Article

FordDirect Names Ted Britt Ford as 2005 Internet Dealer of the Year

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Family owned and operated since 1959, Ted Britt Ford of Fairfax, Va., has been recognized 11 times as a leader in customer satisfaction by Ford Motor Company, received the “Distinguished Achievement Award” for sound business practices, has been recognized in the Washington Metro Area as the top rated Ford dealership for service and repair and as the top volume Ford dealer. Ted Britt Ford has been rated number one for many years in the mid-Atlantic in new Ford vehicle sales. Most recently, FordDirect awarded Ted Britt Ford the FordDirect 2005 Internet Dealer of the Year award at the National Automobile Dealer's Association Convention and Exposition in Orlando. They accomplished this by taking the dealership’s customer spirit into the Internet frontier. "The entire management staff is strong supporters of the Internet and Internet department. You have to, to be successful,” says Gardner Britt, Jr., dealer principal.
FordDirect President Steve St. Andre said, "FordDirect dealers are responsible for selling more than 250,000 vehicles through FordDirect Internet referrals in 2005, that's 10 percent of Ford Division retail sales. Business generated from online sources will continue to grow and it will become even more important for automobile dealers to have strong Internet processes like Ted Britt Ford."
 
The dealership accomplished Internet success by holding their Internet department to the same high standards as sales and service. Before turning their attention to establishing a clear Internet strategy and vision, there were two people handling all the leads and selling about 15 to 20 cars per month. Today they’re selling upwards of 115. The problem initially was that no one was tracking how many leads were coming in, what the conversion ratio was, the appointment ratio, the show ratio or the closing ratio. When the leadership team decided to put those metrics under a microscope, they realized they were missing some opportunities.
Once they began to track and measure their performance results they found that an unacceptable number of people who submitted a lead were showing up for their appointments, but not buying a car. They realized they were unprepared when the customer arrived and that the Internet appointments were often mis-handled. Their new website, www.TedBrittt.com, was generating more leads than ever before and they needed a way to handle those leads that would live up to the Ted Britt standards of excellence in customer service. The dealership’s technology and training partner helped them establish a strategy and process for managing the increase in leads. The new process helped them sell more cars and keep a higher percentage of their customers loyal to sales and service. As a result, Ted Britt Ford increased Internet sales, closing ratio, customer satisfaction and reduced cost per sale.
 

Keys to Success:
 
Ford’s Internet Dealer of the Year award recognizes a dealer’s efforts to use the web and CRM to gain incremental sales. “The goal of Ted Britt Ford’s Internet department is simple,” says General Manager John Hopkins. “Get the lead and help the customer move forward in their purchase decision. Convert the customer shopping online into a referral, the referral into a telephone conversation, the conversation into an appointment and the appointment into a sale.” To accomplish this, the leadership team learned that the first step to success is to clearly define the right strategy and an action plan that makes it easy to implement. Next, their technology and training partner provided a great Web site that’s capable of generating leads and a marketing strategy capable of driving traffic to the site. With the strategy, traffic and Web site in place they focused on the right people, process and tools to turn the leads into appointments and sales. Below is a summary of some of the best practices that Ford’s Internet Dealer of the Year has learned along the way:
 
The Technology:
 
Bryan Hopkins says, “We bought an eCommerce and CRM system from BZResults.com. The system includes a high-end custom Web site and a prospecting and CRM tool that automates a lot of our phone and e-mail follow-up activity. The multi-media Buzzmails help us drive traffic and stay in touch with unsold prospects through bulk e-mail marketing. We’re proud that we’re winning awards, but more importantly than that, that we’re generating measurable results in sales and customer satisfaction.” Ted Britt has learned that a Web site alone won’t sell more cars, but that the right system can serve as a marketing center for every point of opportunity at the dealership.
 
Marketing:
 
Ted Britt Ford has dramatically increased traffic to www.TedBritt.com and to their dealership through advanced search engine placement and bulk e-mail marketing. Bryan Hopkins explains, “We send thousands of Buzzmail campaigns every month that generate measurable traffic for no additional cost. Our service department and finance office do a great job of gathering e-mail addresses and entering them into our database. We can then choose from hundreds of prepackaged campaigns that we can send with a few clicks. There’s everything from ‘Year End Clearance’ to ‘Inventory Reduction’ to seasonal sales campaigns and more. It’s a great way to generate tons of traffic to the showroom at a very low cost. Search engine marketing has also proved to be very effective for us. BZ Results makes sure that we appear at the top of the most popular search engines. Our competitors have to pay to get results that are not as good as ours. As a result, more people find their way to our Web site and our dealership.”
 
Process & Automation:
 
To implement a process for turning leads into appointments and sales, Hopkins explains, “Our technology and training partner helped define our lead management process. The best part about our process is that 95 percent of it is automated thanks to the Buzztrak prospect management tool. Our team has more time to set appointments and sell cars.” They established a central Internet hub and automated follow-up to lighten the load on their Internet sales manager (ISM) and Internet specialists. The Internet sales manager responds to a lead with a personalized response within 20 minutes and immediately follows that with a phone call to set the appointment. The personalized response contains all the information the customer requested PLUS detailed information on four new cars and two used cars. “Ours is a very competitive market and if you don’t give the customers what they ask for they’ll go to someone who will. We also discovered that people don’t always buy the vehicle they originally inquired about, which is why we offer alternatives.” When a customer inquires about a new vehicle, the ISMs respond with MSRP, invoice, available rebates, and stock numbers on four new vehicles as well as Internet pricing on two used vehicles that are similar to the requested model, but less expensive.
 
People:
 
Finding and keeping the right people to manage the increased inbound phone and Internet leads is a challenge. The good news is that Ted Britt Ford’s Internet process is very well established which makes it easy to plug a new person in and the automation makes it easy for new people to succeed quickly. At Ted Britt Ford, employees want to work in the Internet department and only the best salespeople are entitled to handle Internet leads. Hopkins said that their executive sales mentors have the highest CSI scores, they sell the most cars, and they have experience at the dealership.
 
Measuring Return on Investment:
 
To track results Hopkins says, “The great thing about the Internet is that you can track and measure everything, for example right now we know that our closing ratio from the coupon leads that come from our website is 30 percent. If you were a sales person, would you rather deal with those odds or with a walk-in who knows nothing about the dealership? I know what the answer is at our dealership. We measure everything and hold regular meetings to discuss our progress and ways to improve. BuzzTrak reports give us all the information needed: leads by source, response rate and time, appointment percentage, show percentage, closing percentage, cost per lead, and cost per sale. You name it; BuzzTrak makes it easy to manage.”
 
Management support is key to success in the Internet and so is accountability. At Ted Britt Ford, metrics are tracked and posted on a board in the Internet department, which is updated daily. They track how many appointments are made and kept as well as their overall closing rate. They don't just measure Internet e-mail leads; they also track their phone calls. Ted Britt Ford has noticed they are getting more high quality opportunities for the sales people, more communication between departments and award-winning volume and CSI scores. This results in a better experience for the customer, extra sales for the dealership and a highly skilled sales force. It’s a win for everyone involved.
 
Vol 3, Issue 4

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