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B2B Marketing in 2015: It’s Not All about Customer Experience

In B2B marketing, there’s no scarcity of brand messages from vendors to dealers. Increasingly, those messages now tend to market how the vendor’s products and services help dealers create a better customer experience, rather than focus on the products or services themselves. But is that a good thing? Certainly dealers now recognize that customer experience is the battleground of today and will increasingly become more important. But, at the end of the day, the features that ultimately sell dealers aren’t how your solution helps their customers, but rather, how it helps them.


Let me explain:


Dealerships are businesses and the idea that customer experience will be the differentiator is accurate and important. However, what ultimately matters is the bottom line. Some dealers are content to invest in a service knowing that the financial benefits from that service could take some time to materialize – such as customer loyalty and retention. Others, however, simply cannot afford to shell out money on a monthly basis without seeing an immediate return on their investment. Dealers don’t buy leads because they think they’ll sell a car to someone in 3 months. They buy leads because they want to sell those customers cars NOW. They invest in products and services that solve THEIR problems, not necessarily their customer’s problems.


While there are certainly products and services that overlap that area between solving a dealership’s problem as well as a customer’s, typically the products and services aren’t designed to work that way. The typical solution is designed to solve a dealership’s problem and, as a side effect, enhance the customer experience. Yet, many vendors focus solely on how their service will enhance the experience for the customer.


In the past, it was the exact opposite. Marketing focused on ROI and solving problems. The foundation of closing any sale with a dealer was based on the correct answer to the question, “will your service help me sell more cars?” If you could do that satisfactorily, chances are good the dealer would sign up with you.


Nothing in sales today has changed. Dealers still want the answer to that question. Sure, if the sole purpose of your product or service is to enhance the customer experience, then by all means create a compelling message designed to convince a dealer that by doing so they will sell (or service) more cars. Ultimately, however, dealers still care how it will help increase revenue for their dealership. Bombarding dealers with a single message can result in your message being ignored.


It’s OK to brag. There is nothing wrong with telling the world how great you are. Include marketing messages that show dealers how your product or service will sell more cars or increase service business. Customer loyalty and retention are extremely important. But, it is important to be able to first and foremost illustrate to dealers how your service is going to help them NOW, in order to win that business. We all know that the auto industry is a business of immediacy. No dealer in the universe is going to tell a customer to go home and think about it before doing everything in their power to earn that sale at that moment.


Take a page from sales 101 and include messages of solutions for pain points and ROI in addition to your messages of customer experience. You may well find that dealers will be more receptive to your message and, perhaps, easier to close.

Views: 205

Tags: automotive, b2b, brand, customer, dealership, experience, loyalty, marketing, message, problems, More…roi, sales, vendor


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Comment by Gregory Lawrence Noonan on October 26, 2015 at 6:56pm


As usual, thank you for the thought provoking post.  I've read it multiple times and end up with many thoughts.  All one has to do is go to one of the many trade shows and see that most products state they solve a sales problem and some, as you say, also tout helping to keep customers. A very small percentage talk exclusively about being a service solution.  

Service Solutions help maintain customers every 3-4 months for the ownership life of vehicle. The net profit is huge in comparison and if a dealer keeps a customer for the life cycle, or at least for the first 4 years, 10-12 ROs, the NET profit can equal or exceed that of the initial sale. Having kept that customer for this time period solidly puts the customer in a strong equity position for the savvy dealer to sell them their next car right from the service lane. 

No doubt dealers tend to buy, as they always have, in the paradigm of what is good for the immediate sale. So vendors should sell that sizzle but also present their products Retention value or join forces with another company who offers this value.  I was in the office of a vendor in Florida 2 weeks ago and the chairman said, "Greg, I speak to dealers all the time and I don't understand why they don't understand what I do".  Time for all dealers to realize if we present ourselves as only that we sell cars consumers will go there to buy cars and have them serviced someplace else.  At the point of sale the dealer has to be the point of service in the eyes of that consumer, right then, as they leave with the keys. Vendors who can only lead with we help you sell cars and don't have a retention element (RE) to their product offering, will have a more difficult time being accepted. Look at the recent acquisitions or marketing moves; with Repair Pal, AutoTrader with Xtime, MPI and Autopoint, the list goes on with companies starting to realize they need to leverage their companies with a service solution.

I'll go as far as to say all ups should enter the dealership through the Customer Service Department and every Customer Service Department should have a sales/concierge desk in it.  The bottom line is the Customer Service line.  The sale must be tied together right from the beginning to the Customer Service Department. The 1st Customer Service appointment must be achieved at the time of sale or at least be an objective.  It's usually for oil change, and if they have to, give it away in form of a loyalty coupon.  This is an instant ROI and will catch the customer, if properly processed, when they have the most questions about their new vehicle and how things work; Phone, GPS, spare tire, DVDs and entertainment, automatic lights high beams and more.  It is the beginning of the amortization of the selling cost per vehicle. These customer will tell others and that brings in stronger leads.  The close ratio shows that dealers don't sell a high percentage of the leads.  Consumers reward dealers that solve THEIR problems and, as I said these consumers are most confused in the first 3 months of ownership.  

Service and parts, as a percentage of total sales, have fallen by 25% in the last 5 years.  This business is going to the aftermarket costing dealers more to reengage customers and OEMs more to retain them in brand. Now that the average dealer spends $616 on advertising the average car for sale, keeping them in Customer Service is an immediate ROI.  

Finally, the industry has to look at this whole paradigm differently and realize that Getting and Keeping customers returns the most significant ROI.

Greg Noonan

Automotive Professional Network and Resource Exchange for Car Dealers, Managers, OEM and Marketing Practitioners seeking Best Practices.

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