There has been a lot of talk about CSI and Customer Retention in the Automotive industry over the last ten years. CSI is great for the factory, expensive for the dealer, but has totally improved the customer experience and our facilities. Customer retention, still in its infancy, has been great for the dealer and the customer. The next new horizon should be conquest marketing. Not how do I make my customer happy or how do I keep my customer from defecting? It is how do I grow my customer base without having to sell a vehicle?

I had a dealer say to me last month,” the factory said I have too many customers in my PMA who service at other places. I also have a problem with people buying and servicing their vehicles outside of my PMA. I need to keep them here.” At first, this looks like a case of poor advertising or a bad service department. Sometimes that is exactly what it is. Often, however you are not doing anything wrong, someone is just doing a better job of conquest marketing than you are.

It all comes down to what you are doing to attract people to your service department. Yes, we keep the people who have a factory warranty or a service contract. If we are really good, we even keep them after these expire. Ninety percent of our business comes from people we sell a vehicle to. What about the other seventy or eighty percent of the people in our PMA who never come to our store, how are we marketing to them?

Up until now it was probably too expensive to really market to our primary market area for anything other than a new or used vehicle customer. Now and then we might do some service coupons or a direct mailer. However, the bulk of the ad budget always went to vehicle buyers and rightfully so. There are many profit centers within the dealership that we could market if we just had the resources to do so. Well, some dealers are discovering that now they do.

Email marketing and face book post have become a very inexpensive way to get their message out. Start a membership club your customers can join to get great deals. Most people have no idea how many products we offer. Now is the time to let them know. There are thousands and thousands of customers in our market who have never purchased a vehicle or stopped by our dealership. Yet everyday these people are in the market to buy products we sell. Oil changes, batteries, tires to name a few. But let’s not stop there, how about ancillary products, like key fob replacement, roadside assistance, or even ding and dent removal. These are all ways to drive our business into new areas that can not only generate traffic but additional income.

It is time to take retention to the next level. Conquest marketing and customer retention can go hand and hand in the marketing strategy. Loyalty always starts with a great experience. Give them a reason to buy and a reason to stay. Take advantage of all of the tools at your disposal. Don’t just stop with face book and social media. Set up a shopper’s network on-line to let your customer see all of the products they can buy direct. It has never been easier or more cost effective to get your message heard.

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Jack Garrity

Vice President Sales BIO

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