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5 ‘Ship Tips For Building Serious Long Term Loyalty

So, you’ve won over the customer of your dreams. They are smart, easy going, funny…and you’ve already put their birthday in your calendar to remember to text them on their special day. But what if we told you that there’s only a 1 in 3 chance that they will be loyal to you when it comes to their NEXT car buying relationship?  💔 🥺 😭

I don’t know about you, but to me…that really hurts. Why does having a meaningful relationship with your customers have to be so hard? 

Building a loyal customer base, like any true relationship, can be tricky, and a ton of factors are at play here. When you’re only buying a car every 3-8 years, most people want to at least explore their options out there, especially if there’s been a change to their lifestyle during that time.

Think about it like this: Each time a shopper enters the market, it’s sort of like using a dating app — does this vehicle fit my standards? Does it come with all the features I need? Will it let me pick the Spotify playlist on a road trip? 

And while an in-market shopper might feel loyalty to their current vehicle model, make, or OEM — maintaining a connection with your dealership falls squarely on your shoulders. So how do you earn their loyalty and develop a long lasting relationship?

WATCH ON DEMAND

The first thing you can (and should) do is watch our recent webinar, How to Achieve Next Level Loyalty. Our team of experts will show you how you can build a retention marketing machine across channels to efficiently keep more of your own customers, and drive more reliable revenue.

But if you’re more of a reader than a watcher, keep reading for our best tips that’ll help you build serious relationships with your customers starting today.

THE LOYALTY EQUATION

We know how much effort you put into each and every deal from the first lead all the way up through delivery, so seeing only about a third of them come back is worse than a breakup. 

Now before you decide it’s a good idea to stand outside of your customer’s window in the rain holding up a boombox…let’s talk about what it really takes to create a loyal customer for life. 

When you look at the Loyalty Equation above, you’ll see that building a loyal customer base goes beyond just providing a great in-store customer experience on the showroom floor or in the service department. 

It’s the other half of that equation — your marketing and your brand communications — that allows you to actually strengthen the connections with your customers to keep them engaged with your brand. 

I’m just going to assume that your CSI scores for your dealership’s in-store sales and service experiences are top notch. Where I really want to focus is on how you can improve your marketing and communications with your customers in a way that’ll make them brag to their best friends about your relationship and scribble “Katie’s Kia” (in hearts, of course) on their notebooks.

‘SHIP-TIP #1: SEND A TEXT WHEN THEY NEED YOU

I know you might be old fashioned like me, and you like to actually use your phone to make…well…phone calls. It pains me to say this *sigh* but nobody will answer their phone anymore if they don’t know who’s calling. So instead of experiencing that rejection of leaving message after message on your customer’s voicemail and never getting a call back — engage them with a text message instead! 

Not only are you more likely to make that connection, but you’re actually communicating with your customers in a way that they wish more businesses would. You’re showing that you’re laid back and there to help them on their terms.

And I’m not just talking about following-up with new sales leads. At Dealer Inspire encouraging dealers to take a text-first communications approach with our solutions throughout their customer service.

Have a customer’s car in your service bay and you need to explain an issue that your tech found when performing a multi-point inspection? Text your customer a video to show them the issue, explain the fix, and break down how much it will cost to perform the repair (or how much you’d give them for it in trade value). Handling a touchy situation like this in a personal way is going to lead to more closed RO’s than a voicemail ever could.

Want to increase your lease retention? You can use Online Shopper to proactively connect with your previously sold customers who have soon-to-mature leases. Just text them a reminder with a “magic link” to instantly open their personalized digital garage, filled with a few upgrade options for their next vehicle. Check it out.

The long and short of it is that your text game has to be strong if you want to keep your customers engaged, happy, and only thinking about you when it comes to all of their vehicle needs. So embrace it, and use the tools you have at your disposal to nurture those customer relationships!

‘SHIP-TIP #2: SHARE YOUR FEELINGS (IN YOUR REVIEW RESPONSES)

I think by now we all know how important having fresh reviews are. We’ve even dedicated a most excellent webinar to the subject. While providing a review-worthy experience at your dealership is the foundation of any great relationship, that review won’t mean as much if you don’t take the time to respond to it. 

You see, when you respond to a review, you’re not only letting your customer know that their experience meant something to you too, but it also solidifies your connection for future appointments all while showing in-market shoppers the kind of customer service they can expect when choosing to work with your dealership.

