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When your customers believe you truly like them….

Be warned.  This post is not about digital marketing.  In fact, it discourages most any form of ongoing customer or contact-worthy prospect follow-up that isn’t snail mailed.  Oops!  Now, hold on for a second.  I’m only here because, after Ralph Paglia and I got acquainted during a phone call about a composition question, and he found out what I’ve done for reps and dealerships for the past 20+ years, he thought it so “compelling” he insisted I tell you.  You know Ralph.  How could I say no?  Anyway, this is what I’ve learned in a lifetime of big ticket retailing.

They’ll return if they know, like and trust you
Imagine, for a moment, you could pick the reason why your next customer was coming in to see you.  Would you want them to be a “walk-in”?  Or, that they saw an ad on your website or in the newspaper?  Or, that they’re a hot lead from your BDC?  They all sound challenging, don’t they?  Thinking about it, wouldn’t you prefer they were your own previous customer, coming back to see you again, or as a second choice, their friend, whom your customer referred directly to you?

Every “starts fresh each month” career rep regrets they didn’t do better follow-up 
If selling a previous customer or their referral sounds like the easiest way to go, and you’d like to create more of those situations, read on.  If not, this post, as well as my first-ever website, a real nothing-held-back “How-to-do-it” guide about relationship-centered marketing (RCM), will only make your eyes glaze over.  That’s too bad, too, because you’ll be missing out on experienced direction about building stronger equity in your sales career, as well as making each month a little easier and more productive via continuously improving repeat and referral business.

When your follow-up is RCM, your customers will love what you tell them
Here’s a question to better illuminate RCM from a customer perspective.  What would you do if you had a friend, who, every time they contacted you they asked for “money”?  Now, say instead they seldom mentioned “money” and mostly talked about how much they admired you and valued your friendship.  Do you think you might respond better to the second scenario and be more inclined to hear them out when they did mention “money”?  That brings up another question.  If you don’t talk about “money” (e.g., big sale going on, need your trade, “now’s the time,” etc.), what should you talk about that would make you money?  You'll find the answer to that, and most every other question you’ll have about RCM, at archer-profit.com.

It’s educational, not entertaining  (Jim!  I’m a sales rep, not a website designer!)
As to our website, if you’re expecting lots of colorful type, framing and dancing logos, you’ll be disappointed.  It has illustrations, but only to reinforce the content.  To read the home page and its twelve related links, expect to spend about 35 to 45 minutes.  The upside is you’ll learn about a time-tested, easy-to-understand way to make your business more consistent, with bigger and better profit opportunities. (You’ll get that 35 to 45 minutes back the first time you’re busy selling a returning customer and miss going “toe to toe” with 4 or 5 other dealers to sell some Internet shopper who’s turned “chiseling the price” into an art form.)

Guaranteed to improve your image and make your follow-up more effective
Because of my appreciation you’ve read this far, and my admiration for the length of your attention span, I’ll cut this shorter than I’d like, and end with a few relevant, but unrelated thoughts.  When RCM is implemented, it will actually help all of your other customer and known-prospect marketing (e.g., AutoAlert, etc.) work better.  RCM’s delivery is by snail mail only, for a lot of reasons.  For “better profits,” keep RCM true to its principles.  (The website explains them.)  RCM enhances “Transaction control,” that “comfortable familiarity” that only happens when the buyer allows it because they know, like and trust the seller.  RCM systematically improves the seller/buyer relationships and, above all, helps retain those special people sharing a commonality in that they’ve all said “Yes” to you before, so you can ask them that question again.

Finally, if RCM sounds interesting, read the website, respond to me there, and we’ll work out something to get you started.  I know how well it works, and it would be gratifying to me if you did, too.

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Comment by Brian Bennington on July 8, 2013 at 5:26pm

David, What an excellent comment and question.  While I'm sure you know that ghostwriting is a common practice, let me explain the process in regards to the letters I write for reps.  The letters are called a MicroMarketing Program (MMP).  When I'm scheduled to write letters for a particular rep, I personally talk with them to see what they've been doing.  Recently, I did letters for a rep who told me that, for his family's vacation, he, his wife and their three young sons went sightseeing in SF.  After an intro asking about the customer's vehicle and what they had planned for vacation, I wrote the following based on what he told me.

