So why not call the 20% back?

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

by Matt Plapp

The #s never lie and you’ve all heard it in your business “80% of our business comes from 20% of our customers.” In my past posts I’ve covered numerous topics on how marketing relates to sales. As a business owner, this topic is your best and worst friend…FOLLOW-UP. Over the past 12 years I’ve been astonished how many sales people and companies that I’ve bought large ticket items from and never heard from again. I’ll only focus on 1 category though, as I write this I’m 34 years old and I’ve purchased 24 cars. YES, 24 cars and I know that’s not a good thing (I’m in auto rehab though, I’ve had my current car for 18 months). I tell you this because to this day, I don’t have a SINGLE sales person from a car dealership who has EVER called on me or calls on me now. This number covers 16 dealerships, 13 local Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky car dealerships. So I’d say the numbers below have some validity as too a “Marketing Problem” most dealerships have.

Think about that for a minute. I’ve had closed deals with over 20 sales people on transactions ranging from $12,000-$65,000 in 1 industry, and I’ve NEVER had a sales person follow-up with me? No one calls me monthly, no one sends me or wife a personalized card, no one calls to see if I am in the market AGAIN or if I know anyone buying a car. What a novel idea, actually call someone and ask them?

I do get a computer generated Birthday card from a Cincinnati Toyota dealer where I bought 2 Toyota FJ Cruisers on the SAME DAY and never heard from the sales person or a manger after the sale. The worst part, I was referred to the GM who got me with his “Top Salesperson”, neither has ever followed-up.

I’m consistently amazed in my travels how I hear the car dealers cry the blues because sales are down and no one is buying and you can’t get them financed, BLAH BLAH, BLAH. I’ve heard it all, my question to all of them is the same; “do you follow-up consistently with your customers.” Does the sales manager, GM or owner call every customer and say thank you afterwards? Does the sales person have a system of contacting the customer monthly via email, phone or mail? Of course most of them say they have a follow-up system in place, but most either don’t realize they don’t or they think follow-up is a generic letter from the service manager that’s generated by a computer and has a computer printed signature to be follow-up.

A number I hear around the industry is that car dealers can spend around $300 per sold car on advertising. So it seems to me that if you spend $300 on a customer, it would be a great idea to try to get their next purchase, their brothers, their neighbor, their parents, etc. But they never do follow-up.

Think about these numbers: Let’s say I’m a car dealer in Northern Kentucky who sells 3,000 cars per year. Imagine if I follow-up with my customers hard-core and we consistently get referrals from those customers, but at the end of the year it’s only 10% (WHICH WOULD BE REALLY LOW). So that’s 300 car sales we just made because we run a professional sales operation and properly treated our customers. At the $300 per customer, we just saved $90,000 in advertising expenses per year. Now the scary part is a GREAT follow-up program that involves everyone from the sales person to the business owner can get easily 30-40% in referrals. Your numbers are right, those dealerships are WASTING upwards of $200,000 per year in advertising because they don’t know how to take care of their customer.

As a retail business owner I realized at a young age the importance of follow-up. Our company not only sent our large-ticket customers 8 mailings per year that had a valid good offer and were personally signed by a department head, but we made sure our sales people called their customers and sent thank you notes consistently. We touched our customers upwards of 12 times per year and because of this we were able to only spend $35,000 per year in mass media for a business doing $15 Million in retail sales. We spent less than $50 per customer on advertising, compared to the industry norms of upwards of $300 per customer. Go figure, customer follow-up works.

Matt Plapp is a Marketing Consultant in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at or 859.743.2408.

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