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Life cycle marketing for the automotive services industry
Whether your goal is to increase ticket size, boost cross-sell, get customers to visit more often, or all the above, an effective life cycle marketing strategy can deliver the competitive difference you want.
Life cycle marketing for the automotive services industry
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 1
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing
For the Automotive Services Industry
BY MEGHAN HOOSE, PROJECT MANAGER
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 2
Forrester Research Inc., defines the customer life cycle as the phases a customer
passes through in the course of an ongoing relationship with a company.
Whether your goal is to increase ticket size, cross-sell additional products and
services, drive repeat visits, or all of the above, you will need a customer-focused
retention strategy that delivers the right message, to the right customer, in the
right channel, at the right time … through every phase of the buying journey,
from consideration through purchase through repurchase. You will also need the
customer relationship management (CRM) platform or software that facilitates
In this paper, we’ll explore some innovative CRM programs that have been proven
to work in the automotive services category. We’ll tell you why they work, what
type of data and CRM platforms you need to implement them, and show you how
to go about setting them up for your own automotive services business.
Whether you’re new to life cycle marketing or an experienced CMO, we hope you
will find several new ideas to test and implement.
WHO THIS PAPER IS FOR
Mid- and senior-level marketing executives, merchandising managers, and
customer experience specialists in franchised or corporate-owned automotive
services retail businesses.
Step 1: Decide What You Should Focus On
Should you focus on acquisition or retention?
It can cost three to five times as much to attract a new customer than keep an
existing one. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60%-70%, while
the probability of selling to a new prospect is just 5%-20%.
The strategy you implement for acquisition will differ significantly from the
strategy you implement for retention. For example, your acquisition program
will likely focus on differentiating you from your competitors and highlight the
benefits of your automotive products, services and location to prospects. You will
also want to use segmentation and modeling to identify and target your best customers
up front: the ones who will provide you with the most business over the years.
Ohad Hecht of ClickZ says:
“If your start-up days are
behind you and your business
is established, chances are that
growing your business will be
cheaper and faster if you retain
and sell to your existing client
base. This is not to suggest that
you need to abandon acquisition
efforts completely, but you
need to shift the focus to your
existing clients.” (Retention vs.
acquisition–and the winner is…)
Forrester Research Inc., says:
“Marketers obsess over
acquisition. Even as the lines
between marketing and
customer experience blur, our
survey respondents prioritize
customer acquisition efforts
over nurturing and deepening
relationships with their most
valuable and loyal customers.”
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing
Step 2: Get Ready
For truly effective life cycle marketing, these three steps are mission-critical.
Take them before you develop your program.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE OMNICHANNEL-READY
Do you have a truly holistic view of your customers and understand all the
various ways they interact with you and your brand? Have you done a marketing
communications audit? You will need to be prepared to support integrated,
relevant communications across all media:
• Direct mail
Customers’ expectations and preferences have changed. They expect businesses
to know them personally and provide relevant offers and promotions when they
need them, in the channels they want.
GET THE DATA. INTEGRATE THE DATA. ANALYZE THE DATA
Technology investment is critical to enable the omnichannel customer experience
and support a higher level of service. Your goal is to have your customers see
you as a single, consistent voice, no matter where and how they interact with
your brand. To do this—which for most automotive service providers is no small
getelastic.com, “customer aquisition vs. retention infographic
In our experience, after years of testing acquisition programs across various
channels for several national and international automotive services clients,
we have found that search engine marketing (SEM) outperforms every other
channel for new customer acquisition. Our advice: Don’t go crazy with direct mail
coupons, inserts, flyers, radio, or any other offline channel. Your customers today
are online, and you’ll get more bang for your buck if you focus on SEM to acquire
new customers. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
The goal of a retention program is to strengthen your existing customers’
relationship with you. Understanding the needs of your engaged customers and
providing them with relevant, customized programs will create loyalty and help
you meet your business goals. If you nurture and reward your current customers,
they will remain customers longer and evangelize your business to others.
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 4
undertaking—you will need to license or purchase a CRM platform that can
integrate customer data across your entire organization:
• Third-party independent data, such as demographics/psychographics
• OEM vehicle services recommendations
• Social media data/feedback
• Call center data/feedback
• Independent dealer/distributor data, if applicable
The ability to capture all customer data and customer interactions should
ideally form the foundation for your life cycle marketing strategy. The need for a
central, integrated connected data environment is fundamental to effective life
cycle marketing. Without this, it’s virtually impossible to do holistic, data-based,
localized, personalized marketing. And that is the future of automotive services
marketing (and every other kind of marketing, for that matter).
