Today's automotive advertising agencies must be increasingly resourceful to provide more for less in a struggling economy. The dictate from their auto dealer clients is to sell more new or used vehicles and it isn't limited to any particular media or creative message. In order to survive the consolidation in the auto industry automotive advertising agencies must acknowledge that automotive advertising is not limited to conventional media -- like Radio, TV, Newspaper, Direct Mail, email campaigns or even Internet SEO/SEM marketing plans. It starts with the fact that we have to do business with our friends because our enemies will never call us!
Internal marketing efforts include networking to preferred vendors and area businesses -- especially their employees in need of transportation and their company vehicles in need of service and or replacement. Also, point of purchase merchandising between departments designed to cross market to existing customers is more cost effective than conventional or digital advertising investments targeting strangers. Service sells cars, and vice-versa, so showroom boards offering inter-department promotions in all departments and areas of customer contact -- like the cashier -- is a staple of any internal automotive advertising plan.
In addition, incoming inquiries -- specifically emails -- and how they can be most effectively used as part of the auto dealer's extended automotive advertising plan should also be considered by any full service automotive advertising agency who wants to earn their fees. Every contact should lead to the second, and of course to the eventual sale. Internet shoppers are looking for enough information to make a buying decision, much like showroom visitors. Human nature survives intact on the virtual showroom and it must be woven into the fabric of all communications, online or in person. A good salesperson recognizes that he can't sell anything. The real goal of a professional salesperson is, or should be, to share enough information to help their customer's make a buying decision.
Here are a few tools or best practices that I use to allow my dealer's clients to discover additional information through their email replies:
1) Start with information overload in your initial reply. Avoid auto-responders and customize your first reply to answer not only the question that was asked, but also an offer to provide questions and answers that should have been asked. For example; Would you also like to look at a vehicle with more or less equipment and a certified pre-owned, (or new vehicle if they started with used), along with suggested down payments and various payment plans to fit your budget? Asking where they plan to service their vehicle and some value added service information is also good information; service sells cars!
2) Attach or embed video messages in your email reply featuring available product demonstrations, copies of your relevant advertisements, links to dedicated micro-sites or landing pages within your website, chat dialogues or click to call software applications, (yes, they are available to be added to your email as a link) and other conversion tools to elevate the email to a personal contact or appointment to gather additional information. A pen pal is nice, but the sooner you elevate the relationship to a person and a voice -- online or in your showroom -- the better your chances are to cut through the clutter of the two or three other dealers that your email pen pal is dealing with.
Building in a pro-active conversion tool to your emails, like Argistics AutoTransaXion that offers a two way video customer chat program, will help to direct your website visitors -- who often initiate the email -- to a more productive initial inquiry with more controlled results leading to a sale.
3) Initiate an automatic system to follow up all inquiries in a timely manner -- usually less than five minutes to keep up with today's fast paced Internet shopper. Do not use auto-responders! Initiate a contact that integrates into your CRM application -- I assume that you have one if you are still in the auto business and reading this article -- that will follow up with additional information that you just thought of or even an elevated email from the manager asking if they got all of the information that they were looking for.
4) Obviously, I believe in providing as much information as possible in my client's email responses and price is an issue that should not be avoided. People like to do business with people that they like and if they recognize that you are trying to help them by answering their obvious and anticipated question regarding price -- before you start pressing to sell them a car -- they will be more likely to like you! Customers have unlimited access to pricing information on the World Wide Web and auto dealers must accept that they are not the only source for this information. Automotive advertising vendors like FirstLook, vAuto, eCarList and AAX offer applications that allow auto dealers to resource the Internet along with their customers in real time to insure that their initial quote is competitive so there is no excuse for the auto dealer to not go first.
In addition, new third party inventory based websites -- like ronsmap scheduled to launch their platform in 2010 -- will be offering auto dealers Internet leads that include comparative models and competitive pricing information that the customer has found on the Internet before they approached the dealer for a quote. These Intelli-Leads sourced from equally intelligent applications offered by ronsmap including their SellersVantage and vBack products exemplify the fact that price is not a problem for the educated auto dealer willing to do business with the newly empowered customer shopping on the Internet Super Highway.
Automotive advertising agencies that accept their new job descriptions and areas of responsibility to sell cars in a down market must turn to internal marketing plans integrated into comprehensive selling systems and processes that will maximize the R.O.I. for their auto dealer clients' automotive advertising dollars. It is no longer enough for automotive advertising agencies to stop at the front door of the dealership. They must take responsibility to do whatever it takes to sell a vehicle and that includes their participation in developing selling processes that integrate their auto dealer client's virtual online showroom with their brick and mortar facility. One way to accomplish that goal is through the use of new Internet based technologies that link the dealer's existing customer data base to their ongoing marketing efforts.