Automation makes digital marketing easy and effective for forward-thinking dealers

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on June 26, 2018

Marketing automation turns browsers into potential buyers—while dealers get on with other business

Like other time-pressed small businesses, dealerships naturally worry that running a digital marketing strategy properly might take resources they don’t have, and that doing it badly might be worse than not doing it at all. The answer is to let technology take on the heavy lifting. Marketing automation tools put efficient and effective lead nurturing within easy reach of all dealers, allowing them to boost customer engagement—and ultimately sales—without undermining other areas of business.

Automation: maximum results, minimum input

Dealers are busy people. Running a small but complex business means wearing any number of hats in the course of a single day. A dealership owner might assess new stock, host a sales meeting, negotiate with a vendor, and pay a series of bills—all before lunch.

Given all that, where does creating, implementing, and analyzing a professional digital marketing strategy fit into the mix? For many dealers, that can feel like anyone’s guess.

Which means that lead nurturing in particular—guiding potential customers from passing interest to positive action—can become just another task to be fitted in, somewhere, somehow, by somebody. But digital marketing conducted in such a piecemeal way can be a waste of time and money. Digital marketing is a discipline that rewards attention to detail.

Nevertheless, in a world where 95% of car buyers use digital to conduct research prior to making a purchase, ignoring digital—beyond a basic website and Facebook page—is not an option. A good digital strategy engages potential buyers, ramps up their trust in your brand, and nudges them towards purchase. Abandoning it hands the initiative to your competitors.

Happily, marketing automation can help square this circle. Automating fundamental marketing processes means they happen in the background, with little or no input from your team. Acknowledging customers, engaging with them and leading them towards a site visit or test drive happens without impinging on your time and focus. Your team is left to concentrate on turning leads into sales.

What does automation mean in practice?

Put simply, marketing automation helps you collect, track and nurture leads, schedule and distribute content, automate social media posts, and more, while reducing the amount of work that has to be done manually.

Let’s say a buyer fills in a form on your website. Without marketing automation, someone would have to note that interaction, write and send an introductory email, and continue to nurture that buyer over an extended period, sending appropriate pieces of content (or tempting offers) at regular intervals.

As its name suggests, automation can do all that for you. The initial interaction triggers a “thank you” email, and creates the lead. Over the coming weeks or months, the buyer is sent relevant content that keeps your company front and center in their thoughts as they research a potential purchase. You don’t lift a finger.

Perhaps someone else takes an action that indicates a serious intent to buy, like downloading model specifications from your site. In that case, the initial email might point to your sales calendar, letting potential buyers choose a test drive slot by clicking a link in the message. By making it easy, you also make it more likely.

At some point most car buyers still want to talk to a person, and automation software picks out the leads most worthy of direct interaction. Instead of contacting everyone, your sales staff  contacts only the leads who have shown sustained positive interest, identified through their time on your website or their engagements with your content.

But just because a lead is not of interest to your sales staff now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Today’s browsers are tomorrow’s buyers. Automated content can track and nurture anyone who interacts with your website or social media feeds, however casual their interest at that point. Eventually, your automation software identifies them as sales ready, and sends an alert to your sales team.

Finally, automation keeps track of previous customers, helping ensure future sales. After a suitable gap, marketing automation can reinstate a previous buyer at the start of a bespoke nurture pathway, just as they start thinking about a vehicle upgrade. Past customers are automatically sent useful reminders about servicing, as well as relevant content pieces and invites to stock previews or discount days.

What you need for successful automation

There are numerous marketing automation tools available, many of which have free trials or significant discounts for small businesses. Hubspot, Pardot, and GetResponse are three of the most well known, though the best and most cost-effective for you will depend on exactly what you want to use marketing automation for.

At the very least, you should look for a solution that helps you build and personalize emails, automate email responses, nurture leads, and score and grade those leads into useful categories, so you know exactly who to pass on to your hard-pressed sales team and when to do it.

None of this will replace the need for more reactive and creative marketing. What it will do is allow you to reach more potential customers more frequently, without adding to your own workload. Automation means fewer leads slipping through the cracks in your system, and leaves your staff free to focus their efforts on customers who are ready to buy.