Retool your marketing with technology

Make sales and customer service easier


Better yet, services like constantcontact.com and reachmail.com avoid BCC’ing and sidestep most spam filters. You can quickly create and send professional-looking emails, even segmenting your customer list into categories or the days you stop. The best part is the easy-to-read reports show you who’s opening and reading your emails so you can see what’s working and what’s not.

SMS/TEXTING

Beth’s New Year’s resolution was to learn to text message (also know as SMS). So, after 10 months of practice, I now get a “yes” or “no” when I text my wife a question. (At this rate, by next July she’ll be up to “maybe.”)

Do you have a text messaging plan on your cellphone? If so, even if you don’t “do” texting, encourage your customers to text you. They can contact you right from their bay with questions or orders. You don’t have to text back, just call them — especially if you’re on the road. Calling gives you a chance to upsell product or cross-sell accessories.

Also, services like dialmycalls.com will send bulk text messages out to all your customer’s cellphones at once for less than a dime each. You just buy a package of credits (starting at $10 for 140 credits) and can use them whenever you like for texting, or robocalling.

Ask permission before you do bulk texting. Many plans charge for incoming sms/text messages. You don’t want to tick-off your customer by costing them money. But this can be a great, quick way to send your customers a simple message, like a reminder you’re on vacation this week or that the tool cart promotion deadline is Friday. Just keep it short.

VOICE BLASTS

I received an annoying political call during dinner the other night. I tried to stop the caller, but they kept rambling — then I realized it was a robocall, an outgoing pre-recorded message. I hate most robocalls. But I don’t mind thank you or reminder calls: “Hi. This is Susie from the Chicago Tribune. I just wanted to thank you for your new subscription and remind you that you can subscribe to free email news alerts at chicagotribune.com/services.”

You can use robocalls to provide better customer service, but avoid doing anything that sounds like you’re selling. Effective Sept. 1, you could get slapped with a $16,000 fine if you send a sales robocall to someone who did not give you written approval (http://tinyurl.com/robocall09).

Depending on your style you can use an outgoing recorded message to remind customers about a free training class or to tell them you’re out sick and won’t be stopping today. DialMyCalls.com outbound voice messages cost 7 cents or less each call. The service provides concise online reports showing if your calls were answered, went to voicemail or got a busy signal.

Just remember, it may be legal, but it could be annoying to many customers. So, ask before you even consider adding a number to your robocall list. And use it with discretion.

WEBSITE

I’ve met several dealers that have e-commerce websites — one was even making money (pardon my cynicism). I have nothing against websites. In fact, part of my business is building them. But as a dealer, a website can become a huge timesuck, wasting hours of your time with no return on that investment. You’re in sales; anything that takes you away from selling is time wasted.

Some flags offer (or are working on) free dealer e-commerce websites. I’m all for anything that makes you money without costing you time. But handle this new opportunity with caution. Whose customer is an online buyer? Yours? The franchise? Both?

Building a website for your business can be a good idea. It lets you put your contact information and catalog/literature PDFs within easy reach of your customers. But I’d leave e-commerce to the folks with lots of time and no truck payments. Check out fatcow.com for cheap website hosting. They’re reliable and have several easy-to-use website building tools.

Notice I don’t mention business blogging, Facebook, or Twitter. That’s because they can waste more time than they’re worth. Leave that for the rock stars and celebrities.

KEEP IN TOUCH, ON TRACK

Ask customers and prospects how you can contact them. Then create a master database for emailing, texting or robocalls. You’ll be surprised how many customers will be willing to give you an email address or cellphone number … as long as you promise not to abuse it.

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