Article

The Arsenal Of Internet Tools At Ted Britt Automotive

December 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jennifer Rincon - Also by this author

Bryan Hopkins takes little time to savor his salad days. From the time Ted Britt Automotive won FordDirect 2005 Internet Dealer of the Year, Hopkins, Internet director, keeps unpacking new ideas into his Internet “War Room.” By his own admission, he is feeding a monster: a ballooning lead machine that continues to grow.
 
After graduating from the University of Alabama, Hopkins managed Internet sales at a Honda dealership in Missouri. Before long, “I was doing Internet sales for eight manufacturers from one location.” Within the first year of being recruited by Ted Britt Automotive of Virginia, the company was named Internet Dealer of the Year, and Hopkins said, according to regional numbers, “We dominate first place every month.”
Hopkins’ crew handles leads for two Ford dealerships, one pre-owned dealership and one Suzuki location. “Everything comes into one central ‘war room.’” No matter the customer, “The whole process stays exactly the same. They sell the appointment, and then we have the best of the best on the sales floor.” Some recruits are former sales managers; others have no sales experience at all. “As long as you teach them the process,” he stressed. The close quarters allows the team to sharpen each other. “They don’t realize it, but they’re learning all the time by hearing each other talk.” A bulletin board, tacked with daily appointments, motivates everyone to stay on task.
 
After winning Internet Dealer of the Year, Rudy Martin of the Intellimark Group approached Hopkins with an application called Intellisweeps. The company involves several dealerships in a large sweepstakes, contracted through a sweepstakes company. “The grand prize is $100,000,” said Hopkins. “They also do a quarterly prize of Free Gas for Four Years.”

Web visitors can click the $100,000 Sweepstakes icon and answer a series of questions: What drove them to the Web site?; Are they in the market to purchase a car in the next 30 days?; 90 days?; Will this vehicle replace one in their household?; etc. The visitor’s answers and contact information is collected and delivered to Hopkins’ “War Room.” “The response has been unbelievable. In one month, we generated 469 leads and sold 18 vehicles. We were just overwhelmed.”

Martin, managing partner of Intellimark Group, explains: “We honed in on one glaring statistic: that the average dealer is only able to generate leads from less than five percent of their Web site traffic.…We discovered that consumers weren’t willing to share information if there was no value in it for them.” In addition, they found: “The minute the prize got to the six-digit dollar value, the click-through rate increased dramatically.” Hopkins agrees: “There’s good value in the prizes, and for that, people are going to give you the correct information.”

The questions comprise a “smart survey.” Each question presented depends on the individual consumer’s previous response. “The average consumer spends 84 seconds in this entire process,” said Martin. The final screen introduces a new incentive: Free Gas for 4 Years. From here, visitors may opt to request a price quote, schedule a test drive or request more information. On average, 74 percent of visitors will select an option, said Martin. In any case,

According to Hopkins, knowing the visitor “is the most important factor because, when you are calling the customer, you already know exactly where they stand.”

That desire to “know” his visitor is the basis behind a partnership with BZ Results, a digital marketing and training company. BZ developed their Web site and has been an integral part in their success. The site is attractively built with Flash and offers a simple navigation system that users have little trouble figuring out. “They set up a good looking Web site that is easy to use,” Hopkins said.

The Web site uses several features offered by BZ to help them find customers, including their web analysis program. “They do a great job in capturing customer information. With the information they provide we can find out not only total amount of visitors but unique clicks, where the lead came from, right down to what word they clicked on to get to our site.” Omniture, the provider BZ Results uses for on-demand web analytics, allows dealers to dissect the information that they collect from online visitors.

This information is crucial in formulating a plan on where to spend their advertising dollar. “I know that if over 25 percent of my leads are generated from Google, that’s a marketing area I want to focus on,” Hopkins said. The tools built in BZ Results allows them to get a handle on what will be effective in advertising and marketing strategies.

Hopkins knows that a key ingredient to successful online sales is having additional products that can be used to help the buyer make the decision to purchase a vehicle at their dealership. If a customer requests information about a used vehicle they can utilize the Virtual Test Drives offered by BZ as a virtual walk around. “We’ve been with BZ for a little over two years. Each year you accumulate the virtual tours. We don’t limit the use of that to new cars. If they request information on a certain used vehicle and we have the tour we email it to them.” This product gives exterior, interior and close-up shots of the vehicle that the customer expressed interest in. It allows customers to view different color options, see reviews of the vehicle, schedule a test drive, contact the dealership and the capability to email the test drive to the unsuspecting spouse or friend.

