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Direct Response Marketing

The Engine Behind the Automotive Industry

1 Oct, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

Driving customers from the Internet to the dealership, direct response marketing is steering the industry through tough times.

Relationship Building

The lengthy amount of research a customer does before buying an automobile can be beneficial to advertisers. It means marketers have a longer period of time — and often more channels — to reach a consumer. It also means that a marketer has to think long-term from the start. That's why building relationships can be so essential to obtaining and retaining customers in the automotive industry. More and more, consumers are looking to be engaged with the brand through communication and experiences.

"The days of talking at people are over," says Sheldon. "It's not CRM, it's CMR — customer managed relationships."

Tequila's Vandenbosch sees the rising of the consumer voice as a challenge to marketers. "Those conversations are beyond the brand's control, yet are critical to manage," she says. "On the positive side, it's a matter of having great products, great product and services experiences, and providing a means by which consumers can spread the love. But when there's an issue, it's even more important to be involved in the conversation, pro-actively managing your brand's reputation with its customers."

Therefore, Vandenbosch believes car companies need to be engaged in online social communities, so that they can market within and monitor what goes on in these conversations.

Organic's brand-building efforts for Jeep online are examples of this involvement in the on-going conversation. "Consumer conversation — when entered into respectfully by marketers — can be a powerful branding tool, and it carries with it more measurability than traditional DR efforts," says Lange.

Like most other automotive companies, Organic's client Chrysler leans heavily on direct mail and the Web, but its reliance on online research and that interaction with customers is growing. However, IMPAQT's Naeger warns that while it is necessary to get your company present on community sites such as Facebook, Delicious, Digg and more, it won't mean anything if it doesn't drive customers to the automotive dealer's Web site.

"I can get 5 million people to see a YouTube video, but does it mean anything to my bottom line?" he asks.

Naeger says it's about connecting the dots. He gave an example of a consumer, going online to search for a 2009 luxury car. The first step might be looking up luxury cars that were recently released. Then a consumer might progress to reading product reviews (where they will no doubt be exposed are banner ads for cars). A customer's third search might be more specific, comparing one vehicle versus a competitor.

Eventually, the customer will go to the chosen car's Web site to look for product features such as color, seating and more "Our job is to connect all those dots along the way so when a customer finally enters a dealership, we can connect it back to online searches he or she did and how much marketing it took to drive him or her there," says Naeger.

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