According to recent studies by Invesp, automated marketing campaigns, on average, increase sales productivity by 14.5 percent, with 77 percent of automation users reporting an increase in lead conversions. However, by customizing this smart technology even further, your dealership can provide highly personalized experiences for customers, and bring in even more leads. Recently we sat down with Eric Mercado, president of WeDrive Automotive, to discuss this idea in more detail.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Hello everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining me on another edition of CBT News. We’re so happy to have with us Mr. Eric Mercado. I know that you know that name and this face by joining us previously on CBT News. However, before you were with us with Force Marketing and now you’ve got a new company called WeDrive. Tell us about that.
Eric Mercado: Sure, sure. WeDrive is actually an automotive-specific personalized communications company. What we do is we work in direct marketing, email marketing, social media. Any channel where we can take a very creative audience, customized audience, whether it be auto intenders, whether it be anonymous shoppers from dealer websites, whether it be equity customers, or expiring lease customers. And we tailor up marketing automation campaigns around those customers to give the dealers a much more personalized experience for their customers and the offers that pertain to their customers using their own data.
Like you mentioned, I was formally with Force Marketing. Still near and dear to my heart. They’re doing phenomenal over there, growing at a rapid rate. One of the things that we identified at Force was there was this bridge that we had created by growing at such a rapid rate with digital marketing and in search and display and Facebook and video. We started to see that we were losing traction in some of the direct and email marketing programs that we used to run with massive success.
And then what we did is we took a six month period of time and we ran a treated versus control study to see that dealers that were doing digital and also doing direct and email marketing as part of their multichannel marketing suite, where it was a 100% creatively aligned, a 100% message aligned. What were their results like year over year, period over period, versus the dealers who didn’t have that as part of their marketing suite? Were they up? Were they down? Was there any correlation?
And we started realizing there was a tremendous correlation that when we control the entire environment, when all the personalized communications were creatively aligned with all the digital communications, when they were targeting the same audiences, we started seeing about an 11% lift in overall leads for the same spends, for the same media.
Jim Fitzpatrick: So very substantial.
Eric Mercado: Yeah. In the dealer business I mean that directly correlates to sales and service. So we said, “How do we get that business back?” And that’s where WeDrive was born. We need to have channel expertise on it, focus on these channels, really dive into better data sets, more personalization, more innovation. Then not to continue on with the “ations”, but marketing automation, really saying if a dealer has a goal of selling more net new cars or a dealer has a goal of increasing their conquest business and stealing from some of their competitors in battleground areas, how do we strategically set up campaigns to where they continuously provide results? And that compounds over time versus just a one and done campaign and maybe a shot in the arm. And that’s really what we’ve been able to accomplish in the first five, six months of this company.
Jim Fitzpatrick: It seems as though through all of the changes that we’ve seen over the last 15 years in automotive marketing that what holds true is that dealers continue to do direct mail. It’s always part of a monthly budget even though we hear about more people going social and dealers spending more in the area of digital marketing and Google and such. And I think those dollars would probably come out of radio, TV and newspaper. But direct marketing and direct mail has always been a staple in the dealers all the way through.
Eric Mercado: Yeah. Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s funny because everything comes full circle. I’m a big data nerd and I really try to lean into statistics of what we were doing for our accounts. Twelve hundred accounts under our umbrella. We’re managing all these different franchises, tier one, tier two through tier three programs, and we’re looking at all these different studies to see what’s driving success. And how do we lean into those a little bit more and focus on making those programs better? Fifteen years ago when I started in the automotive vertical, I mean we really started selling direct marketing at heavy clips, it was not personalized [crosstalk 00:05:19]. The data… Yeah, yes. Spray and pray.
Jim Fitzpatrick: All dealers were doing that.
Eric Mercado: Get as much coverage as you can, really focusing on the core principles of reach and frequency. How many people can we reach, how frequently can we get them?
Jim Fitzpatrick: You don’t have any idea in that zip code, how many people are in the market for a car.
Eric Mercado: Exactly.
Jim Fitzpatrick: And it was because the data wasn’t there, the technology wasn’t there yet. But that’s all caught up now, right?
Eric Mercado: It’s crazy. Within a couple of minutes, we can identify people who have exhibited automotive intent on third parties’ endemics, visit a dealer websites, get their double opt-in registered emails, get their physical mailing address, get their phone numbers. We have the ability to collect so much data using 34 different partnerships that we’ve been able to build over time, that to create the perfect prospect, a perfect profile, who we want to target based off of that dealer’s goal is more accomplishable than ever. It’s actually really easy for us to build out a campaign now and execute. And then more so now than ever. I remember when we first started, I mean, selling this stuff, it was like, “Hey man, how’d you do? Did you do good? Was it a good month? Hey, let’s do it again.”
Eric Mercado: And that’s how dealers measure success. And there’s still a fraction of dealers that measure success that way. My overall month went good so I don’t want to change anything.
Jim Fitzpatrick: But those dealers sometimes don’t know where that good came from.
Eric Mercado: They don’t and they don’t know how long it took for that good to reap the benefits. Now what we are able to do is surgically we would identify these are how many people we targeted, these people specifically engaged, whether it be a phone call, a form fill, a chat, a personal URL appointment set. Here’s that engagement and that engagement led to this particular sale or this particular repair order. And by the way, Mr. Dealer, here’s how much money you made on that transaction. That way when that starts to accumulate in real-time, you’re able to start making decisions and be more decisive on is this something I want to continue, I want to invest more in, I want to peel it back on?
Jim Fitzpatrick: Which allows the dealer also to spend less money on marketing and really use a very targeted approach rather than saying, “Well, let’s run out there and be all things to all people and hope for the best.” Which is the old way of doing business.
