In the NFL, one of the most valuable commodities a team can have are its fans. Countless times we hear about the effect that home crowds can have on the gameplay of the athletes on both teams. Termed the “12th man,” this phenomenon is extremely powerful as it can motivate the home team, while at the same time making it more difficult for the opponent. Think of all of the times you’ve watched a football game and seen an opposing quarterback forced to call a time-out because his players can’t hear his play calling. This phenomenon works because it involves belief and support. The players believe it works, and it does. It’s even factored into game predictions by analysts.
Marketing is similar in its effects. Many dealerships look at marketing as an expense needed to drive traffic to their showroom. A well-designed and executed campaign can do that, but marketing is more valuable than you might think. In reality, dealers should look at marketing as their personal 12th man on their sales floor. It is considered best practice for salespeople to follow up with previous customers, reach out to orphan owners, and even cold-call customers mined from their DMS. I would argue that there is only one difference between these activities and marketing, and that is the fact that your marketing efforts can touch more of your customers than your entire sales staff could accomplish in their lifetime.
Rather than view marketing as an expense, consider looking at those efforts as leveraging the skills of your 12th man. Marketing serves many of the same purposes as your sales staff, just much more efficiently and at a lower expense.
Let’s look at the similarities between marketing and your sales staff.
- Acquisition – Dealers have historically focused most of their marketing efforts on customer acquisition. Your salespeople stand on the point waiting for the next customer to drive up. If they’re on their game, they’ll be e-mailing and calling their previous customers and begging the sales managers for lists of prospects. If you consider time valuable, you’ll realize that having salespeople perform these tasks comes at an inherent cost. In addition, most salespeople aren’t trained on how to interact with customers and simply don’t like doing this. Forcing your salespeople to do something that they are not only untrained at but also don’t like is a recipe for failure. In marketing, you control the message to each and every prospect. That message is consistent and delivered strategically. It’s much less expensive and more effective. Your salespeople will be most successful calling their previous customers – not orphan owners or customers that haven’t interacted with your dealership in years.
- Retention – Once a customer has been acquired, the focus of your marketing efforts should be building relationships. Your salespeople aren’t calling customers encouraging them to service their vehicles because they’re focused on what they get paid for – selling cars. My guess is that your service department isn’t doing this either. Dealerships spend a ton of money on customer acquisition, then forget about these customers. The lifetime value of a single customer can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars if you consider repeat purchases, service and referrals. Ensuring that you are staying top-of-mind to your current customers is essential to maintaining revenue for your dealership. Without a retention strategy, dealers will find themselves in a position of having to replace lost customers with new ones every month. The cost of keeping a current customer is far less than acquiring a new one, yet these are the customers most neglected.
- Defection – Reaching out to customers that you haven’t seen in awhile – whether service or sales – is not only important in any growth strategy, but also helps you identify why these customers left. In the process of reaching out to these customers, you will gain valuable insight on how you can improve as, invariably, customers will tell you where you lost their confidence. This will also help you identify customers with valid reasons, such as moving away or no longer owning the vehicle they were bringing to you. This allows you to more efficiently target your marketing and saves you money by reducing extraneous marketing to customers who simply won’t be a future revenue source. In a well-run dealership, management will have salespeople calling orphan owners or lists of customers who haven’t purchased in awhile. A large percentage of these customers won’t respond and those that do will not welcome the interaction, save for the few that are coincidentally in market.
Through the use of data analytics, marketing is simply your 12th man. The 12th man is there to support your dealership through a more efficient method of reaching customers at the most opportune times and allowing your salespeople to focus on their primary task of selling cars. It will motivate your entire staff by providing more opportunity.
Don’t be that quarterback forced to take a time-out because your competitor is making more noise than you are. Start looking at your marketing as an important part of your sales team and you will find that it’s much easier to win the game.