Examining What Works — and What Doesn’t — Gives Schomp Auto Group a Huge Marketing Advantage
It’s no secret that the demands of today’s automotive customers are continually evolving, and that their expectations are being constantly recalibrated by companies outside the auto industry. For dealership marketers, this challenge can seem overwhelming. Instead of getting lost in the latest technology or flashiest trend, however, it’s sometimes better to focus on the underlying desire behind those demands.
“The customer might not be consciously thinking about it, but sites like Amazon put them in the driver’s seat the entire time, where they are in charge of the transaction,” said James Kurtenbach, director of marketing for the Schomp Automotive Group. “If they’re in the driver’s seat there, they come to have that expectation no matter where else they go.”
A Different, Better Experience
Established in 1941, Schomp, which has 700 team members spread among seven different rooftops in Colorado and Utah, has a long history of adapting its processes to connect with customers. In 1993, the company began its strategy of “One Price, One Person, One Hour.” With this approach, the customer is presented with a haggle-free price, has a salaried customer advisor walk them through every step of the process and then completes the paperwork and takes delivery of their vehicle within an hour. Schomp has been rewarded for this attention to customer service by having its stores regularly lead their zones.
“We know that customers are looking for a better experience, and we’ve been crafting that experience since 1993,” Kurtenbach said. “When we went to one price, that was sticking a flag in the ground and saying ‘Enough — we’re going to be different,’ and it’s just been iterating from there.”
To deliver on the promise of one-hour delivery, for instance, Schomp has developed software not only to integrate sales processes but also to allow customers to view the same information their client advisor was seeing. “We value transparency,” Kurtenbach said. “As soon as they walk into the showroom, the customer notices right away that things are different here than in other dealerships.”
Just as Schomp wasn’t content to sell cars the same way as their competitors, they’ve structured their marketing efforts to better connect with both new clients and established customers by taking into account the changing ways they prefer to shop.
Our customer base is getting younger and they’re more current with the technology, but even our older customers are getting very familiar with ways to communicate outside of phone calls and filling out forms.
The Marketing Stack
Determining how to divide the marketing budget to get the best results can be a challenge, Kurtenbach said, but the decisions can be made easier if you keep the right goals in mind.
“The important thing to focus on is how many opportunities does your marketing create,” he said, “and I’m not talking about philosophical ones, like engagement on the website or things like that. That can be important, don’t get me wrong, but if I can only tell my GM that I’ve got an engaged audience, that conversation isn’t going to go very well. The conversation should be ‘How many phone calls did you drive?’ ‘How many form completions did you get?’ ‘How many chat interactions did you create?’ and ‘Are those closing at a successful rate?’”
To take these critical factors into account, Kurtenbach has developed what he calls his “marketing stack.” With this, he keeps tabs on the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for the company’s marketing efforts and determines what’s working — and what needs work.
“We’ve got paid search, we’ve got retargeting efforts, we’ve got AI-driven marketing automation, we’ve got social efforts and so on,” he said. “You can look through that lens and budget around it to make sure everything is balanced and accountable to their KPIs. We can drill down to what’s most important. There are a lot of great buzzwords and sexy tools when it comes to online marketing, but we can’t get away from the fact that our responsibility is to provide as many opportunities as we need to meet the forecast for the business. If I’m not providing enough leads on my website and making the phone ring a certain amount of times, I’m not doing my job.”
When you pay attention to the data that really matters, Kurtenbach said, it can lead the way to marketing success — even if that path may surprise you. “You might be passionate about social media, for instance,” he said. “You might think that’s the coolest channel in the world. If you’re really keeping track of your KPIs and see it’s not performing, however, you become, for lack of a better term, pretty ruthless. And sometimes we should be. As we become completely pragmatic, we might go against the grain of what the industry tells us is ‘the latest, greatest thing.’ We might find that it’s not mature enough yet to be in our stack.”