There are several CRM platforms out there designed specifically for the
automotive services industry. We have one. DMEautomotive has one. Salesforce
has one. Oracle, Eloqua, Experian, and all the other big data providers have one.
They all do different things for different kinds of automotive services providers at
different prices. Our best advice: Do your research and buy only the capability you
need and your stores will actually use.
DEVELOP A CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP
A customer journey map helps you understand what your customers are
doing, thinking and feeling at every stage of the customer life cycle. It
includes qualitative, ethnographic research that will identify the gaps in your
communications cycle and help you anticipate your customers’ wants and needs;
it is based on their past behavior and their direct feedback throughout the learn,
buy, enjoy, and advocate phases of the life cycle. Learn more about the power of
customer journey mapping here.
For more information on
customer journey maps, visit
our Knowledge Center and
read “Journey to a Customer
Experience Map” by Jill Hewitt.
Jill is a customer experience
designer here at Catalyst.
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 5
You should model your programs based on your customer data and your business
goals. Below is a sample communications program that we frequently use for the
automotive services industry:
MOST RECENT/ENGAGED CUSTOMERS
Start your life cycle communication strategy with the customers who have most
recently visited/purchased from you. Many direct marketing studies have shown
that these customers are most likely to repurchase and repurchase immediately.
Then concentrate on reactivating lapsed and lost customers—these tend to be the
Welcome programs give you the chance to educate your customers about your
products and services, manage their expectations and set the stage for future
cross-sell promotions. They are the first step in developing a healthy, lasting
relationship with your customers. Welcome communications should be sent
immediately after the customer has signed up/opted in to receive future offers
and promotions from you.
A “thanks for your business” communications keeps you top of mind for future
nurturing and retention. Acknowledge the products/services they purchased
during their recent visit to support the notion that you know your customers.
Your thank-you program may or may not include an offer, but if you include one,
be sure it maps back to at least one of your business goals. For example, include
a customer satisfaction survey or a link to a customer preference page to gather
customer insights and preferred method of communication.
Step 3: Develop Life Cycle Communications Programs
Your communications should
always include relevant,
timely content and show your
customers that you know what
they want, when they want it,
and how they want it, based on
the data you have available.
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 6
When should you send these communications? Get the thank-you out as
soon as possible via email and/or mobile (if customer has opted in for mobile
communications). Get the welcome communication out in a different channel, no
later than 48 hours after the first visit. And 24 hours is even better.
CROSS-SELL THE RIGHT PRODUCTS TO THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS
Your next communication should focus on cross-selling other products and
services … to the right customer, at the right time.
The most important thing that makes a cross-selling program effective is having
the appropriate data and business rules in place, so you know who purchased,
what they purchased, where they purchased, when they purchased, and what
they are most likely to purchase next. Someone who has recently purchased
transmission service or had their windshield replaced isn’t likely to need that
service in the near future, no matter how great your coupon. But someone who
purchased an oil change, or windshield wipers, or brake fluid, will. Sending
irrelevant customer communications will drive your response rates down.
Worse, it can damage your customer relationships because it shouts, “you don’t
know me and understand me.” Not only does data-driven marketing let the
customer know that you “know” him … it tells him what to expect when he visits
again. One of the most common complaints in the automotive services industry
is that customers feel “sold” when they’re in-store … that retailers are pushing
products they don’t want or need. However, if what you’re offering is relevant and
personalized to the customer’s needs … he’s not likely to feel intimidated when
your service technician makes a suggestion.
Of course, it’s critical that your technicians and CSRs have access to the data! See,
everything harkens back to that all-important data.
MORE ABOUT CROSS-SELLING
Cross-selling the right services and products is key to boost ticket size, so once
you figure out what the customer needs, use all channels for the best results.
Here are a few more suggestions:
Preview What’s Coming
Repeat purchases in much of the automotive services industry are
common. For example, tire rotation is recommended at certain mileage
intervals, windshield wipers need replacing every six months, etc. Many
automotive services industry customers may be routinely due for services.
Why wait until the moment they are due to repurchase? Implement a
preview program sent in advance to get them mentally and monetarily
prepared. This communication could be email/mobile only, to save
Think of your thank-you and
welcome communications as
your “customer onboarding”
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 7
If your core offering is a product or service your customer should
purchase repeatedly—for example, tire rotation—then the core of your
life cycle program should be focused on getting the customer back to
repurchase that product or service. Implement a reminder or service
renewal program that is personalized and includes an incentive to buy again.
