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Let’s Talk about Data and the Pillars of Success

By leveraging data outside of the DMS, it’s possible to create incremental opportunities. The DMS is not the sole source of truth today.

Tim Jackson is the director of OEM Relations for Activator Dealer Solutions where he is focused on building the relationship between the OEM and dealer partners. Tim has had 25 successful years of automotive marketing leadership, is a multi-channel marketing expert, and is a graduate of Indiana University school of business with a degree in marketing and a minor in psychology. With that being said, let’s get this presentation started.

Dealers, unfortunately, often miss engagement opportunities with consumers due to some of the most basic misunderstandings, such as who the customers are and how best to reach them. The good news is there are solutions available today that address both of those scenarios. 

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Let’s talk a little bit about data. Did you know that, on average, about 20-25% of the customers residing in a dealer’s database no longer own that car? That’s pretty big. That’s about one-fourth of a dealer’s data that is obsolete. And this is compounded by the bad contact information within the data management system (DMS), which averages up to 40%. 

For this discussion, let’s use an average of 25%. So, if I have 25% contact information, and 25% of the customers no longer own those vehicles, 50% of my data is suspect. This makes trying to reach my dealer goals a very difficult uphill battle. 


A recent National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) study found that upwards of $14 million is lost in business revenue due to poor data quality. That’s a pretty big number. If you had to guess, how much of your own DMS data would you say is incorrect? And how do you begin to correct it?

Follow the VIN

It starts first with the understanding of who owns the vehicle that you have sold or serviced in the past and, more simply put, following the vehicle identification number (VIN). By following the VINs, you can actually understand first who the customer is and then deploy messaging around what else you know about that customer or the prospect. Secondly, understanding how to reach each customer is universally important. Without relevant contact information, you simply cannot reach the customer. Lastly, by understanding where customers are in their own lifecycles, you can tailor your messaging around their needs and expectations. 


By leveraging data outside of the DMS, it’s possible to create incremental opportunities. The DMS is not the sole source of truth today. We can also go outside and collect additional data. And some of that data — those incremental data opportunities — create conquest opportunities, subsequent owners, comp opportunities, new service customers and equity customers. There’s a whole breadth of opportunities outside of your dealership’s DMS.

Pillars of Success

So, how have evolving customer expectations and bad data affected you? Last month, we discussed how to solve these marketing/communication challenges. Now let’s discuss intelligence segmentation. I consider these the four pillars of success. How can we achieve our goals through the first three pillars of success: data, intelligence and channels? We do this through the methodology. And it’s founded on three important elements: again, data, intelligence and multiple marketing channels to deliver relevant messaging and drive customer engagement.


Data is the most important of all the pillars. If your data is wrong, then you can’t move forward. Relevant data and data cleanse provide the foundation for your marketing. By following the VIN, pulling in outside data and conducting continuous data cleanse, you’re able to put a spotlight on your best customers and send messaging across the entire customer lifecycle. 

The next is intelligence. Unless you can consume that data and make it actionable, then the data is doing nothing for you. You have to apply intelligence to data — namely artificial intelligence and data science. This makes that data actionable to segment and target those customers with event-specific messaging and offers. This all works in the background 24/7 and automatically. When you turn your lights on in the morning in the dealership, it’s humming along for you. When you turn them off at night, it’s working for you. It doesn’t get sick. That’s the intelligence of working with that data and the automation component of it.


Then there are the channels of communication. How are we talking? By using multichannel marketing, you can leverage your communications and deliver the correct message for customers. So, if you want to talk to a millennial or if you want to talk to a Gen X, your path might be different, but you want to make sure that you deliver the message to both of them. This increases the likelihood that they will engage and start or continue to do business with you.

And finally, the reporting. With any marketing, you need to have the reporting. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you’re using multiple vendors to accomplish your marketing strategy, the left hand isn’t always talking to the right hand, and the reporting becomes somewhat cumbersome. It’s good to have one ecosystem, one effort and to be able to report on that effort, so you can properly manage the performance of the marketing efforts. This is how you shift your marketing to the next gear.

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