Had the pleasure of buying a new car lately? It’s not much more fun that it was twenty years ago. The cars have a lot more bells and whistles. The dealerships have some new toys at their disposal, including 84-month financing.
In short, the process is still very painful. However, there are lots of marketing lessons – based on what not to do – for small businesses and organizations everywhere.
The advent of inbound marketing changed the way organizations attract, convert, and nurture customers. Past marketing efforts relied on a “spray and pray” approach – advertise or send direct mail and hope for leads to come in.
Attract and Convert
Inbound marketing’s focus is on generating useful content that attracts customers and then utilize tools as simple as calls-to-action, forms, or chat to convert those customers. This approach wouldn’t have been as effective before the Internet or social media eras, and the outbound approach was really the only marketing approach available in one-way communication environments like snail mail, radio, and the newspaper.
Close and Cultivate
After the attract and convert stages, you have two final stages we’ll call close and cultivate. Once you convert a prospect to a lead that you close, you want to continue to cultivate that relationship. Why is cultivate the last stage? In most businesses, and especially the car business, the goal is to cultivate a long-term relationship where customers trust you and actually want to return to you for ongoing needs in your area of specialty.
Needless to say, beating up the customer “in the box” over a $1000 “Fabric Protection Package” doesn’t bode well for future business.
The Human Part: Going Beyond Inbound Marketing
The problem with car dealerships is that for the most part, they have some of the tools of the Internet and social media eras but still do business like they’re selling the Corvair.
In our four stage process of effective inbound marketing (attract > convert > close > cultivate) dealerships have some of the tools necessary for attracting and converting, but they’re generally lousy at closing and cultivating.
That’s where the human part comes in.
Based on my recent experience with car dealerships, the follow-through via conversion tools like chat or web forms is problematic in two ways: Follow up isn’t a) timely or b) tailored to my needs as the customer.
Timely Follow Up
What does this mean exactly? On several occasions, submitting a web form did not result in follow up from a human being that knew what to do with my needs. On at least one occasion, I received no follow up whatsoever beyond the automated response email (at the time of writing, it’s over 63 hours and counting).
Tailored Follow Up
To add insult to injury, any resulting email thread so far has resulted in a scripted path, despite my questions. It’s as if my questions are secondary and putting me on the path is the most important objective. This is also true with any web chat thus far: The goal it would appear has usually been to follow a script or convert to an appointment on-site instead of sell me a car.
5 DO’s and DON’Ts
So, what can be learned from car dealerships on how not to use inbound marketing effectively? It’s almost difficult to know where to begin. But, here are five do’s and don’ts to take away:
- Don’t Forget the Human Element
Just because you have decent tools for converting, don’t forget the human element. Try being a secret shopper and see how effective your tools really are.
- Don’t Let Following Scripts Become The Goal
Scripts can be effective when working in conjunction with conversion tools . . . but only when they serve as roadmaps for converting and closing a customer. Scripts work better in some business models than others, and all business models require various levels of “scriptedness.” Don’t let following the script be the end goal.
- Do Follow Up in a Timely Manner
A confirmation email is good for exactly that: confirmation. It doesn’t count as follow-up or response. Anything over 24 business hours for real human response to a direct inquiry is absolutely ridiculous.
- Don’t Think That You’re Done When You Close
It’s many times easier to sell to an existing customer than convert and close a new prospect. Once you attract and convert, treat your customer with honesty and respect through the close and you might just have a customer for life.
- Do Continue to Cultivate Your New Customer
It’s easy to focus on attracting and converting prospects, but what are you doing to enrich the ongoing experience for your existing and future customers? Cultivate new customers to become customers for life by being useful, helpful, and available.
And no, I still do not have the new car I want.
Got an experience with inbound marketing that drove you nuts? Need help with your organization’s inbound marketing? We want to hear from you.