And what you say in your review responses is super-important too, as 71%1 of shoppers are more likely to buy from a business who responds to their reviews.

And since your review responses are pretty much open love letters to your customers that everyone is going to see, you really should make your replies stand out. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Be Genuine: Be a human being with emotions, not a cold-hearted copy & paste robot. Address your customer by name. Write a thoughtful response, and show them that you care about their experience as much as they do.
  • Acknowledge Their Unique Experience: Every shopper’s journey is different. By writing a response that’s specific to to the reviewer, it will show the world what a great listener you are. And who doesn’t want to work with someone who listens?
  • Sign Off With Your Name & Title: A great tip for any relationship, be it business or personal, is to just be yourself! Always sign your reply with your own name and title so shoppers know that there are great people behind your brand that they can work with to buy their next vehicle.

Follow those simple tips, and you’ll be giving your future customers an early case of the butterflies that’ll push your dealership to the top of their list. 

That said, I know responding to each of your reviews across platforms for all of your dealerships is time consuming, but don’t all lasting relationships take time and effort? 

The good news is that unlike a personal relationship, there’s a tool you can use to ensure that all of your reviews are being responded to in a timely manner by real people. With AutoResponse™ from DelaerRater®, a team of real-life expert reputation management specialists will personally respond to every review for you to help you build your brand loyalty, show future shoppers your great customer service, and give you back valuable time to focus on the experience that generates your great reviews in the first place.

‘SHIP-TIP #3: STAY IN TOUCH THROUGHOUT THE OWNERSHIP LIFECYCLE

The best relationships are the ones where there is open and honest communication. If you’re only texting your customer when you need something from them (like their trade-in) or when there’s an open recall on their vehicle, then you’ll be in serious danger of your customer forgetting who you even are and all the special times you already had. 

It’s imperative that you’re not a stranger in the months and years between service visits and purchases. But if you over-text your customers, you’ll be at risk for being left on ‘delivered’ forever. So what’s a car dealer to do?

For those times when you need to stay in touch, you can use automated email drip campaigns that spring into action the day a vehicle is sold, allowing you to deliver personalized reminders and offers throughout the ownership cycle.

For example, let’s look at Doreen Green here. She just purchased a 2021 Ford Edge, and you want to make sure you’re able to predict her vehicular wants and needs throughout the ownership experience.

To do that, you’d create a series of emails that would be sent from your CRM are timed to specific events or milestones of her ownership experience. For example, here is what a 36 month drip campaign could look like: 

  • DAY 2: Thank You Email From The Owner
  • DAY 7: Review Reminder
  • DAY 30: Intro to Service
  • 6 MONTHS: 7,500 Mile Service
  • 12 MONTHS: 15,000 Mile Service
  • 22 MONTHS: Check Your Tires
  • 30 MONTHS: Replenish Your Fluids
  • 36 MONTHS: Trade-In Outreach

Now, you can go longer than 36 months. What you see above is just an idea to get you started. But you know what’s an even better idea??

We went ahead and created fully customizable drip campaign templates that you can download and tailor for use in your own CRM. Just fill in some blanks, tweak the copy to fit your dealership, and you’ll be getting your first drip campaigns set up in no time!

GET THE TEMPLATES

As you’re customizing these email templates, keep in mind that you want to personalize them for the customer. Don’t make them feel like they are just another customer in some CRM on some email list… Make them feel special! Valued! Like a VIP!!! 🤩

Your CRM probably lets you include a {{first_name}} variable in the subject line and email copy, so make sure you’re doing that for all of your outbound email campaigns to get a boost in your open and conversion rates. 

And lastly, you’ll want to create 1:1 conversation starters in your copy, and include clear CTA’s so your customers know exactly what to do next. The last thing you want to do is have your customer scratching their head wondering what your email was all about and then clicking that unsubscribe button because they just can’t take your awkward email blasts any more. 

‘SHIP-TIP #4: MEET YOUR CUSTOMERS WHERE THEY ARE ONLINE

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that only 36%2 of customers stay loyal to the dealership they bought their car from, and it’s only natural for shoppers to visit Cars.com to play the field and see what’s out there for their next ride, even if they are perfectly happy with their vehicle and you as their car dealer. 

