Marketing Gets Personal


What if you could communicate with your customers and prospects as real individuals, holding hundreds, thousands, even millions of unique online dialogues with each and every one? Could you speak to them in a way that would cut through all the noise and talk to their personal interests, actions and preferences? And do it in a way thats scalable and within reasonable budgetary constraints?

You might think this is something that could only happen in the future, but it is under way in other categories and starting to happen in the automotive aftermarket right now. This is behavioral marketing, and its all about getting personal. (No, not that kind of personal!) From a marketing standpoint, it means getting personal through the intelligent use of internally gathered data or by purchasing external databases to target customers and potential customers.

Behavior Basics

The segmentation practices of the past encouraged motor oils to market to the average via broad segments. These segments were based on income, age ranges, gender, geographic considerations and so on.

The new trend is to hyper-individualize website content, aiming at every person in ones database, then using automation to follow up with them at the right time with the right products and services.

Direct Marketing magazine reports that 64 percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers would rather have companies present them with relevant offers. Whats more, as writer Elyse Dupre points out, 74 percent of online customers get frustrated when websites present them with irrelevant content, offers, ads or promotions. So when a marketer speaks directly to an individual, he or she is captivated and purchasing soars. (All easier said than done, of course.)

Make It Personal

Professional market segmentation professional Bryan Brown, who blogs for the e-mail, marketing and automation company Silverpop, advises not to worry about building the worlds most comprehensive lifestyle behavioral marketing system right off the bat. Instead, he suggests five steps for LubesnGreases readers who want to begin the process.

1. Build a centralized marketing database. Brown says effective behavioral marketing begins with moving beyond siloed marketing technology to a unified digital marketing database that captures the interactions of each person with your company across multiple channels – site visits, e-mail, social, mobile, offline, CRM, location, Web forms and more. With a database that pulls profile data, relational data and behavioral data from multiple online and offline channels to build a comprehensive complete identity, one can be ready for behavioral marketing.

2. Segment and send messages based on behaviors. To get started, Brown tells LubesnGreases, group your contacts together based on a few key characteristics; then you can send relevant content based on those characteristics. For example, one might run a query for those contacts who have visited your website or landing page and watched a product video within the last 30 days, but didnt request a sales call. Target just these contacts by sending them a message geared toward incenting them to set up a call, he recommends.

3. Automate to send messages triggered by behaviors. The next level is to start letting contact behaviors drive immediate responses. Says Brown, Rather than performing a periodic query searching for contacts that fit certain criteria, one would set up a program so that as soon as a contact performs a certain action – or fails to perform an action – the marketing platform will automatically send that contact a message. By having the customer or prospects behavior drive the timing of each message, he adds, one is communicating on their terms, boosting relevance and moving closer to a true one-on-one communication.

4. Insert dynamic content into e-mails based on each recipients behaviors. This is a powerful way to boost engagement, conversions and revenue, says Brown. Good content ideas include relevant articles, newsletters, blogs, pictures, conducting Webinars, and so on.

5. Personalize the website experience to reflect each visitors past actions. Brown goes onto say that just as inserting dynamic content into an e-mail can boost engagement, so can doing so on ones website. With that in mind, he suggests you start building content website blocks with related rule-sets that tap your behavioral marketing database to serve up photos, text and videos based on each visitors past actions. For example, someone who purchased a pizza stone on his last visit to a cookware website might return to the site and see an offer for a pizza cutter, a coupon for premium pizza ingredients or a video of how to properly toss pizza dough. Similarly, someone who books a hotel room within 150 miles of home (close enough to suggest hed likely drive there) could receive a coupon for an oil change and complimentary vehicle safety check-up.

By taking these five steps, one can move away from marketing to people as a group and start addressing their individual needs and wants, Brown says. Moreover, marketers can develop and deliver campaigns that interact with segments of one and massively increase customer and prospect engagement.

Move In Closer

For those who really want to get personal, two platforms exist to help take you to higher level: mobile apps and social media.