The reminder program should not be a one-time or one-touch
communication. Use direct mail, email AND mobile marketing to send
notifications to your customers when they may be due.
Don’t stop with one notification. Send another 14–28 days after the
first one (be sure to suppress customers who responded to the first
Reward Them for Their Loyalty
Pay special attention to your best customers—those who visit most often,
most recently and those with the highest average tickets. Tapping this
audience will also help your acquisition efforts. Use your loyal, existing
customers to advocate and acquire new customers for you. Implement
loyalty programs that are good for the customers and good for your
business by rewarding them for posting positive reviews about your
products and services and referring friends and family.
It is less expensive to win back a former customer than it is to acquire a new one.
The majority of the customer life cycle campaign focuses on customers who are
already engaged with your brand. However, it is important to keep an eye on the
population of customers who have not visited/purchased from you in a while and
make attempts to rekindle the relationship.
Your focus should be on re-engaging them with your brand and
preventing them from switching allegiance to a competitor. Entice them
with a deeper discount on products and services. For example, if you
offer a set of windshield wipers for $19.99 to current customers, lower
the price to $14.99 for your lapsed customers. Determine when customers
attrite and pre-empt the loss with offers that include more relevant,
“The reminder program should
not be a one-time or one-touch
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 8
Not all engaged/current customers should be treated equally.
Campaigns that treat every customer the same, regardless of interest level and
life cycle stage, are not as effective as customized, personalized programs that
include relevant offers and specific content when customers need it.
During your data assessment, you may notice that you have groups of customers
who “look” similar. You may want to think about using segmentation to more
granularly focus on individual customers. Customer segments to consider:
• Customers who spend over $50 each time they purchase a product or
service from you
• Customers who consistently purchase a certain grade of product—think
high-end wipers or premium oil
• “Loyal” customers—defined by characteristics such as average ticket,
recency of visit and customer satisfaction, number of times visited, etc.
Customers expect businesses to interact with them across all channels.
It is important that all programs are integrated, consistent, and show the
customer that you know him or her.
Emails should be simple and to the point. Include short subject lines with
a relevant call to action or offer. For example: “30% off tires for your
opportunity to opt out. We recommend including a link to a customer
preference portal to make it easy for customers to update their
It is important that you keep the target audience in mind—your most
recent customers. They are already familiar with you and your brand,
so you may not need to go “big and bold” with regard to format. Over
the last 10 years we have tested all shapes and sizes of formats in the
automotive services sector. The clear-cut winner for both response rate
and return on investment has consistently been a 4.25” x 6” postcard.
Bigger may cut through the clutter, but it will cost you. Save the bigger,
flashier formats for acquisition campaigns.
“You may want to think about
using segmentation to more
granularly focus on individual
customer needs and business
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 9
Mobile marketing is great for easy on-the-go access to your offers and
services. However, there are risks if you are not aware of the strict
requirements that come with the territory. Be sure to follow CTIA
guidelines and partner with an expert who knows the ins and outs of
mobile marketing—you don’t want to find yourself being fined for not
executing these programs correctly.
Give customers the option to set preferences for content, channels, or cadence.
Greater data yields more personalized, relevant, and useful content. That, in turn,
gives customers better value and a stronger connection to your brand.
Similarly, when consumers choose communications preferences and brands
adhere to them, research shows that engagement, purchases, and customer
satisfaction soar. Ideally, customers should be steered to a preference center
early in the relationship, when their interest and intention are high. They should
be asked for basic contact data and the requisite opt-ins; find out what kind of
information or incentives they want, how frequently they want them, and which
communication channel is best for reaching them.
TEST. LEARN. RINSE AND REPEAT
Continually test the effectiveness of your programs to improve results.
As you roll out your customer life cycle programs, you will need to monitor and
review them on a regular basis to ensure they are still providing positive ROI and
steady customer retention rates. Implement a test-and-learn strategy to confirm
that your programs are meeting your goals.
Test-and-learn strategies compare customers who receive your communications
against those who don’t. Start small by testing one program at a time. For
example, implement a mail vs. no mail strategy (also known as a “holdback cell”):
• Create a mail list of customers you want to send a communication to
• Send mail to the majority and suppress it for the remaining 10%-20%
• Watch redemption and responses over a predetermined response
window. Then compare customers who visited/purchased after getting
a communication against those who didn’t
• If you see that more customers who got a communication visited/
purchased, you are on your way to rolling out an effective program
• If your communications don’t result in more visits/purchases … start
over (or call us)
Do you have a steady influx
of new customers? Are you
retaining the customers you
already have? How are your
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 10
ACCURATE CUSTOMER DATA
Valid customer data leads to better customer retention.
