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In the Hollywood version of auto sales, the potential customer visits a showroom, is convinced to purchase the vehicle of his dreams by a charmingly persuasive car dealer, and drives off the lot into the sunset, never to be heard from again. In the real world, of course, automotive marketing is much more of an ensemble act than a one-man show. To be truly effective, an automotive marketing strategy needs to integrate its efforts across all of its customer-facing departments – marketing, sales, service, and financing. Let’s take a look at why this is so important across the entire sales cycle.
Over the course of a week, Jane Doe, an aspiring auto consumer, receives a postcard offering a special financing rate for a flashy sports car, an email announcing a new line of sedans at a different financing rate, and an insistent series of banner ads promoting SUVs, all from the same dealer. What is the likely result of such a jumbled assault of messages? First of all, Jane is likely to feel confused and, second of all, anonymous. It’s clear that the dealer doesn’t know Jane of her preferences—at all.
Compare this with the performance of a synchronized marketing strategy. Through the use of data technology and predictive modeling, the dealer will have ascertained beforehand both what kind of car Jane is likely to be interested in and what she will be able to afford. If Jane is a previous customer, the dealer will also know which channel of communication she prefers, be it Twitter or the telephone.
In the light of this information, all of the correspondence Jane receives, from the kind of car to the type of financing, service, and amenities on offer, will be coherent and on-message. Instead of feeling confused, Jane will be informed; instead of feeling anonymous, she will know that her needs have been taken into account. And if she takes the next step and calls to come in for a test drive, the sales division will have passed that information along to the dealer so that the car she is interested in will be right there—waiting for her.
Good news: your outreach worked, and Jane Doe has become a first-time customer. Built on a relationship of trust from the start, she is likely to bring her car back to your dealership over the years whenever maintenance issues arise. By sharing data and coordinating teamwork among your departments, you have opportunities to leverage potential new sales and to build on your existing relationship with Jane through great customer service at the same time.
When Jane calls in for a service issue or makes contact via your service website, your team should have the information on hand in order to make a proactive response: the age and history of the car, the level of service required, and the vehicle loan-to-value ratio (LTV). On this basis, you will be in a position to assist Jane in making the decision that is right for her, by recommending either that she go ahead with the service or, in conjunction with the sales team, by making her a concrete offer to replace her older car with a new one.
Done properly, you have empowered Jane with information, making her feel good about her decision, either way. She gets a great deal on her service, or she drives off with the satisfaction of owning a new car, with the same monthly payments and without the maintenance hassle. And you, at the same time, will have both chalked up a sale and reinforced your customer relationship.
Through an integrated marketing strategy involving synchronized messaging and the proactive use of data technology and predictive modeling, automotive marketers will have the information at their disposal to allow them to work together with their customers, prioritizing their needs at every stage of the sales-and-service relationship and advising them in making prudent, financially savvy purchasing decisions. Not only is this good ethics, it’s also good business: the customer who buys the car that is right for their lifestyle and income level, who receives quality customer service and timely, objective advice, is a customer who will keep coming back and spreading the word to others. And at the same time, your ability to target and tailor your promotional activity will save you both time and money. Here, as in other aspects of life, the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do.