Article

Lead Management: A Weapon You Can't Live Without

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Maxwell D. Skynard - Also by this author

Imagine two battling armies. Each is powerful, trained and hungry to win. The first army is less than half as large as the other one. The smaller one is armed with the most sophisticated weapons money can buy, the larger one sports sticks and rocks.

Who’s your money on?

In the same way, as America’s competitive dealers battle each other for sales, two teams are emerging. The smaller team has embraced a total-dealership internet marketing/lead management program; the larger team is still battling with sticks and rocks.

At the JD Power Roundtable meeting at NADA last month, I heard an alarming statistic. Less than 30 percent of dealerships are using even a basic lead management system! I can think of only three reasons the mass majority of dealers would be so reluctant to implement such an essential tool …

  1. Most Dealers Don’t Understand the Value of Lead Management
  2. Most Lead Management Systems are Too Confusing
  3. Most Dealers Don’t Have Enough Leads to Justify Lead Management
Don’t Understand the Value …

The average dealer response time to an internet lead is over seven hours even though the odds of closing the deal double when first response occurs in the first 15 minutes. Let that soak in, the odds of selling a car double when you respond in 15 minutes! Compound that with the fact that you have no chance of closing 58 percent of your leads if they are not contacted within three hours. Keeping up with hundreds of leads in different parts of the sales cycle without a lead management system is like herding cats. By contrast, a good lead management system will automatically reply immediately with customer - and model - specific e-mails that initiate the sales process even if you’re too busy to respond.

Rusty Strange, of the Beaman Automotive Group (www.beamanauto.com) sums it up this way,

“Our new TrafficCenter Lead Management costs less than $400/month and it is a pot of gold. I found it quite interesting to watch how quickly my staff embraced the technology and how rapidly it produced results. Before, 100 percent our leads waited 4-6 hours for response. Now we respond to over 80 percent of our customers within 15 minutes. Our sales have increased by 190 percent in the past year since we implemented a CRM and with the TrafficCenter I have seen an additional 35 percent increase in sales. We now sell more cars with much less stress and much more control pre and post sale. What a return on investment!”

Lead Management Systems are Too Confusing …

Amen! Too many technology companies have fallen in love with their software and forgotten about the internet rep on the front line trying to use it. Dealers are left to muddle through CRM options and cobble together a system that’s more complicated and more expensive than anything they need.

Let’s cut through the hype. If you’re just getting started and want to know what your lead management system must have, then look for these features. You might want more down the road, but start with the basics…

  1. EASY TO USE…if it’s not, you won’t.
  2. Broadcast e-mail with the ability to categorize your customer database to receive targeted campaigns.
  3. Customizable Autoresponders with Scheduled Campaigns that Market even if your reps don’t.
  4. SPAM assessment service to ensure you emails don’t get blocked as SPAM.
  5. Model specific e-mailable content with accurate cost and incentives data.
  6. Bad lead rejection so your 3rd party lead providers don’t charge you for bad leads.

Don’t Have Enough Leads to Need it …

Well that’s just absurd. Even if you have just 10 leads you’ll sell more cars if your responses are prompt, standardized, and systematic. You’ll sell more cars if a lead never slips through the cracks or gets wadded up on the back of a Post-it note. And with a cost of only around $399/mo, the ROI is obvious, even on a low volume of leads.

And anyway, doesn’t it make sense to put your process in place before you pour fuel on the fire? A NASCAR driver doesn’t setup his transmission in the straight away zooming at 185 mph … his technicians do that well in advance of the race. Just the same, you should have your lead management program in place before you crank up your lead flow.

But more to the root of the problem, if you aren’t getting at least several hundred leads per month, then it’s probably time to visit with your internet marketing firm (or find a new one). Alas, that’s a topic for another month.

Make no mistake, there are two factions: one with guns and one with sticks. For now, the sticks still out number the guns, but the tide is turning. Don’t find yourself staring down the barrel of your competitor’s rifle with nothing but a two-by-four in your hands. Arm your dealership now, while you have the advantage, with a total dealership internet marketing/lead management system and make sure your dealership wins the war.

Vol 2, Issue 3

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