Bringing marketing automation to automotive marketing

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We explore nine ways in which marketing automation platforms drive highly personalized, omni-channel customer engagement – from first contact, to service contract.

Let’s move quickly through the gears.

Consumers want the experience of researching, buying and servicing a car to be simpler and easier (otherwise they may as well join a car club or use Uber).

Manufacturers and dealers want to meet and exceed those needs. They have no choice if they want to compete and survive.

Data and technology can help. But right now they’re more of a liability than an asset.

Marketing automation? Isn’t that for B2B companies?

We’ve built a very successful business helping technology companies sell complex, high-value products to large decision making units, over long buying cycles, through a multi-tier channel. Oh, hang on…

It’s no surprise that marketing automation platforms are rapidly gaining traction in new categories: advanced manufacturing, business information services, financial services… and automotive. Lexus, Maserati and Caterpillar are all MarketOne customers.

And with the current marketing focus on customer experience and digital transformation initiatives, it’s no surprise the marketing automation vendors are re-casting their solutions as omni-channel customer engagement platforms.

1. Building a profile of the customer before they’ve bought

Brands have lots of content, but little they can offer in exchange for customer information during the research phase. Hiding model specs behind a form would be madness. With progressive profiling and inline data enrichment, marketing automation helps to build a complete picture using snippets of data captured through otherwise disjointed activities: social promotions, live events, an online car configurator, test drive request or showroom visit – avoiding asking the same questions twice.

2. Distinguishing between interest and intent

How is it possible to understand what the customer is thinking and doing when the activities described above may take place weeks or even months apart? Marketing automation can fill in the blind spots by tracking individual customer behavior across channels – revealing what lifestyle content interests them, what models they’re browsing (and how often), what extras they’re considering and if they’re exploring finance options. Pictures, specifications, even car colors, can then be tailored to individual tastes and preferences.

3. Simplifying and influencing the research process

Customers complain that buying a car these days is just too complicated. Once their interests and needs are captured, a marketing automation customer engagement platform can automatically trigger a persuasive combination of emails, social display, search ads, web personalization, live chat and even a timely phone call, to nudge the customer towards the most relevant and useful information. If model preferences are captured, it’s even possible to automate the delivery of personalized stock list updates.

4. Understanding what’s working – and what’s not

It’s easy to do lots of sexy social stuff and still not really understand what’s influenced the customer. Sound familiar? Because marketing automation platforms provide a single, integrated database to drive all direct communications – and track all the resulting engagement – you have a single view of what the customer has seen and done. Multi-channel attribution is finally within reach.

5. Tying in all that pesky offline activity

The customer journey is not entirely digital. Yet. Changing consumer behavior and the introduction of eCommerce business models make it more likely than might have been thought even five years ago. For the majority of brands, however, there’s still glossy brochures to mail out, stand visitors from events to process, and showroom drop-ins to remember. No problem. It can all be stored in the automation platform database. And we regularly build easy-to-use apps for capturing conversations at events and in dealerships, even fulfilling brochures digitally (someone’s got to save the planet).

6. Hands up if you want to send better leads to dealers

Let’s face it, not all leads are created equal. Do you really want to treat a social media competition entrant the same as the gentleman who visited your stand in Geneva sporting an Audemars Piguet watch? If the answer is no, then you might be wise to invest in an automation platform. Lead scoring and routing enables the warmest, most valuable leads to be sent straight to the front of the telequalification calling queue. The ‘uncontactables’ can be placed in a long-term nurture program to keep them bubbling (they’ll be a customer one day). And when leads are handed off, they come with an additional layer of customer insight that makes the transition from manufacturer to dealer as smooth as diamond coating. The customer won’t feel as though they’re having to repeat themselves for the nth time.

7. Keep your hands raised if you’d like to know what happens to those leads

It is possible to stop leads disappearing into a bottomless black hole. And the solution doesn’t involve time machines or moving at light speed. By integrating marketing automation with a CRM system, combined with partner solutions like Salesforce Communities, lead acceptance and progression can be monitored – and those leads that don’t buy within a given timeframe can be “clawed back” and marketed to.

8. Turning buyer remorse into customer advocacy

There’s a point that comes post-purchase where many customers wonder why they bothered. No news on a delivery date for a brand new car purchase isn’t generally regarded as good news. And yet so few brands provide regular progress updates. It’s a missed opportunity to drive customer advocacy before they’re even driving. Marketing automation platforms, integrated by API with ERP systems, can deliver personalized updates and even host a unique landing page for every customer showing their specific model rolling down the production line.

9. Customers should be for life

Delivery of the vehicle is only the start. Brands have a model for every customer life stage that they want to sell. Dealers want the revenue (and healthy profits) that come from being the preferred provider for annual services and repairs. Artificial intelligence can now ‘read’ social media feeds and trigger life-stage appropriate model promotions when Jill marries Jack, or when Jimmy and Josie come along, or leave home 18 years later (if Jill and Jack are lucky). Similarly, telematics will enable dealers to see and even anticipate issues and automatically offer very reasonably-priced solutions, saving the customer money in the long-run. With marketing automation, the future is closer than you think.