the right technology.

For more on this topic, check out the source article for this post:  “Survey: Lack of Tech Has Millennials Avoiding Dealership Jobs” – Auto Dealer Today

Lead Nurturing & Why Your Dealership Needs to Start

So you’re getting a good amount of internet leads filtering into your Lead Management or CRM system each month.  Great!  What now?  Most dealerships are doing a pretty good job of ensuring that all leads get responded to.  This is a good first step but simply responding to all leads doesn’t ensure great results.  The missing link very well could be lead nurturing.  So what is lead nurturing?  It’s the process of delivering value to individual leads based on where that lead is in the sales cycle.  To further explain, each lead is different, despite them looking very similar.  This means that while one customer could be at the stage where they’re comparing manufacturers, another may be ready to buy today and is simply narrowing their dealership of choice.  If you communicate with each of these leads the same way, you likely won’t have great results.  With lead nurturing, each lead is communicated to with the right message at the right time.  The difference in results can be astounding.  See below for a breakdown of how your dealership can go about lead nurturing.

Qualify new leads

Start with verifying simple things like the email address.  This can be done by using an email verification service.  You will see both paid and free options with a quick Google search.  By validating an email address before sending a response you are ensuring that the email will actually get through.  If you do get a lead with an invalid email address and no phone number, it’s best to mark that lead as invalid or simply delete it all together.  This will save you time and ensure that only qualified leads get your time and attention.  The other half of lead qualification has to do with sending the initial response.  The goal here is to initiate a conversation.  By doing so you should be able to identify where that lead is in the sales cycle.  Remember not to assume that the each lead is ready to buy!  Your initial response is a conversation starter and meant to engage with the customer.  If you hear nothing back from a lead after several attempts (using different approaches), you eventually need to decide when to cut off further attempts.  This cut off point is determined by you based on your lead volumes and availability of time.  For more tips on crafting a quality email response, see “The Value of a Quality Email Response”.

Segment qualified leads

Each lead that you successfully engage with will almost certainly be at different stages of the sales cycle –   Ready to Buy, Close to Buying, Considering Buying and Far From Buying.  You’ll want to find a way to mark each lead in your Lead Management or CRM system so that you can easily identify which segment that lead belongs to when you revisit it at a later time.  You can create your own segments, but try to avoid over simplifying by using hot vs cold which might create an environment where only hot leads are valued and cold leads are neglected.  Most sales people are already great at handling hot leads.  It’s the cold leads where most of the untapped potential lies.

Add value at all stages

The key to progressing a lead forward in the sales cycle is to deliver value at the right time.  Let’s use a “Considering Buying” lead as an example.  Although leads in this segment almost certainly won’t be top of mind, they still represent a valuable opportunity.  You’ll want to avoid trying to sell this lead because you will likely hear no response or potentially even a negative response.  Instead, think about how you can offer value.  Maybe a new report or article came out that highlights the benefits of one model over a competing manufacturer’s model.  Try sending them a link to this article.  What about a “Close to Buying” lead?  Let’s say that a great sale is coming up or a special incentive has become available.  Why not send this customer a quick note letting them know?  In each of these scenarios, you aren’t asking the lead to buy.  You are simply offering them information that is relevant and valuable to them.  The key is to pay attention to the needs of the customer.  This will help you determine what the right message is and when to send it. Also don’t forget to always be updating the lead profile as they provide more information or switch from one segment to another.

With these tips in mind, it’s time to start looking at your leads in a new light.  Lead nurturing very well could be the missing link in your internet lead handling strategy.

Need help getting started with your own lead nurturing strategy?  We would be glad to help! Fill out the form below and we will get back to you promptly.

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Creating Your Digital Marketing Strategy for 2018

With the year almost over, it’s time to start thinking about your digital marketing strategy for 2018. What exactly is a digital marketing strategy? Simply put, it’s an outline of your goals along with the digital marketing actions that you plan to execute in order to achieve those goals. Here are some tips and ideas to consider when creating your Dealership’s Digital Marketing Strategy.

