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5 Trends Changing Automotive Marketing in 2016

Automotive Inbound Marketing

As 2015 wraps up, we are already looking ahead to what the future holds for automotive marketing in 2016. We just hosted a webinar on the topic, which you can watch here, but we wanted to take the five key trends and share them today so you can get a head start on tomorrow.

5 Automotive Marketing Trends in 2016 webinar from 9 Clouds.

1 – Personalization

We’re all very familiar with what personalization is. When I log in to Amazon, for example, it’ll show me products that are related to things I’ve bought. So you can see that I just looked at a book called Bad Ass: Making Users Awesome, which is all about creating cool products online. Then you can see the other books that are related to things I’ve been looking at.

This is personalization.

This is the idea that when you go to an automotive website, your experience won’t mirror the experience of other visitors. Whether you’re logging in as someone who just bought a vehicle or you’ve never visited the store, the site should look different. Personalization is the idea that your website and your digital channels change based on someone’s history. So how do you do that?

The way that you have to do that is to integrate your customer database, which is your DMS (data management system) or your CRM (consumer relationship management), with your website. When you integrate these tools, when I go to your website, it might say, “Hello Scott,” (like the Momentum site below) or even more interestingly, it might show, “Great to see you again, is it time to service your vehicle?”.

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We can make our websites more interactive.

There are a couple different platforms out there that do this. If you’re an auto dealer, some of the web providers have this feature built-in. DealerFire is one, for example, that comes with personalization built-in. You can also do personalization on landing pages using marketing automation software such as HubSpot.

2 – Adaptive Targeting

First we have personalization, creating a custom experience for your visitors based on their history. Now we can use adaptive targeting.

Adaptive targeting is talking and selling to people showing interest. 

We don’t want to try to talk to the entire database or everyone in your city. Talking to everyone is the equivalent of talking to no one.

We only want to talk to people who are showing interest and are ready to buy.

There are a lot of ways to do this. At 9 Clouds, what we do is we actually ask people when they download one of our resources: “What’s most important to you?” Depending on what you choose, we’re going to speak to you differently. When we send you an email, we’re going to provide links to the resources that will help you most.

Think about that as an auto dealer. When you talk to someone who walks in, he or she might express price as one of the most important factors. Or perhaps color or safety are larger concerns. If we can identify the key buying factors, online or offline, we can target those customers in a personal way. Thus, you can combine personalization, the first trend, with the second trend of adaptive targeting.

How do we capture this information? 

Start with an online form. Send people a different follow-up based on information they provide.

For offline traffic, identify a key question to ask, such as, “What is most important for you?” Create a field in your CRM for the possible answers. After talking to that person on the phone or in the store, click the box in the CRM that identifies what the person is most interested in.

Then, your future follow-up, along with ad campaigns, emails, etc. will be centered on the customer’s needs. All you have to do is export the list of people with certain needs and send a targeted follow-up that addresses those needs.

How does this method work? Very well. At 9 Clouds, we see almost 60% email open rates and a 30% click rate for emails with resources that visitors have need help with.

Adaptive targeting ensures the right person gets the right message, which will increase open rates and build trust.

3 – Diversified Content

Potential customers find us in multiple ways. Thus, it’s important to share information in a variety of locations.

This leads to our third trend: Diversified Content. We are often told as automotive marketers that we need to create blog posts, post on social media, get reviews and use many more platforms. It can feel very overwhelming.

Simplify this approach with the rule of three: any piece of content you create should be shared in three different ways.

Let’s say you write an article about your end-of-the-year clearance sale. You can use it as a blog post on your site, change it into an email, into a landing page, tweet it out, and add it to your Facebook page. You can repurpose that same content across multiple channels.

This is important for a couple reasons. First of all, it saves time. If you don’t have to spend time on social media thinking about what to post, you’ll be able to post a lot quicker, and it’s not going to be as painful. If you already have a blog post written, that email and that landing page become very easy to create, because you have the core content.

As a goal to get started with diversified content, aim for four core pieces of content a month. An easy way to get started is to think of your audiences. You may have one piece of content speaking to truck buyers, one for people who need service, and one for people who are interested in your community work. Those core pieces of content can be spread out to multiple channels.

4 – Sales-Based Analytics

What if your marketing department focused on efforts that actually sell cars? A mind-blowing idea, right?

We’ve all heard about analytics for years. We know that analytics measure what’s happening on the web. Analytics tell us how many people are visiting our site, where they’re coming from and more. Unfortunately, many of our analytics tools stop there. They tell us where the traffic’s coming from, our cost per click (if we’re running ads) but we want to know what’s actually driving sales and getting people to the right place on our website.

There’s a number of ways that we can actually measure what’s working.

Identify Successful Campaigns

The easiest way to get started with Sales-Based Analytics is by using a little, unknown section of Google Analytics called Campaign (under All Campaigns).

