How A Big City Auto Dealer Almost Failed Underestimating The Importance Of Relationship Marketing

Relationship MarketingRelationship marketing, also known as attraction marketing, may be the single most important marketing strategy you can use to ensure a steady stream of repeat sales and referrals in your business. Read on to discover how a big city auto dealer had a rude awakening when he underestimated the importance of relationships in rural America.

At a small social gathering recently the conversation among a few of us turned to business and the economy. One of our friends had sold his automobile dealership a few years back and retired but we knew he remained plugged in to what’s happening in the industry so we asked how his former dealership was doing under its new owner.

He said that it had gone through a very rough time for a while for reasons that were not really related to the economy. He went on to explain that a dealer in the nearby big city had bought his dealership which was a few miles out of the city in a mostly rural area. The statement he made that caught my attention was that the new owner tried to apply the same marketing practices used in his “big city” dealership to the “rural” dealership and they didn’t work.

I was pretty sure I knew what he meant but I asked the question anyway, “So what’s the difference in “big city” marketing and “rural” marketing?

His answer: “Relationships. In rural communities, businesses are dependent on customer loyalty and customer loyalty is all about relationships.”

Enjoying my role as the straight man, I followed with the obvious question, “Why don’t the “big city” dealers promote customer loyalty through relationships?”

He responded, “They don’t have to. It’s more of a numbers game. If one customer doesn’t buy, there’s another one coming in behind him that will.” Someone else observed this might not work in an economic downturn. “True,” our friend said, “it eventually catches up with you.”

I don’t want to imply that all “big city” businesses neglect the practice of relationship marketing. I’m just relating the conversation as I recall it. But there is an important truth to be learned here. Building customer loyalty through genuine heartfelt relationships must be a part of the culture of a business.

You can’t let relationships slide during the good times because those relationships will sustain you during the bad. And you can’t back off during the bad times because they need to know you’re still there and you still care.

Building relationships that result in customer loyalty doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sending a personalized greeting card with a heartfelt message.

How Could The Auto Dealer Apply This Relationship Marketing Technique?

Consider this scenario: You buy a new car. The salesperson takes a picture of you holding the keys as you pose beside your new car. Big smile, right?

A few days later, a greeting card arrives in the mail. You open it. (Who doesn’t open a greeting card?) But this is not your usual card. On the face of this card is the photo of you and your new car. Inside on the left panel is a picture of the salesperson and his contact information. On the right panel inside is a personalized message thanking you for your business and an expression of hope that you are enjoying your new car.

What do you do with this card? Throw it out with the junk mail? Of course not. It has your picture with your new car. It goes on your mantel or your coffee table or your desk at work and you probably show it to your friends. (Hmmm, can you say referrals?)

But relationship marketing doesn’t end there. The savvy salesperson discovered your birthday during the sales process and you get a birthday card… no sales pitch, just wishing you a happy birthday. At various holidays throughout the year, you receive appropriate greeting cards from the salesperson. On the anniversary of your car purchase, you receive a card and there it is again. A photo card with you and your car.

Repeat Sales And Referrals Are By-Products Of Relationship Marketing

Tell me, when a friend mentions they are thinking of buying a new car, who comes to mind? When you are ready to buy a car again, who do think of?

I rest my case. That’s relationship marketing, simple and effective.

© Bob Young

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Do your customers know you care?

Is technology building a wall between you and your customers, clients and prospects? Perhaps even your family and friends? Sending real birthday cards online is one way to put high touch back into a high tech low touch world.

It all began with self-serve gas stations that came on the scene about 50 years ago. What used to be a high touch service faded rapidly into obsolescence. Never again would the station attendant greet you with a smile and those since forgotten words, “Fill ‘er up?” Today you drive in, insert your credit card, pump your own gas, and drive away with a full tank never having made contact with a human soul. Customer loyalty has become a thing of the past in this industry. In those high touch days you were likely to go back to the same station time and time again because you had developed a relationship with the owner or attendant. Today you buy gas based mostly on price or brand. For the most part the human relationship is not a factor.

But that’s service stations and has no application to my business, you may be thinking. Are you sure?

Take real estate agents, insurance agents, and financial planners, for example. Has high tech come into their world? Of course. Want to know about a house for sale, call this number for a recorded description. Want a quote on your insurance, go online and get quotes sent to your email inbox within minutes. Wondering about retirement, check out our website for the best options for you.

What’s missing in these high tech solutions for your problems? The human touch. A relationship with someone you trust.

Building a relationship can be as simple as just staying in touch with your customers, clients or prospects. But how you do that is of critcal importance. Many real estate and insurance companies, for example, provide their agents with a means of staying in touch usually in the form of direct mail pieces or newsletters. They may even provide for including your picture and contact information. In most cases, they fall in the category of self-promotion.

Self-promotion is not an effective way to build relationships.

What beats self-promotion everytime? Appreciation.

Appreciation includes saying thank you, and remembering someone on a special day such as a birthday, anniversary, or a holiday. Again, it is important how you do this. It must have a personal touch. You make it personal by addressing them by their name (Hi Joe) and writing a personal note. Even better, include a picture that your recipient will appreciate. For example, if you know they like to fish, include a picture of a big catch and say, “I thought of you when I saw this.”

Do you see how doing this on a regular basis will build a relationship?

Yes, but it seems time consuming, you say?

I can show you how you can use a simple high tech system to send real greeting cards online that will allow you to include all the personal touch elements essential to building relationships with your customers, clients and prospects, as well as your family and friends. You will be able to send one, a few, or many cards from your computer using an online system with a built-in contact manager. A regular greeting card is less than a dollar plus postage. There will be no trips to the card store or post office and no stuffing, addressing, sealng or stamping of envelopes. All of that will be done for you.

Contact me for a demo or request a sample card.

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