Human nature aside, that doesn’t mean you have to stand passively by on the sidelines while your customer searches for their next vehicle. What if I told you that you could meet your customers both in the search results and in their social feeds when they’re in the market to buy or service a vehicle? And not in a creepy stalker way, but in a totally helpful way that makes them wonder how you always manage to be so thoughtful. 

By exporting a list of your sold customers from your CRM, you can power your loyalty based search engine and social advertising campaigns so that you’re there for them, even if they weren’t thinking of you at the moment. 

FUEL: Search & Display will automatically bid-up on searches made by past customers that illustrate high buying intent, and deliver a personalized ad.

For instance, you can create a list of customers who purchased a vehicle 4+ years ago from you, and use that data within a “Trade-In” Google Ad Campaign within FUEL: Search & Display  — our dynamic inventory advertising platform. Then, when one of those customers is using a low funnel search query “Honda Accord Trade-In”, FUEL will automatically bid up to win that number one ad spot in the SERP based on the high intent, low funnel, shopping keywords in their query along with the fact that your customer was identified as the searcher.

Again, the idea here is to ensure that you’re not losing out to your competition when your customer turns to search first instead of you. It’s this kind of technological magic that allows you to be present during your customer’s time of need — welcoming them with a warm message, and then reminding them why they chose you in the first place.

On the social side of things, using your first party data can also come in handy to help retain your customers with maturing leases. So you’d simply export that list of customers from your CRM who have a lease due to mature in the next 3-6 months, and include that audience in your social campaign.

As your customer is scrolling through their Facebook feed or flipping through their Instagram stories, BOOM, there you are! Your dealership makes a thumb-stopping appearance right there in their feed with a compelling offer tailored specifically to them! Before you know it, they’re back on your website and in shopping mode looking to get out of their current lease, and into a new one. Crazy (in a good way), right? 

‘SHIP-TIP #5: WELCOME THEM WHEN THEY COME TO YOUR HOME(PAGE)

Sometimes your customers will be away from you for months at a time, and that’s okay because absence makes the heart grow fonder, amiright? But nothing rekindles that old flame like greeting a VIP customer with a personalized message when they come back to visit your website.

One of the most powerful tools on the Dealer Inspire Web Platform is our Personalizer tool that lets you create user experiences based on a multitude of mix and match rules. Think back to when we talked about those email drip campaigns. It just so happens that one of the rules within Personalizer is UTM_Campaign.

So going back to your email drip campaigns, you can include a UTM code within all of those links in your emails, and when your customer clicks through from an email to your website, Personalizer will recognize that UTM Code, and welcome them with a message like, “Thank You For Being One of Our Best Customers!”. Or better yet — show them that Exclusive VIP offer you just uploaded for an oil change and tire rotation. Doesn’t that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside?!

Aside from welcoming your returning customers with open arms, you can also adapt your website messaging to show what a shopper’s future ownership experience could look like if they choose to begin a relationship with you.

Setting the expectation for ownership through homepage sliders, VRP banners, special loyalty incentives, and even a landing page dedicated to winning over customers with what it means to be a VIP at your dealership now and forever is the perfect way to begin winning their affection. 

Everyone wishes they knew someone in the car industry to make it easier, and faster. You have the opportunity to BE that person. Express it on your website to show your customer that you’ll treat them like your personal referral each and every time. 

When your retention marketing is strong, the bond between your dealership and your customer goes beyond the delivery by giving them that “new car happy” feeling long after they’ve driven off the lot. 

GET THE RELATIONSHIP COACHING YOU NEED

At Dealer Inspire we strive to provide you with the tools and support you need to build long lasting connections with your customers. We’re even available to help you think strategically about your dealership’s loyalty building and retention marketing efforts. We’re just a thumb tap away from chatting about how we can work together so you can keep more of your own customers. Talk to you soon!

LET’S TALK!

1Brightlocal Local Consumer Survey, December 2019
2IHS Markit Trends in Dealer Loyalty Study, May 2021


Katie Simon
High School English Teacher, turned Corporate Sales Trainer, turned Digital Strategist- Katie Simon has always had a thirst for knowledge and SHARING it with the world. Dealer Inspire's Brand Content Manager, Katie strives to provide up to the minute insights, strategies, and education to the organization as well as to the automotive community at large. As Dealer Inspire’s (self-proclaimed) Mascot, Katie knows the ins-and-outs of the DI ecosystem, and she reallllly loves talking about it. Like... REALLY REALLY.

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