From the laptop to the forecourt – getting customers into your showroom

10/20/2014 2:25:49 pm

Today’s customers have a wealth of information at their fingertips and online purchasing has never been easier. Great for the customer, but we know the most valuable point of any sales interaction takes place face-to-face, with you, on the forecourt.

 With so much internet browsing taking place these days, how can you drive your customers from their laptop to your forecourt?

From the laptop to the forecourt - getting customers into your showroom

In the 21st century, it’s incredibly easy to live our lives behind the computer screen. However, we know that when we interact with a customer face-to-face we’re able to understand exactly what they want and find them the best solution. Not only do we get that warm fuzzy feeling (you know the one), but the customer leaves happy and is more likely to return to your forecourt for a service or the next time they’re looking to change their vehicle.

It’s all about the personalised service you provide: people buy from people. Face-to-face interactions enable you to get this spot on by asking questions, reading body language and understanding tone of voice.

So how do we help you to drive customers onto your website and then onto your forecourt in the first place? We have some ideas and a few tips.

 Know your customers

Are you tracking your customers’ preferences?

Through understanding what they like, and don’t like, a clever marketer can tailor any material – resulting in high hit rates. All you need is preparation, patience and a great database…

… which all starts with data collection. As automotive dealers, you are already one-step ahead of many other businesses – you have a wealth of customer information on dealer management, showroom and aftersales systems. This information can be analysed to tell you whether a customer is planning on replacing or retaining their vehicle, whether they are due a service or MOT, if they change their tyres for winter (we all know we should!) and much more. In turn, this information will inform the basis and frequency of your marketing communications.


Keep it legal

Ensure the data you are using to contact people has been collected correctly, and with permissions and consents that comply with data protection regulation. Always bear in mind that behind the data is a real person, so even if you have obtained your customers’ data by legal means, they can still become disgruntled if they feel their details are not being used in their best interest. Personalising communications and precise targeting are the first steps towards gaining your customers’ trust.


Don’t be cheap

Direct mail is the first step in enticing customers onto your website. Personalised direct mail ticks the first box, so ensure that all communications are personalised to each and every customer. Make them feel loved and make them feel wanted. People are far more likely to open a piece of mail addressed with their name, than ‘To the occupier’.

If you’re talking to a large audience, it can be tempting to scrimp on paper stock, however it’s worth keeping in mind that if your mail looks like junk, it will probably be regarded as junk – and put straight in the bin.

Invest in good quality paper and envelopes – you could even experiment with unusual shapes, colours and sizes of mailings – anything that catches their eye.

It is worth putting some time and effort into making a great first impression with a well-thought out DM, as this interaction could lead to a future sale.


 Get Personal

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found 42% of direct mail recipients prefer to respond online. So how can you integrate a direct mail piece with online personalised content?

Personalised URLs, or PURLs, are the answer and a godsend for direct marketers. They allow you to present a personalised landing page to your customer containing material specifically tailored for them.

Include details of your customer’s PURL (it might look something like this: ‘summercardeals/’) in direct mail communications and use intriguing language to tempt them to find out more. By enticing them to a personalised landing page you have already grabbed their attention and are on the right road to encouraging them to your forecourt.


Target for success

Personalisation doesn’t have to stop at your customers’ name. You already have a lot of information on file for your customer regarding their last purchase, such as address, email and when their lease is up for renewal, so why not ask for other information which could be a very useful conversation starter down the line?

For example, you could ask about their favourite car colour, if they prefer a three door or five door vehicle and what their budget is.

With questions such as these, you’re already starting to develop a pretty thorough overview of your customer, which can help you target messaging to their specific needs.

All this information can be added to a customer’s PURL to tailor their experience. It shows that you understand what they want and, more importantly, have exactly the right vehicle for them. This is the start of an interaction that can ultimately end up with customers in your showroom eager to see what you can offer in real life.



So now that you’ve got your customer’s attention online, how can you really get them on the road to your forecourt?

Hold an event! Events can come in many shapes and sizes, so use information gleaned from your database to gear these towards specific customer groups, and you can then use their PURL to excite them about what you have on offer.

If it’s the launch of a new model, you could feature a video of the car in action; if it’s a family fun day, you could show images of a previously successful event. The possibilities are far greater than those that direct mail alone can offer.

With careful targeting and tailored content, using direct mail and PURLS you are showing customers that you really care about them and that their business is important to you. These are the first steps on the road to sales success.

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