Technology has the potential to help dealers maximise their marketing efficiency through the economic downturn.
Savvy retailers no longer throw marketing cash at media channels or events no matter what the return they will see from them.
Sufficient systems and external agencies now exist to allow businesses to analyse and measure the response rates from each of their communication channels.
Dealers advertising in the press can use separate local rate phone numbers for each individual publication, to allow them to assess which is directly generating the most leads.
Analysis of postcode areas can also help dealers assemble direct mail campaigns that will target the appropriate social groups to their brands.
Online support companies should be able to inform dealers how many visitors their website is attracting, how they got to the website, what they are looking at and for how long.
Harry Bott, sales and marketing director of Mediahawk, a telephone tracking and marketing services company, suggests dealers take a step back from their marketing campaigns in order to look at them with a customer’s eyes.
Bott asks all his clients what sort of customer service they would expect when buying a vehicle.
He says: “Marketing is important but the most important thing to understand is how the customer interacts with your business. If you are not answering the phone and are treating people badly you may as well not be in business.
“You can make your marketing more efficient by advertising in the right places, but you also need to be responding efficiently.”
Efficient marketing is about reducing spending, or increasing response for the same cost, along with understanding what the customer expects.
One of the sometimes forgotten basics is making sure that the offers are as clear as they are attractive. If there’s a risk that the consumer might be confused, they won’t want to find out more about it.
It is here where dealers can make their websites work hard for a relatively modest outlay.
Websites can offer limitless space to promote great value vehicles and service offers. Traffic can be driven to the website through search engines, or by advertising its web address in local papers and radio. Dealers could also make the web address a prominent feature of the showroom or forecourt display.
Measuring success is important as dealers need to know if they are getting a good return on their investment and marketing their business in the right place.
Greig McCallum, strategic managing partner at advertising agency Balloon Dog, says: “You can find out from your website provider how many clicks your site has had and how long people are spending looking at it. The provider can also tell you what site people have come from, so you know if it was a link from the manufacturer’s website.”
McCallum says dealers should ask carmakers to help them with their website design, a view shared by Jacqueline Mitchell, client services and CRM director at e-marketing specialist Autotorq.
Both believe that consumers prefer familiarity when moving from a carmaker’s website to their local dealer representing that brand, and that continuity helps them feel that they are being looked after by the same brand.
However some dealers argue that this negates the value of their own brand, particularly for those long-lived family-led retailers.
And in practice, some premium and sub-premium brands appear so prescriptive that it is difficult for the browser to find out much about their local dealer at all.
Online marketing also allows carmakers and retailers to invite feedback on their service and products. Digital tracking agency Underwired emailed 1,000 people who test-drove the Peugeot 308 asking them to write a review.
A third responded and 180 reviewed the car, helping dealers to build a picture of their target audience.
Maximising online opportunities
- Ensure your website is clear and simple to use with a similar design to the manufacturer for continuity.
- Track calls to see who they are coming from and if they are being followed up efficiently.
- Monitor your website to see how many “visits” it is getting and where people are visiting your site from and clicking onto afterwards.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the customer to find out what they want from their buying experience and if this is what you are giving to them.
- Consider proactive methods such as asking people who have test driven your cars to write a review which could promote the vehicle and enable you to target the right people.
- Be diligent when sending emails to customers and consider whether they are relevant so you don’t waste your time or theirs.