Automotive Digital Marketing ProCom

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The battle for customers in the automotive industry is hyper-competitive.

Dealers advertise low price loss leaders and court an Internet buyer with competitive pricing that sometimes results in negative gross deals. Service departments advertise low priced oil changes to both upsell and win a new customer. 


Dealers send mailers, direct mail, use traditional and digital marketing; all to try and persuade a potential customer to choose them. Many companies, however, don’t take advantage of a free method with which to gain customers – social media.


I talk about using technology to gain customers frequently. Using the communication methods that your customers use is an excellent way to engage and interact with them. However, a lot of dealers don’t see value or opportunity in these platforms, mostly because determining ROI is difficult. This technology can, however, be used to win new customers, if done correctly.


Take, for example, a recent conversation that two large mobile phone carriers had with a customer using Twitter.  AT&T and T-Mobile duked it out on Twitter based on a single tweet by a consumer questioning AT&T’s international data rates. T-Mobile responded quickly to the customer informing him that they don’t charge additional rates for overseas data. They quickly went into customer acquisition mode by listening to what people were saying. AT&T jumped into the conversation sharing their opinion that they had superior service to T-Mobile in a creative manner. Ultimately, after a few exchanges between AT&T and T-Mobile with the customer listening, the Twitter account of the CEO of T-Mobile jumped into the conversation with a simple observation and challenge – that AT&T’s CEO wouldn’t personally make the effort to also join in the conversation and prove to the potential customer that they were valued. The customer ultimately was impressed and tweeted that T-Mobile’s CEO had “definitely caught [his] attention” and that he was “going to a T-Mobile store to inquire tomorrow.”


The most telling part of this conversation was that two large cellular companies were battling it out, in public, over a single customer. T-Mobile was using social media to court him while AT&T was using it to retain him. Nobody really knows if the tweet from the CEO was actually sent by John Legere himself. The only thing that mattered was that the customer believed it was. This customer was made to feel wanted by two companies. As a result he expressed his excitement with his entire network in this tweet:

Using technology in today’s world is essential for effective communications with your customers. In order to react and communicate in a timely manner you must have the technology and the knowledge to identify opportunities, no matter where they exist. This not only includes servicing your existing customers, but also finding new opportunities.


I’m pretty sure that this customer didn’t expect the two companies to react as they did to his lone tweet. He wasn’t any kind of social media influencer. He only has 296 followers on Twitter. This exchange, however, managed to win a customer for one company and lose one for another. It has also generated a buzz that no company can buy. 

Views: 335

Tags: acquisition, at&t, customer, engagement, loyalty, media, retention, social, tmobile, twitter


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Comment by James Jarrett on December 12, 2013 at 4:04pm

You are funny Brian.  I do remember you of course.  Great points you made. 

Comment by Brian Bennington on December 12, 2013 at 2:53pm

Way to go, Richard.  I’ve got a full plate today and you drop this massively provocative post right in my lap!  A while back, in my quest to stay abreast of the latest car marketing, I internet shopped 9 dealers representing 3 different makes–three dealers per make, just to see how they were responding.  The final follow-up contact totals were 15 “got me and we talked” phone calls and 93 emails.  I’m still receiving emails from two of the dealers, though, and this is from last July

Of the calls, five from 3 reps made the grade, through good qualifying and interested listening, with one rep head and shoulders above the rest.  Why, because he seemed genuinely interested in me and complimented me at every opportunity.  I don’t think he formally understood what he was doing, but he was practicing the core principles of Relationship Centered Marketing, which are “admiration and reassurance,” the only things people universally want to hear.

I received nothing postal mailed, other than several “special sale/best deal anywhere/we finance anyone” flyers probably because I deliberately gave my complete contact info to every rep.  What was most depressing about it was every rep, aside from the aforementioned guy, wanted to go straight to the money, disregarding the basic selling tenant that “Price is a closing tool, not a selling tool.”  Proving, as every pro knows, that unskilled, poorly trained and testosterone-driven reps can do one thing well.  Create price-motivated shoppers!

So Richard, I’d change the title of this post from “Will You Fight To Win A Customer” to “How Do You Fight To Win A Customer.”  Most probably won’t believe this, but selling is different than price-matching & order taking, and a helluva lot more creative, challenging and fun.  I could go on about this for days, but I’ll cut it off with this personal war story, and I hate war stories!

Do you remember Macgyver on TV?  When in trouble, he’d find something ordinary and nearby to fashion an implement to save the day.  My very first vehicle sale presented an extremely big problem in that the desk wanted a $160@mo. bump.  Mind you, I’d only worked there (Fairway Ford/Placentia, CA) for 2 days, but I’d previously sold organs and pianos for 20 years.

Looking around quickly, I thought “What can I use to help me get the bump”?  Why, the obvious, of course.  I walked the customer out to truck, put him behind the wheel with his wife sitting next to him, told him how great they looked in it, especially when they’d get home and their neighbors would see them in it, all the while knowing they were inhaling that “new car ether.”  Then, kneeling on the add-on running board so he looked down on me, I gave him the “news”.

I wonder when the last time was that any sales rep reading this walked their customer out to the unit being sold and closed the deal there?  (Yea, I know.  They’re so strong they don’t need to, and it sounds like a lot more effort than lowering a price!)

Comment by Brian Bennington on December 12, 2013 at 2:47pm

OK Richard, now your making the natives restless.  James responded with a “Nice info Brian” comment, which means he’s either forgiven me for suggesting he post without the shades, or he doesn’t remember who I am.  While I’d prefer the first, it’s probably the second, and I honestly understand as, if he knew me, he’d know I’m not worth remembering.

Then, Alexander thinks he may sound “rude,” stressing there still has to be a method to attract the “RamblingRooneys” of the world.  Now, there’s a group I’d pay big money not to attract!  Come on, Lau.  If I needed “Advanced Social Media,” you’d be the first I’d call, just because I think you’re a good guy.  And, I’d suggest an ADM post to talk more about what you do.  I’d read it, especially if you made it a little funny, which I know you can do.

And Manny’s back at it, utilizing an appropriate comment from his vast library of prewritten quips and quotations, always interesting, relevant and with good large type!  I LOVE big type, and I’d bet Manny has the biggest!


Comment by Alexander Lau on December 12, 2013 at 2:01pm

LOL@ Manny Luna! ha ha

Comment by Alexander Lau on December 12, 2013 at 1:50pm

I don't mean to sound rude to anyone, but you still need to find a method to do exactly what was shown in the article. How did you think AT&T and T-Mobile found Jay Rooney? It's a great example, surely, but you still need a mechanism to drive this tactic. Using technology, yes, but which technology, hence my first post and a service we offer under Advanced Social Media. Give us a ring! Proactive hunting on social networks wins customers! :-)

Comment by James Jarrett on December 12, 2013 at 1:47pm

Nice info Brian

Comment by Alexander Lau on December 12, 2013 at 10:18am

NeedTagger = ( hunting customers on Twitter. Why wait for people to come to you, hunt them!

From a stack I just presented to a potential client, which I know I will win.

Comment by James Jarrett on December 12, 2013 at 9:34am

I will within reason.  I will fight when we have comparable product. This is the vehicle they want.  They have gave me a commitment or indication they want to buy.  But I won't get into a begging, price war, dropping my pants marathon to move a vehicle.  That is the reason I left the new car side years ago.  New cars and trucks have turned into a commodity by and large.  Some customers will do everything to take every bit of profit you have out.  Those are the clients generally that will not give you good CSI and will not give your referrals.  I sell used trucks that are customized and lifted.  I will fight more because I can usually differentiate between a competitor and mine if given the chance.

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