Dealers, Service Managers, and Service Advisors who start planning now for aggressive promotions actually can grab big business late in the year.
FREE WINTER INSPECTION CAMPAIGN Start passing out a flyer to every visiting customer that offers, “Get your vehicle ready for winter with a free 32-point inspection!” Also, mount a massive full-database e-mail campaign and, budget permitting, advertise everywhere possible that you are offering the aforementioned deal. Make sure that your event applies to every vehicle that your customer owns, regardless of manufacturer. Notice that I am using the term “event.” That word conveys exactly the look and feel you want this promotion to exude. Schedule this promotion as a one-day event. The first Saturday of October is a great day to use. The entire day should be set up for nothing other than inspections. You may also choose to offer the free winter check-up over a two-week period or even throughout the month of October. Offer it for the one day and then extend it for the following few weeks, citing its “big success.” It’s just like when a Saturday vehicle sales event is held over for one more week because of “excessive demand.” This promotion works well if set up and executed properly. I have worked dozens of these, and the mindset of most customers is that they either already know their vehicle needs a winter inspection or they are not completely sure that it doesn’t.
HOLIDAY SPECIALS Create these holiday specials and announce them by no later than the first of November. Think outside the box here. For example, I know many people who have asked for or have given sets of tires as gifts. Maintenance services, chrome wheels, details and gift certificates are other popular dealership items I have seen given as gifts. Layaways are great benefits to offer customers as well. How successful your dealership is with holiday specials will be determined by how aggressively you promote them.
SHUTTLE SERVICES During the months of November and December, offer your customers “Christmas shopping shuttle rides” to the local mall and various other shopping centers. Two of the greatest challenges we all face during the holiday shopping crush are finding a parking space and negotiating traffic. Offering courtesy shuttle service to anyone who is willing to have his or her vehicle serviced can prove very attractive, especially on the weekends. Make it easy on your shuttle drivers by contacting the mall and shopping centers ahead of time, to let them know you will be bringing customers to their front doors but that you need a special drop-off /pick- up area. Contact various retailers and see if they wish to be part of a special holiday coupon package for your customers who will be taking advantage of your shuttle. I have often seen service advisors continue with this customer outreach even after the holidays as a result of its great success.
REJECT ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT 4Q There are a variety of additional steps your dealership can and should take to help build up a greater fourth-quarter book of business. The recommendations I have discussed here are only a few that can have an immediate and very measurable impact. You are entering the time of the year in which people in the automotive business historically have assumed (wrongly) that customers are reluctant to spend money on their vehicles. This is simply not true. Your customers still drive their vehicles in the late fall and early winter. They still need services and repairs. Dealers need to cast aside orthodoxy here and think about their customers’ true, everyday needs. After all, the fourth quarter is the one time of year when people actually plan to shop. They typically have more to spend – or at least are willing to spend more and more often – and they will spend with your dealership, provided that you give them a little direction and motivation. Customers really do understand the harsh wear that a cold winter can inflict upon their vehicles. The fourth quarter is unique. It is actually a season of opportunity. While you are enjoying your brats, baseball and beer this summer, be sure to plan to seize that opportunity.
“YOU ARE ENTERING THE TIME OF THE YEAR IN WHICH PEOPLE IN THE AUTOMOTIVE BUSINESS HISTORICALLY HAVE ASSUMED (WRONGLY) THAT CUSTOMERS ARE RELUCTANT TO SPEND MONEY ON THEIR VEHICLES. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE.”
– Jeff Cowan
About the author: Jeff Cowan, in his 29th year of training, is recognized as the creator of the modern-day, walk-around and selling processes for service departments. You can see him on a weekly broadcast of CBT News and read many of his published articles on various automotive publications. Currently partnered with NADA, EasyCare, NCM, Marellen, and other vendors and manufacturers, Jeff is the nation’s authority when it comes to training service advisors and service support staff. Visit his website at AutomotiveServiceTraining.com get info on On-Site Training, Public and Private Workshops, Webinars, and a FREE trial of Virtual Training! For more great tips and advice, follow Jeff on Twitter at @JCowansProTalk. He’s also on Facebook, and Google+. You can also watch Jeff Cowan’s videos on YouTube!