What’s the Big Deal about Data Anyways? – Part Four

in Sep 03, 2018

Over the past few years numerous new marketing companies have emerged as a solution for dealers’ digital and print marketing needs. Some of these new entities specialize in SEO, some will write your social medial posts and some will manage your online dealer reputation. Yet the largest growth is seen in companies that go after “orphaned” service and sales customers. They try and get them back to the dealership, generally for a healthy fee, if and when they succeed. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have not lost those customers in the first place? To not have to pay again to reacquire them? But that is a subject for another story.

While customer re-acquisition programs do have some success, dealers should be very careful when directing a third party company as to which customers to market to. Don’t let the vendor make the choice. It could end up hurting you instead of helping. Using your data for a mass market approach is contrary to all segmentation marketing principles. It will garner you a much lower ROI.

Wikipedia defines Mass Marketing as a “market coverage strategy in which a firm decides to ignore market segment differences and appeal the whole market with one offer or one strategy.” This is exactly what these third party vendors suggest and is exactly what should NOT be done. In my next blog I will cover in more detail the benefits and value of market segmentation. How to divide your data into a number of segments, allowing you to target a specific message to a specific audience at a specific time.  This approach is what will garner the best ROI.

Sadly this is not the approach most third party vendors take.Unfortunately, some have really muddied up the field and in fact, do not help the dealer at all. They have a convincing sales guy that says “if you give me a copy of your database, I can help you sell another 40 cars per month.” In most cases, it’s just not completely true. Yes, you may get few sales. But generally no one quantifies the results and much of it ends up being nebulous, at a big cost to you. Additionally, with this type of marketing you may end up alienating as many customers as you bring in.

In most cases it just does not work to do it this way: “Let’s go into your database and find everyone that has not bought a car in last 5 years and send them a generic letter” – how many would that sell? Perhaps one, two, a few? Now tighten up the audience. Filter out or segment some customers and make it more specific to individual customers….say we take a look at everyone that has a Honda Civic with 90,000 miles and more than $5,000 in maintenance costs – that’s your target mailer. And send them a Civic specific ad touting its product value and your intrinsic value as their dealer – not something like low interest rates, or something that does not relate much to the customer. Let’s leave that up to the OEMs — they do a wonderful job showing us customers dancing in the showrooms. When was the last time you actually had a customer dancing on your showroom floor because they were so happy with the financing you just got them? Really? It’s time to get personal with your customers and show them that you know what they want, when they want it and that you can provide the necessary tools for them to get it.

Another example of failing to correctly use data is in the aftermarket. There are so many call centers out there for extended service contracts that give dealers a commission for providing their database list to call from. They call or send a mailer to all these customers without any clue if they need a service contract or not – it’s not helping dealers, it’s hurting them. I recently received a mailer from Mercedes Benz soliciting a prepaid maintenance program when I had just bought one with my new Mercedes ML a few weeks before. This just makes the dealership look bad and only serves to alienate customers rather than drive them back into the dealership. I truly believe a dealership could do a better job marketing me a maintenance program on their own — after the sale — if they had only tried. A quick segmentation of those customers who did not buy a maintenance plan would provide a nice call or mail list to work from. And I am just guessing that the grosses would be higher on the plan sales sold directly by the store.

Don’t allow your marketing partner to put together a blanket program. Use your data – I promise you there’s gold in them there databases! It just has to be properly mined, managed and applied. Programs should be designed around what will best appeal to the customer. Customers in different sized markets will have very different motivators. Look at what your customers have already purchased and don’t send out blanket marketing pieces. As I mentioned above I recently leased a new vehicle. Not even a month after I purchased it I received an offer for new tires from my selling dealer. My car was a month old! I have a 30K lease on it and should never need tires during the lease. I looked at that and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” This type of blanket marketing causes customers to lose faith in the dealer. That’s the whole point of segmenting — to avoid this type of situation.

The same principals should be applied to seasonal communications. Don’t send winter-related communications to customers that live in Florida! It’s crazy but we see it happen all of the time.

The fact remains that by segmenting your customers and then targeting those groups with relevant offers and messages, you will save money tenfold on mass marketing and  you will see a better ROI

Watch for my next blog, part 5 of this series, where I’ll cover data segmentation in greater detail.

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