Keep it simple

There’s no need to produce a highly polished document with a step by step account of every marketing action that you plan to take. The more complex your strategy is, the less likely it is to be executed. Instead, focus on the must-haves. This will make it much easier for you and your team to execute your strategy as well as share it with other departments in your Dealership.

Must-haves

Goals and objectives – Outline what you plan to accomplish. Do you want to grow your customer base, increase sales, or reach a new target market? Regardless of what your goals and objectives are, they should be actionable and measureable.

Target market(s)  – Establish each of the target markets that you plan to market to in 2018. To do this, look at your current customer base and break them into smaller groups (segments). For example, existing customers, potential customers, end of lease or finance. You can also create segments based on demographics like age, sex, income or consider adding a new segment that you have not previously targeted, like millennials. By creating customer segments, you’ll be able to tailor your message to meet the needs of each of your target markets.

Measurement process  – Your measurement process links directly back to the goals and objectives that you created. If one of your goals is to increase the traffic to your website, you need to have a process in place for checking on that progress and documenting it so you can see the trends over the course of the year.

Plan to change  – The strategy that you create today is very likely to change based on things like market conditions, the results you see, and even budget. It’s important to build flexibility into your strategy so that it can be tweaked and modified as needed.

Goals and objectives – Outline what you plan to accomplish. Do you want to grow your customer base, increase sales, or reach a new target market? Regardless of what your goals and objectives are, they should be actionable and measureable.

Marketing actions to consider for 2018

There are hundreds of potential marketing actions to choose from. The trick is to pick marketing actions that make sense for YOUR business based on your available resources and expertise.  Here are a few thought starters:

Local SEO  – Improving how your Dealership ranks on search engines and appears for customers searching out local businesses.

Video Content   – Share your Dealership’s message and values via short video clips.  Think beyond the walk-around video.

Personalization  – Think of ways to personalize touch points you have with your customers

Mobile optimization  – Refining how customers experience your website on their phone. The key to this is making your website “responsive” meaning that it fits nicely on any screen it’s being viewed on.

Analytics   – Use tools like Google Analytics to improve the quality of your marketing efforts.

Reputation management   – Improve the process by which reviews are handled, especially the bad ones. For more on this check out “The Importance of Customer Reviews”.

Digital ads   – Create highly targeted ads using platforms like Facebook Ads

In summary

There’s really no such thing as a one-size fits all approach when crafting a digital marketing strategy and that’s a good thing!  Can you imagine how boring it would be if every marketer used the same strategy?  Embrace the process of creating your 2018 digital marketing strategy and you just might be surprised how fun and rewarding it is to see your plan come to life.

The Key to Unlocking the Power of Your CRM or ILM Software

Your Dealership, like many others, likely has a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and/or ILM (Internet Lead Management) system. These powerful tools have the potential to increase your sales, improve your efficiency and so much more.  So does this mean your Dealership is making more sales just by having a CRM or ILM in place? Not necessarily and here is why. The reality is most Dealers jump into using their CRM or ILM without having had proper training and more importantly, without having created a process for handling the customer life cycle, starting with the internet shopper.  The result is often a pricey monthly fee for a system that is being utilized about as effectively as a Gmail account.  Avoid going down that path by following these guidelines.

Document your lead handling process

Your lead handling process maps out how your organization plans on managing all leads that come into your Dealership.  Whether they be a digital lead (through an online submission) or a showroom lead (someone just walks into your Dealership), you need to create a processes that can be easily implemented by all members of your team. By documenting each step in this process, including long term follow-up, you are making it much easier for your team to deliver a consistent and positive customer experience. As an added benefit, ramping up new employees becomes a breeze.

Create actionable KPIs

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) act as a measuring stick and help you gauge your team’s effectiveness in achieving dealership goals. When creating your own KPIs, ensure they meet these 3 criteria – 1) they are measurable, 2) they are actionable 3) they are linked to a goal.  A good example would be “response time”. It’s easily measurable in most CRMs and ILMs, your team can take action to improve it, and it’s easily linked to one of many goals such as increased response rate, increased close rate, etc.

