Following is a white paper written by James Vaughn, a partner of ADP Lightspeed and published by ADP  Lightspeeds, Salt Lake City, Utah.

I headed to the dealership looking for my first wake boarding boat. I made the job easy for the sales person. I had my family with me, so no “thinking about it” or “asking my wife for permission” excuses. It took about 2 hours to buy the boat and get the financing completed. The sales person provided a short tutorial on the operation and loading of the boat and that was the last I heard from anyone at the dealership.

We were all very excited to get out on the lake and start having fun. This was my first boat, so I really didn’t know what else I needed. Turned out I was completely unprepared. I learned more from people I met on the lake than from the dealership. You would think he would sell me some boards, ropes, tubes, etc.

Over the years I have spent thousands of dollars on my boat from accessories to repairs, but I never returned to the original dealership I bought it from. They did not really seem to take an interest in me coming back so I didn’t.

I did however get some newsletters about events from another dealer. I took the boat in for service after and they began sending me event notices, which I greatly appreciated and attended. After a few visits this dealer became MY dealer. Now I find myself running to my dealer when I need something before I hit the lake or if I need a repair.

I’m sure the first dealer doesn’t miss me or ask why I don’t visit. They would probably appreciate my business, but besides the sale they did not show any concern about who I was or how I was doing. Guess where I’ll be buying my next boat from.

It’s time to stop letting customers slip through your fingers. Get to know them. Ask for their contact information. Follow up. Give them opportunities to get involved and reasons to come back to your store.

One of the best ideas I saw was a dealership that sent a “Thank you for considering us” letter. If the dealer found out, through following up, that a potential customer had purchased somewhere else they sent out a letter thanking them for considering them. The letter included a 10% coupon on accessories for the type of unit they purchased. How much do you want to bet that the competitor didn’t even do that?

Collecting customer information is the key to successful marketing. The most important information to collect (besides their name) is their email. This isn’t a new concept. The whole marketing world is obsessed with email. It’s low cost and high return have made companies millions of dollars. So why not yours? Do you think it’s too hard to collect emails? Divert some of your direct mail budget to incentivize employees to collect emails. They’ll start pouring in.

So once you have customer information what do you do with it? Most people view marketing as spewing out endless stacks of postcards focused on discounts. This approach does two things: First, your customers stop reading your marketing, because it’s boring, second, it trains your customers to focus on price, and more specifically discounts.

Instead of promoting price, use marketing to reinforce yourself as an expert. Your customers want to have fun, show them how. With the right marketing approach you can become their resource for both equipment and experiences. The more you tie your store to the fun of owning a RV the more loyal your customers will be.

Some ideas on how to do this: Assign one employee per month to write about their favorite camping spot or hike and send it out. If you are sending emails, add a link to Google Maps to show the route (make sure that every route starts or ends at your dealership). Have a technician write important service tips based on the season. Partner with local campgrounds and highlight one a month. Share Dutch Oven recipes or tips on how to make the perfect s’more.

Encourage habitual shopping. The more your customers come in for the little routine things the more likely they are to buy the big things from you. Track preventive maintenance intervals and send service reminders. Make sure they feel welcome and have a positive experience when they come in. If you can get 5 more customers a month to come in and just buy parts or accessories you will add $4,800 in revenue per year.

Good marketing takes effort. Your dealership has lots of things to focus on so find tools that make marketing less time consuming. CRM systems designed specifically for the Marine Industry can be vital tools. Whether the customer visits your website, calls on the phone, walks into the dealership or is a lead from the manufacture, CRM systems track the consumer and help turn them into a lifetime customer. E-mails, phone calls, letters, postcards and event newsletters are common automated tasks for CRM systems. These little reminders keep the customer informed and make them feel like part of an exclusive group.

Your customers want to be part of the excitement, they want to have fun, and they are looking to you to help them. Keep them involved, and keep more customers.