Despite best efforts and best practices by dealers and manufacturers, many car buyers and service customers remain vulnerable to defection.

Rather than viewing these odds as a glass half empty, try viewing it as a glass half full. Your dealership will inevitably lose some customers, but so will the other dealerships in your area, which means that dealers with the most effective customer conquest strategies stand to gain the most in market share over time.

Your dealership and your market are unique, and so must be your campaign. The key is in the messaging, but to create a message that attracts new customers requires more than just brainstorming. It requires data, knowledge and a multi-channel approach.

Advantages of Data Collection

Fortunately, thanks to recent advances in data collection technology, it’s possible to identify local in-market shoppers and potential service customers, track their behavior online and obtain accurate contact information.

Up to 500 data points can be cross-referenced to create highly targeted prospect lists. The definition of a conquest is someone who has never been into your dealership before, so the names and contact information on your conquest list should be cross-referenced against your DMS/CRM to ensure you won’t be sending conquest offers to current or past customers.

Using targeted conquest lists provides a much higher response rate and return on investment (ROI) than traditional mass-market campaigns.

For example, let’s say you’d like to do a conquest campaign advertising a zero down financing promotion. Data points such as income criteria and past lease and loan information can be used to target in-market buyers who are likely to find that offer attractive.

Do you want to boost your service department revenue? Data such as vehicle type and age can be used to target new service customers in your area. The more accurate the data is, the more relevant your messaging will be.

Once you have your prospect lists, it’s time to create your messages.

Sales Conquests

To win a new sales customer, it’s not enough to send out a message advertising a blowout sale. Why would a customer drive to your dealership instead of your competitors, if you all have the same product and are offering the same manufacturer’s incentive?

The most compelling messages solve a problem, fill a need and address customer fears. So you’ll need to know what your customers’ biggest problems are.

In my experience, very few people are price buyers. Most people are payment buyers, so messages emphasizing low payments can be an effective technique.

Another thing that many buyers are concerned about is getting a good trade-in price for their current vehicle. A message about how your dealership offers fair-market values for vehicles can help to boost response rates.

However, you know your market best. Research and ask your salespeople what the most common customer objections are and define the best way to overcome those objections. Include these messages in your campaigns.

Since more than 50 percent of customers defect to a different brand when they buy a new vehicle, it’s also helpful to include your brand’s unique value proposition somewhere in your campaign.

Service Conquests

Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception among consumers that bringing their vehicles into dealerships to be serviced is inconvenient. This perception needs to be addressed in your service messaging campaigns.

I have found that offers for basic maintenance work are most effective at attracting new customers. Try sending offers for oil changes or batteries that are price competitive with local independent repair shops.

The goal of course is to get these customers in, wow them with a great customer experience and hope you can retain them as future customers.

It’s also helpful to include several offers in the same campaign. Many people don’t even think of their local dealership when it comes to certain types of services such as new tires or windshield wipers.

With service campaigns, it’s always a good idea to include messaging about manufacturer-recommended maintenance. Only 60 percent of vehicle owners take care of recommended maintenance items on a regular basis, so a reminder of the safety risks associated with poor maintenance can be effective.

Lastly, promote the benefits of using your dealership for service, including factory certified technicians and OEM parts.

If you want to save money, try combining sales and service conquest campaigns. Combined campaigns are just as effective as separate campaigns.

The channels most recommended for conquest campaigns include email, direct mail, digital advertising and phone. A multi-channel approach can deliver response rates 40 to 50 percent higher than a single channel alone.

Finally, remember that while customer conquest campaigns are all about winning new business, what you are really trying to win are hearts and minds. No matter how great your customer conquest campaigns are, if your customer experience is lousy, your new business will be short-lived.

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