The “Campaigns” function analyzes all of that diverse content to see what is working best, so you’ll know more than just which tools are bringing traffic, such as Facebook, email, etc. You will actually find out which campaigns are working best. You can find out if that “Trade-In” campaign worked across all channels, if the “Year-End Clearance” campaign is showing success or if the “Buy 3 Tires Get One Free” campaign is gaining momentum.

With that knowledge, you can use marketing efforts that work and cut those that don’t.

To group marketing efforts in Google Analytics as a campaign, use the Google URL Builder.

This tool allows you to create a link that can be used throughout a campaign, whether it’s an email, a landing page, social media message, etc. This link will group all traffic and conversions. You can take things a step further by not only grouping by campaigns at a high level, but also by viewing the tools that had the greatest success. For example, you would see that the tires email brought 80% of the overall tires traffic while social media and landing page clicks only brought 20%.

Identify Conversions

Also interesting is looking at conversions to find out which campaigns ended in sales. Set this up using Goals in Google Analytics underneath the admin section. Basically, you tell Google Analytics, where do I want visitors to go? This would be a VDP page, maybe an Hours and Directions page, or a Request a Quote page.

Once those goals are set up, we can see which of our campaigns are getting the right people to our website. (See conversion funnel below.)

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Let’s say I want to know what campaigns brought people to our pricing page, because if they’re looking at how much our services cost, they’re probably a little bit interested. A look at our analytics shows that our blog and our automotive email marketing efforts were the ones that brought people all the way down this funnel to the place where they have to decide if they’re going to work with us or not.

Your CRM is probably tracking the original source of traffic, such as Google or AutoTrader or others. Unfortunately, sales-based analytics says, we don’t necessarily care where all the traffic’s coming from. We care about the 50 people who bought a car this month. Where did they come from? Knowing that answer radically transforms your marketing efforts. It will also help justify your budget and strategy to managers and bosses.

5 – Employee Accountability

We all want our salespeople to work effectively. Often, this isn’t being tracked well and often not at all, digitally. Fortunately, 2016 brings a year when there is no longer an excuse to guess on the performance of your employees. Instead, the marketing team can generate leads and the sales team can contact leads and the entire process is tracked to know the actual conversion rates and what can be improved.

For employee accountability, benchmarks are essential. It’s difficult for someone to fulfill your expectations if you don’t tell them what they are. That’s why we have created sales enablement training to help dealerships come up with benchmarks that are both realistic and that push the sales reps.

We like to think about it as a sales funnel. Your sales rep has a number of calls to make, a number of emails to send, a number of appointments to book and ultimately a number of sales that are generated from those activities.

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Often, it’s difficult for sales reps to know where to start. If you ask them to call 50 people a day, they’re just going to pick up the phone book or go through the CRM randomly and call people. That’s not what we want to do. We want to go after people who are warm leads based on behavior.

That’s why sales enablement is essential. We need to identify the right customers and tell the sales team who they are. How do we do that?

Behavior Method

One thing we can do is look at behavior. Sidekick is a tool that tracks who’s opening your email. So if I’m a sales rep and I send out a personal email to someone who filled out a form, maybe someone who was a walk-in but didn’t purchase, I can actually see when they open that email. Now, the moment they open that email is probably the best time to call them. If you want to get them on the phone and they’re opening an email, they’re either on their phone, reading their email, (which is about 70% of people now), or they’re at their desktop at their office. So using Sidekick allows your sales reps to know who to call and when they’ll have the best chance of getting them on the phone.

Some argue that this is creepy. It is unless you treat it correctly. Your salesperson does not say: “I saw you looking at this website, do you want to buy a car?” Instead, they need to think about providing a resource. It’s appropriate to say: “We’re reaching out to customers showing interest and we wanted to see if we could help.” Another way to say it: “We’re reaching out to VIP customers and want to see if there’s any resources we can provide.”

The goal is to get the conversation started.

When your sales team follows this process, you learn what works and can improve the follow-up that doesn’t work. Start systemizing your sales team by creating templates for the process and for the actual follow-up of your salespeople. The sales reps should have exactly what they need to say or email in front of them with options to personalize both.

There’s that first trend again: personalization. If someone’s looking at used car VDP pages and we send a templated email about used car VDP pages, it feels very personal.

Don’t send the same follow-up email to everybody saying, “I’d like to talk on the phone.” Send follow-up based on their activity. With a clear template, we can see which employees are doing best and which processes need to be changed or improved.

2016: New Opportunities in Automotive Marketing

2016 is going to be about personalizing our content, targeting the right people with our messages, diversifying our content, measuring based on sales and improving our processes and accountability. If you’re a manager or a marketer, these are important trends for you.

It takes a lot of planning to take advantage of these trends. One tool can help you do everything in one place: marketing automation software. Sign up now for a free 30 day trial of marketing automation software and we’ll help you get everything hooked up and set-up properly.


Photo: Amélien Bayle