Setup performance reviews

Take time on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis to review how your team is performing against the KPIs and Dealership goals that you have established. These meetings are a good chance to track how much progress has been made and to look for opportunities to improve. It’s a good idea to document the results from each of these reviews so that you can compare your latest results against previous weeks/ months. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing improvements over the previous month!

Update your process based on performance results

Remember to update your documented lead handling process when your team develops new and improved techniques or processes for handling leads. It’s these process improvements that will ultimately drive performance gains and take your dealership to a new level of success.

Provide coaching on areas that need improvement

Work with your team members on an individual basis to assess areas of strength and weakness.  Coaching is a great way to improve areas of weakness, increase knowledge and boost performance.  These sessions are sure to pay dividends in the form of future sales.

Conclusion

Let’s collectively agree to stop using our CRMs and ILMs as glorified email platforms and start doing things differently. You have the power to turn your CRM or ILM into a high performance money making machine, so get out there and do it!

Need a hand getting started? We would be glad to help!  Fill out the form below and we will get back to you right away.

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Why Your Dealership Should Advertise on Facebook Plus Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

Facebook ads are the real deal.  For starters, most of your customers are on Facebook and so are their friends, family and everyone that they associate with.  There are over one billion users in total on the platform – an impressive feat in and of itself.  So what does this all mean to you?  It means that your dealership has a fantastic opportunity to get its message, promotion, or brand, in front of the right people.  Facebook Ad Manager gives you full control over audience targeting, it walks you through creating your ad and it’s incredibly easy to get started.  More importantly, Facebook ads are highly effective and will produce click through rates much higher than most other digital advertising platforms. Before you create that first ad though, here are a few rookie mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Not clearly defining your goals

Trying Facebook ads for the first time is kind of like playing with a new high tech toy. You will want to skip all of the instructions and just jump in.  As tempting as this may be, it’s best to take a little time to develop a goal.  For example, do you want to increase brand awareness for your dealership, generate more leads, or promote a weekend truck sale?  Having specific goals in mind will help drive your ad’s messaging, layout and audience targeting.

Using the same ad for everyone

After creating your first ad, you will probably want to blast it out to everyone.   Before you do that, consider the relevance of your ad to your audience. Both your existing and potential customers are at different phases of the purchasing or ownership cycle.  With this in mind, you will want to create segments, or groupings of customers,  for example, existing customers, potential customers, people who have visited your site, customers nearing the end of their financing, customers that are leasing, etc.  There are literally dozens of potential segments and each ad should be targeted at a single segment by using messaging that is clear and highly relevant to that audience.

Confusing copy

Have you ever seen an ad that you had to read several times just to understand it?  Avoid making the same mistake by keeping your message short and to the point.  For example, if you are promoting a weekend sale, avoid squeezing in as much detail as possible within the ad.  Instead, save the details for the landing page that is brought up when the ad is clicked.  Always keep the goal of the ad in mind when crafting your copy.

Conclusion

It’s an exciting time to advertise online, especially with such powerful platforms like Facebook ads at your fingertips.  With these simple tips in mind, you should be well on your way to generating the results that you are after.

For more info on avoiding Facebook Ad rookie mistakes, check out “5 Rookie Facebook Ad Mistakes to Avoid” by Andy Beohar.

The Importance of Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are the modern day equivalent of good old fashioned word of mouth.  We’ve all been to that party or family event where a friend or family member has gone on about how good the new restaurant in town is, or how well their new barbecue works.  The truth is, it’s in our nature to pay attention to these stories.  It’s somehow easier for us to try something new, knowing that someone else has removed some of the risk for us. Online reviews are no different.  In fact, according to this study, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.  This is the reason that reviews play such an important role in influencing our purchases or at the very least driving us to check out a website. Here are some guidelines to follow when seeking your own customer review success.

Look for opportunities to improve

On the surface it would appear that customer reviews mainly benefit other customers. While there is certainly truth to this statement, it’s really just one side of the story.   Customer reviews are also a fantastic source of information for your dealership.  In them, customers are giving you clues as to how your customer experience can be improved.  Be sure to pay special attention to patterns.  For example, several customers mentioning the same issue is a sure sign that there is an opportunity to improve.

