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There is so much competition from other marketers -- customers are constantly barraged with messages from every side and in every way.
Social media reach has decreased, digital marketing is ever more challenging and direct mail sometimes goes straight into the trash. This leaves some dealerships pulling their hair out due to the lack of response from their customers and prospects.
However, dealers that think outside-the-box a little bit have had great success engaging with their customers. The key is to really interact with your customers and provide something they want that is not just a pure sales message.
In 2011, Howdy Honda set its eyes on Facebook and ran a contest requesting holiday cookie recipes from its fans in exchange for bonus service reward points. The contest’s goal was to engage their customer base while driving incremental service traffic through bonus service reward points. The contest was run for two weeks at the end of November and saw 48 recipe submissions. They then took these recipes and created an e-book which was downloaded over 900 times. Due to the response they received, they repeated the contest in 2012 with the same format and ended up increasing engagement with 68 submitted recipes and an e-book which was downloaded 1,728 times.
That’s incredible branding and engagement! Howdy Honda then further upped the ante and asked participants to add a story concerning the origin of the recipe, along with a sentence or two about the customer’s experience as a Honda owner. Then, in 2014, they added seasonal service coupons and a discount for submitting a recipe and further engaged the customers by allowing them to vote for the best recipe, with the prize being a $250 Howdy Honda branded gift card.122 recipe submissions were received and over 1,000 customer voted online. This time, rather than an e-book, they printed softcover recipe books and handed them out as gifts in the service drive. This, now traditional, contest was a winning success for Howdy Honda. It engaged their customers and promoted their brand.
In an attempt to transform things away from a strictly seasonal promotion, the dealership added a summer picnic grilling recipe book along with the same contest, voting and prize for the winners. This year, they’ve also added a design contest for a new Howdy Honda tote bag.
Howdy Honda set out to do what every great marketing strategy desires – to engage its customers and market to them in a way that, well, doesn’t feel like marketing. Part of their success is their loyalty program and their membership base since adopting their loyalty program in 2008 – which is a little over 63,000 members -- and they are adding an additional 400+ each month due to the success of their promotion. This is a fantastic way to engage a captive membership base.
Every year the dealership has run these promotions it has increased customer engagement. The trick in implementing any contest or promotion is to make it engaging and one that fits your demographic. In addition, as with any branding play, ensure that you are consistent with any deployment. Howdy Honda customers look forward to these engagements as is evident in the increased engagement year after year. You may not see massive viral success in your first attempt. But, remember, with a consistent and committed strategy, you too can win the war for your customer’s attention. And that, my friends, is the recipe for success.