Marketing brains needed for aftersales

Creative thinking and how you promote a business are obviously key elements to long term success. Many companies are constantly promoting and marketing themselves in order that they never fall out of the nation’s consciousness, like for example GoCompare or Compare the Market.

Not only is their line of business highly competitive it is also very lucrative and because of the advertising overdose it is highly likely that most of us would use one of these companies when researching our next insurance purchase.

However if marketing spend pockets are not quite so deep companies will tend to use the resource more strategically and base a campaign around certain seasons of the year, or when buyers are traditionally looking for good deals on masse, like the New Year for example.

In this business there are often some good marketing ploys and special promotions with genuinely great offers and of course in franchised dealers these offers are becoming increasingly bolted on as standard with the car purchase. Therefore, in an effort to keep reminding potential customers that a particular car dealership or brand of car should be on their mind when considering their next purchase, we will often be bombarded with regular mail shots promoting the latest offers.

This can often though lead to overegging the pudding with the message becoming diluted as customers switch off because of the overkill.

In the car trade it seems there is not as much creativity as in other industries and the default position seems to be mail shot, winter sale, summer sale etc.

I was recently in a meeting where this topic was hot on the agenda and one of the ladies in the discussion produced something that she had been sent by her local restaurant which seemed simple but highly effective and could certainly work in our business.

I am always intrigued as to just why there are a lack of ideas on how to promote the aftersales aspect of the car business when we see the likes of Kwik Fit and Halfords working really hard to acquire a large slice of the aftersales pie. There’s no doubt that car dealers have been slow, or in some cases, reluctant to respond even though they may often be in a position to offer a better package at a better price. Anyway the idea the restaurant utilized would appear to me to be one which could help with creating many more opportunities.

The envelope was sealed but on the front it listed 3 offers; a free meal for two, a free bottle of wine or half price starters which all seems totally normal, however because the envelope is sealed the customer can only claim their offer once they have had their meal at the restaurant and had it verified by the manager. Simple and it may not be re-inventing the wheel but if you were thinking of going for a meal anyway it certainly may prompt you to consider this offer and at very low cost to the restaurant because the quid pro quo would be that the customer has already bought a meal.

In transferring this thinking to cars and aftersales it could be that you would get your next service FOC or 30% off all accessories next time your car is in for servicing or a free MOT for life and so on. The catch is that a customer has to buy before they receive and if the offers are tantalising enough for the customer to wonder what offer they may qualify for they may just consider that business over a competitor.

Certainly food for thought.

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4 Responses to Marketing brains needed for aftersales

  1. Ling Valentine November 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Generally speaking, you *WANT* to go to a restaurant and you enjoy it.

    Generally speaking you *DON’T WANT* to spend money getting your car serviced or MOT’d and most people hate it. Big difference. You don’t quite get the oooooh factor opening the envelope. It would be like opening a tax demand.

    Maybe best to concentrate on the negative, when designing the envelope…

    1) We’ll stiff you with a £150/hour charge and a trainee will do the work

    2) We’ll give you 5 extra MOT fail items *FREE*

    3) We’ll double the charge for the bottle of screenwash you didn’t actually need.

    Do you feel lucky punk? This is how to sell franchise dealer service, and it’s how most customers perceive it.

    Don’t get too depressed. :)


  2. David W. Williams November 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    I think you are living in the dark ages Ling. The competition for the distress purchase is now so great and there is so much choice out there that franchised dealers are actually doing a good job generally about reversing perceptions of the rip-off culture that existed years ago. I am not for one minute saying it’s perfect but it’s definately better and the alternative to having non-main dealer servicing on some makes of car will see them devalue alarmingly unless customers see that peace of mind main dealer stamp in the service book. We all know you love to bash the dealers but I think you’re a bit out of touch on this one.

  3. Ling Valentine November 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    David, the big problem I have is what my customers tell me.

    At any time, I have about 2500 customers with new cars on 2 or 3 year contracts, all in conversation with me as I gather mileage info and remind them a service may be due … and most of them ask about and would prefer non-franchised servicing. They see it as cheaper, more convenient, exactly the same quality if manufacturer standard parts are used, etc.

    They get very annoyed if I tell them they must use a main dealer, and it’s not just cost. They feel in general that it is far easier to use a local alternative who will usually be closer than a main dealer, they may have used before and be familiar with, and who usually has a much faster avalability slot. Why should they change from a trusted garage?

    Saying the value of the car may be affected is nonsense, because one of the reasons my customers choose to lease is to get away from the silly residual value games often played by dealers. It’s like breaking the block exemption safeguards by proxy – “if we can’t force them to use us, we’ll frighten them into using us”. My customers are not affected by residual value, even if it’s sometimes true (I think mainly on upper segment cars).

    I would love to offer my customers a good franchised servicing proposition, but in one voice every customer complains about the main dealer cost. I’m only reflecting what they tell me, don’t shoot the messenger.

    My main point above is that the marketing needs to sell a product (servicing) that the custoomer DOESN’T want, servicing is a pain in the ass to a customer, so marketing will have to be more inventive or pragmatic than the “surprise discount” envelope treatment.

    To suggest (as the article) that the customer may be delighted to get 30% off accessories, is daft, as if they choose to spend £1000 (yikes) on (lets face it) overpriced dealer accessories they would save 30% without blinking in Halfords, over the dealer prices, making the offer very spurious indeed.


  4. Peter Conway November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    As usual Ling you oversimplify and warp to fit your own agenda. Yawn and, while I’m at it, yawn.

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