Choose your partners wisely!

Choose Your Partners Wisely

The importance of consolidating your marketing efforts!

The Puget Sound Dealer
By Dusty Dunkle

As we know, there are positives that result from economic disasters. Approximately 90% of all US auto dealers survived 2009. Many are now running extremely lean, and may be able to add the "mean" once again. The 2009 auto industry tagline could be, "We've never worked so hard for so little." But wait! You pushed extra hard in the past year for a reason, and as the industry improves, your hard work will pay off. Dealers that are currently surviving and thriving have scrutinized every expense. This has often led to cutting back or eliminating some ser-vices from each of their vendors. The most effective and efficient partners remain, and most surviving dealerships have successfully trimmed a large percentage of the fat from their operating expenses.

One cost-cutting strategy that must be considered by every dealership is reducing or eliminating overlap in vendor services. I cringe when I see a dealership engaging multiple marketing vendors, all with overlapping services and all communicating with your customers. To everyone's credit, this isn't nearly as common as it once was.

Overlap costs a dealership thousands of dollars each month, and it can lead to a frustrated customer base inundated with redundant and mixed messages. Trying to manage and integrate several marketing vendors also creates inefficiencies in dealership operations.

The Cost of Using Multiple Marketing Companies

Let's assume you believe you have completely eliminated the overlap of services. Are you still working with 3, 4, or 5 companies that are all communicating with your customers in some way? Do they all claim they offer the best ROI?

What's certain is you are paying for each vendor's overhead, customer service representatives, sales agents, bookkeeping department, and more. They all access your DMS/Customer Base (whether you use a provider that attempts to make it difficult or not). They have completely different reporting and tools, and they all provide you with what seems to be your 500th Internet login and password.

If you have a call center partner or BDC, what happens when they are unable to contact the customer? These customers need to immediately be placed into a queue that will send another form of communication. We firmly believe in the effectiveness of live agent telephone calls, but we all know they cost more. Therefore, use telephone for the campaigns where it's essential, like driving in "lost customers" or for that personal touch on a CSI call immediately after a sale or service experience. With the balance of your customers, incorporate a multi-channel communication approach to both increase effectiveness and decrease costs.

If you use a company that provides only email services, what do they do when an email bounces, there is no email address in your DMS, or they can't find the email through their append service? Hopefully, your direct mail vendor handles those folks, but how do you coordinate between those two companies while avoiding the risk of over communicating, and turning customers away?

Even with the perfect message, a multi-channel approach is worthless if the timing and coordination are off. We all know how important it is to maintain your database (your gold mine). Using a single-source vendor with proven expertise in each communication field is a safe way to ensure proper coordination. That same vendor should also be your resource for managing opt-in / opt-out lists, CAN-SPAM Act requirements, Do Not Call legislation, and other essential database maintenance.

Multi-Channel Communication - The Key to Success

You are probably familiar with a number of companies offering a single-line service. Many provide only one specific method of retaining, generating, or marketing to customers. Many are only capable of a single method of communicating with your customers.

No one method of communication is most effective for all consumers, and all methods have their unique advantages and disadvantages. Statistics prove that a blend of communication methods is by far the most effective and generates the best results.

What worked in the past, doesn't necessarily work today. Many business rules have been re-written, and the most forward-thinking individuals are viewing these hard times as a great opportunity.

We all know that consumers are more educated than ever. Let's look at Generation Y customers, for example. They are the first native online population; they have always been surrounded by massive amounts of media, marketing, and messages. By nature, they are pros at screening out messages-your communications--unless those communications are handled perfectly.

The Y's are also a very cynical generation. According to Carol Phillips, a marketing instructor at the Mendoza College of Business, Notre Dame University, Gen Ybelieves "all advertisers lie." In dealing with Gen Y consumers, you must communicate properly, while sending a carefully composed message. It's imperative to either ommunicate with your customers using the method they specifically request, or properly blend all effective methods of communication.

Advantages of a Single Source Marketing Partner

In order to run even leaner, reduce the overall number of companies you work with. Utilizing one partner will increase your buying power. In return, you should be offered discounts across the board for the volume you deliver. You will now be able to properly integrate the services they offer by forming a stronger bond and learning the most efficient ways to interact with them.

You can concentrate on the details behind each service and report, which allows you to use their tools most effectively. You'll deal with just one representative for all active services and programs. You'll receive just one invoice each month, and call just one bookkeeping department if you have questions about it. The less time you spend managing vendors, the better your bottom line.

Working with one vendor who understands your vision and knows what best fits your needs is much better than attempting to get five different vendors on the same page to meet your marketing goals.

Statistics prove that a blend
of communication methods is
by far the most effective and
generates the best results.

Selecting the Right Marketing Partner

You are reading this today because you survived 2009. You survived because you made smart business decisions and surrounded yourself with talent. My advice in selecting a single-source partner is to find a company that effectively utilizes multi-channel marketing, completely encompassing:

  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Telephone - Live
  • Telephone - Automated Messaging
  • Telephone - Text Messaging
This company must have the capabilities to integrate their approach over a number of core services. They must provide reporting that meets or exceeds your requirements, and they should have proven experience in helping dealers succeed by:
  1. Retaining active customers after their visit
    • CSI Follow-up
    • Prospect Follow-up
    • Thank You Communications
  2. Marketing properly to existing customers
    • Data Mining
    • Reminder Services
    • Lost Customer Recapture
    • Recall Services
    • Email Append Services
    • Direct Mail, Email, and Text Sending
  3. Reaching out to obtain new customers
    • Conquest Marketing
    • Lead Generation
    • Direct Mail Services

Congratulations on the tremendous efforts you've put forth to weather this storm. Although the industry looks to be on the upswing, competition will continue to be fierce. Those who embrace technology, continue to keep their focus, and push for additional efficiencies will win. 2009 will one day be a distant memory!

Dusty Dunkle is the President of Customer Research, Inc. CRI, a one-stop Customer Loyalty, CSI, and Revenue Generating service provider that utilizes multichannel communications, was founded in Seattle in 1967 and works exclusively in the automotive industry. To learn more about this article, contact Dusty Dunkle at 800-886-3472, by email at, or visit the CRI website which provides information on all available solutions