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CRM Is Not Just for the Big Guys

Good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in many dealerships is a desirable objective, but it’s often a hard reality. I find many dealers think CRM is something for big corporations that can spend big bucks on it. But good CRM is adaptable to small businesses willing to make the effort.

CRM today is just a broad business term for programs used to manage relationships with customers. While CRM often refers to computerized programs for contact management, etc., I’m referring to all aspects of connecting a dealership with its customer, whether sales or service related. Interestingly, just as the computers have changed the buying behavior of customers, they have also changed CRM approaches and made them easier than ever. Logically, more CRM is being conducted today via the Internet than by old fashioned direct mail. 

Some confuse CRM with Customer Service. They’re not the same. Customer Service is action taken to meet the customer’s expectations. CRM is intended to maintain a connection. It can, and should, be done by all dealers and the easy and least costly way to do it is via e-mail. That’s what the big boys are doing.

For example, Procter & Gamble regularly sends its customers an e-newsletter called “Home Made Simple.” First, what a great title! It implies what every homemaker wants -- keep it easy. Second, the e-newsletter contains helpful tips to make things easier for the homemaker, using P & G products, of course. This concept can easily be adapted by a boat dealership -- “Boating at Its Best” or “More Boating Fun for You!”

Another example comes from Unilever with its newsletter “Dove Dimensions.” More than just soap, Dove now includes a full line of personal care products so there are lots of tips and ideas that can be included in the newsletter to help customers get more out of their Dove products.

Four points: (1) Because spam is out-of-control on the net, you must have your customers sign up for your e-newsletter. If they understand it will help them enjoy their boat more, they’ll happily sign up. (2) The content needs to be enlightening, it’s not a sales piece. Articles that make maintenance simple, talk about interesting places to go, list upcoming customer-only events, and present ideas to improve every day’s outing are what will keep the relationship you want. (3) All departments -- sales, service, parts, store, marina -- should contribute ideas to the content. (4) Personalize your online newsletter (a process referred to as mass customization.)

After all, you’re communicating with people you know and with whom you want an ongoing relationship. It is personal.

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