The Bruce Titus Automotive Group is based in the area of Puget Sound, WA, with dealership rooftops in Washington (Olympia Nissan, Olympia Chrysler Jeep, Tacoma Subaru and Port Orchard Ford) and a Volkswagen dealership in Palm Springs, CA.
Because of our different brands, we have a mixed clientele. Ford, Subaru, Nissan, Jeep, Chrysler and VW attract various types of customers.
Those range from people who have special-finance needs, to people who are first time buyers, to those coming in and paying cash. We also have a lot of military personnel who are sales and service customers because we’re located close to several bases.
In the Seattle/Tacoma area, one of our biggest challenges is standing out from the crowd. This metro area is highly competitive across all of our brands, both in new- and used-car sales. To rise above the noise of the competition, we needed to market better in three key areas:
Relevance: We knew we needed to improve our ability to reach the right person at the right time with the right message.
Pelting people with irrelevant content is not the way to make customers for life. Knowing what the customer’s current automotive situation is and communicating with them as individuals builds lasting relationships.
Consistency of message: We wanted to maintain marketing consistency both from a dealership standpoint (we want every message we send out to look like a ‘Bruce Titus’ message) and from a brand guideline standpoint for each of our dealerships. Creating a marketing campaign that appears like a patchwork of different ideas does nothing to build trust or recognition in the customers’ eyes.
They are subjected to hundreds if not thousands of advertisements a day. Random messages from a dealership only adds to the noise and quickly gets filtered out.
Customer retention: We wanted to streamline customer lifecycle marketing. By using the correct messages in the correct way, a dealership can not only make it easier for existing customers to continue to do business with us, but can lure competitors’ customers away when those dealerships don’t make an effort to simplify the process.
When I joined the automotive group years ago, I looked at the tools in place, saw what was working and what wasn’t and scrubbed down from there.
We got rid of quite a few different digital tools, put in all-new websites and brought in some new tools. Outsell, a marketing firm, helps us put artificial intelligence to work at the dealerships.
Today, the bulk of our marketing money is spent on digital. We use AI wherever we can.
The AI is particularly useful for email marketing, helping us address those three main marketing challenges we faced.
We took a look at all the messages that were going out. We included what the OEM was doing on top of what we were doing as a dealership.
The last thing we wanted was to oversaturate customers with messages. We didn’t want them opting out of communication with us. Automated, AI-driven email marketing has streamlined our marketing efforts. We make the most of each message we send out.
In March 2017, when we began using AI in marketing, Bruce Titus marked four sales linked to AI-influenced marketing efforts, for a total gross profit of $3,512. One year later, AI-influenced sales for the month of March had increased to 15, for a total gross profit of $36,507.
Service fared even better with the new platform. In March 2017, there were 62 repair orders linked to the AI-influenced marketing efforts, for a total gross profit of $11,596.
In March 2018, that number had increased to 287 ROs, for a total gross profit of $46,658. Even better, 61 of those ROs came from first-time customers, and 132 came from regulars. These are the numbers that allow steady income and growth.
Many times, when new technology is rolled out, a dealership’s staff initially balks at adapting their daily routine to use the new tool, either from an unwillingness to try something new or as the result of getting burned by “fad” technology that didn’t pan out previously.
This was not the case with our AI. It was so seamless, it was almost scary. The feedback we’ve received from our staff is how great the platform works for them. The customer feedback is about how it has helped in the buying and service process.
Sales teams require more knowledge about the customers. Using a more intuitive marketing tool to do the heavy lifting gives us the insights we need. With the kind of ROI the new AI marketing platform has provided, the next steps were easy.
We typically test out different platforms in one store and, if things go well, roll them out to the others. We’re now using our AI tools across all the other stores in the Bruce Titus Automotive Group.
My advice to dealers would be to not fear AI technology. Use it to your advantage.
My other piece of advice is to inspect what you expect. Platforms like this are easy to set and forget, but when you actively use an AI-based platform and manage it, you see better ROI. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Courtney Titus Barr, left)
Analytics plays a big part in our marketing campaigns. We track our campaigns and benefit from what the analyzed data is showing. We continually find ways to reengage our clientele and learn more about who is out there actively shopping.
Courtney Titus Barr is the Bruce Titus Automotive Group’s vice president-marketing.