Patrick Bergemann From Congruent Automotive - Talking To The Pro's #2

Welcome to the second installment of Talking To The Pro's, a new interview series bringing you fresh conversations with hands-on Marketing professionals. 

Today I’m very lucky to talk to Patrick Bergemann, the Director of Marketing at Congruent Automotive - a marketing agency focused on building strong automotive brands. Let’s dive in.

Chris: Hi Patrick, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me. Could you start off by introducing yourself?

Patrick: I've spent my life collecting dots to connect dots. Marketing has always fascinated me, but I could never pick a lane. I'm constantly finding new skills to keep myself sharp. It started with producing my own creative and evolved into breaking industry benchmarks for digital campaigns. 

At the end of the day, I believe that unless you understand every piece of the puzzle, completing the picture is more luck than competence.

Lately, I'm fixated on personality types and how a different interface or style of creative can build a stronger bridge between an audience and an objective. When I'm not diving in to a new project or chasing better campaign results, I'm probably building something out of wood or exploring a state park with my camera and my daughter. 

Chris: How did you first get into Marketing?

Patrick: It’s funny because while many of my jobs evolved into marketing, most of them weren’t marketing jobs. Out of college, I started working for a photography studio. They did mostly school photos and yearbooks, so I adapted some video camera skills I learned in college and taught myself Photoshop literally overnight to pass the skills assessment they gave me the day after my first interview. 

Seriously… I got an offer for a seasonal position contingent on passing an assessment designed to test my ability to retouch acne and stuff. So I hopped on YouTube and compared multiple tutorials to figure out which tools gave the most natural results.

I got the job and while there, I learned everything from studio lighting to print production to graphic design. I know it’s not marketing, but it’s important, because that shaped my work ethic. I don’t remember the last time I’ve said “I can’t do that”. 

So when the photography studio starting having a tough few months, I treated it like a new puzzle to solve. It was summer and, while we did school photography, no kids wanted to go to our studio for summer sessions because of the stigma as the “headshot people”. But… their parents didn’t care. 

Their parents knew that the senior classes needed professional photos. We were losing business to a national chain that owned a handful of studios under different names. But even as big as they were, they didn’t have online scheduling of appointments. So I got creative… I SEO’d the website for senior photos in our market and put a button on the website. 

This was before tools like Calendly existed, so I built out a Google Form with questions covering both the basics and the requested session. Once a form submission was received, I had the customer service reps reach out to “confirm” the appointment, even though they were really just scheduling it on our end for the first time.

In the first week, we booked more appointments than the entire previous summer. I always thought I was a terrible communicator, but that was when I realized that it was more about understanding human behavior than being good with words.

Chris: Fascinating. Were you introduced to Marketing in university and do you feel like it had a big impact on your career?

Patrick: My degree is actually in media communications… specifically radio, but I took a few television production classes too. I learned two major things that helped me in marketing.

First, there’s always a way to make it work. Sometimes you’re shooting photos or video in a small room and the light is harsh… but if you bounce the light off the ceiling, it softens the intensity. You can always make an excuse, but if you’re not romantic about the way things are “supposed to be done”, then you can find a way that might even be more successful.

Second, I got to see the inner workings of a lot of companies. Small businesses, international corporations, advertising agencies, and everything in between. I made sure I absorbed as much as I could and my natural inclination to connect the dots often brought me to a lot of realizations that the seasoned professionals would miss. David Epstein has a pretty good perspective on why people like me can triumph in situations like this.

Chris: I completely agree with you and would even say that the ability to solve problems is the most crucial component of a successful marketing career - much more important than a degree or a good technical understanding. What problems are common in your niche?

Patrick: Currently, my agency focuses on the automotive industry. We’ve evolved a lot over the years. We started as (and sometimes still do projects as) a video production studio which happens to have a solid understanding of communication. 

We rarely produced the video the client asked for. Instead, we’d ask about the client’s objective, research their target audience, build some messaging that would resonate with the audience better than overly salesly explainer videos the client requested, and advise them on how to deploy the creative.

As the consulting side of the business grew, we started running campaigns. The results were great and our founder sold his first business, which happened to service auto dealerships. 

While servicing those clients, we noticed how stuck in the past dealerships were. EVERY piece of marketing had product and payment. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. It basically communicated, unless you’re in the market to buy a car, please ignore us. And if you are in the market to buy a car, try to remember we’re the ones with the car you liked even though are ads look just like our competitors and their price is only $100 more than ours.

It’s wild. There’s maybe one or two other industries that communicate like that. It’s like the bigger the expense, the more brands just try to snipe your business when you’re in-market. 

At least appliance brands try to sell you a little bit on how the appliance will make a positive impact on your life, but every car dealer is throwing tens of thousands of dollars a month at price/payment ads on TV and billboards and every other piece of dead media just hoping to hit buyers. 

The biggest challenge has been educating every member of our niche that there is a better way… that a customer might actually pay the extra $100 because you sell them on the idea that you’re nicer to do business with and care about them as a person, not a sale. Crazy, right?

Chris: I think businesses die when they treat customers like sales opportunities rather than people. What channels do you use in the automotive industry to reach new customers?

Patrick: Facebook, hands down. Yes, they had some major issues after the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica, but the amount you can do with their AI is insane. Their targeting options are pretty robust on their own, but pair it with some first-party data, and you’ll be able to hone in on customers with ease. 

The real challenge of it all is creating thumb-stopping content in a platform where you’re competing with other ads AND the stuff someone got on the platform to see in the first place. But, if you’ve done the audience research right in the beginning, the content creation should go much easier.

