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There's Gold In Them Thar' Databases

A few years ago, I gathered all of our sales team together over breakfast and we focused on the importance of prospecting and follow-up.  We discussed the difference between “customers” and “clients.” I explained how professions such as lawyers, doctors and accountants use the word “clients,” while retail stores typically talk about their “customers.”  The main distinction being that the former enjoys an ongoing, multi-transactional relationship with the client, while the retailer is more associated with a one-time transaction.  Obviously, we should be interested in developing a “client” relationship with the people to whom we provide transportation.

Keeping in mind that tremendous gold mine that may be untapped at your dealership, here are a few tips and thoughts about effective database marketing:

  • If you don’t have a database, START NOW!   I still get sick when thinking we were in business for nearly 50 years before we ever started our client database.  The good news is since we started keeping track in 1998, we have accumulated over 55,000 names, including about 12,000 sold clients.  Make it your goal to grow your database as large as possible and as quickly as you can.
  • Utilize technology.  It is possible to maintain your database using 3-by-5 cards or notebooks, but there are so many excellent technological tools available these days to make the job much more efficient.  It really is worth the investment to tap into one of the software solutions to maximize your database contacts.  The best options will create a tickler file to remind you when it is time to contact a client, notify management if those contacts are neglected and generate automated contact via printed letters or e-mails.
  • How often should you contact your clients?  We make approximately eight to 10 contacts in the first year, then about four to six times per year after that.  By concentrating the bulk of our effort during the first year, we are working to stay in close contact to ensure customer satisfaction, and in many cases, to help prevent the repossessions that tend to occur in that six to 12 month period.  We do need to make sure that we are calling for a good reason; otherwise we just become a nuisance.  One solution is to have a monthly promotion, so you always have a reason to call them.  You want to make sure they were aware of the special offer you have going on – in case they or anyone they know are in the market.  From there, you can continue the relationship building.
  • It also is important to differentiate these calls from collection calls.  These calls should be made by the salesperson, who is on their side, and would go to bat for them if needed.   It’s kind of similar to the bad cop/good cop routines you see on many TV shows and movies.  The point is we don’t want to create any reasons for our clients to not want to talk to our sales staff.  Sometimes, something as simple as making sure the caller ID reads XYZ Motors instead of Hookemfast Finance Company will make all the difference.
  • When a salesperson leaves your employment, don’t forget to assign his Book of Business to someone else on your staff to ensure those clients still receive proper follow-up.  Sometimes, you might be wise to split that list of contacts up among your existing sales staff.  Alternatively, if you have a replacement coming in for that position, what better way to help them to hit the ground running than to give them that list of names?

In closing, here is another way to look at the value of effective database marketing. Let’s say you are a salesperson who has a Book of Business containing 900 sold customers, and let’s use an average term in BHPH of three years.  That means every year about 300 customers will be ready to trade. So, if you can simply retain the customers in your own personal database each year, you’ll make a fantastic living and never have to take a floor-up!  All of which reminds me of the words from the classic Seinfeld episode, “That’s gold, Jerry, GOLD!”

Vol 4, Issue 3

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