The best money you’ll ever spend on advertising is targeting the people you consider your ‘best’ customer! Because the simple truth is, your ‘best’ customer is probably your happiest, most satisfied customer who likes the way you do business! And it’s a good bet there are more ‘best’ customer opportunities out there in the same locales, the same zip codes, the same neighborhoods, in similar socio-economic, age demographics.
Why do these ‘best’ customers like you? Do you ever get emails, snail mails, telephone calls, or personal visits from people who have had their expectations exceeded? Every dealer I’ve ever met, even those who struggle with CSI, have ‘best’ customers who like them, buy multiple vehicles from them, patronize the service department, recommend friends and family. And coincidentally generate higher grosses for the dealership. If you used the ‘brand survey
template’ I’ve offered at no cost over the past few years, you might have a better handle on your greatest brand perception strengths (email me if you would like a copy). There has never been a more important time in our automotive retail history than right now to analyze what your brand stands for. What, in the perception of your ‘best’ customers, you do better than the competition.
Do you have an email ‘list’ for all of your employees? Why not? Having an employee email list opens the opportunity to communicate in real time on a variety of subjects. Consider a ‘survey monkey’ email to every employee… or just a simple question: “What are the reasons our ‘best’ customers do business with us?” In lieu of an email, ask your managers to do group meetings with every team member to solicit feedback.
Now define your ‘best’ customers. Ask the salesperson, the managers involved, the finance department and anyone else touching the deal to rate the deal on a scale of 1-10, in terms of…
- Ease of doing business
- Front-end profitability
- Previous business with dealership
- Referral of family/friends
- Overall satisfaction with the deal
Over the next several months, rate every deal in the same fashion. You know the zip codes of these customers, and if you’re conducting a brief ‘media habits’ survey at some point in the deal, usually best in the finance office, you will be able to get valuable media attribution of your ‘best’ customer demographic. How much time does your ‘best’ customer spend on Facebook? Which radio stations do they listen to? Which local and cable channels do they watch.
If you’re ‘telling your story’ with testimonial ads as I’ve referred to in past articles there is no better person to invite for a comment on your testimonial than the ‘best’ customer who genuinely likes what you do and can ad-lib a great recommendation without the use of cue cards or prompts. My October article deals with this (find it here).
I’m not suggesting you focus only on customers who like you, however spending a substantial portion of your advertising budget fortifying the reasons people DO like you, and reaching out to potential buyers in the same socio-economic strata is a no-brainer. In the retail business, we have to deal with everyone who calls, emails or walks through the door. Hopefully, your dealership is looking to identify challenges and train and improve consistently to expand that base of highly satisfied ‘best’ customers. But in the meantime, going with your known strengths makes all the sense in the world.
In my early years in the automobile advertising business, I had the opportunity to sit in a focus group held by Ford, where customers were being grilled on their experiences and perceptions of a dealership in the Northeast. The dealership was a volume leader and makes very good money. But Ford just couldn’t understand why this dealership that suffered from some of the lowest customer satisfaction scores in the country, could not only maintain its volume but enjoyed a large percentage of repeat business. Finally, the moderator of the group asked one of the customers why, despite their low CSI rating for the dealership, they continued to buy cars at this location. The customer said this (I paraphrase a bit) “Look, I don’t think there is a dealer out there that can satisfy me. I think the whole car buying experience is a nightmare anywhere you go. But at least at this dealership, they have the vehicles in stock and they get the pain over as quickly as possible. That’s why I come here.” The folks from Ford, sitting behind the one-way mirror were speechless. Shortly after that comment, another female customer in the focus group added: “I love the service department here. They are the nicest people. I only wish they could come out on the showroom floor and sell cars!”
So this dealership, despite its flaws, had some positive brand strengths: huge inventory, great location, expedited sale process, and excellent service. By the way, the dealership is no longer in business today.
Another added advantage of knowing your ‘best’ customers is the trust you’ve built with them over past dealings in sales and service. You are a known ‘brand’ to them. Building a database and list of these ‘best’ customers affords you the opportunity to conduct true VIP invitation sales with minimal advertising expense. A West Coast dealership I’ve been acquainted with for many years has built an impressive ‘tiered’ list of ‘best’ customers. Prior to holding a general sale, the dealership invites an ‘A’ list of people who have bought multiple vehicles and/or referred customers. These A-listers are treated to special incentives and first choice of advertised inventory. The first day of these sales has always generated the highest average grosses and created tremendous positive energy for both the salespeople and the customers.
Next month, I’m very excited to be invited back as a speaker at the annual Georgia Auto Dealers Association on Amelia Island. I look forward to meeting dealers I’ve known over the years and making new acquaintances. In the meantime, if you’d like a free copy of the ‘Brand Survey’ template mentioned earlier, just email me.
Author: Jim Boldebook
JIM BOLDEBOOK is Founder of CBC Automotive Marketing, an advertising/marketing agency working with some of America’s most successful dealerships. He has been in the broadcasting, advertising and marketing fields for almost 50 years. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org