"We are big fans of 'Man vs Food' on the Travel Channel and we ate at some of the restaurants they have featured.  It was a lot of fun, especially watching my sons (ages 12, 11, & 6) tackle a 5 lb. burrito.  It was really delicious, but even with my wife and I helping, it couldn't be finished."  (Honestly, do you think anyone would think that wasn't written by the rep?)

Everything I write is based on the rep interview.  Everything I write is proofed by two other people.  I'm sure you know proofing is a lost art on the Internet.  "The typo reigns supreme there."  (And, if I made a typo on a letter I was writing for you, you know how you'd react.)  Anyway, you wouldn't believe how often I hear, "Geez, that's exactly the way I would have said it."  But reps aren't paid to write, and really, it would be a terrible time consumer if they tried.  You know it would never get done.  By the way, have you ever given someone a greeting card saying something nice, and the only thing you did was sign it?  Were you sincere?  Of course you were.  My letters don't promote deceit.  I do what most reps can't, and back in '09, I surveyed every rep I was writing for and the responses were extremely gratifying.  (I have the surveys on file in my office.)

Believe me, however you might construe this, as soon as you read a set of letters (They require a set because you wouldn't want to suggest to a customer from six months ago they trade now.) I did for you, on custom designed color stationery, with your exact handwritten signature (not imprinted), you could hardly wait until they were in your customers' hands.

I will say that if you think typos, poorly written content, etc. makes a letter sincere, you might be on to something.  I long ago "agonized" over the morality of this, but recognized that I'm writing the thoughts and feelings of the rep, exclusively to make their customers feel better.

If you read my website (archer-profit.com), I encourage everyone to do it themselves.  See the "You and RCM" link.  It clearly states that.  We even offer to help.

David, Please understand I've been doing this so long (it's my only "love," other than my wife, family and animals) that I welcome any "inquisition."  (Just kidding!)

Really, you should consider having me do an MMP for you.  It would really show you how much more impact a snail mailed letter has than email or a telephone call.  (Again, I suggest you read my "Delivery" link.)

     

  

 

Comment by David Sharp on July 8, 2013 at 3:41pm

Brian,

I must admit, if I were to get a card in the mail, I'd open it.  The majority of my birthday and anniversary wishes are sent to me via Facebook though and through that medium, I hear from more people than I ever would waiting for cards in the mail. 

I do have a question for you.  If the relationship is truly to be sincere, should you be ghostwriting letters?  It seems like that might take some of the sincerity out of the picture.  Granted the people receiving them may not realize that they were not from the salesperson, but doesn't that promote deceit on the part of the salesperson?  Just my thoughts. 

We use scripted emails in our business, but most of the time the goal is to gain information pertaining to the sale, not as much for the relationship building aspect.  That may be good or bad.  To be honest, the more I think of what you are saying here, the more I think that emails written by the actual salesperson would be better.  

Brian, I am not trying to knock you in any way.  Obviously you have become very successful doing what you do and no one can deny that.  But when you state that you are relationship based (and going on the notion that a relationship should be built on sincerity and honesty), the ghostwriting would seem to completely destroy that on the end of the salesperson.  Maybe I am missing something here, in fact, I am fairly certain I am as that really doesn't fit with your main point of relationship building.  Straighten me out, my wife has been waiting for someone to do that for 21 years now!

Either way, I have to say that I feel as though I have gained something today simply by interacting with you on this forum and I am glad that you posted here. 

Have a great day!

