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Digital dealer magazine december 2009


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Digital dealer magazine december 2009

  1. 1. Welcome to the digital edition of Digital Dealer magazine! Just as you are trying to keep your store(s) on the cutting edge, we are doing the very same thing as we venture into a new frontier in the publishing biz. We can get this digital version in your hands 2-3 weeks faster than the print version, giving you the freshest information possible. You can click on links at the end of each article to email the author of such. And you can click on the ads to link to that advertiser’s website (and you’d REALLY be helping us out by doing just that). It’s quite intuitive…I don’t think that someone who uses the Internet to make a living will have any trouble easily figuring it out. Please let me know what you think about it… Michael Roscoe Editor-in-Chief
  2. 2. December 2009 The Technology Magazine for Dealers & Managers Internet Sales: Are You a Creator, or Just a Bad Prophet? page 10 Online Buyers Have Wants Also JOSE ALONSO page 18 How to Respond to Leads the Right Way page 20 Internet Technology Trends: How to Find and e-Commerce Use Customer Data page 25 Director Jenkins Auto Group page 18 CIAL FF I O e e ottiiv o v tom alls om a s Autess on ff Auffessiio n no on o Pro org rg o iattiioales P rnlie.e.o a es nlin n oc i so c Sa l N Assernett S.AAISPo Ast erne wA AISPo n t ww . IO IIn w ww PU B L I C AT
  3. 3. T ABLE OF CONTENTS CIAL FF I O vee oti v mo ti ls uto m na ls uto io na off A fess io o A ss on Profe .o tion Pro .org rg ciatiSales o line e ociatt Sale sPonnlin N Ass orne .AAISP s Astern e w AIS In te ww .A IO In w w w PU B L I C AT The Technology Magazine for Dealers & Managers DECEMBER 2009 FEATURE PRESIDENT AND CEO MICHAEL ROSCOE Digital Dealer Cover Story 22 Jose Alonso VICE PRESIDENT AND EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Internet e-Commerce Director CLIFF BANKS Jenkins Auto Group 248-351-2620 EDITOR LINDA DI PIETRO COLUMNS PUBLISHER GREG NOONAN 607-264-3359 AAISP Notes 8 Social Media Skeptic ART DIRECTOR Cliff Banks JOE BIRCH PRODUCTION MANAGER Internet Sales ELIZABETH BIRCH 10 Are You a Creator, or Just a Bad Prophet? PRINT PRODUCTION DAVID MANTHEY Phil Sura COVER DESIGN JOE BIRCH 12 Improving your E-mail Delivery Rate DESIGN CONSULTING Peter Martin PUBLICATION DESIGN, INC. COVER STORY PHOTOGRAPHY 14 A Right Time to Call JOHN JERNIGAN Joe Webb CIRCULATION SUBSCRIPTION RICH JARRETT 16 Still Struggling with Handling Internet Leads? 314-432-7511 Jeff Rubin 18 Online Buyers Have Wants Also NATIONAL ADVERTISING SALES Rob Lange 607-264-3359 20 How to Respond to Leads the Right Way Dealer magazine makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy of all published works. Tom Mohr However it cannot be held responsible for opinions expressed or facts supplied herein. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part 21 Ways to Create a ‘Sticky’ Web Site without written permission from the publisher. All rights reserved. The publisher encourages you to submit suggestions. Submitted materials Paige Presley become the property of Horizon Communications, Inc. and will not be returned. Send material for publication to 330 Franklin Rd., Suite 135A, Technology Trends PMB 386, Brentwood, TN 37027. The editor reserves the right to edit material; submission 25 How to Find and Use Customer Data of material constitutes permission to edit and publish that material. This publication is Sandi Jerome designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering BDC/CRM legal, accounting or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is 26 What Type of Manager Are You? required, the services of a competent profes- sional person should be sought. From a Chuck Barker Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers. 28 Increase Profits Despite Sales Floor Weaknesses Guy Manasse A PUBLICATION OF DEPARTMENTS 4 Digital Dealer E-mail 6 News DD 2 December 2009
  4. 4. D IGITAL Dealer E-MAIL Digital Dealer welcomes your letters and after verification will run them signed or unsigned. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Send letters to Chuck Barker, Dan Hazen I printed your September 2009 Sales manager Digital Dealer magazine article enti- Midland Ford Lincoln Mercury tled, “The Character of a Dealership is Midland, MI Defined by its People, not its Walls and just got a chance to read it. This is Chuck Barker, really great information. Thanks. I just read your article, “The In the article you mentioned to e- Character of a Dealership is Defined mail you for more leadership ideas. I by its People, not its Walls,” would appreciate any info you can give September 2009 Digital Dealer maga- me. zine. Wow ! That was a powerful piece. Thanks again, Large egos of little men I, too, have Paul Backus seen in all of the car dealerships I have Mort Backus and Sons Chevrolet- worked in over the last 35 years. Pay Buick plans and power go to men’s heads and Ogdensburg, NY then it becomes “big me and little you” over and over. I can only explain Tim Jennings, Dear Chuck Barker, it by saying it is the nature of the beast I am the Internet sales manager at a Thank you for the inspiring words – the human condition. This shows new Ford and Mercury dealer. I was from your September 2009 Digital weak character with no limit except to really impressed with your cover story Dealer magazine article, “The satisfy one’s ego. Like I have already article in the October 2009 Digital Character of a Dealership is Defined by preached to my own employees for Dealer magazine. Although I have 15 its People, not its Walls.” I have always many years... “People buy from years experience in the car business, I thought of myself as a student of this people, not buildings or walls or am brand new to the Internet market- business. I am open to any helpful signs.” Make a good name for yourself ing side of the auto industry. hints or information you may have to of high moral character and be honest After reading the article, I know you help make me a better sales manager. and trustworthy...every day. must be a busy man, but my owner Thanks again, Name withheld upon request and I would like to ask you a couple questions. We are attempting to seri- ously expand our presence online, and are experiencing some unintended growing pains. The first issue we have had come up several times is about "Whose deal is it?" We have a lot of customers not telling us initially where they have seen our cars or trucks. I am losing, or having to split a lot of deals when the customer initially found the vehicle on the Internet. My owner wants to be fair to everyone, but with the shortage in walk-in traffic, I am not finding out about Internet deals until long after the fact. How do you handle that situ- ation at your store? Are you compensated for your upkeep of all that’s involved with digital marketing? I don't mind working hard, but it sure is difficult not getting paid for deals continued on P-DD30 DD 4 December 2009
  5. 5. D IGITAL Dealer TECH NEWS Through AutoOffice and AutoOffice The Ed Voyles Acura website was Plus, the Kelley Blue Book brand and its designed in conjunction with values can be leveraged for marketing's overall online marketing purposes on the dealer’s web site with solution for Acura of North America's CDMdata’s inventory frame-in and on U.S. dealer network. The Flatirons the dealership lot with Kelley Blue Book Subaru site was also created as a part of CDMDATA launches branded window stickers. Within's solution for Subaru of AutoOffice and AutoOffice and AutoOffice Plus, dealers also have access to Kelley Blue Book North America's U.S. dealer network. Both sites were designed to create consis- AutoOffice Plus values to help make pricing decisions. tent brand experience, capability and CDMdata, Inc., a Kelley Blue Book These new offerings, starting at $159 quality. In addition, the sites re-enforce company, has announced the launch of per month, are now available to dealers the respective brands and styles, ensuring its all-new AutoOffice and AutoOffice alongside CDMdata’s existing DigitalLot the brand interaction is consistent Plus offerings in a time when cutting Solution and Dealer Services products. throughout the dealer network, while overall costs and increasing turn rate is showcasing each dealership's unique char- paramount. AutoOffice is a web-based acteristics and personality. Most inventory management solution designed importantly, the sites offer consumers an as a one-stop-shop for pricing, managing, improved shopping experience at the marketing and selling inventory online. dealerships' websites. The tool simplifies the collection of Ryan Dunn, creative direc- vehicle information, detailed seller’s notes wins tor, also commented, "What is most and multiple photos, and distributing the listings to online advertising web sites. ‘Automobile Standard of rewarding, is to see the spirit, talent and philosophy of epitomized by AutoOffice Plus builds on these features Excellence’ WebAwards these solutions and the effort by all teams by giving dealers access to the market, a leader of online market- involved to bring them to market. Each pricing tool and ability to post inventory ing solutions for the automotive industry, project represents the unique capacity for on Craigslist. has announced it received two our system to be adapted and designed for With access to the market pricing “Automobile Standard of Excellence” the intended audience, while building upon tool in AutoOffice Plus, dealerships can 2009 WebAwards from the Web the strengths of a common foundation." understand how their used-car pricing Marketing Association. auto compares to local sellers and the overall dealership clients Ed Voyles Acura and market. This information provides a Flatirons Subaru were entered into the snapshot of other vehicle listings and prestigious international competition that Chrome survey reveals creates an opportunity to better lever- honors outstanding achievement in valuable information age Kelley Blue Book Values to help website development. More than 2,000 price inventory. sites from 47 countries were entered in 96 about how consumers Another leading benefit of the industry categories during this year's research and choose AutoOffice and AutoOffice Plus prod- competition. Entries were judged on design, innovation, content, technology, vehicles online ucts is that pre-owned inventory listings Chrome Systems Inc., a subsidiary of on’s The Trusted Marketplace interactivity, copy writing and ease of use. DealerTrack Holdings, Inc. and an are included in both products. The This is the second consecutive year that industry leader in managing automotive Trusted Marketplace incorporates its has received the WebAwards data, has announced the results of a recent online vehicle research with dealer Automobile Standard of Excellence. survey that sheds additional light on the inventory listings, making a Bill Stout, general manager of Ed consumer vehicle shopping and purchas- one-stop-source for new- and used-car Voyles Acura, commented, "We are ing process. The online survey of adults shoppers, and offers dealerships expo- honored by the WebAward and I am who had purchased or leased a vehicle in sure to the web sites’ 14 million monthly very pleased with our work with the previous 12 months was conducted by visitors. CDMdata’s dealer customers Their level of service is Zogby International for Chrome. Among will receive merchandising treatments in always at or above my expectations, and the survey’s key findings were: The Trusted Marketplace, including everyone at is very respon- Eighty-six percent of the respondents Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail sive and pleasant to work with. Our researched their new vehicle online before Values and Kelley Blue Book Digital web site design and production with purchasing or leasing. They chose to shop Window Stickers integrated within their was seamless and it was easy online because it is convenient (73%), it listings. In addition, customers will to make the switch. And we just signed saves time (60%), it obviates the pressure receive additional callouts, which iden- up for their SEO service to achieve even of talking to a salesperson (58%), and it tify their used vehicles as “newly listed” more success and first-party lead genera- and “price lowered.” tion from our website." continued on P-DD30 DD 6 December 2009
