The competition for customers between automotive dealerships is fierce. Consumers are more involved than ever before in purchasing processes and are easily able to compare dealerships to find the best fit. With access to the internet for online research, recommendations, dealership comparison, and even vehicle purchases, customers can change dealerships easily, and dealers are feeling the pressure of learning how to keep customers returning to their store.
Effectively targeted marketing campaigns are crucial to a dealership’s sales strategy and to keep customers returning over time. Targeted marketing builds brand awareness, generates more leads, and boosts overall revenue. This a quick guide to learn about targeted automotive dealership lifecycle marketing, direct mail, and email marketing strategies.
What is Lifecycle Marketing and How Does it Work?
It is a rare occurrence to win over customers at the first encounter. Securing a purchase, especially on a high-value item such as a vehicle, is a process that takes time and patience. This is why lifecycle marketing is so important for automotive dealerships. Unlike a conversion funnel, lifecycle marketing does not stop once the purchase is made. It continues post-purchase to earn loyalty and repeat business.
The best way to understand how lifecycle marketing works is by becoming familiar with the 6 stages and how to use them.
The 6 Stages of Lifecycle Marketing
- Awareness – During this first stage, potential customers learn that a dealership exists and is an option for purchasing vehicles, getting service, or obtaining protection after a vehicle sale.
- Engagement – People are interested in the dealership and want to learn more about what is being offered. These potential customers should be educated on benefits of that dealership through engaging marketing, such as emails, direct mail, and post-sale marketing.
- Evaluation – Once a potential customer reaches this stage, they are ready to make a decision. Dealerships should provide information to make decisions clear, concise, and be transparent about value and what sets the dealership apart from competitors. Examples include more accessible financing, vehicle service contract options, more of a selection to choose from, etc.
- Purchase – Those who make it through the “Purchase” phase are officially customers. One wrong move during the purchasing process can put a bad taste in someone’s mouth, causing them to walk away from the deal and look elsewhere. During this phase, a dealership needs to make the customer experience as seamless as possible.
- Support – A dealership’s job is not over once an initial purchase is completed. When someone becomes a customer, it is time to focus on retention and ensuring that they return to the dealership for service and maintenance, vehicle protection, or a new vehicle when the time is right. Continuing to communicate with customers after an initial sale is key- methods such as post-sale marketing are helpful in this phase.
- Loyalty – Customers who have had an exceptional buying experience and received top-notch customer support become loyal to their automotive dealership. These customers will tell their friends, families, and co-workers about the quality of service, and the lifecycle begins again with new prospects.
Using Direct Mail to Target Dealership Customers
Despite the technology around us, direct mail marketing is still the top proven method for most product sales. With the right approach, dealerships can effectively connect with current and potential customers using direct mail and targeted lifecycle marketing. Here are 4 tips to optimize your dealership’s targeted direct mail strategy.
- Call-to-Action – Include an easy-to-find, clear, and compelling call to action to accompany information on what you are promoting
- Branded and Clear – Use your dealership’s name, logo, and publicly available contact information on marketing pieces. This helps to differentiate your offers and services from third-party marketers and competitors who have no affiliation with your dealership.
- Personalization – Include personalization such as the customer’s name and even what vehicle they currently own in direct mail campaigns. It can be as simple as, “We have a special deal for you, Tim! Don’t forget to sign up for coverage on your 2020 Honda”. Let current and prospective customers know that you are sending information on products and services that are applicable to them.
- Send marketing messages to customers at significant times in their ownership lifecycle. An example would be sending information on the vehicle service contracts offered by your dealership when their factory warranty expires.
Using Email to Target Dealership Customers
Email marketing is also effective at targeting current and potential customers and remind them of offers and services. Here are a few tips to keep marketing emails from your dealership top-of-mind.
- Maintain email lists – Work to keep contact lists up-to-date, accurate, and remove customers who request non–contact. Follow email marketing laws and guidelines for the best experience.
- Segment contact lists – Segmenting lists allows dealers to target certain customer groups with relevant emails. For example, avoid sending emails to current customers about making their first purchase at the dealership. Keep in mind one contact may be on more than one list.
- Have excellent response times – When a customer or potential customer responds to a dealership email, be sure to have a team member ready to answer them promptly. Otherwise, they may become frustrated and look elsewhere.
What Products Can Be Targeted at Key Lifecycle Moments to Be More Appealing to Customers?
The best dealership products used in lifecycle marketing are vehicle service contracts, which are typically marketed to customers when their factory warranty expires – a milestone in the vehicle ownership cycle.
Post-sale marketing vehicle service contracts to customers helps dealerships build lasting relationships with them and keep these customers from buying subpar third-party vehicle service contracts. Learning how to effectively market to these customers leads to better customer loyalty and other benefits such as increased revenue, higher reinsurance reserves, and more vehicle sales.
At Automotive Product Consultants, we offer post-sale vehicle service contract marketing programs at no cost to dealerships. These programs market to dealership customers and educate them about the benefits of buying additional coverage from the dealership.
We encourage dealers and agents to contact us to learn how Automotive Product Consultants can power a post-sale vehicle service contract marketing program that will drive sales and revenue for your dealership. Reach out to us today for a free program demo.