Ask and you shall receive

Not getting very many reviews?  Try making a point of asking customers to write a review on Google.  It’s been proven that 7 out of 10 people will leave a review for a business when asked. You can have fun with this by setting a goal for yourself or your team. Try obtaining at least 3 reviews a week.  In no time you will have dozens.

How to handle negative reviews

Negative reviews should not be feared.  They should be looked at as an opportunity for your dealership to shine.  It’s important to engage with the customer that left the negative review as quickly as possible.  Also, make sure your first touch point with them is private, as opposed to trying to fix the issue publicly.  Start by thanking the customer for their feedback, then acknowledge their frustration and proceed to offer a resolution.  The goal should be not only to fix the issue, but to do so in a way that they are truly impressed with the resolution.  After handling the issue privately, you can proceed to respond to the negative post publicly.  First acknowledge the issue and then describe the resolution that took place.  Onlookers will likely be impressed with how the issue was handled and you may also find that the original one star review turns into a higher rating.

Make it a process

To truly reap the rewards of customer reviews, you will want to create a process so that reviews are handled in a uniform manner.  Start by creating a process for asking customers to leave a review (think back to the goal of collecting three a week).  From there you want to ensure that all reviews are actively being scanned for opportunities to improve.  This may be something that can be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  Lastly, you want to ensure a process is in place for handling negative reviews.  This should take priority.

Conclusion

Customer reviews are here to stay.  In fact, their influence on the success of a business is likely to grow even more as people find new ways to share their thoughts on new and existing platforms.  Take advantage of the opportunity to better understand your customers and therefore improve your business, all by staying connected with your customer’s feedback.

Leave your comments below on your experiences with customer reviews.

4 Practices of a Successful Business

All businesses want to emulate rock star companies like Facebook, Pixar, Google, and Amazon with their cool culture, free lunches, and bean bag chairs. We see the impressive profit statements and hear stories about the fun work environments and wish our organizations could be like theirs. But we need to ask – How did they become successful in the first place?  What did they do to set themselves apart from all the other companies out there?  Before you go out and buy a pool table for your dealership, check out these 4 practices of a successful business.

Know your customer

It’s critical to your business that you know your customer. Challenge yourself, and your teams to learn everything you can about your target audience or your ideal customer. This exercise will help you develop personas or groupings of customers with similar wants and needs. With this insight, you will be able to recognize challenges or problems that these customers commonly face and provide helpful solutions for them. Just like any relationship, the more you know about what makes the other person tick, the stronger the relationship can become.

Maintain high standards

This is how many big companies got to where they are today. Each touchpoint with a customer is an opportunity to demonstrate your dealership’s high standards. If problems or issues arise, it’s even more important to deliver on your promises to those customers.  They are the customers that, when won over, will become brand ambassadors for you.

Create personalized experiences

Once you are comfortable that you know your customer, you can begin to offer a personalized experience for them. This could be something as simple as paying attention to a customer’s preferred method of communication. Maybe they like getting a text when their car is ready.  Customers will equate your dealership’s brand with the experience that you offer them.

Create engaged employees

Maintaining high standards isn’t easy if the environment isn’t right. It’s important for employees to be recognized for their work and to feel appreciated. They also need to feel that you are investing in the progression of their knowledge.  Try creating ways to turn something that might be considered boring and “educational” into something that is just as informative but fun. Plus, you could always get that pool table.

 

For more on this topic, see “4 Strategies for Business Success (and One Company Getting It Right)” by Wade Harman

Private Right of Action Provision in Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

As you are likely aware, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), came into effect July 1, 2014. At that time, dealerships were encouraged to evaluate their customer databases and identify customers who they did not have express or implied consent for. When the legislation originally came into effect, there was a transitional rule that if a dealership had an existing business relationship with the customer, they would have 36 months of implied consent instead of the standard 24 months (6 months with inquiry).