Developing a robust life cycle campaign is hard work. Make sure all that hard work
pays off by capturing customer contact information accurately. It’s critical that
your technicians and CSRs input mail and email addresses correctly into your POS.
Validate at Time of Visit/Purchase
Ask customers to confirm their contact info at time of purchase. Even go
as far as showing it to them on screen. Even the smallest mistake can
keep your data from being valid. Within 24–48 hours after the customer
visit, run the customer’s contact information through address verification
software. If it’s invalid, make attempts to correct it by looking them up on
USPS.com or even Google.
Don’t Be Shy
Ever heard the saying: Ask and you shall receive? Well, ok, that may not
always work when it comes to getting a customer’s contact information,
but the worse that can happen is that they say no. So, always ask. If
you offer an email and mobile program, ASK for their email address and
mobile phone number. Even if you have signage at your store encouraging
customers to sign up for email or text messages, it is a best practice to
remind them of the benefits of your programs and verbally ask them
during their visit.
Reward Your Employees for Valid Customer Data Capture
We all need a little motivation at our jobs. Why not incent your employees
to capture valid customer contact information? A little competition is
healthy in the workplace, so make it fun for your employees. For example,
the worker who captures the most customer data over a certain period of
time could receive a gift card to his or her favorite restaurant. Or, if you
are feeling really generous, maybe even an extra day off.
Don’t Forget the Offer Codes
If you use coupon codes, make sure they are “enabled” in your POS
BEFORE you offer them to customers. You’d be surprised to learn how
often marketers forget to do this. You will be able to more easily track
your discount programs if you set up the data ahead of time.
“Ask customers to confirm
their contact info at time of
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 11
CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Save time with the right CRM tool.
It takes time to develop the right life cycle programs. It should not take as much
time to manage them.
Enter campaign management tools. Campaign management tools free you up to
work on the business, rather than in the business. They allow you to “set it and
forget it.™” You set up your criteria once … the tools take it from there. No need
to constantly keep your finger on the “go” button.
Which campaign management tools are most valuable?
Marketing automation tools
These enable you to send relevant communications across a multitude of
channels based on customers’ actions. They eliminate the guesswork—no
more trying to figure out what to send and when.
These provide campaign tracking, business performance reports and
business intelligence to help you understand how your marketing
programs affect your business results.
Address improvement tools
These help you increase the size of your mailing universe by weeding out
incomplete or invalid postal and email addresses.
What criteria should you use to evaluate the tools you are considering? Ask yourself:
Do they save time?
You can save significant time by using one integrated CRM platform to
manage all your marketing campaigns vs. separate tools to send email,
mobile offers, etc.
Are they easy to use?
You should be able to easily set up and manage campaigns with minimal effort
and training. If your individual stores won’t actually use the tools, they aren’t
worth paying for.
Will they produce integrated communications across all my channels?
Any tool you choose should allow you to integrate multiple channels—
mail, mobile, email, social media, etc. Customers feel very strongly about
how they want to be communicated with. It’s important to offer all the
options they want and use to increase their engagement.
“Campaign management tools
free you up to work on the
business, rather than in the
Your Guide to More Effective Life Cycle Marketing Page 12
Do they kill a mouse with a cannon?
If you have 100 stores, you may not need a Salesforce or an Oracle.
Several studies have shown that some of the larger, more expensive CRM
platforms are not used across the organization. Some retail organizations
do better with a cloud-based tool. Others do better with a licensed
platform. Don’t buy more capability than you need.
Life cycle marketing programs are critical. Today, your only competitive
differentiator may be the experience your customer has with you. Without the
right data, the right communications and the right life cycle marketing strategy,
you’re not going to be able to keep up with your competitors. Clean up and
consolidate your database. Invest in the right tools. Train your people to use
them. Talk to your customers one on one, and use these proven CRM programs.
You’re likely to see a difference in your acquisition, retention and engagement
metrics almost immediately.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghan Hoose specializes in project management,
strategic planning, campaign analysis and
management, and franchise marketing for the
automotive services industry. She has built franchise
relationships for more than ten years at Catalyst, and
prior to that she led print, broadcast, direct and digital
marketing accounts at Saatchi & Saatchi. In her spare time, she adores
crime novels, horror movies, and spending time fishing with her husband
and son. She holds a BS in marketing and communications from Nazareth
College. Learn more about Meghan on LinkedIn or email her at
800.836.7720 | www.catalystinc.com | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
“Without the right data, the
right communications, and
the right life cycle marketing
strategy, you’re not going to
be able to keep up with your