Comment by Brian Bennington on July 8, 2013 at 12:44pm

Fellow sales reps,  Thank you for taking time to read my very 1st blog.  But, I couldn't be more serious about not using anything but snail mail for relationship-centered marketing (RCM).  While I'm no "spring chicken," I do understand the power of email & telephones in their immediacy in conducting business and information exchange.  When it comes to relationship-centered marketing (messages of admiration, respect and friendship-you know, the kind of messages meant, not for action, but for reflection-and often sharing them with family and friends), snail mail is dramatically more sincere.  The link indicated as "Delivery" at archer-profit.com thoroughly explains it.  As to using email and the telephone, I'm 100% in favorite of it, but only as an adjunct to snail mailed RCM.  See my "Selling" link at the same website.  Ideally, RCM "builds" your relationship, and reinforces those emails and phone calls needed when urgency, such as a selling event or anything that needs immediate attention, is required.  Honestly, ask yourself this (as I've asked lots of people, even youngsters).  What shows more sacrifice (e.g., sincerity, time invested, etc.)?  An emailed Birthday card or a snail mailed Birthday card?  And, David, when a card is mailed to you, I doubt you'd trash it until you were sure it wasn't an "invite" to a really good party.  Probably the most important thing is to make sure any cards or letters you send out are clever and related to your business.  I show samples on the website's "Planning" link.  Tom, I agree with you 100% about RCM creating loyalty.  My home page says exactly that.

We've designed 100s of specifically designed greeting cards for our clients.  But, "The rubber really meets the road" in letter content.  That's the real challenge.  I've ghostwritten 1000s of them, then we've merge-produced, hand-signed and mailed them.  Not "tooting" my own horn, but we've been told our letters are so convincing that even the "senders'" own mothers thought they were done by the "sender."

Having been asked, “Is it ever difficult?”, I remember writing about 9/11 right after it happened.  Knowing it was too vast a catastrophe not to mention, I wrote individual personalized-by-style letters for 17 reps that we then produced in quantity, all conceived to not offend anyone and to make the reps appear as sincere and sensitive as possible.  Did it work?  According to the reps I wrote for, their customers were much impressed and surprised at how "gently" the subject was handled.  (That kind of response is better than money!)

                    

Comment by David Sharp on July 8, 2013 at 7:12am

Well, I wanted to give my two-cents in here as well. I come a different background, I have only been in the car business since there were computers/cell phones/etc. Having said that, I still agree with you. People do buy from people they like and even more importantly, people buy AGAIN from people they like.

Relationship building is critical in any business, and yes, it is much better to have repeat and referrals than it is to have lot up's. I guess the only thing that I disagree with in your post is that you should ONLY use snail mail. Granted, I am in my early 40's but I find that most people my age (and younger) don't pay much attention to snail mail. In fact, if it isn't a bill, I generally trash it, period. So while I can see the value of snail mail in some circumstances, I don't know that it is the best way to reach your customers. I do like phone calls and texting though, even emails seem to perk my interest more than snail mail (email is how I found out about your post here). I think it is important to reach out to your customers, but if you aren't reaching them where they are, are you actually reaching them?

From your post above, I think that we are both on the same page, but mine is on a computer screen and yours in on a sheet of paper. It is the same process with different implementation. Great information Brian, thanks for sharing!

Comment by Tom Gorham on July 8, 2013 at 5:11am

Brian, I'm so glad Ralph convinced you to write this post.  As Bill Cosgrove stated below, I too started in this business pre-computer.  I love your approach to relationship building.  I AM going to read your entire website. 

One thing I noticed on your homepage was your assertion that RCM is not loyalty based marketing.  That's surely true if you think of so called "loyalty programs"  offered by manufacturers and dealers.  But I would submit that loyalty is created by the relationship centered marketing such as yours.

Thanks for a great post!

Comment by Bill Cosgrove on July 8, 2013 at 3:01am

Brian, being one that started in the business pre-computer, cell phones etc. Whether it’s a print ad, radio ad, mailer and now Digital Marketing these different forms of media provide the sizzle that gets the people in the door but the rest is what you do to form that personal relationship or bond that is going to win their business.

The fact is is that people buy people not all the sizzle. All the sizzle is fleeting and the person that bought from you bought because of you and staying in touch just reinforces and cements that relationship.

Follow up is reinforcement and cementing that bond of why they bought from you or are still thinking of buying from you.

When you do this kind of follow up even the ones who didn't buy from you or haven't made the decision yet are going to recommend you without being asked.

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