Your existing customers are your No. 1 asset

Publish Date: 
Mar 30, 2012
By Rod Stuckey

I recently stumbled upon an old story, told by Temple University founder, Russell Conwell. The story was about an old Persian farmer from the mid-1800s who heard countless tales of others earning millions of dollars mining for — and discovering — precious diamonds.

The old farmer was so enamored with the idea that he sold his own farm to go in search of these diamonds himself. As the story goes, he spent the rest of his life drifting around the known world searching for the gems, but was unsuccessful. Finally, exhausted and utterly disgusted, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

In the meantime, the man who had bought the farmer’s farm was crossing a small stream on the property and noticed a bright shiny object. Thinking it was a piece of crystal, he picked it up and took it back to the house, where he proudly displayed it on his mantle.

A few weeks later, a visitor was at the man’s house and noticed the stone on his mantle. He looked closely at the stone and nearly fainted, as it was one of the largest diamonds he’d ever seen.

When he told the farmer he’d just discovered one of the largest diamonds in the world, the farmer shared that the creek out back was full of these stones. Maybe not quite as big as the one on the mantle, but smaller, similar stones were sprinkled throughout.

The first farmer had owned this farm free and clear, but had sold it for next to nothing to search elsewhere for his fortune.

If only the first farmer had taken the time to study, prepare himself, and thoroughly explore the property he already owned before looking elsewhere. If he had done his research, all of his wildest dreams would have come true. Reading this story actually reminds me of a dealer’s customer database. I often refer to your customer list as the No. 1 asset your accountant forgot to tell you about. Or in this case, it may be more appropriate to refer to your customer database as your “Acres of Diamonds.”

Here’s why. The person most likely to give you money in the future is the person who’s already given you money in the past.

At a first glance you may not perceive your customer base as that valuable. However, upon closer examination, if you analyze the lifetime value of your customers and just how much that number is impacted by how well you nurture the relationship, you’ll discover extremely valuable gems.

We’ve all heard the common saying, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” Well, if that’s true, it’s only because that grass is receiving better care on the other side.

Too often I talk with dealers who are looking for the next bright shiny object in their advertising to create a breakthrough. Meanwhile, they’re not training their staff or consistently collecting key customer data such as names, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates so they can market to them in the future.

In fact, many dealers fail to realize that their customers actually expect to be marketed to. And if you don’t, they begin to get a feeling of apathy from you, — as if you don’t care about their business, which in turn makes them more receptive to offers from your potential competitors.

This is why I really believe in a consistent, evergreen dealer event marketing plan.

Holding events provides a great excuse to market to your existing customers by inviting them to your party, which makes them feel appreciated (even if they don’t attend). Events provide new information that your entire staff can share with prospects and customers, and new information leads to new buying decisions.

When properly executed, the hype leading up to a dealer event keeps energy high with the staff and customers, which in turn increases morale throughout the dealership. This positive mojo increases sales leading up to the event and impulse purchases during the event. But sales don’t just increase before and during the event. Events create residual sales in the following weeks.

I remember back when we held events at our dealerships. At first I expected every event to have record-breaking sales. Some did. Some did not. However, I noticed there was always a significant amount of sales in the following weeks that were directly related to the event that happened.

This proves that it’s not just about what you do or what number of customers attend on the day of the event, but that it’s all about planting seeds for future business.

I also found that the more events we had, the easier it became. The repetition of holding consistent events leads to systems, which leads to efficiency, which leads to less pain in promoting said events. You can keep successful event plans in place, and use them the next time around, too.

In sum, before you explore the entire world looking for new business, be sure you’ve explored what’s available in your own backyard. If you haven’t been consistently capturing your customer’s key data and inviting them to events at your dealership, you should start now.

The best time to plant an oak tree may have been 10 years ago, but the next best time is right now!