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Giving things away can go a long way

We’re in business to sell things. I get that. But giving things away can be an important part of a good marketing plan for every marine dealer.

Giving away stuff is one of several routes to building customer loyalty. At first blush, this method might be denounced by some. But the truth is giving now can come back in a big way later.

We’re not talking about “giving away the store” here. Rather, only some very targeted and reasonable ways of going gratis with meaning. Here are some suggestions:

Surprise a customer: For sure, every dealer has some great customers and a random act of thoughtfulness will go a long way in confirming for them how you value their relationship. It doesn’t have to be major. A little creativity can go a long way. A simple note saying “We genuinely appreciate your business with us so we’d like to (change your oil or give you a restaurant gift card or here’s a gift, etc.) just to simply say thanks.”

Always make amends for messing up: No organization is perfect all the time. Let’s face it: stuff happens. When it does, after immediately doing whatever is necessary to correct the failure, mitigating the customer’s disappointment should be the priority. A positive gesture can make a big difference in future customer loyalty. Try this: “Yes, we goofed and we are genuinely sorry. We’re fixing the problem right away and we will be sending you (a gift or a discount coupon or a free service, etc.) as our sincere way to make up for any trouble we’ve caused you.”

Never stop saying thank you: Moreover, reaping customer loyalty can be enhanced by a simple gift that shows personal appreciation. When I was growing up, my dad purchased our Matthews cruisers from Higgs Marine. With each boat, Mrs. Higgs placed in the cabin a special thank-you gift selected just for us (I still recall a lamp one time, a glass sculptures another and towels with the boat name.) That personal demonstration of their thanks for our business garnered my dad’s loyalty three times over. Saying thanks in some tangible way is powerful.

Keep in touch using contests and prizes: Giving away some merchandise or some service is a sure bet to staying engaged with customers. And engagement is always the strongest path to customer loyalty. After all, everyone likes to win things. Using your customer (and prospects) email list — or your Facebook page or other social media — hold a monthly contest with some prizes that will keep the dealership in front of the customers. This is especially important in the offseason.

Bottom line: A plan to give things away, in a thoughtful and calculated way, can produce loyal customers and repeat business.

Wanna talk more about customer loyalty? Please join me at IBEX (Oct. 2-4) in Louisville when I team up with one of the industry’s most successful dealers, Larry Russo (Russo Marine in Medford, Mass.) to present an seminar for dealers on “Building Customer Loyalty.” We promise a high-energy session that will arm you with all the elements you need to create and maintain an effective customer loyalty program. Info and registration are at www.ibexshow.com.

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