Shifting Behaviors and Targeted Marketing Efforts
It’s important to keep up with customer behavior, because some of their most fundamental habits are in a state of flux. “When I started three years ago, Schomp had about a 60/40 split between desktop and mobile devices,” Kurtenbach said. “Last year, the split was 50/50 and now I’m starting to see mobile eclipse desktop use. We’re trying to take advantage of the decision moments when people are doing research that might lead to a deeper experience down the road.”
Not only do changes like this affect a dealership’s marketing efforts, but they can also require a different approach from the sales department. “Our customer base is getting younger and they’re more current with the technology, but even our older customers are getting very familiar with ways to communicate outside of phone calls and filling out forms,” Kurtenbach said. “Part of the responsibility of a marketing department is to challenge your group, to say, ‘Look, I know you love it when people pick up the phone or fill out a form that gives you all sorts of information, but we’ve got to evolve because the customer’s expectations are different.’”
In determining what types of marketing are most effective, it’s important to select vendors who not only can deliver on what they promise but also allow your staff to perform other critical functions. One of the vendors Schomp uses, for instance, is Outsell, which uses proprietary AI technology to deliver relevant offers and information to customers. “Their proficiency with email first brought them to my attention,” Kurtenbach said. “I could
easily find an email vendor but finding someone with the ability to have one-to-one individualized communications and really personalize that experience was very attractive to me. Having someone able to connect with my database with a much better deliverability platform than we could have frees up my team to concentrate on other missions.”
That type of personalized, relevant marketing has proven effective to Schomp’s efforts, Kurtenbach said. “We’re getting better traffic from that critical email channel,” he said. “We haven’t seen an increase in traffic because we weren’t ‘spraying and praying’ to the entire database all the time. What we did see was a decrease in unsubscribes, conversion rates going up with the KPIs of engagement meeting a higher standard.”
This marketing strategy has proven effective because of the quality of leads Kurtenbach’s department is generating. “I’m proud to say that our marketing team does not buy leads,” he said. “Our leads are initiated by our customers. That’s been a really nice thing that Outsell has contributed by bringing better traffic to our marketing efforts.”
Service and the Customer Relationship
A dealership’s service department is critical to maintaining a healthy customer relationship, and Schomp carries their marketing philosophy over to that area as well.
“We’re big believers in using data to make sure we’re reaching out to customers at the right time based on their life cycle,” Kurtenbach said. “A lot of dealers have a ‘set it and forget it’ type mentality when it comes to service, but we want to make sure we customize the creative that goes out to customers. We want to show them what sets our service department apart from the competition.”
Schomp offers a customer lounge integrated with the showroom, a system that allows technicians to show video to customers illustrating the repairs their vehicle needs and an intelligent marketing system that makes sure customers receive only relevant information. This allows the service department to provide great service while keeping the dealership fresh in the customer’s mind. “We focus on the entire customer experience,” Kurtenbach said.
The Path To Marketing Success
Kurtenbach’s advice to dealers, GMs and managers who feel lost in a sea of marketing options? “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “It takes some work and some dedication, but it’s worth it to get intimate with your marketing, and at the end of the day, it’s not rocket science. Don’t blindly sign up for things out of fear or because they sound sexy. Take the time to see what works and what doesn’t.”
Also, he said, take the time to build a marketing team — and that might mean looking outside the industry. “Find somebody who has worked in digital retail before,” Kurtenbach said. “That means ecommerce or B2B marketing that’s primarily online. Find someone who has bought media online before and has measured it. Find out how much budget they’ve spent online in the past three years. Those are key indicators. Make sure they’ve brought enough traffic and a mix of traffic to have competency in the field.”
Finally, pay attention to your message. “Make sure you’re telling people about your dealership, about what makes you special,” Kurtenbach said, “and not just screaming price at them. The customer already has enough information available to them to know the price of the car. If that’s all you’re telling them, that’s all they’ll care about and you’re just contributing to a race to the bottom. Give them a reason to come to your store.”