Dealers’ high manufacturer targets mean sales from their existing pool of customers aren’t enough, particularly as the private market is in decline, and a wider net needs to be cast to conquest new buyers.
Retailers will be looking to target both private and fleet customers, but how can dealers go after them?
Who should handle your fleet business?
For business sales, dealers that have a dedicated fleet sales department will be tasked with knocking on the doors of local businesses to introduce themselves. Holdcroft Group, a past winner of AM’s best fleet dealership award, has a central fleet sales team who go out on the road visiting businesses.
According to fleet sales director Malcolm Pearson, selling effectively to business customers needs specialists.
He believes that, where possible, dealer groups should separate control of fleet from their retail sales manager or dealer principals, as most don’t have enough knowledge of the fleet industry to do the best job.
“You have to invest in the proper resource, you can’t afford to skimp at it. Employing one person won’t cut it. That person might sell 10 vehicles, but he’s then got to administer and deliver those cars. Customer service will always be affected,” said Pearson.
“If you have the right support and the right process, you can let salespeople focus on selling and not delivering and administering,” he said.
Simply sending business development managers out cold will have a limited impact. More effective is underpinning the conquesting activity in fleet or retail with data and targeted marketing.
Engage local businesses
For some dealers, an easy route to generating leads, albeit with a slow burn, is networking with local companies through organisations such as Chambers of Commerce, at trade shows or by hosting relevant events. Motor Village UK, Fiat’s own network of London-based dealerships, puts on ‘Business Club’ networking events to attract business owners from around the capital to hear from a guest speaker, and lets companies use its flagship Marylebone dealership as a conference centre.
Another important part of the mix is marketing the brand and compelling offers to customers through specific media, such as trade magazines and websites.
Yet data is the vital part of the conquesting process, no matter whether for private or business customers.
Stephen Upton, owner of Red Route Marketing, an agency that works with dealer groups such as Hepworth Honda, said dealers need to use data they have already captured and data they can acquire to access the right people.
Upton said dealers can mine their own customer database for what he calls “warm prospects”. These are customers that have contacted the dealership with an interest, whether that’s through email, social media or phone, the important part is that their details are captured.
Should you purchase conquest data?
Upton said purchasing data can be a difficult route for some dealers because not enough thought is usually put into what the dealership is trying to achieve or interpret from the data they have acquired.
He also said there is a tendency for dealers to purchase single-use data to contact customers. Dealers may be looking to acquire a certain amount of prospects within a time window to help to reach a quarterly bonus.
While a single-use mailing list will be cheaper, Upton said multi-use data, which dealers are able to use as many times as they like within a set timeframe, usually 12 months, can provide a better return.
He said: “A lot of dealers are looking for sales today and tomorrow rather than looking at the long term. By increasing the customer data list budget by 20%, I would say they could get a 200% return on that customer data by properly taking the time to dig into it.”
Upton said identifying a customer type from the data is all-important. This then needs to be further segmented to understand the marketing channels and communication style that should be adopted.
This is where dealers can specifically drill down to target business owners interested in small vans, for example, or new families trading up from a hatchback to an MPV.
Upton said: “The data selection criteria is all-important, based on market information aligned to any local knowledge a dealer might have.”
Anna Ling, Swansway Group marketing director, said it rarely purchases conquest data because it generates enough leads through its own website, manufacturer websites, its own advertising and social media.
She said having a digital set-up that invites prospects to interact and get in touch can help take some of the legwork out of prospecting.
Upton said dealers need to have a plan to know who they are targeting and that it needs to be more than just a distressed sales message.
He said: “Knowing who you are targeting, why you are targeting them and building a relationship is the key.”
Upton said if dealers have invested in buying a conquest customer list, they will need to build a profile for each customer type, identifying what customers they are looking to target, beyond just ‘we are a Jaguar dealer and want to target BMW customers’.
It’s possible to dig down on a granular level within a specific postcode to target retail or SME customers depending on what the dealer is looking for with a particular campaign.
Though East Midlands-based Sandicliffe Motor Group uses social media along with other digital platforms, its head of marketing, Nigel Falkiner, said television, radio and direct mail still have key roles in the communications chain.
“There are the active people who are forever on the internet looking for the best deal and the passive ones who need a spark that often comes from the more traditional media,” he said.
“You could have someone driving a two- to three-year-old car and not looking to change until they learn of an offer through TV or radio to ignite that spark that leads them to your website. These tend to be conquest sales that generate more profit.”
Sandicliffe’s marketing budget reflects this, with 42% allocated to radio, 22% to press and 24% to TV.
About 5% is spent on direct mail for “specialist” events, such as launches, where volumes are lower, but conversions are higher.
In fishing for new business, social media can play a part in targeting SMEs as well as private car buyers. LinkedIn has a clear role in modern networking for
businesses, but also allows users to search for prospects and share expertise.
“With around half of new vehicle registrations being company cars and dealers under pressure to grow custom among local businesses and entrepreneurs, LinkedIn offers a genuine opportunity which can reap extensive rewards,” said Philip Calvert, a consultant and LinkedIn trainer.
FCA Fleet and Business, the corporate sales arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the UK, created a LinkedIn account – called FCA Fleet & Business – in the summer. Simon Wheeler, fleet marketing manager, FCA UK, said: “These new LinkedIn pages present the most logical way for our UK team to connect with our customers.
“As well as offering lots of good advice and help to our customers, we hope the site will also demonstrate how our multi-brand fleet solution is a perfect choice for them.”
The pages feature information on FCA UK’s product ranges and services, launch activities, events, and include staff profiles.
It will also incorporate tips and advice for businesses, in a demonstration of how FCA UK conducts business in a ‘partnership’ approach, looking at value-added solutions for businesses and their mobility needs.
Jeremy Evans, Marketing Delivery managing director, explained that some dealers his company is working with are approaching social media in a similar way to Google to target conquest customers.
Dealers that have a Facebook Business Manager account can load the email addresses of existing customers, whose permission they have to use for marketing purposes.
Facebook then builds a “lookalike” conquest audience.
This can be refined by gender, age, geographic area and interests – all information Facebook users give the social network each time they log in, browse and update their profiles.
Evans said: “We have seen Facebook become the most popular lead generator for dealer groups like Swansway Group and Cambria Automobiles after more traditional methods like the existing database, Google or classifieds like Auto Trader.”
Facebook doesn’t release email addresses to dealers, instead serving adverts automatically to the “lookalike” audience based on the selected criteria.
Evans said social media users are not put off by adverts appearing in their feeds as long as they are relevant to them.