Written by: Debasish Satpathy
About the author: Vice President at Schaeffler India│Head of Automotive Aftermarket
A key question by garages, workshops, and automotive retailers. Mind space of customers is further cluttered in the current situation. In any case, there were topics of BS VI impact, Electronics proliferation in Vehicle components, E-vehicles repairability in aftermarket, E-commerce disruption, Technical competency (or lack of it), ability to compete with OE backed service stations etc occupying the mind space of aftermarket intermediaries.
What customers’ really need today is two-way communication, a friend and knowledge partner at hand to guide them through this time of uncertainty. This is where the BTL marketing strategies overtake any other form of marketing communications.
I am a firm believer that BTL would be the most effective form of marketing for Auto Ancillaries which primarily operates in B2B. To create a sustainable, differentiating and customer centric BTL marketing strategy, a strong alignment with a well trained and well-equipped Sales Team becomes vital. In many ways, it will create the competitive advantage.
Below are my top three advantage of BTL marketing strategy, especially when, the industry is going through remarkable shift:
A. Reaching “target audience”
Marketing is a multidimensional zone with an objective of reaching customer mind space. In B2B or S2B2B space, BTL activities are dominating and all marketers are aware of below-the-line activations. BTL is highly effective in acquiring target audience attention space quicker and helps reaching untapped target customers.
BTL activities are known to enhance two-way interactions while building a customer-brand relationship. BTL activities make the brand memorable and increase the recall value since effective BTL activities provide an unparalleled engagement value to targeted customers.
B. “Adding high credibility” to claims
The main aim of BTL marketing is to seek customers’ undivided attention. BTL campaigns, when executed well, are a great medium to do that. Trained “Sales Team” helps your brand to stay ahead of the competition.
C. “Opportunity to listen” from customers
No other medium or form of marketing does more “listening” of customers! BTL Marketing and effective delivery has the immense power of making your customer feel “insider” which makes big difference towards the brand.
The Key Question
While we understand the power of BTL, how will it be delivered in the last mile? Trust your Brand ambassadors (AKA Effective Sales Team). What we often miss is the link between BTL Strategy and a well-equipped field team to deliver it with great effect
Many auto ancillaries fall into the trap of defining role of sales team as “order collection point” while BTL strategies keeps bombarding information to intermediaries with very less recall value. Really, sales team profile should be redefined as “brand ambassadors” delivering the last mile impact of BTL strategies. Some thoughts of integrating BTL strategies with efforts of sales team.
Create culture of knowledge
Especially in the context of Auto Ancillaries, it would be very crucial that we train the Sales team to undertake the role of “brand ambassadors” not as “order collectors”. Every interaction where a customer gets advice or help to enhance the daily business will have a high recall value.
BTL strategies in turn should be equipping the sales team to deliver the customer value. For example, creating a knowledge bank which the sales team can deliver to customers after assessing need.
Creative delivery of BTL strategy
So, many times, in auto ancillaries, a WhatsApp Message is sent to promote customer engagement, new product announcement and technical guides. Many may agree that just bombarding information has lost its shine. Just think how many WhatsApp we read nowadays! Suddenly, consumers became more distracted than ever before.
Customers also face huge clutter (in mind space and retail space) and a creative differentiator in delivering the BTL Strategy would be the need of the hour.
For example, consider a road show displaying the new products introduced where the intended customer can actually “look and feel” the offer. The trained sales team can bring incredible value to the process of delivering the objectives of BTL Strategy at the last mile.
Strong customer understanding to drive BTL strategy
Optimizing the customer experience is a great way to get new customers. In today’s context, deeper customer understanding better the chances of retaining for a longer time.
Manufacturers need solid relationships with workshops, retailers, stockists, and distributors. Customer understanding is critical.
Well trained and knowledgeable sales teams are best positioned to give customer intelligence back to the marketing strategist.
This also means that there needs to exist a functional CRM strategy which connects the sales team to the marketing department. Many times, the link is weak with a lot of disconnect.
In today’s context, the advantages of effective BTL promotions are immense. But it still needs to be delivered in a customized way to a targeted customer base which is where the field team plays a vital role.