How Small Wins Build Long-Term Customer Engagement

Original Article by Dave Ragals for Dealer Marketing Magazine 

Analysts predicted that after a peak in 2016, auto industry sales revenues would decline in 2017. As the year trucks along and demand appears to trend toward a dip, there is no one better poised to tally up the small wins than the digitally savvy auto marketer.

Touch point by touch point, the ability to masterfully market things such as incentives—discounts, extended financing, etc.—accomplishes two things: One, the brand moves remaining inventory, and two, it commands consumer attention to trigger engagement in any number of small ways throughout the consideration-to-purchase journey.

The mastery resides in a personalized, data-driven digital strategy, leveraging today’s audience science and automation to build on what you achieve in traditional channels and extend the mix. So, how should your marketing team approach this?

Revenue Trends in 2017

In an environment where auto industry sales appear to be hitting a plateau following a steady rise, it’s wise to shore up marketing approaches for the long haul. There’s a lot to be said for return customers or higher household penetration in such a market because these are clear indicators of loyalty.

The key to fostering this level of sustained, deeper engagement lies in moving beyond brand-marketing tactics and engaging more steadily in a high-touch way through performance tactics and metrics, and across devices. At minimum, this provides a more granular level of learning, with a sharper lens on consumer-channel activity.

Shift to a New Marketing Mix 

It should be noted that the customer journey, while now digitally inclined, still primarily includes traditional orientation around TV and print marketing. The focus of uniting print and digital in the plan is to establish a high-level brand image and mood through traditional channels (think: Mazda’s “Driving Matters” message), and then carry it throughout digital touch points, where you can spur engagement and small wins that add up over time.

TV and print effectively stir brand awareness, and digital supports decision-making further down the funnel. But there’s a lot to understand here in order to optimize it.

Use Performance Tactics and Multi-Touch 

It’s important for a brand to understand specific activity across down-funnel digital touch point: what consumers are reacting to, the actions they are taking, and the signals they are sending.

Any given digital platform, with its interface and particular engagement mechanics, allows brands to see how earlier (up the funnel) big-picture brand awareness and mood messaging affect audiences on a granular level, as they move through the customer journey and trigger, act, engage, choose, and so on.

Once interaction and signal data—indicating behavior, commercial intent, and sentiment—is gathered, brands have the opportunity to optimize the creative they’re running (large- and small-scale) to personalize it to each individual in the journey.

From a CRM perspective, having a centralized view of available first-party data makes it easier for marketers to make those optimization decisions. For example, if data suggests that people in the Midwest most value a spacious vehicle, while people on the East Coast value fuel efficiency, TV and print creative running in those regions can be tailored to audience priorities.

On a small-win level, that specificity breaks down even more as customers in those regions continue the digital journey.

The marketer and the system make a choice based on these questions: Where/how are they most likely to begin their search? How do we play to that? What vehicles are shown to them in retargeting? What language do we use? And what images?

Start By Engaging Your Agency and Providers 

If you’re wondering how you kick into this more advanced marketing gear, you’re probably asking yourself: How do we strategize and plan for a media mix that addresses the big picture, and sets the table down the funnel to tally up small wins?

Remember, your No. 1 asset is data, and some of the most valuable data comes from your customers themselves. How they behave on your website, where they’re spending the most time, and what their priorities are—first-party data unlocks the answers to all of those questions.

Ask your current agency exactly how they partner with data solution providers versed in audience data science, and how you and your agency team’s strategy will work hand in hand with automation to deliver on an integrated plan.

Look to turn insights into action by using the right partners—cross-device attribution experts—to guarantee personalized, unified customer reach.

Ultimately, a smart strategy based on engagement at every point throughout the journey—from initial awareness to post-purchase—is the key to winning over customers, seeding customer relationships and maintaining loyalty.

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