They Can't Get Any Closer

What do you spend in advertising to get a potential customer to listen to positive messages about your dealership or take a test drive in a new or used car? The numbers vary depending on the source, but all sources say the same thing. It's expensive! What would you be willing to spend to bring 20 to 50 customers each day to your dealership and capture their undivided attention for five minutes? Visit

What do you spend in advertising to get a potential customer to listen to positive messages about your dealership or take a test drive in a new or used car? The numbers vary depending on the source, but all sources say the same thing. It's expensive!

What would you be willing to spend to bring 20 to 50 customers each day to your dealership and capture their undivided attention for five minutes?

Visit your service department and look around. The best targets of your marketing efforts are sitting right under your nose in the waiting room. You would spend a lot of money to get that many people into your showroom.

I can hear the objections. “But they aren't buyers.” How do you know that? That waiting room is an overlooked asset. Most service clients who wait on the property are scheduled first thing in the morning. Take advantage of a full house.

Here are some ways to drive sales by marketing to your service customers.

Offer Test Drives of Cars

Each one of your service advisors greets 10 to 20 service customers a day. Do your service advisors offer free test drives of the new models? A comment such as “Have you seen the ‘08 model? It's has more room and drives like a dream! While you are waiting, why not test-drive one?” Something this small could result in a car sale or more per month. Worst case, you have a number of customers who only take test drives. Is this a bad thing? At the very least, the client leaves with a positive image of the store and the car. Your store may get first consideration when the time does come to purchase. Or what if they have a friend who is looking? Your dealership may earn the referral.

Sit down with your sales and service managers and develop a process. Have a salesperson ready to pull up the car if the customer is interested. No pressure. Let them just look and drive the car, and let the customer determine the next move after the test drive.

If you have a quick lube operation, this technique is ideal.

Work the Waiting Room

When I am in a dealership, I will go out into the customer waiting area, sit down and just listen. About 50% of the people in the waiting room are talking up a storm, and the other half is not speaking or even looking at each other. Rarely are any dealership employees there.

I am sure that you have many free giveaways in stock — coffee mugs, t-shirts and other stuff. So here's what you should do. Have your service manager go into the middle of the room and ask for everyone's attention. He will make fans out of them by just thanking them for their business.

Give out the gifts and shake each person's hand and thank them personally. People love the giveaways. It's an inexpensive way to create fans.

You also have their undivided attention for any other message. Add a few positive comments about doing business at your dealership, such as an announcement about your tire inventory or batteries, or even community-involvement projects. It doesn't have to be the service manager; maybe a technician, a service advisor or even the dealer makes the announcement and passes out the giveaways. Every morning, someone addresses the group. It's free and effective advertising.

A Few Other Ideas

Dealership sales people can serve as greeters on the service drive in the mornings. This has been used to mixed reviews in the past, maybe it can work for you.

When giving a service quote for major repairs, consider including a trade-in value or at least an appointment to provide an appraisal. You never know.

Our challenged industry needs to fight its way to improved profitability. These ideas should help. Let me know.

Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and [email protected]

Questions or comments about this column?
Send us an e-mail at
[email protected].

TAGS: Dealers Retail
Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish