October 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
We can’t wait for success to come to us. We have to go after it, and technology can help in a lot of ways. Technology can enhance communication with prospects, target certain segments of past customers, locate new customers who are in the market for a vehicle and simplify certain BDC processes.
While e-mail communication was a great byproduct of the digital revolution, a customer’s perception of the message sent is limited because body language and tonality are taken out of the equation. With enhancements in video technology, business development representatives (BDRs) can now send video e-mails to prospects instead of just static text e-mails, adding tonality and body language back into e-mail marketing.
In addition to allowing the customer to put a face with the business development representative’s or salesperson’s name, when the video includes a product presentation tailored to that customer’s needs, it also enables the customer to invest more into that emotional bank account and become more attached to the vehicle.
While not a new technology, SMS text messaging is becoming more widely used by auto dealers and it’s become a successful way to increase appointment show rates. While calling someone to confirm an appointment is best, I’ve found that sending a text message to people who don’t answer the confirmation call is more effective than just leaving a voicemail. It can lead to a six- to eight-percent jump in show averages, not to mention engage the customer in a conversation.
An increasingly popular way to generate more business is by finding sales opportunities in your existing database—also known as organic lead generation or data mining. Your dealership may already be using a DMS and CRM product with the capability to search for past customers who will be re-entering the buying cycle soon. Why not take advantage of the functionality?
Recently, many campaigns have been focusing on CARS, or “Cash For Clunkers,” but taking different marketing angles. Some focus on taking advantage of the program, while others aim to let customers know they’ll still be around when the program runs out of money.
Other campaigns take the “Law & Order” approach. The show pulls ideas from the headlines to create storylines, just as dealers can pull ideas for campaigns. For example, when the news headlines read about stimulus packages, some dealers ran campaigns promoting their own versions of stimulus packages for customers.
The BDC can also do more to drive traffic to the service drive beyond making appointment-reminder phone calls. A lot of your marketing efforts can be done through a BDC, so if you’re making cutbacks, why not do the work in-house if you’ve got the people and technology? In addition to generating sales leads organically through your database, you can generate organic service leads. Imagine how much more money you could make if you got more aggressive at getting all your sales customers and out-of-warranty customers to return as service customers. A couple examples of successful ways to drive traffic to the service department organically include promoting extended service contracts to customers whose warranties recently expired or to customers who haven’t been to the dealership service department in the past 90 days.
Locating new, in-market customers can be a challenge, but sometimes a technology company will come out with something new and useful in this department. One new product my company has beta-tested which is now widely available alerted us in real-time when an auto accident was reported. It included detailed information to let you know if anyone was hurt, whether the car was totaled and phone numbers of people involved—all public information and available by visiting the local police station.
Of course, I wouldn’t try to sell a car to someone in the hospital, but if no one was hurt, you can scrub the involved parties’ names against the Do Not Call list and call them to see if they need your assistance in replacing their vehicle. Look at it as a service to a customer who needs a new vehicle and has plenty to deal with already. By helping them, you’re lessening the headaches they have to deal with.
Another method several dealers are utilizing to locate new customers involves creating a presence on popular social media channels. Whether using Facebook or creating your own Ning.com social network, management should monitor the ongoing activity to ensure it presents your dealership in the light you want it presented.
Technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy. For example, some lead management software seems like it requires a Ph.D. to operate. There are many options available so it need not be that complicated or your staff won’t use it. Training is another area that has been enhanced by technology. Beyond Webinars, video phones with broadcast capabilities allow interaction between trainer and employee without paying to bring the trainer in or send the employee offsite.
Vol. 6, Issue 9