Benefits of effective seasonal fixed ops marketing


For dealerships, January through March new and used car sales are usually at the lowest levels of the year – pandemic shutdowns notwithstanding. This year poses an even bigger problem with layoffs of critical members in the service and parts area. These are challenging times. And as in any other year, many OEMs and automotive dealers will cut marketing budgets because it’s low on the priority list if it’s not aimed directly at car sales. Do you still cut marketing for service and parts growth?

If you’re thinking about cutting marketing and incentives to current owners, that’s misplaced thinking. It may help in the short term but could come back to hammer your long-term sales.

Since fixed ops is your most profitable area, marketing to your owner base’s needs in seasons of life and seasons of weather is an excellent way to increase the service and parts business. It’s also a way to improve current profits and future sales. Let’s look at some suggestions on being personal, effective, and profitable while caring about and growing your service and accessories usage.

Effective Seasonal Marketing Needs a Strategy

As with any marketing campaign, the strategy is critical to success. Let’s set your process into three parts: Cultivate, Communicate, and Motivate. First, for effective marketing, you must know whom you’re speaking to and consider that not all car owners understand maintenance needs beyond the typical oil change and tire rotation.

Most believe additional maintenance isn’t necessary and is just a way for service departments to make more money. And if it’s a customer who purchased a used car from you, maintenance is considered too expensive and out of warranty. A recent Cox Automotive study said 37% of car owners are delaying service because of financial costs. You can see, it’s essential to help both types of customers understand why care is needed and how it can save them in the long run and prolong their car’s life.

Cultivate. This is where most of your work will be done. Have a conversation with the customer in a way that’s specific to their needs. For example, you can first segment your customers into SUVs, Trucks, Luxury, and Sedans. After segmenting your customer data list, split those segments in New and Used purchase buckets. Why used? Studies say only 30 percent of vehicle owners continue to visit new-car dealers’ service departments after their warranty expires. They end up using aftermarket parts installed by independent garages. And the truth is, older cars have more service opportunities.

As an incentive to get a customer from independent garages, it may be that you can have a lower price tier for their service charges. Targeting these customers with offers based on content specific to their type of vehicle, age of the car, and station in life helps bring them in as current customers and keeps them new car owners in the future.

Examples might be “5 Ways to Prepare Your Vehicle for Weekend Trips” as people prepare for getaways. You can explain the need to make sure they have tires or chains for the mountains or provide a new video screen accessory offer to help everyone have a peaceful ride. Remind them of what their vehicle is capable of and reinforce that they made the right choice. You could also introduce the new safety updates and features of the current car line for older car customers. There’s always the standard, Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall promotions but think about the back to school or local celebrations promotions. To do this, you’ll need to know more about your target, but the rewards for that information and effective use of it are much better.

By providing editorial content about their vehicle and opportunities it gives them, you end up being an expert and changing their opinion of you as only trying to sell them something. Cultivating the relationships with your customer means knowing specifics about them, their car, and their area. You can then be more targeted about the help in information and offers that you can give them. Never assume that a 10% off oil change coupon is going to do the work for everyone.

Communicate. After you’ve developed this useful content, you’ll want to share it through the owner’s preferred channel. You’ll also want to remember that over 50% or more of your customer base will access or contact you through their phone. Using geofencing and social media would be perfect options to get the mobile customer. It allows you to target your specific audience to provide quality content, expand your message’s reach, and send business your way by delivering offers while the owner uses his/her vehicle.

Motivate. Planning, strategizing, scouring your customer data for segments, and building content is excellent, but you want to make sure they choose to bring their car in—one thing to make that a possibility is increasing your paid search. Most consumers will search for explanations of the issue they’re having before they ever come to you. And it’s even more likely that they want to take care of it now. With your paid search, you can help them do business with you instead of your competition before they take those summer trips.

One of the mantras of the past is still valid today if you’re to have a successful campaign of any kind: “It’s all about Reach and Frequency.” Make sure you’re buying the keywords to match the content you’re sending out. Reach your audience segments. Do it often.

Remember that consistency in your campaign is vital. Don’t cut back when you don’t see immediate results. And you’ll want to make sure the keywords you are buying match the content you put together in your individual segment campaigns.

Effective marketing can be built on consistently communicating customer needs and providing solutions to issues before they become problems. Keeping in front of your owners with regular personal communications that meet their needs in a timely way will help you go a long way towards keeping them in every season. And if you show you care for them, then they’ll continue to care for you.

Did you enjoy this article from Steve Mitchell? Read other articles from him here.

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