The number one priority at Mercedes-Benz has always been to deliver a world-class customer experience1. And the famous automaker’s definition of “customers” extends beyond the consumers who buy its luxury vehicles to include its dealer partners, field personnel and other business stakeholders. That is why Mercedes-Benz USA relentlessly searches for tools and processes that will enable its dealers and field personnel to work smarter and more efficiently, especially with regard to key goals such as sales effectiveness. Last year, this commitment to continuous improvement led the company to implement an innovative new market information resource.
“Partnering with IHS to develop an online platform for targeted marketing lists to improve our sales effectiveness was a step in the right direction on so many fronts – from digital leadership to dealer relations to improving field productivity. Together, we have successfully addressed a number of challenges facing our key stakeholders,” said Blair Creed, General Manager of Sales Operations and Volume Planning at Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA).
Benefitting from a Single Online Source of Market Data
MBUSA had previously obtained information about market segmentation, market share and sales effectiveness from multiple vendors – including IHS and others referencing IHS source data – and it often aged up to 30 days or more in the process. In addition, when the data arrived, it arrived in high-volume, hard-copy form and was not easy to digest. Creed once asked one of his regional field representatives to give him a file folder containing the materials that a member of their team might typically show to a dealer to explain market segmentation.
“The rep handed me a folder that was an inch thick!” said Creed. “How effective could we expect our folks to be when they had to sit down with dealers day after day to try and explain their market opportunities and build market plans based on a huge data dump of paperwork? There had to be a smarter way.”
Creed explained that the printed data was not actionable and was open to interpretation, representing a potential liability for the company. Based on their successful relationship with IHS and confidence in its data, MBUSA turned to IHS to build Dealer Pro – a single source of online market data to boost sales effectiveness.
MBUSA first piloted the solution with the 14 members of its dealer board. “We knew it was a better way to deliver the information,” said Creed. “We wanted to confirm the tool was useful and engaging.” Feedback from the initial group of dealers was impressive. MBUSA rolled it out across the dealer network. Today, all 370 MBUSA, smart and MB Vans dealerships utilize the online platform.
“In the past, there was a time lag delivering information back to the dealer,” said Creed. “Today, our people can make better decisions faster. The older the data, the more it can be challenged or questioned.”
We’re proud to have worked with IHS in pioneering the Dealer Pro platform at Mercedes-Benz. We were blown away by the level of commitment… IHS really confirmed its value as a business partner and helped us deliver a great experience across our dealer network.
Gaining Insights into Market Opportunities
“To improve sales effectiveness, dealers need to know where they are strong and where they are not,” said Creed. With Dealer Pro, dealers can assess their sales by segment in their area of influence. For example, a dealer could set out to improve C-class sales in a given ZIP code by pulling targeted marketing lists from the system based on prospects’ in-market status, brand affinity and other characteristics.
“Field representatives used to be required to deliver the data. Now, it all lives with the dealer. There’s no slicing, dicing and excluding information,” said Creed. “Dealers benefit from having a full view of their market and opportunities, giving them more confidence in the data and the ability to move faster to capture prospects.”
Reducing Dealership Marketing Costs
“We took a huge leap forward by digitizing all of our data and building it into a marketing platform. We took it a step further by connecting our marketing assets to the data. As soon as dealers assess an opportunity in their market, they can deploy marketing collateral directly to customers based on that information,” Creed explained. “We’ve seen an improvement in utilization of our internal marketing collateral, which we always prefer our dealers to use.”
In many cases, dealers are now able to reduce marketing costs because they no longer have to rely on a marketing agency to execute a campaign. “Dealers can analyze their market opportunities and direct a campaign through MBUSA’s media portal with the press of a few buttons,” said Creed.
Enhancing Strategies and Efficiencies
MBUSA field personnel have access to an enterprise view of the data, enabling them to compare each dealer partner with the market; the region and the nation using a dynamic platform that lets them modify the competitive set. Armed with this data, field personnel can now work more effectively with their dealer partners. Now they have a far more useful dialogue that includes possible solutions.
“Rather than saying, ‘your sales effectiveness is below the national average,’ a field representative can show which competitor is dominating the market and then help develop a targeted campaign to correct their approach and improve sales,” said Creed.
Having a centralized source of online data has also helped field personnel dramatically reduce time spent in preparing for dealer visits. Previously, a field rep in a remote area might be forced to spend time and money printing out reams of market and segmentation data. Today, however, representatives with laptops and iPads spend their time building action plans and having constructive dialogues with dealers rather than wasting time on administrative tasks. Creed estimates that this dramatic reduction in daily preparation time equates to annual time savings of “thousands of hours” across all MBUSA field personnel, which in turn creates capacity for greater productivity without increasing headcount.
Tracking Results to Enable Success
To “close the loop” on its sales effectiveness efforts, MBUSA receives detailed reports from IHS showing how many sales its marketing campaigns generated. “We can directly measure every dealer’s marketing campaign over a period of time with sales that are derived from the targeted lists,” said Creed. In the future, Creed expects to tie this data together to determine the ROI on marketing spend now that the automaker has “good science behind sales effectiveness measurements.”
“With the right dealer-partner making a commitment to be number one in their area of influence, we’ve learned we can get them the right information to improve their results - constantly,” said Creed. “The sky is the limit in terms of what they can achieve.”
Based on the success of Dealer Pro with the sales side of its business, MBUSA is also expanding the utilization of the platform in other areas of its operations, such as aftersales.
“We’re proud to have worked with IHS in pioneering the Dealer Pro platform at Mercedes-Benz. We were blown away by the level of commitment they put into developing this tool. IHS really confirmed its value as a business partner and helped us deliver a great experience across our dealer network,” said Creed.
1 1to1 Media, Customer Experience Q&A with Stephen Cannon, President & CEO, Mercedes-Benz USA at http://www.1to1media.com/weblog/2014/06/customer_experience_qa_with_st.html