This is the second part of a series about online marketing. Read Part 1: Dealer How-To: Sosler’s Finds Success with Email Marketing

Eighty one percent of people search online first before making a transaction, says Andrea Kayal, Signpost’s vice president of marketing. Signpost is a customer relationship management and marketing automation software company.

Signpost, a customer relationship management and marketing automation software company, offers this list of top-performing retail offers across a variety of industries (based on claimed offers):

  • $5 off your first/next purchase of $25 or more
  • $15 off your purchase of $50 or more
  • Free gift with purchase over $100
  • 20% off your entire order
  • 10% off your first purchase
  • 15% off any product/item
  • Free movie tickets with purchase of $75 or more
  • 5% off when you register for our email list
  • Buy 2 items, get 1 free

That’s why Sosler’s Garden & Farm Equipment began working with Signpost to improve and expand its online marketing program as well as its dealership’s online reputation.

“As our customer base has become more diversified, we’ve had to find different ways to reach them. With small businesses, the question always is, ‘How do you get the word out?’” says Ray Sosler III. Sosler is part of the third generation in the family-owned dealership, which is celebrating 65 years in business. The dealership’s main brands include Massey Ferguson, Ferris, Snapper, Simplicity, Echo and Woods Equipment.

Acquiring and Retaining

Kayal says most marketing campaigns are based around either acquiring new customers or retaining existing ones. A first step is to have customer phone numbers and email addresses. If you don’t already have a good contact list, consider an in-store promotion. For instance, offer a 5% discount on certain purchases for those who provide an email or phone number.

Then, have a plan in place to market regularly to these customers or enlist a technology like Signpost to do the work for you. The recommended frequency varies. For instance, Sosler sends weekly campaigns and most of them include some kind of incentive.

Signpost’s marketing software does the work for their clients via their artificial intelligence they call “Mia.” Mia keeps in contact with customers, and tracks metrics, such as new offers, referrals, loyalty offers claimed and reviews posted. “Mia sends a weekly report to let them know how their campaigns are performing. Our customers can always ask Mia to send more or create their own campaigns,” Kayal says.

The Mia technology is evaluating metrics across the company’s entire database for all of its clients (30 million customers and 300 million data points), so it can suggest campaigns and incentives that are working. (See the sidebar, “Top Performing Retail Offers.”)

This email dashboard from Signpost’s marketing software helps its clients monitor the effectiveness of an email campaign. Click to see full-size image

Earning Online Reviews

In addition to encouraging customers to visit and buy, marketing programs should also seek out positive online reviews of a customer’s experience with a dealership. Kayal says Google uses those reviews to determine how it displays search engine results. Those companies who purchase Google AdWords advertising display at the top of a search list, followed by the “organic search results.” Organic results display because of their relevance to the keyword being searched.

“If someone is searching for a business, the local businesses with five-star reviews will show up higher in the results. Google displays them in a ‘local pack,’ with only three stores showing up first. Some of the factors in the ranking are the number of reviews a local store has and the ‘star rating’ given in the review,’” she says.

Sosler seeks out reviews in some of his campaigns. “One of the email blasts we did was to ask our existing customers to post a review on Google+, Yelp and Facebook. We had over 50 customers take the time to post positive online reviews for us,” he says.

Kayal says dealers should also include Facebook advertising in their marketing programs. “Facebook is investing a lot of money in their advertising programs, which is driving greater ROI, and they have a large, captive audience. They’ve also partnered with Instagram to expand their reach,” she says.

Kayal says dealers shouldn’t abandon traditional methods of advertising if they are having success with them. “Driving leads into your business is great, but you need a system in place to re-market to them after you get them in the door and email and text marketing can help you do that.”