Why should dealerships need to behave, and market, more like SaaS companies? I have some insights!
Understanding the Full Picture of Marketing a Dealership vs. a SaaS Company
SaaS companies do a great job at filtering out their MQLs vs. SQLs (marketing and sales-qualified leads). They know where the lead came from and rate/rank/use it accordingly. They know that just one touch isn't what closes a sale.
The average dealership has no idea where their leads are coming from and generally attributes incorrectly.
If we want to be accurately crediting and ultimately creating more leads from the spokes in our dealership wheels, we need to understand:
>The buyer's journey
>MQLs vs. SQLs with their respective processes
>That a lead is that: a lead, and an *opportunity* to create a sale. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let's get into it!
The Car Buyer's Journey
We've been beating down this door since 2016 when Google ThinkAuto released data about how long a buyer takes to buy a vehicle, as well as how many interactions are involved in doing so. The buyer's journey is anywhere from 60-90 days long, on average. The original number was 72 days, but that has fluctuated across different sources over the years.
Regardless of the exact length of that journey, dealerships need to cater to buyers for the full duration of it (just like a SaaS company would).
Google did a great job at breaking out the moments involved in the journey into five key steps, which dealerships can focus on to better understand how to market to the buyer at all points in their journey. These steps are:
>Which car is best?
>Is it right for me?
>Can I afford it?
>Where should I buy it?
>Am I getting a deal?
Creating engaging content that helps to:
>Build vehicle authority
>Narrow down selections based on demographics
>Build understanding of the finance process
>Builds your brand
>Positions your pricing
Can help your buyers choose you, and educate them in a more SaaS-like fashion.
In short, multi-touch attribution means not just giving the first or last interaction full credit for the sale, but crediting all touchpoints.
This morning, I was sitting at my favourite breakfast spot with a colleague and rambling on about attribution models.
I posed the question: "Why am I HERE, at this specific restaurant?" and the answer looked like:
>Previous positive experiences
>Organic social reminding me that it exists
>Paid advertising, again, reminding me it's there
>Billboard-type placements throughout the city
One single action/effort isn't why I was there with my oversized pancake.
While not a SaaS company, the diner owners know the value of the intangible, and that there's value in measuring the full mix of actions they take to market their business.
So how can a dealership can behave more like a SaaS company, or little diner, using multi-touch attribution?
>Marketing via multiple channels: paid and organic
>Giving each channel weighted credit
>Accounting for TOTAL costs against TOTAL sales
>Realizing that not everything can truly be measured in any attribution model: how do you quantify the young buyer who shopped with you because you sold his dad his last two trucks and he had a great experience? There's so much value in the intangible! Track the un-trackable!
>Blog posts, social posts, in-person demos, videos sent to prospects individually, email campaigns, and more all "assist" your conversion. These items are not done in isolation, and are rarely the sole cause of conversion. Track them to the best of your ability when a buyer is signing paperwork, and online.
MQLs vs. SQLs
MQL = marketing-qualified lead
SQL = sales-qualified lead
Essentially: did the sales team source the lead, or was it generated via a marketing channel?
Most dealerships operate from a place of desperation to get any type of lead at all. Frankly, it makes this marketer a little sad.
These dealerships also place v little true effort on a sales team selling, and rely exclusively on marketing to hand-deliver leads to the sales team. While I'm not against a purposeful model in either direction, it makes sense that the two should be credited accordingly, and a process should be managed for each.
Knowing where the lead came from can allow a customized process for the lead type, which will better-address their needs. It allows the real life humans in your business to meet them where they're at without overwhelming them, without scaring them away, or ignoring their needs completely. It can tell you what type of buyer they are and allow you to give them exactly what they want.
After all, serving a buyer exactly what they want is the most efficient way win to their business. Knowing how qualified a buyer is will help you serve them as such.
This article from Evenbound explains MQLs vs. SQLs quickly and concisely if you want to understand more.
A Lead is a Lead
Nothing more, nothing less.
The idea that the internet people, marketers, and tech companies involved in a dealership setting are 100% responsible for generating the sale is outdated and ridiculous.
A lead is an opportunity to create a sale.
Once a lead is submitted, let's say online, there are 101 factors from there that determine if the deal closes, especially in automotive!
>The salesperson's ability to close the deal/in-house lead handling skills (phone, in-person, text, etc.)
>The availbility of their desired product
>Financing and the buyer's credit situation
>How well your competition is handling the same lead they submitted down the street
>and so much more!
Make the most out of every single lead opportunity you have, promising or not, and your business will be better for it.