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How dealers can work with a marketing agency to tap into the digital market

Posted by Ashley Karr on August 22, 2018

Increasing sales and measuring ROI in a digital world

In an increasingly competitive market, dealers need to look closely at how potential customers are moving through the car buying process. With shoppers interacting with an average of 24 touch points before purchase, 71% of which are online, it may make sense to work with a digital agency that knows the industry inside out.

As shoppers become increasingly digital, dealers must work harder than ever to connect with people before they even set foot in the showroom. Digital marketing is now the best way to reach a wide selection of shoppers as they move through the buying journey.

We spoke to automotive marketing expert Vikki Little who runs Feisty Consultancy. She has more than 20 years’ experience working with dealers and understands how to make a partnership work. She says, “Working with an agency that specialises in the automotive industry offers car dealers significant benefits, as they have a team of marketing experts who have experience in and understand this sector.”

Communicating with your agency

Knowing that you need to step up your marketing game is the first step to increasing sales, but there are so many ways to do this. You could enlist the help of existing staff or you could hire an internal team of marketers, copywriters, and designers. And, depending on your dealership’s needs, it may make sense to hire an external agency.

While there are costs involved, in certain cases, using an agency can be more affordable than staffing a large internal team—and it will give you access to a wide range of specialist support with decades of combined experience.

Once you have an agency in place, it’s important to set clear lines of communication and designate the teams within the dealership who will handle different tasks such as meeting with the agency, looking through reports, and following up on leads.

Little also suggests dealers have regular status meetings with their agency. She says, “Planning and review meetings should be held with the agency at the start of each quarter, where targets should be shared along with the manufacturer’s marketing requirements.

“It’s important the agency team is in regular contact with managers at the dealership so they can become part of the team.”

Using a specialist agency’s tools to drive more sales

A decade ago, shoppers would visit an average of five dealerships before deciding on the right make and model. Today, that number is just two because it’s so much easier to find information online.

By partnering with an agency, you can hit the ground running to target this increasingly digital audience as agencies will already have the tools in place to successfully plan, implement, and track marketing activity. However, you may need to put some new processes in place to make the most of this.

Little says, “Agencies have access to specialist marketing platforms and tools—for example, email and SMS marketing software, trackable phone numbers, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console—enabling them to measure the success of marketing activity and campaigns.”

The information from these tools can help to dictate future marketing activity, but it’s your responsibility to propose new ideas at review meetings. After all, no one knows your business and customers better than you do. While an agency might have good knowledge of the whole market, it’s up to you to do some of the leg work for your local audience.

It’s also important to work with your agency to set realistic goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). This will help you monitor the performance of your marketing activities (and your agency), but it also will give your team something to work towards when it comes to converting leads from digital marketing activity into sales.

Little says, “One of the first tasks we complete when we start working with a new dealer client is a review of their quarter’s targets, their annual, quarterly, and monthly marketing budgets, their fixed marketing costs, the marketing activity they are currently running and have planned, and their business and marketing objectives.

“We use this information to produce measurable marketing objectives, based on the needs of the sales and aftersales departments.”

What does the dealer need to do?

There’s the temptation to sit back and let the agency bring in easy sales, but that’s not always the way this works. While some leads will walk in ready to buy, having interacted with your dealership online, some will take a little more work.

Sales managers will see an increase in leads from different sources. For example, you might invite a shopper who has opened a sales email a number of times for a test drive. If you’ve seen a shopper asking questions on social media, send over some marketing material to answer their questions. It’s also important to take time to follow up with shoppers who have enquired online in other ways.

Being proactive with your follow-ups is the key to making the most of your agency’s activity. Think about how you might follow up with a walk-in enquiry. Whether you call to check in, invite them in for a test drive, offer a special deal or send further information, following up on digital leads is just as important, even if they seem small.

“A good agency will provide reporting on the results for marketing activities—for example, ‘open’ and ‘engagement’ rates for a tactical email marketing campaign,” says Little. “But the dealer must have a process for capturing information from prospects and customers when they contact the dealership. Capturing this information should be part of the dealer’s customer relationship management (CRM) process.”

Agencies can be very cost-effective partners, but it’s important that dealers are involved in the idea generation process ahead of any campaign and know how the agency is working in order to best follow up on leads and enquiries.