Dealership Referral Programs, a Twist on the Old School Birddog Programs

With all the flashy ads, and elaborate marketing campaigns being overused, word-of-mouth advertising is still the best way to drive business. People trust the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or even an online review. People will trust almost anybody over a faceless company and will recommend a service or product that they had a great experience with, it’s human nature.
While traditional referrals or birddogs are thought to benefit only the Sales Department, what about your other Departments? Would your Parts Wholesale Customers recommend you to other businesses that you could use your service? What about Service or Body Shop Customers? Your Customers have their own concerns and none of them have anything to do with helping to Car Sales Online grow your business. But assuming that you’ve done good work and the Customers are satisfied with their experiences at your Dealership, it’s not that they don’t want to help you out; it’s that it never enters their minds…unless you ask them. Asking Customers can be easy IF you have a consistent Customer referral process at your Dealership for all Departments.
Start with Vehicle Sales; you may already have a birddog program in place, but is it working? Consider creating an online program on your website or signing up for one to tap into the Internet to generate referrals. Referrers, who don’t have to be your Customer, can be signed up at the Dealership or in the community — at malls, state fairs and other events. They receive a user name and password that allows them to log on and send referrals directly to the Dealership.
To get results from your referral program, know if your Employees understand how your referral system works and if they are asking for referrals? Consider Employee training or team meetings to make sure the referral process you already have in place is being properly used. Once you’ve defined how the referral system will work, determine how much quality referrals will be worth to you. $50? $100? $250? for vehicle sales, with a scale for increased recommendations? For Wholesale Parts Customers consider a $25 gift card. When any of the referrals choose to do business with you, again reward your Referring Customer’s kindness with additional gifts cards based on the new Customer’s first order. For Body Shop Customers it could be a free complete detail or a gift card. For Service Customers, a discount on their next service or even a free oil change. Make it a win-win situation for you and your Customers. If you have a rewards point system, add points for referrals. Make it easy for your Customer to suggest potential Customers.
If you aren’t using the Internet, create a carefully designed form to make it easy to gather the needed information to make an initial contact. Educate your Customers about whom they should be talking to by including “memory joggers,” for example: hair dresser, dry cleaner, neighbor, golfing partners, community groups, church members, etc. Assure your Customers that you will treat their referrals with respect, and then ensure that this is exactly what happens!Another option for your referral program is to have cards printed with a place for the Customers to add their name and for the Sales Person to add his or her names. This makes it easy for your Customers to recommend your Dealership.
The same is applicable for your Service Customers; create a Friends and Family Coupon to make it easy for your Customers to be ambassadors for your Service Department. Your Dealership can take this simple idea and implement it on your own website or social media site (Facebook, Twitter). Have your webmaster create a page on your website introducing your new birddog program. Give specific directions on how the program works (new Customer, notify at the beginning of the deal, etc.) and create an easy to use form for the Customer to fill out their personal information, along with the referral name and information. When people are happy with their purchase, they usually will recommend the salesperson that helped them in the transaction. Be sure to include a section where the Customers can fill out their Salesperson’s name and information, too.
Train Employees on your program, your Salespeople will find reward in knowing their Customers are recommending them and giving them more opportunity to make a sale. Remember to introduce your new or revived birddog program on your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.). Create excitement and buzz to get both the Dealership staff and Customers excited about earning rewards through your referral system.
Referrals don’t have to be your Customers, consider your Vendors. Have you sent a letter to them? Start with: As one of our valued Vendors/Suppliers, you have helped to provide products and services that make our business a success, and allow us to provide employment to (number of Employees) of neighbors in our community. Allow me to say, “Thank you.” Your products and services are important to us, and we appreciate our relationship with you. Likewise, being in the transportation business, we know that both you and your co-workers need New or Pre-owned vehicles as well as Service & Parts to commute Research New Cars to work, take care of personal, family needs and occasional recreational needs. Conclude with the benefits of recommending your Dealership. How about your Employees? $100 for each sold vehicle and $50 going into a quarterly pot to be paid to the Employee with the most referrals. Joe Verde says, “30% of people will have a family member who will be buying a new or used vehicle in the next 90 days. 62% know someone will be buying in the next 90 days. Some of your Employees surely know someone who will be in the market to purchase a new or used vehicle, make sure they are recommending your Dealership.
Referral programs and Birddog programs are easy ways to increase Customer retention and sales in your Dealership without the high expense of most marketing plans. Ideally referrals should always be asked for in person, but if face to face contact is not possible, a letter explaining the specific program for each Department will be a good start. Before asking for a referral from a Customer, the Employee must establish that the Customer is happy with his purchase or with your service. Don’t say, “Do you know anyone who wants to buy a car?” Use the benefit of doing business with you and then ask for the referral: “Who else do you know that might want to save the same amount of money you saved (appreciate our huge selection, etc) by buying a vehicle from us? Who else do you know who would benefit from the speed of our Quick Service Center? Remember most people like to help others and some of your Customers are probably already recommending your Dealership, but with a referral system in place you could capitalize on more opportunities. If you fully utilize your Dealership’s referral program, train your Employees and offer rewards; you should be able to increase your sales for all Departments.

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