First, mobile apps. The principles outlined above by Bryan Brown can be applied to customer or potential customer mobile phone devices to make a buying experience more convenient, personal and rewarding. However, like the basics, the key to this platform is automated response follow-ups, to increase the probability that a targeted customer or potential customer will be reached with the right message at the right time.

Silverpop estimates that one in four apps placed on a persons cell phone are never looked at again. To make sure this does not happen to your brands app, you can set up a program so that any period of specified inaction triggers a contact by e-mail or the web, reminding the customer of the value that app offers. For example, a reminder might say, We have not seen you back in the app for a while – return today to unlock some cool rewards! In this way, you maintain engagement.

As for social media, according to a study conducted by Wildfire Interactive, 42 percent of Facebook fans engage with a page to redeem a discount or social coupon. This is a coupon that businesses can share on Facebooks newsfeed, and users print and redeem like a normal coupon. The use of Facebook likes can pinpoint those individuals who would be the most engaged buyers. Once identified, these buyers can be demographically profiled, and marketers then can target them by creating tailored, automated campaigns to engage them even further online, or through traditional marketing efforts.

The whole idea of personalization, from a marketing standpoint, is to develop relationships with customers and potential customers. All these techniques are designed with one objective, to get a solid return on relationship. And thats done with successful behavioral marketing.

Of course the question now is, How can those in the automotive aftermarket take advantage of behavior marketing?

Marketers, if your company does not have an internal database of customers with lifestyle behaviors and preferences appended, then look for ways to build said database and continuously add names to it through your website and other sources.

Next, look for ways to integrate external databases with your internal database, to do two things: 1) Append to existing database customers other lifestyle behaviors and preferences not captured by your database; and 2) identify those who are your most likely buyers (not yet captured as customers), then profile and target them. Managing flexible databases is essential for effective behavioral marketing.

But Not Too Close

As Dupre writes in Direct Marketing, its essential to personalize to all. Make your products and/or services fit into customer lifestyles by addressing their needs, occasions and motivations. For example, develop a complete line of motor oil types that fit the needs, occasions and motivations of your brands customer segments – like high-mileage motor oils, motor oils that keep cars running longer, high performance motor oils, environmentally friendly motor oil, value brand motor oil, and so on. Then personalize each brand types message to that function.

At the same time, you need to personalize for one. Using your database, which now has appended lifestyle behaviors and preferences, build a model or system to track behavior activities. For example, when a customer comes to your website to seek information about oil change service location, promptly e-mail him or her a coupon for a discount on their next oil change. When a non-customer comes to your website, pop up a short survey to embed them into your database, then send them an offer for their next purchase of identified products or services they use.

Finally, automotive aftermarket companies shouldnt get too personal in their customers lives. Dont make personalization too creepy, warns Dupre, going on to list three things to keep in mind to avoid the Big Brother perception. First, be patient; relationships should aim for the long term. Second, only ask for minimal information needed to connect with customers and potential customers. And finally, be honest as to how youll use any information provided, and obtain customers permission for any data provided.

The lesson is that motor oil marketers should not rush into get campaigns out, not be too pushy with them, and not follow-up too quickly. But they do need to begin building their databases and honing their strategies. Behavioral marketing is an emerging trend that requires getting more personal with customers and prospects. And, it seems that it will have room to grow and prosper within the automotive aftermarket.

While this is an emerging trend now, it will not be in the future. Traditional marketing will have make room for behavioral marketing, and eventually, behavioral marketing will likely be considered traditional.

The question for automotive aftermarket marketers is, Are you willing to make room for behavioral marketing?

Lube Report Asia occasionally includes articles originally published in sister publications of LNG Publishing Co. This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of LubesnGreases, Volume 20, Issue 8, under the headline Make Every Shot Count.

Larry Solomon is president of Strategic Resources Inc., a marketing research and consulting firm that specializes in the automotive aftermarket. His experience includes over 23 years in automotive research with Valvoline. E-mail him at

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