A tool for engaging customers and prospects

Source: Outdoor Power Equipment

By: Bob McCann

Last month, I discussed how marketing automation solutions can help you stay in touch with customers and prospects. An important feature of marketing automation is the creation and sending of emails. This month, I’ll share with you ways that you can easily and cost-effectively stay in touch with customers and prospects to drive more sales.

Setting goals

Most dealers want to set a goal for increased sales when they start an email campaign, which is a smart idea. An email campaign provides opportunities for upselling, cross selling, and gaining new sales in the future. Not only that, it also provides an easy and inexpensive method of communicating with large groups. When a dealership implements a calculated email strategy, the larger goals would be to boost sales, reduce costs, cultivate relationships, increase customer satisfaction, as well as improve customerretention, nurture leads into customers, and increase the likelihood of capturing lifetime loyal customers.

As long as your message is relevant, and provides valuable information, you can send around 16 messages per year. Sixteen different email messages might seem like a daunting task, but with a little planning, you can easily achieve that level of relationship-building communication with your prospects and customers.

With a focused plan that combines action-triggered emails, product and service promotions, and educational features, you can turn one-off emails into integrated campaigns that engage your customers and prospects to help you sell more stuff.

Start with automated, action-triggered emails

A customer’s or prospect’s action should be used to “trigger” automated emails. Trigger emails can include your response to a request for information, thank you for your business following a sale, addition to your newsletter mailing list, customer feedback requests, and even reminders of abandoned carts. Some examples of action-triggered emails include:

* Thank you for your business. As I tell all of the dealers I speak with, the sale is just the beginning of your relationship. Thank you emails give you an exceptional opportunity to convince customers to stay in touch with your dealership. As applicable, your thank you should include order details, email opt-in confirmation, along with a clear call-to-action, to encourage customers to stay connected with you. A great way to do that is by including a discount coupon or code to be used on a future purchase or seasonal service. Caution: Do not use this email to hard sell.

* Request for feedback. Leverage the power of email to ask for post-purchase feedback. The time you send this email is important. Too early, the customer might not have used the product. Too late, they’re not thinking about your product anymore. Ideally, you should send a feedback email approximately five to seven days after a purchase is made. Feedback emails are a good way for you to learn about areas where you could improve your processes. They’re also a great way to reaffirm customer confidence in your dealership and their purchase decision, making it more likely that they’ll purchase from you down the road.

* Newsletter. These emails are primarily focused on educating customers and prospects about how to get the most out of the equipment they own -- or want to own. They often include tips on getting equipment ready for spring or winter. They can also cover topics related to your products -- tips for controlling crabgrass, and trimming bushes -- or just enjoying the fruits of their labor. Educated customers and prospects are more loyal and buy more often. Teaching people provides long-term value.

Sprinkle in product, service, sales and promotional emails

* Product and service. Showcase your products and services by introducing new seasonal items or providing more information about current products and services. This is a great way to stay in touch with consumers who have shown an interest in a particular brand or model or service. It’s also a great way to get a current customer excited about a new model. When offering service specials, make sure you include information on your service team and their experience and expertise.

* Sales and promotional offers. People respond well to promotional emails because of the time sensitivity and the opportunity to save money or participate in an event. To get the most out of this email, make sure these emails are relevant to the customer/prospect. If the customer just purchased a lawn mower from you, don’t send them an email with a sale on lawn mowers!

Build a strategic year-long email campaign and capture lifetime loyal customers

There will be some crossover with these emails. You might have promotional offers in your monthly newsletters. You might add product or service information to a welcome or thank you email. However they overlap, you should consider using an “editorial calendar” to keep track of monthly topics of focus for your email campaigns. Depending on your target market, you may want to have two versions: one for consumers and one for commercial landscapers.

Creating an editorial calendar will help keep your monthly topics in order and integrate all of your emails into a cohesive communication strategy. The following calendar is only meant to give you a jumpstart. You will need to customize the plan to fit your target market and location. Consider the following topics:

May: Happy Mother’s Day! Let everyone know what tools they should buy mom for planting a garden or flowers. Tip of the month: Offer tips on planting gardens or flowers.

June: Happy Father’s Day! Let everyone knowwhat should be on dad’s outdoor power equipment wish list and reduce the number of unwanted ties! Tip of the month: Landscaping basics including safety when working on lawn and garden projects. Promote string trimmers.

July: Sit back and enjoy. Tip of the month: Grilling do’s and don’ts.

August: End-of-summer seasonal closeouts. Tip of the month: How to choose the lawn mower or snow blower that’s right for you.

September: Introduce fall products. Tip of the month: How and where to dispose of yard waste.

October: Set the stage for the end of fall. Tip of the month: How to winterize your lawn and garden equipment. Feature specials on equipment storage, parts for Do-It-Yourselfers.

November: Promote snow products. Tip of the month: Provide DIYers with basic snow blower maintenance do’s and don’ts. Promote pre-season service specials on snow blowers.

December: Happy Holidays! Tip of the month: Ergonomic way to shovel snow. (Yes, there are still folks who shovel.) Promote snow blowers, as well as holiday gifts, including gift cards.

January: Happy New Year! Thank you for your business. Tip of the month: Setting New Year’s goals for your lawn and garden. Promote products that make those goals easier.

February: Offer specials on end-of-season service on snow blowers and pre-season service on lawn mowers.

March: Pre-season Get Ready for Spring. Tip of the month: How to control crabgrass and other annual weeds.

April: Hard to believe, but a year has come and gone and Spring is Here! Focus on new products available to make this summer easy. Tip of the month: Cover how to prune trees and bushes.

If you don’t know what topic to cover in a given month, just ask your customers. What kind of information do they want to receive? What topics would they like you to cover? Or, better yet, encourage customers and prospects to submit helpful tips for a chance to win a gift card!

The current marketplace abounds with available solutions for sending routine, monthly emails, as well as for sending automated trigger emails when a customer takes a specific action. In fact, your business management system, or another solution you currently use, might include the tools you need to get started.


Bob McCann, a 20-year sales education veteran, is the author of the nationally recognized e-business sales method known as TIPS (Traffic, Interactive Website, Process, Sales). As Director of Education at ARI, McCann has developed proven e-business sales processes to support the company’s growing list of dealer and manufacturer clients in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, automotive tire & wheel, marine and RV industries. McCann can be reached at (877) 806-2150 or mccann@arinet.com.

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