Utilizing new lead sources is something that Hopkins gladly preaches about His latest find is the power of Google. “Google is definitely the dominant search engine. Last month, Google alone sent 9.7 percent of the people who came to our Web site. Out of the percentage of people that submitted leads, 27 percent of those leads started at Google.

In his quest for more sales, Hopkins encountered a speed bump: the “Make an Offer” button on the Ted Britt Web site. “The problem,” said Hopkins, “was that, sometimes, the offer is really ridiculous. …And when you do get an offer, guess what? You can never get them in the dealership, or on the phone. You still have to hunt this person down.” Henceforth, “We’ve joined with Auto Bid Systems and are changing the button to ‘Bid on this Car.’ If the customer sees a car, and is willing to bid on it, the system takes the bid, asks for the customer’s credit card and guarantees the car. Someone can be on our site at midnight, and if they see something they want, they can make a $150 deposit charge to their credit card right then and there. You have their money, rather than them just making an offer.”

“It’s an anonymous e-negotiation system that changes inventory into Internet advertisements and dealer Web sites into e-commerce sites,” explains Glen Gulyas, COO of Auto Bid Systems, who describes his company as a combination of advertising and e-commerce. “Viewers see the dealer’s specials or their entire and exact inventory right on the Web. ...The green ‘bid button’ will let them find a price on a vehicle and lock it down.”

“It is a totally friction-free process for the consumer,” said George King, dealer sales and services support representative at Auto Bid, “and it lets the dealer advertise, price and offer up their inventory the way it really exists.”

Bidders remain anonymous and bid against a ‘Hidden Floor’ price set by the dealer. Gulyas said, “By clicking on the green ‘Bid’ button, buyers are given three shots at a bid. ...When a buyer gets a successful bid, they simply lock in using a valid credit card.”

To avoid a flood of unrealistic bids, bidders are prevented from bidding on a particular vehicle for 12 hours after three unsuccessful bid attempts. “By the time they enter the showroom,” said Gulyas, “their price negotiation is done. The buyer saves time and money, and can be sure to pick up the exact car at their convenience. Buyers have seven days to pick up their vehicle.”

He continued, “This also gives both the dealer and the buyer the opportunity to talk about what the dealer has to offer. If buyers show up happy with their price and committed to a vehicle, they will be a lot more willing to listen to a service or financing pitch from the dealer, and the dealer has an opportunity to sell their added value. What could be better?”

Hopkins has also sided with eBay motors on both a local and national scale. Local auctions pull from their entire inventory (“to generate phone calls and e-mails to the dealership”). On a national – and truly global – scale, “Between two locations, we sell about 50 cars per month. We’ve sold cars to Russia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Mexico; you name it.”

Threaded between eBay auctions, Hopkins recently partnered with Complete Auto to open an eAutoDrop location (www.autodropoffcenter.com). Using Complete Auto’s eBay listing software, the Web site boasts state-of-the-art features such as live chat, flash video, text-to-speech, and warranty integration. “I believe they may have one of the best concepts out there,” said Hopkins. “Anyone wanting to sell their car may bring it to us. We inspect it, clean it, take 40 to 50 pictures of the car and list the car for them on eBay. We handle all phone calls and e-mails. We do the paperwork, handle the test drives, etc.” Sellers are relieved of taking calls from buyers. “And with our feedback score around 200 on eBay, people trust us.”

“Complete Auto offers dealers the opportunity to take full advantage of the online marketplace, specifically eBay Motors,” stated Jeff Roman, president of Complete Auto (www.completeauto.com, www.eautodrop.com). “Our services capture new streams of revenue for the dealer in a highly competitive market.” Ted Britt Automotive carries the exclusive title of “eAutoDrop of Fairfax” within a certain mile radius and protected territory.

In conjunction with the eAutoDrop partnership, Ted Britt Automotive has also merged with local credit unions. “When a repo comes into the credit union, normally they would have to get two wholesale bids in order to sell the car. They weren’t getting the most value for their money. Now, whenever they get a repo, we can sell the car for them at eAutoDrop. They drop off the cars, and we do the wholesale process for them for a flat fee. All that has to happen for them to sell is to get two bids on the car, and the bids can be from all over the world.”

It has been a booming crop for Ted Britt Automotive. “Our eBay is exploding,” said Hopkins. “The phone rings so much for eBay local…we had to have the calls ring to both the Internet and used car department to keep up. I’ve got four guys, and they have as much as they can handle. There are a lot of good things going on.” His next plan: to place their sweepstakes icon on all e-mails. “Can you imagine sending e-mails with that icon to 30,000 service customers? I’m almost afraid to try it.”
 
Vol 3, Issue 11

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