One of the huge problems for dealerships right now is engaging customers in interesting ways. Everyone is trying to do the social media blitz, the ad campaign or the big event. The result, I’m told, is that dealers are spending between $500 and $1,000 in marketing dollars per new motorcycle retailed. Even if that number is off by 30 percent, yikes!

When I started, it was: $0.

If everyone is turning left, why don’t you turn right?

Here’s what I mean: We do a lot of talking about how this is a relationship business, but we do very little to prove relationships are important. (If I hear one more brand person talking about forging customer relationships with chatbots, I might just lose my mind.)

As my favorite founding father, Ben Franklin, once commented, “Well done is better than well said.”

The challenge here is that salespeople don’t really interact with their customers, or their prospective customers, as much as they should. Your business development center does the outbounds, perhaps your third-party Cayman Islands-based follow-up company does the check-in calls. And salespeople engage with whomever happens to wander into the dealership.

Where is the relationship?

The other challenge is that when your salespeople do reach out to your customer base, it’s either to invite them to an event (you know, the one you’ve done dozens of times before) or to see if they’re ready to trade and buy (Hi Steve, my name is Mark and I work at the Harley store. You don’t know me from Adam, because I’ve only worked here 15 minutes, but would you like to trade your motorcycle and buy a new, more expensive one from me?)

I can’t imagine why we’re not having more success.

Business is done when two people engage in a trusting relationship, and when each know they have the others’ best interests at heart. Those sorts of relationships can only be forged through conversations. Those conversations can happen in any manner technology allows, but they must be conversations.

The challenge is far after “Wanna come to our chili cook off?” or “Wanna trade your bike a get a new one?” We seem to be out of ideas for reasons to engage our customers.

Fortunately, I’ve Got Solutions

The first idea you want to wrap your head around is having as many meaningful conversations with customers, or prospective customers, as possible in a given day. You should think of yourself as running for political office and trying to get the word out about great things that are happening at the dealership.

To initiate that type of conversation, you are either disseminating information or seeking information. It’s that simple.

Let’s start with information out. At your dealership you might have a new:

• Person on board
• Motorcycle that has just been delivered
• Piece of riding gear that recently arrived
• Performance part that has been released
• Touring accessories in stock
• An antique bike added to the collection
• Product promotion
• Finance promotion
• Price promotion
• Event
• Consumer friendly policy change

Contact as many people as possible regarding this news, via either a phone call, email, text message, Facebook message, Snapchat or any other method you think will work. For example, let’s say you created a new virtual business card.

Here’s what your message could be: “I’m reaching out to let you know I’ve created what I call my virtual business card. I want to share it with you so you can contact me more easily whenever you’d like.”

You can take the same approach with messages about new hires, new products or inventory updates. A friend of mine buys a particular music magazine each month from a local record store (yes, record stores still exist), and one of the clerks sends him a Facebook message when the new issue arrives in the store. How cool is that?

You can see where I’m headed with this. Now armed with this reason to talk, you discover what’s going on in your customers’ lives, as well as maybe what’s happening in their circle of friends. This is how you discover opportunities. By getting out of the walls of your dealership (both virtually and in reality), you’ll find yourself  interacting with buyers in a whole new way.

Next time, I’ll cover the information-in side of this equation.

Photo via Gratisography