Article

Fifth Generation Looks to Internet to Increase Sales

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Wesley Hare used native timber and simple tools to start Hare Wagon Works in 1847 with the motto “Keep up the quality.” From small beginnings, the Hare family moved into automobile sales by adding early Cadillacs, Hupmobiles, Overlands and Studebakers. They began selling Chevrolets in 1912. The forefathers of the Hare Automotive organization had visions broad enough to transform the art of buggy making into the successful sales and service of automobiles. Today, David Cox and Jackie (Hare) Cox represent the fifth generation to own and operate the family business. Only now, Hare Auto is looking to their Customer Relationship Center to drive the group’s steady increase in sales by 50 to 100 extra sales per month. With growth like that, they’re aiming for a position among the top Internet retailers in the nation for 2006. Scott Hiller, internet director, recently shared how Hare Auto is using a new online marketing system to increase sales and uphold the “Keep up the quality” motto behind America’s oldest transportation company.
Incremental Sales
 
Last November, Hare Automotive was selling 50 to 100 fewer cars than they are today. Those incremental sales are a result of establishing a new marketing strategy, website and BDC to handle the boost in Internet and phone leads. One year ago the dealership had one person responding to e-mail and was lacking a clearly defined Internet strategy. Today, with the new system and strategy, they have 3 dedicated Internet Specialists, plus a director working to generate 55 sales a month at an average gross of $2500 per sale. That accounts for $137,500 in gross profit and at that rate they will be generating $1.6 million dollars in revenue per year. To get these incremental sales, Hare has invested in the right system and tools, the right people and the right process.
 
Scott Hiller says, “I’ve been working in this business for eight years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you will not see the return on investment if you’re missing any one of those key factors for success.” One of the reasons Hiller went to work for Hare November was because they saw the value in using the right strategy. “I’ve worked with dealers who thought that all you need is a website and CRM tool to make it work, when in reality you need a system and a strategy as well as the right people, process and tools. I wanted to work with Hare because the Hare family recognized the potential of the Internet and was willing to make the commitment.”
The Right System
 
As Scott has stated, success with the Internet and CRM is more complex than getting the right website and CRM tool; dealers need a complete strategy for marketing, bringing on the right people, implementing the right process and establishing a pricing philosophy so that at the end of the month you show a profit. The right website is important too and it needs to be capable of generating phone traffic, showroom traffic and Internet leads. Your website is really a marketing center for your dealership and the right CRM tool will automatically do most of the follow up so that your team can attack the phones. Scott gives an example, “Customers love our website because it’s user friendly and makes it easy to find the information they’re looking for. We love it because we’ve been able to customize it and because it gets results. Some of those other platforms are so Flintstone that it takes months to get an upgrade and there’s no way to set your dealership apart from the guy down the street.”
 
Value Pricing
 
The leadership team at Hare Automotive feels that their pricing philosophy is unique, so they made it a prominent feature of their website. Hare recognizes that there are three types of pricing a customer will receive when they shop anywhere in the nation: Factory employee pricing, supplier pricing and traditional pricing and at www.HareAuto.com it’s obvious that they do things a little differently. The Hare Auto Group is proud to announce that they are a Buying Service, not a Selling Service and that by scheduling an appointment every potential customer qualifies for value pricing. Scott Hiller says, “Our website provider helped us get that message out there in a way that prompts the customer to pick up the phone, send in a lead and drive to the dealership.”
 
Generating Incremental Leads
 
Hare found that you need to use animation that gets the customer’s attention but you also need to put out just enough information to prompt a question from the customer. www.HareAutomotive.com has coupons that pop up on virtually every page to let the customer know that factory and supplier pricing is the best that’s available. By simply completing a form they can find out which they qualify for. That alone generates a tremendous amount of leads, and the great thing about the Internet is that everything is measurable. The reports generated from the administration tool shows that the “Specials” section of the site is a key source of quality leads. Customers like that section because it’s easy to find on the site. In some spots, the information is delivered in the form of a mini-movie which is very interactive. Customers also love the fact that they can take a virtual test-drive of the vehicle they’re interested in, print reviews, get financed, get a free Carfax report, receive an insurance quote, watch tutorials and much more.
 
Marketing
 
Scott has a few best practices to share, “We piggy back our URL on all other advertising. We end all radio spots with ‘Visit HareAuto.com’ and our provider uses Search Engine Optimization to make sure we have great placement on all the major search results. We have reduced our reliance on third party providers by buying the most popular phrases a customer would use when searching online. This ensures that our dealership is seen quickly on searches and the bottom line is that we get more traffic and appointments at a lower cost per sale.”
 
“We use search engine optimization to get top placement when a customer searches online for a Chevrolet. We’re generating more traffic at a lower cost per sale.” Scott Hiller
 
Process & People
 
Like many dealerships, Hare has learned that response time is key. They have found that a centralized Business Development Center is the best way to respond immediately. This allows the team to increase efficiency and adapt quickly while they’re in growth mode. Of course, you have to staff your department with the right people and they’ve established some heavy marketing and an intense screening process to find them. They look for people with the right sales and customer service background and an aptitude for phone skills. Phone skills are so crucial that Scott Hiller conducts an extensive phone interview to look for a good speaking voice, enthusiasm, clarity, confidence and direction. He adds, “Although we rely heavily on our technology, it’s simple to use and easy to train so we don’t need to find someone with an IT background, just someone who’s a superstar on the phone.” Currently they have three specialists who are great on the phone and 100 percent dedicated to the BDC. Scott says, “Our web-based CRM tool automates much of the email follow up which allows us to focus our energy on the phones. Automation is the only way to make sure that no one falls through the cracks during the longer buying cycle that we see today.”
 
Vision is what enabled the buggy-making forefathers of Hare Wagon Works to transform their business to the sales and service of automobiles in 1912. Today that same vision enables Hare Automotive to use the Internet to promote all their profit centers.
 
Vol 2, Issue 11

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