Automation for the people

When he travels around the country these days visiting prospective clients, John Trkla likes to tell a story about Thomas Edison to illustrate how the Red Oak Marketing Group helps its customers do business better.

As the story goes, after Edison invented the light bulb, he did some travelling of his own trying to sell generators to home and business owners. His strategy was to create demand for light bulbs by selling a source of electricity. But his customers didn’t really understand generators and had a hard time keeping them operational.

So Edison came up with a better way. He would provide customers the electricity instead.

Red Oak has adopted a similar philosophy. Working primarily with OEMs – including a growing number in the boating industry such as Grady-White, Regal, Yamaha, Chaparral and Monterey – the company calls itself a solution service provider.

Its customers do not need to buy software and pay to deploy, maintain, update and operate it, as with premise-based software providers, Red Oak says. The company’s clients simply need access to e-mail and an Internet connection. Red Oak provides a communication engine rather than a database engine.

“We make the electricity, and you can deal with the results of the electricity,” says Trkla, the company’s director of marketing. “Premise-based software strangles boat builders. E-mail is the one constant they don’t have to look for. It’s inherent throughout business.”

Trkla says Red Oak, founded in 2000, has termed its strategy “intelligent communication.” The company provides clients the ability to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time using e-mail and secure browser-based applications.

Red Oak offers services ranging from lead management to nurture and co-branded marketing, and from CSI tracking to workflow management. Trkla says one of the most attractive aspects of Red Oak’s system to its OEM clients is that dealer networks can be 100-percent compliant with a given service from day one.

Lead management is a good example. Using a Web-based application that the OEM controls, Red Oak provides “cradle-to-grave trackability” of all leads through all dealers. It’s a completely automated process that employs a push method as opposed to a pull method. Say, for example, that a consumer goes to an OEM Web site and requests information on a specific boat. That lead can be directed to a specific dealership and even a specific person within the dealership, who then has a given amount of time to respond.

If the salesperson doesn’t respond in the allotted time, an “escalation” takes place, notifying both the OEM and the person’s supervisors within the dealership. Those notifications continue up the chain of command at regular intervals until someone takes action. And all of this occurs within the promised response time the lead is given after making the initial inquiry.

“This ensures no customer will fall through the cracks,” Trkla says.

This automated e-mail foundation is similarly effective when it comes to marketing, CSI tracking and other Red Oak services. The fact that it can all be tracked and its cost compared to direct mail, call centers, etc., are added benefits.

“It is our communication foundation, and how we deploy,” the company says, “that allows us to provide these programs rapidly, with complete compliance and with higher rates of success.”

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