Estelle Bagot, European business development manager, said TCC wanted a change in its marketing strategy to involve new technology, but didn’t know how to go about it.
“We had used Mobisiteo successfully with Peugeot, Citroën and Audi dealers in France.
"It had wonderful con-version rates and was also good for the image of the dealership, showing they weren’t just stuck doing traditional marketing.”
Working with TCC was the first time Digitaleo had partnered with a UK dealership on aftersales marketing.
“Most who have used it choose to do so with sales. That might be how we sell it as a product, but more and more we are now pushing it as an aftersales initiative.
Dealers are responding to that because they can make more profit from aftersales and because car sales aren’t strong,” said Bagot.
Hexagon BMW is another single-site operator that’s considering employing Digitaleo.
Marketing manager at the East Finchley operation Steve Cox said: “The motor trade can be a bit of a lumbering giant, and there’s lots of technology going on around it which has yet to be fully embraced.
"There is a willingness from on high that we get involved with this and we’re looking at it seriously.
"It’s a way of keeping in touch with our client base and finding new customers.
“These days direct mail is seen as junk mail and goes straight in the bin.”
Multi-channel approach for Hexagon BMW
Ballard believes a multi-channel approach is appropriate. “While traditional print-based advertising is useful and local media is a great tool to increase visibility, messages received via email, internet and social media can be equally beneficial, depending on the message and audience.”
He said: “Consumers are becoming more sophisticated, more aware of competition and have a higher propensity to shop around.
“Where dealers have the advantage is access to a better view of the consumer.
"For example, if they have previous dealings with someone, messages can be better tailored to communicate a relevant message.”
What about the cost of digital marketing compared with traditional means?
Tim Smith, commercial director of GForces, said internet marketing was a more cost-efficient means of generating aftersales leads.
“Our clients have experienced cost-per-lead figures of under £3, while local press advertising typically costs £75-£250 per lead.”
His customers have found targeted email marketing is around 20 times more cost-effective than normal post, and can generate immediate results to an aftersales offer. It also drives traffic to the main website.
The alternative is pay-per-click, which ensures the service department is the first thing potential customers see in relevant Google searches.
Search and social media
Search engine optimisation (SEO) can help the aftersales business rank among the top results naturally, but SEO expertise is rarely found inside dealerships so an external agency is required and that costs money.
Social media is one way of ‘going digital’ without great expense.
Chris Kidd at Gateway Peugeot uses Facebook and Twitter for general marketing activity, including aftersales.
“Today the cold weather has come and we’re posting on there about a winter check. What will we get from it? In fairness, not a lot. But it’s about the drip, drip, drip process in raising awareness of what we do.”
Localised offers through the Groupon smartphone app are another recent innovation.
John Banks Honda at Cambridge recently publicised a 66-point service with oil and filter change plus air-con check for under £50.
Offering new online SMR services is another way of promoting the aftersales business.
GForces said clients who have replaced an online service booking enquiry form with a booking tool have seen take-up increase by more than 500%.
Another example is an online parts store so aftersales is accessible at all hours.
GForces data reveals that in September 2010 just 36% of AM100 dealers offered an online parts shop on their website. A year later it was up to 42%.
“Dealers who offer e-commerce can pull in customers from well beyond conventional territorial boundaries,” said Smith. Sales to local independent garages aren’t uncommon either.
At Trident Honda, Richard Roberts argued aftersales marketing is about promoting the message that franchised dealers are no longer pricing themselves out of the market.
“We have so many offers based around competitive fixed price servicing and repairs that we’re very competitive,” he said.
The backbone of any aftersales marketing should be going the extra mile to offer a service that makes you stand out.
That could be cleaning the customer’s car or offering courtesy cars or a taxi service.
“You will never go wrong if you deliver what you promise, efficiently and with a smile, and do it at a price which after the event will be forgotten,” he said.
“Do that, and the lasting memory will be the way in which the work was delivered, and your customers are more likely to come back.”