Chris: Interesting, my impression was that Facebook’s popularity among Marketers is declining. Do you feel that certain marketing channels are typically underutilized by other marketers?

Patrick: I’m really starting to love YouTube. It might be more because of my agency’s creative chops, but with the right creative, you can actually engage people again because you’re catching them on a platform they came to engage with in the first place. 

Chris: Yes, Youtube is quickly becoming my favourite marketing channel as well :) Do you use tools in your day-to-day activities?

Patrick: Tags and Pixels count as tools, right? I haven’t signed on for any analytics tools or anything… but the ability to track a customer’s journey is hands-down the most important tool any marketer can have. 

You can learn EVERYTHING about your campaigns… which campaigns are converting the most, where your hang-ups and disconnects are, which customers have shown interest and still haven’t purchased, etc.

Chris: What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt during your career?

Patrick: The internet has brought about a new level of transparency where everyone is going comparison shop everything, so you’ll rarely convert on a customer’s first-touch. Whether it’s a product or a service, you need to build around your audience’s touchpoints. 

That could be a simple technical detail like remarketing campaigns or a more creative point like building out messaging that connects with your customer so they remember YOUR brand when it’s time to make a decision.

Chris: Do you see any emerging trends in online marketing? What should everyone have on their radar for 2020?

Patrick: I think we’re on a podcast bubble right now. I’ve been listening to them for over a decade, but they’ve really peaked in the last few months. It’s no longer about the early-adopters and niches… everyone has a podcast. 

Part of it could be because it’s become “cool” to have a personal brand or how busy humanity’s become that we create content people can ingest in the background while they do other things, but there’s definitely an audio trend coming. With that in mind, I really think everyone needs to keep in their minds how an audible connection translates into a customer touchpoint. 

It definitely will build that connection, but you can’t measure that connection… you have to develop a way to push them into the measurable parts of your ecosystem.

Chris: Do you use funnels to acquire customers? Can you describe how your funnel works?

Patrick: We actually haven’t used any funnels to acquire customers for the agency. We’ve built a lot of personal connections through developing a podcast and thought-leadership brand for our CEO. 

We are currently working on developing an online workshop that will help small businesses work through our brand building process themselves if they can’t afford to work with our agency and I’ve built a funnel around that.

It isn’t much different than most funnels, but I don’t assume any intent on the customer’s end. My agency takes a brand-first approach to marketing, so we work on building connection between our clients and their customers. 

So in building out the funnel, we’re creating a bunch of content educating people that a brand-first approach will build a loyal, long-term customer base instead of chasing in-market shoppers over and over and over. Past that, there’s some case-studies, free webinars, and other touchpoints leading up to the workshop.

Chris: What are your favourite resources to learn more advanced marketing skills? (Blogs, workshops, courses, books etc that can help professionals)  

Patrick: I like podcasts. There’s a lot of good technical knowledge on YouTube, but the systems and process (at least in my opinion) are the easy part. Those are the things you can tangibly learn, but those aren’t the people who will teach you how to do anything more than hack an algorithm with a strategy that works this week and leave you to figure out the next week.

Donald Miller’s Storybrand is a good choice for getting a new perspective on general business and I’ve often found it to trigger thought processes for new strategies. I also like How I Built This and Everyone Hates Marketers. And I produce the Clarity Compressed podcast, but that’s more business and leadership than marketing.

Chris: Can you share a customer acquisition strategy or funnel that has worked well for you?

Patrick: So I can’t tell you how this affected customer acquisition because the CRM we were using couldn’t track the GCLID to tie back to the offline conversions, but I was really proud of this one. 

I wanted to test the mere-exposure effect with one of client’s taglines, so we created a series of 6-second situational spots completely unrelated to the business to run on YouTube as bumpers

While these spots had nothing to do with the business, they did sow the messaging of their new tagline. After I controlled the sequence of those ads, we ran a :30 spot for the business with that new tagline and that was A/B tested to another audience that didn’t see the 6-second bumper spots. 

The audience that saw the bumper spots with the new messaging had a 3x higher CTR than those who just saw the :30 spot.

Chris: Have you tested any marketing strategies that have surprisingly failed? (Webinars, Facebook messenger etc)

Patrick: I can’t really think of any major flops. I’ve tried LinkedIn ads and they’re ridiculously expensive, but they didn’t necessarily fail. I wouldn’t do them again though.

Chris: What advice would you give to a 16 year old kid interested in marketing?

Patrick: Try everything and anything. Don’t do whatever a “guru” tells you to just because they have a social following. Half of them are old strategies that worked for the client they made a case-study about and never tried again. The other half might have went viral once or twice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a strategy.

Take the time to understand what you want to accomplish, who your ideal customer is, and how you’ll explain to them that what you’re trying to sell them will improve their life. Even if it’s you trying to sell your services… no one will question a $10,000 website if it generates $20,000 in sales.

Chris: You have one tip to give to a marketing professional. What would it be?

Patrick: If you’re building funnels around capturing a one-time sale, you’d better have a great product so no one comparison shops you in the future. You should always have a post-conversion campaign to build a connection that will improve retention… and I mean a campaign around providing value, not throwing them on an email list and hitting them with sales and specials every 6 months. 

That’s one way to ensure you’ll be comparison shopped. Treat your marketing like you treat your SEO… writing SEO for an algorithm might rank this week, but writing SEO for humans will rank for as long as we communicate in sentences.

Chris: Patrick, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. We covered some really important topics and you shared many valuable insights! Interested readers can get in touch with Patrick via LinkedIn or head over to Congruent Automotive

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