Eric Mercado: It’s crazy. We never talked about cost for acquisition 15 years ago.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Because you didn’t know it.
Eric Mercado: No, you had no idea what it was. It was always a guess and now we can get down to the penny of what it costs to actually run a campaign and how many customers you sold that engaged, opened an email, clicks that set an appointment. Called, any type of engagement that led to an attribution. We’re able to track that all the way through that customer journey and by channel. When we do that, the dealers can now be more informed on how they want to spend their budgets the next month. What does it mean to the business? Can I set expectations? If I look at the three month body of work of this program, what did it deliver me? Okay, cool I can now set us expectations in the next three months. Should it get better if it’s within that ballpark, I know what I’m going to get.
Jim Fitzpatrick: And a mail piece, correct me if I’m wrong, but a mail piece can literally put a customer in the market for a vehicle that prior to that mail being dropped was not in the market. I know myself when I go to my mailbox and I’ll see an offer for something, whether it be to paint my house or whatever the case might be. Sometimes that mail piece can then put me in the market to say, “Oh, well wait a minute, I didn’t know there was an accelerated lease program on my vehicle. I’m not looking for cars right now, but this seems to be a pretty good offer.”
Eric Mercado: Yeah, you’re spot on.
Jim Fitzpatrick: I’m not online per se shopping, so the digital ads are not going to affect me as much until I get that mail piece, which could then be the impetus to say, “Okay, let me look further into this.”
Eric Mercado: Yeah. Advertising now is different. The principalities have changed a little bit. Now there’s demand creation and there’s a demand capture. Demand creation would be where direct marketing, email marketing, social media, you could say video, where you’re actually going out and you’re telling people, “Hey, you didn’t know there was an opportunity. But there is.” And by the way, with our channels, we can be personalized to how this opportunity fits you. Here’s your trade value. Here’s what you can trade it in for. Here would be your new payment on these four or five vehicles we have in inventory. And by the way, it’s as easy as clicking a button to get an appointment set with one of our experts, our product specialists. So there’s demand creation in that way.
Eric Mercado: Driving those customers to then go and start their journey as far as customer research, I’m going to go and search and figure out if I have a good deal. I’m going to go figure out if this dealer is the closest dealer to me. And all those things that are going to happen organically. That’s the demand capture side, which still exists. And that’s all digital. That’s paid search-
Jim Fitzpatrick: And you can help them with that as well.
Eric Mercado: Yeah, yeah.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Both the creation and the capture.
Eric Mercado: Yeah, yeah. We can, we can. Again, it’s full circle. The narrative has changed in marketing in general. The principalities in marketing, like I said, have shifted. But the narrative from a macro level has also changed to where it’s not about one type of customer and as much as you can hit that one customer with that one channel.
There were the days where you and I were invested in heavily where it was TV was 80% of a dealer’s budget. And it was like, “Man, these are the areas we’re hitting and we’ll hope consumers consume it and we hope it works out well.” Well now it’s taking that same budget and it can be piecemeal to 24 different channels and some of those demand capture, some of those demand creation. You got to figure out that perfect balance. But our goal is to really focus on how do we create a catalyst to drive net new customers or to reactivate lost customers that have been in your dealership before, back to your dealership. Because in both cases, we’re adding opportunities for longterm life cycle profits. Out of all three profit centers.
If it’s a retained customer that’s for some reason been lost in the last 36 months and we get them back out, what does that mean to your business longterm? If it’s a net-new customer that’s never done business with you, what does that mean for your business longterm? When you factor in service and you factor in their next maybe four or five purchases, if you do a good job.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right, their family members.
Eric Mercado: Exactly. So we’re able to measure that better now than ever before as far as what that immediate impact is, what that longterm impact is. And when you look at that in correlation with a really well balanced digital media mix, it does drive a better outcome for the dealers. More opportunities. Because there’s two things that people do. They’re going to check their phone, every day. You got to check your text message, most cases before you even get out of bed, your voicemails, you’re going to check your phone. Well, great. We have text messaging applications that focus on those customers, to get them to open those and respond immediately that are in parallel with the direct marketing [inaudible 00:11:48]. They’re going to check their emails every day. If not at least a couple of times week, which is still good enough.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Probably every day though, you’re right.
Eric Mercado: Probably every day, most likely. Most consumers check their emails-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Or like me a hundred times a day.
Eric Mercado: Twenty-two times a day is the average.! You’re on the outlier as a business owner. I’m at the outlier as the president of a business having to run different operations. But the average customer checkS their email about 22 times a day and then you have everybody’s checking their mailbox. So we can hit them in their mailbox, we can hit them in their inbox, and we can hit him in their text message and on their phone in the mobile application. We’re exponentially increasing our chance of converting that customer and the fact that it’s all manifest driven up front in the way that we execute the campaigns. We create the audience, we know all the attributes of those customers, to deliver the lead in a better format for the dealer to manage.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, Eric Mercado, president of WeDrive Automotive, I want to thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. It’s been very enlightening. Dealers that are watching, I know that many of you believe in direct marketing in a very big way. You have over the course of the last hundred years since we’ve been selling vehicles. This is certainly an opportunity now in 2019 to do it much more efficiently, much more effectively. That’s really where the future is, is finding that customer based on the data in that particular market, bringing down the cost of the acquisition to sell that vehicle. And that’s what you guys do. So again, thank you so much for joining us here on CBT News.
Eric Mercado: I appreciate your time.
Jim Fitzpatrick: We appreciate it.
Eric Mercado: Always.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Great thanks.
Eric Mercado: Thank you.
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