Private Right of Action suspended

The final element of CASL, referred to as the Private Right of Action was set to come into effect July 1, 2017. However, on June 7th, 2017, the federal government issued an Order in Council delaying the private right of action until completion of a parliamentary review “in order to promote legal certainty for numerous stakeholders claiming to experience difficulties in interpreting several provisions of the Act while being exposed to litigation risk.”

Penalties still apply

While this delay will prevent customers from filing a lawsuit for damages individually or through a class action, dealerships still need to ensure they are compliant with CASL. As a reminder, the maximum penalties are $1Million for an individual and $10Million for a corporation.

What you can do to ensure your dealership is CASL ready

Your dealership should remain diligent in compliance with CASL. Here are some tips to follow, especially if you are unsure about your dealership’s current level of compliance:

  1. Identify privacy leaders for each department
  2. Perform an assessment of all the places where you currently collect consent – forms, surveys, etc.
  3. Conduct a deep-dive in your database to identify if there are any current prospects or customers for whom you don’t have consent; purge them!
  4. Implement technology to help track and maintain consent
  5. Develop and implement a CASL compliance policy and train all staff

If you’re looking for CASL training for your dealership or business, we can help! SCI MarketView offers CASL training in several formats, including online based and in store. Contact us here.

AdWords for Your Dealership

Want to drive more traffic to your website and capture high quality leads? If so, you may want to consider using Google AdWords, a pay per click advertising platform, where you only pay when someone clicks your ad, which in most cases is a link to your company’s website or a very well designed landing page. Google AdWords works like an auction would; you, the business owner, would chose very specific search words that you believe customers would use when searching for companies or more specifically, a dealership like yours. You then assign a monetary value to each of those words and when the search is entered, the highest bidder’s website would appear ranked higher than the competition. The advantage of Google AdWords is that, unlike some traditional forms of advertising, you have a lot more control over budget, target audience and ROI. Check out the quick start guide below for more info.

Account setup

If you already have an account with Google, you can access Google AdWords using the same credentials. Alternatively, you can opt to create an account exclusively for AdWords.  Be prepared to have a payment method like a credit card handy to add to your account. Payments can be made either automatically or manually.

Establish your goal(s)

Determine what it is you want to accomplish with AdWords. For example, do you want to generate leads? Picking your goal early will help you later on when it comes time to creating your ad and configuring your account.

Pick you audience

Think about who you want to target. A good exercise is to develop “personas”. For example, females aged 38 – 48, have kids and most likely to research a vehicle on their phone. Creating personas or segments will allow your ad to be far more targeted and effective.

Keyword selection

The idea is to pick keywords that will attract a certain type of customer. The more specific your keywords are, the more likely you are to attract a very specific type of customer. For example, if you focus on the keywords “truck” as well as the “town/city” that your dealership is in, you will attract local traffic looking for a truck.  Google provides some tips on selecting keywords here.

Biding

Once you are happy with your keyword selection, the next step is to bid on your selected keywords. If you are on a tighter budget you may want to start with a lower bid or focus on niche keywords. Don’t let a small budget deter you.  Start slow and increase your budget when you start to get comfortable.

Create your ad

When creating your ad, think back to your goal(s) and the personas that you created. Create the messaging as if you are speaking directly to this group. Focus on your headline and a strong call to action. Also take advantage of using emotion to capture attention and spur action.

Create a landing page

You want to make sure that when someone clicks your ad, they are being taken to a page that gives them clear and detailed information. Use high quality images a ton similar to your ad. You also want to make sure your landing page is optimized for your goal. For example, if your goal is to generate leads, you want to make sure that you have a form where people can request a price or more info. Learn more about optimizing forms here.

A/B Testing

Always challenge your results by creating alternate ads. Something as simple as changing your headline or call to action can have a dramatic impact on your results. Keep the stronger of the two ads and then challenge that ad with a new version the next month.

 

The great thing about Google AdWords is that is scalable. If you want to get really fancy and spend a lot of money, you can do that!  But, on the flip side, if you are hesitant about jumping into digital advertising, you can get started with a budget as small as one dollar a day. Now put on your advertising hat and get started!