You know that making a sale isn’t the only time to be in touch with your customers. A dealership must remain in contact long after the last transaction is made. According to The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Daniel Kennedy, 68% of customers will not keep doing business with someone if the company does not maintain some level of interaction after the sale. This statistic alone should alert dealerships to the importance of creating and utilizing a customer database.

Starting is Easy

Most dealerships already collect basic customer information, such as names, phone numbers and addresses, as purchases are made, but that may be the extent of the information some dealerships gather. Other dealerships may maintain a more extensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to store additional information about current customers and prospects for targeted communications. If your dealership does not have a system to collect and manage customer information, creating one is easy. There are many tools that can be purchased to organize customer information, and if these tools are not an option for your dealership, then an Excel file can be a great place to start.

Maintaining a CRM database is much more than just keeping customer information on file, says Lisa Bocklage, director at Osborn Barr, an agriculture-focused full-service marketing agency. It also matters how you use this information to further connect with your customers after the initial transaction is complete. In addition to customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers, most successful businesses also keep other data, such as customer satisfaction comments and purchasing history. Bocklage says knowing this information and documenting it in an accessible way allows your dealership to target special offers and relevant messaging on a customer-to-customer basis. It also allows you to improve dealership service and products based on what your customers like and dislike, ensuring future business.

Manage Your Database

Creating and maintaining a successful CRM database is much more than just obtaining a program and filling it with customer information. Bocklage says to put the CRM strategy first and the CRM technology second. “You can have incredible CRM software that will build a beautiful database, but if you don’t have the team aligned on the goals of the program or the management team to support your efforts, then the initiative will go nowhere,” she says.

Bocklage says rural lifestyle dealerships can make the CRM system most effective by having employees ask customers and prospects the right questions. Without the employees’ commitment to finding out those relevant client insights, your CRM database will be nothing more than a collection of names. “You and your employees make up half of what it takes to boost sales, with the data and the database making up the other half,” says Bocklage.

Tailor Your Database

How will you ensure that your customers come back to you, time and time again, as their trusted dealer? Figure out what makes them “tick.” When your team gathers customer information face-to-face or you send out customer satisfaction surveys, make sure to request specific information, such as asking about hobbies, so you can spot untapped opportunities for future communications and sales.

Every dealership CRM experience should be different because businesses are different. Tailor the questions to the different aspects of your business, so you can enhance the next dealership visit. And, based on the client’s purchases and interests, you can send them relevant newsletters, maintenance tips, invitations to clinics and special offers.

Speak Up

Don’t be afraid to ask for business. Send your customers offers based on previous purchases and customer information that your team has gathered. For instance, if the customer mentioned they enjoy horses and this is captured in your CRM system, target them with clinics about equine-related supplies or equipment.

Customer information gathered in your CRM database will help your dealership design and craft messages and tailor your communication. This will make your customers feel like you know them. It also shows you are their trusted business partner for all their rural lifestyle equipment needs.

Kelsey McCracken is an account intern at Osborn Barr, an agriculture-focused full-service marketing agency. McCracken is a student at the Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis, majoring in media studies with an emphasis in advertising. She lives in St. Louis, Mo., but enjoys traveling south to visit her childhood home, which is situated on 50 acres in Washington County, Mo.