Relationship Marketing Lessons from an Unexpected Source

What can a used car dealership in Canada teach us about marketing? In last week’s webinar, How to Build an Impactful Brand That Drives Action, Jeremy Miller of Sticky Branding answered that question.

Meet Jim Gilbert’s Wheels and Deals, Canada’s “most huggable” car dealership. As Jeremy explains in the webinar, they’ve certainly earned this designation. They’re known for building genuine relationships with every single customer — so much so that their customer service truly is their brand.

“Branding is not about logos and taglines and colors. Branding is about that connection you form with a customer.”

– Jeremy Miller, Sticky Branding (Tweet this Tweet: )


Relationship Marketing Done Right

One of Wheels and Deals’ standout marketing tactics is their birthday program. Every year, the company sends over 12,000 personalized birthday gifts to potential, current, and past customers. We’re talking genuine, no-strings-attached gifts without a call-to-action or any type of marketing messaging. Pretty revolutionary, right?

This birthday program is what Jeremy Miller calls deliberate engagement. It “engages people at a moment in time when they’re receptive,” he explained, and he shared this lovely note Wheels and Deals received from a satisfied customer:

“Yesterday I got a dog leash in the mail from you — my second one, which is great because we have two dogs. Anyways, I’m writing to thank you for that and for the other little surprises we’ve received from you from time to time. We’ve never had a used car buying experience quite like the one we had with your company. It was exceptional, and the exceptional touches like the leash just keep coming. I thought I’d write to say thank you. You can be assured that we recommend you to anyone we know who’s buying a car.”


Now that’s powerful.

Lead Nurturing Gone Wrong

Contrast Wheels and Deals’ impressive birthday program with a birthday card I received this year from an insurance company. In January, I requested a car insurance quote and was shocked when the estimate was nearly twice what I currently pay. I was so taken aback that I ignored every attempt at communication from the company — including numerous phone calls, emails, and postcards in the mail. I probably should have just answered the phone and told them I wasn’t interested, but I didn’t want to be sucked into a lengthy sales pitch, so I didn’t.

Fast forward four months. It was my birthday, and I opened the mail to find a neat stack of cards from family, friends, and . . . a certain insurance company. “You didn’t think we’d forget your birthday, did you?” the card quipped. It may as well have said, “We didn’t forget about you, so you’d better not forget about us!”

I probably would have appreciated it more if it came with a thoughtful gift. They know I own a car, so why not include something like a tire pressure gauge, or even a simple keychain? Sure, it would be more expensive — but it would turn that piece of direct mail from a mild intrusion into an unexpected birthday surprise. It’s not like I would have run to my computer and immediately purchased that expensive insurance, but I definitely would have had a more positive perception of the brand and been more likely to reevaluate them in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Be authentic with your marketing. Consumers can sniff a phony marketing ploy from a mile away.
  • Ask yourself every day how your marketing is helping your customers.
  • Don’t give up on cold leads, but make sure you’re being valuable when you do reach out.
  • Satisfied customers are one of the best sales tools you’ve got.

“When you can build that bond where someone knows you, likes you, and trusts you,” Jeremy explains in the webinar, “when they have a need, they call you first . . . and that creates a significant competitive advantage.”

To get more insight from Jeremy on the power of sticky brands and relationship marketing, watch the recorded webinar, How to Build an Impactful Brand That Drives Action. Jeremy’s Wheels and Deals example starts around the 26-minute mark, but I guarantee you’ll want to watch the webinar in its entirety.