Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Zac Stringam and distributed by ADP Lightspeed.

There are certain brand names that have become more than a brand, they define a category. Kleenex for facial tissues, Levi’s for denim jeans, Jet Ski for personal watercrafts, the list goes on and on. So how can your dealership become the name people think of first when they think of a Marine dealership? The answer is in continued contact with your customers and target audience.

Building top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) is a way for your dealership to be the first name to come to mind when somebody needs a new unit, accessory, or service. Just like if somebody said, “Will you get me a Kleenex?” you know that they are just asking for a tissue. The same can happen for somebody that says, “Let’s go check out this year’s models and they instinctively think about going to your dealership. That is powerful! With time and effort you could be the next iconic name.

Begin With Who You Know

Start with your current customers. Following up with customers is a way to avoid losing them. Statistics show that it costs seven times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Make sure you give those current customers the attention they deserve. Using the personal data you already have in your Dealer Management System, send them offers via e-mail that correlate to items they have purchased in the past. If you have a customer that bought a new unit one year ago next week, send them a “Happy One-Year Anniversary” e-mail with discount on service if they bring it in the month of their purchase anniversary.

Sending custom “Thank You” e-mails after every new purchase or service will impress your customers and create loyalty that will deliver revenue to your shop for years to come. Even something as simple as sending out automated birthday cards or e-mails will give your customers a personal touch they will appreciate. Customers love being remembered and hate being forgotten.

Reminders about service are great ways to stay in touch with your customers. Once you perform service or sell a new unit you can generate more business by sendinging e-mail reminders around the time they should be seeing you again. This can be done automatically from inside your Dealer Management System or by hand if you prefer to send a card or letter.

Attracting Those Passing By

Creating TOMA is about generating touch points through continued contact to make sure you come to mind when they need something. When is the last time you held an event that will not only bring in customers but passersby as well? Holding a parking lot BBQ where people can freely come learn about what’s new will perk up the interest of somebody who would have otherwise kept on driving.

ADP Lightspeed data shows that 50% of dealers hold events 1-3 times per year and that only 20% of dealers hold between 4-7 events. See the results here. Get feedback from your customers as to what kind of event they would enjoy.

By having youth safety events you will not only get the kids interested but will also get the parents to come out and look at new units and accessories. Even holding customer appreciation lake days sponsored by your dealership will bring families out to join in the activities. Remember: you got into this business because of the fun the sport creates. Creating fun and lasting memories for your customers is a win-win situation.

And The Survey Says…

Surveys help to stay in front of your customer and create TOMA. Surveys can benefit your dealership in multiple ways by gaining customer feedback, learning their expectations, and knowing what they wish you provided. They are an inexpensive method of knowing what your customers (and potential customer) think about your service, selection, and overall business.

By using the survey tool inside your Dealer Management System you build a great looking online survey. From there you can post the link to the survey in an email, on your website, or in your store. You may even want to offer a prize to a random survey taker. True customer opinion is often worth the cost of giving away a free iPod. Just be sure to use the results of the survey to your advantage. With great power comes great responsibility!

Old School Still Works

Not everything you do to contact customers needs to begin with the letter E. For some people a simple phone call or letter in the mail is just the thing to create loyalty to your dealership. Have you had a phone call recently from the owner of a business thanking you for choosing them? Probably not. This rarely happens anymore because of busy schedules. But think of the impression you will make on a customer by reaching out to them and thanking them for their business. That will be an experience they’ll tell their friends about.

By continually staying in front of the customer and on the top of their mind you will see lasting revenue from those who matter most, your customers. By automating these tasks you’ll see increased sales yet still have time to tend to your business.