Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s Marketing Matters series with Cleo Franklin, president and CEO of Franklin Strategic Solutions, gets to the “nuts and bolts” of marketing and how easily you can gather customer data to help you make more informed business decisions.
This 2-part series offers easy ways to bring about big changes from your marketing efforts. This first article in the series addresses 3 simple questions you should ask every customer.
- What brings you to our store and how can I help?
- How did you hear about us?
- Where do you live?
Don’t click away just yet — there is more you need to know. Read on for our conversation with Franklin to learn how to turn those questions into data and that data into a more successful marketing program.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: Marketing can be one of those tasks that dealers can push aside based on other more pressing needs. Can a dealership be great at everything but marketing and still be successful?
Franklin: At the heart of every business is marketing and it has to be a critical and core function for any business to be successful. Why is this true? It’s because good marketing covers every aspect of your business. It engages the customer and tells them who you are, why you’re in business and what products/services you’re selling. More importantly, however, it gives every store the opportunity to promote their business, tell your story and sell the reason why a customer should visit you vs. the dealership down the road.
Cleo Franklin is president and CEO of Franklin Strategic Solutions.
I can't see how, in today's hyper-competitive environment, any dealership can be successful without investing in marketing.
RLD: What would you say to dealers who are struggling to find the budget for a full marketing program?
Franklin: I would suggest that dealers change their perspective. Marketing is much more than an expense. When done well, marketing will provide you a return across your parts, service and whole goods business. It is a very important and needed investment that can make a difference in driving many areas of ROI you will need to grow your business, such as brand awareness, lead generation, store-traffic and better position you to be in the consideration set, before a customer walks into your dealership, which is especially needed in today’s competitive marketplace.
Part of that investment is to have a centralized person who is responsible for managing your dealership’s marketing plan — and more importantly, tracking and measuring how the strategies are performing. Marketing can give you insights about what is happening in your marketplace, what customers are looking for, where they are shopping, keep you up to speed on the competition, and, more importantly, help you drive revenue.
That centralized person should also have the responsibility to interface, inform and integrate what they are doing with the entire team — parts, service, sales, etc. — and show why it’s important for those roles to be integrated into the marketing plan.
RLD: This is the point where I think dealers may start tuning out. For instance, how can they take on developing a marketing plan in the middle of everything else they need to do every day?
Franklin: It can be easy to get sidetracked into thinking that a marketing plan has to be complex. It doesn’t. But good marketing always begins with good customer data and ends with generating leads and store traffic. These are the essential marketing components and, in fact, dealers can gather a ton of data and start developing and refining a marketing lead generation strategy by asking 3 simple questions:
- What brings you to our store and how can I help you?
- How did you hear about us?
- Where do you live?
Question 1 helps you uncover the customer’s driving motivation for visiting your dealership — today and the source of the lead generation that drove this customer to your store. Asking this simple question helps you begin uncovering their needs and learning what marketing tactics you placed that influenced them. For instance, maybe they saw one of your ads online or a billboard or one of your customers referred them to your store.
These are key elements of information you will never know unless you ask the customer and knowing helps keep you informed. This question also helps you understand where they are in the purchase process. Are they just gathering information? Are they looking at trade-in options? Are they ready for a demonstration? Are they shopping your competitors? Are they looking to purchase today, in 1 month or 3?
Questions 2 and 3 help you understand the effectiveness and reach of your current marketing efforts. If you track how and where they heard about you including where they live, you can start to plot on a map where each of these prospects reside. This helps you to visually see the effectiveness of your marketing promotions.
The information generated from these two questions will help you validate, refine, redirect or shift your marketing outreach based on where you are promoting your store and if it is generating customer leads and store traffic.
This 3-question approach is most successful when it’s practiced, committed and integrated into your sales process consistently by your entire team as they build customer relationships. In fact, it becomes a discipline for success and one that will set you apart from the competition, those dealers who do not commit to this approach.
RLD: How can a dealer make sure the answers to these questions become data that they can use, that they’re just not conversation starters?
Franklin: The dealership team has to commit to capturing and entering this data into their CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) or even a simple daily spreadsheet log.
The sales manager should review this information regularly as part of a recap meeting with the sales team to see if you can assign reasons for a prospect’s visit based on your current mix of promotions. This process helps you understand your marketing program’s ROI with brand awareness, customer consideration for shopping your dealership and store traffic.
Tracking this information will help you begin to see trends of what advertising or promotions are working, which ones you will need to continue, shift or stop and more importantly, if your marketing actions are really bringing people into the dealership.
“Gather the data, understand the data and then share the data to drive your next marketing decisions…” Cleo Franklin of Franklin Strategic Solutions
Gather the data, understand the data and then share the data to drive your next marketing decisions.
RLD: What if a dealer gets pushback from the team about taking the time to ask and log this data?
Franklin: That’s why the team recap meeting is so important for visibility, feedback, input and sharing as it informs everyone and drives accountability for marketing. By making them share what they’ve learned, you begin establishing a disciplined approach, build good best practices for team members and develop a standard customer-focus process for the dealership.
It becomes a system of best practices, a constant update process of learning, as dealers can now uncover answers to questions they would have never known before. Dealers can also look at it as an investment into building a system to generate more prospect leads and sales. For instance, the team can use the data to develop action plans for follow-up or learn how to better engage by understanding customer motivations, map new geographical areas of growing interest to target and find out trends of what to promote, when, where and why.
This kind of system has been well established in many automotive dealerships. When a customer walks into a store, they're not just looking to trade dollars for a car. They're looking to get vital data so they can provide the customer a better experience, customize the sales process based on the customer’s needs, meet or exceed their expectations and gather key pieces of data to prospect future customers.
RLD: So, even if a sale isn’t made, every customer interaction can help a dealership improve. Is that right?
Franklin: Yes, because you are constantly finding out and uncovering customer data and tracking information that you might not ever have known. You begin creating prospect lists for follow-up.
When you transition from the mentality of a short-term transactional approach toward a long-term relational-based approach (based on knowing customer data) you can make better decisions. Ultimately, by knowing that prospect, you can adapt to the different stages of their purchase journey better than the competition can.
So, let’s say that you ask the question of where the prospect lives and they don’t want to tell you. That’s OK because eventually you’ll get answers to other questions as you start understanding what they are looking for, why and how you can help them.
This data-gathering approach is all about maintaining relevance beyond today by becoming more informed, which will help drive what you will do tomorrow. Customers have many choices and you want to get to the point where you can anticipate their needs and delight them by giving them more than what they expected. That’s when they become an advocate for your business. Simply put, they become an additional sales force, extending their influence on others’ purchase decisions.