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I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say showroom traffic is down and continues to decline. Ten years ago customers visited 6.7 dealerships before they purchased a vehicle, five years ago that number dropped to 4.3, and today it’s 1.8. Aside from lobbying for a ban on the Internet, improving your Internet lead to sold customer process is critical. Just as important is to get to customers before they log on. And the way to do that is with data driven direct marketing.
Automotive Direct Marketing
There are basically three ways a dealer can advertise: traditional media, the Internet and direct marketing. Sure, you can buy more time on radio and television, but consumers are still going to go to the Internet. You can advertise online, of course, then they’re already on the Internet. Or you can improve your direct marketing strategy, and that’s exactly what many automotive leaders are doing. In a recent poll of more than 900 executives, 60 percent said they were increasing their email marketing budget. That’s because direct marketing response rates haven’t dropped in the past five years—in fact, they’ve risen.
Plus, by communicating with consumers directly, you reach them before they reach the Internet. But sending your hard-won customers a template email or letter probably isn’t enough to hold on to their business, your marketing needs to be driven by data and a strong owner marketing strategy.
The first question is, “Do you have access to the data you need?” That might seem self-evident, but I speak to dealer groups that have so much going on they’re no longer sure what they have or how to use it. Not only aren’t they making the most of their resources, many are paying for overlapping technologies. Others are using products that only reclassify and resort data, without offering the benefits of actually applying the information to better market to their customers. Or the data is being underutilized and not finding its way into the sales process; instead it’s getting lost in the shuffle or hung up in the system.
But let’s say you’ve got your data and it’s solid. The next question is, “Are you using it to drive your marketing?” Because data alone won’t win you more sales and better customer relationships. It needs to be fully integrated into a multi-channel direct marketing strategy that is personalized to each customer and their current situation, determining not only what you communicate, but also when. And each element of a campaign should interact with the other, strengthening your message and ultimately resulting in more cars sold.
Data needs to be incorporated intelligently and consistently. To take your automotive marketing initiatives to the next level, you need a strategy that informs your daily operations and is fully a part of the sales cycle. Because if you don’t have a direct marketing strategy, you’re losing a critical opportunity. You’re forfeiting the ability to harness the power of data to communicate with your owner base, to develop communications—and offers—that are tailored and timed for each customer, to maximize response rates and increase your sales. In short, you become part of the downward trend in showroom traffic, rather than one of our industry’s shining exceptions.