  6. 6. D IGITAL Dealer AAISP NOTES Cliff Banks Social Media Skeptic I ’m not a big fan of dealerships diving At the moment, it’s a tough sale for me. one way to make it work. But you have to into the Facebook game – or at least, An easier proposition for me is knowing have an idea of what kind of return you doing so without putting some that salespeople or employees can be want, and what your investment level thought into the effort. sitting on Facebook all day, and rational- (time-wise) is going to be. Leveraging Facebook – along with izing it as “work.” Over the next several months, you’ll see other social media applications – was a “Hey, I’m building our brand. I’m a lot more in Digital Dealer magazine popular topic at the recent Digital Dealer marketing to our community.” about ways to capitalize on social media Conference and Exposition in Nashville, Right. and ways you can protect your business. and rightfully so. As an industry, we still have a By April, when we hold the next More and more dealers are playing tough time responding correctly to Digital Dealer Conference and with Facebook trying to figure out ways phone calls, walk in traffic and e-mail Exposition, we’ll have a much to drive more traffic to their stores. This is leads. I mystery shop occasionally better idea as an industry of the a rough guess but about one-third of my and phone skills across the board are “do’s and don’ts” of social media. nearly 400 Facebook friends are dealers. lacking; e-mail response times still For now, here are a couple of have a ways to go. examples of dealers on Facebook How many customers walk into your who are doing it “right.” “My concern is that showroom without being properly I’m a Facebook friend with Tracy Myers, a dealer in North Carolina. He greeted or being asked for their infor- Facebook, or other mation? does an incredible job leveraging My concern is that Facebook, or other Facebook. But it’s him that does it. He social media applications, social media applications, become an easy uses it to interact with his community and out – a way to avoid doing the hard work tells me he sells cars every month because become an easy out – of selling cars. We still have to continue of it. banging on the basics. Despite all of the Another dealer who has figured it out is a way to avoid doing new glittering technology, this still is a Steve White Volkswagen and Audi in sales business. And it’s hard work, follow- South Carolina. the hard work of ing the processes, doing the follow up, I could tell you what these dealers are and making the extra call. These are the doing, but it’s best if you see it for your- selling cars.” things that have sold cars, and will selves. They have a nice balance between —Cliff Banks continue to sell cars long into the future. “sales” and community interaction, and it The headline says it all – yes, I’m skep- seems to work. tical. But, the fact is, you probably Now, it’s time for this skeptic to prac- At first glance, the statistics of usage are should start playing on Facebook if you tice what he preaches. In the next couple amazing. There are more than 300 haven’t already. of weeks, we’ll be launching a Facebook million active users on Facebook. But But do so with a plan. I know there are page for Dealer magazine. So stay tuned, 70% of them are outside the U.S. Still, it’s consultants who might disagree and who and hopefully we’ll be able to help each a lot of users and it makes sense that busi- argue that value of social media is its other figure it out. nesses would want to try to find ways to organic nature and lack of structure. tap into that market. Trust me, as a business you want to I think the most important question, control and structure your Facebook though, is can a dealership use Facebook efforts just as you do with anything else in If you wish to discuss this article with to sell and service more vehicles? That’s your store. other dealers, or with the author, what you’re in business for. I know, Turning it over to employees without please go to the “Discussion Forums” having a presence and trying to interact guidance or some oversight could lead to at with your market in a way that’s non- big problems later on. If you’re the owner, and enter the “AAISP” forum or sales driven is warm and fuzzy, but does it’s your name and business. e-mail him at cbanks@DigitalDealer- that turn into your dealership making First, determine a strategy for how you more money? approach Facebook. There’s more than DD 8 December 2009
  7. 7. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Phil Sura Are You a Creator, or Just a Bad Prophet? Many dealers refuse to surrender to the pressures of the market T he world has always been full of “Gross averages will always be hurt by visionaries. Some are better than the Internet department.” edericksburg-chevrolet/?make=chevrolet others at making predictions. – Check out the link for current incen- Here are some examples of famous “Giving a customer a competitive price tives on the lower right side. This quotes that didn’t hit the mark. Source: online simply gives that customer a shop- provides customers the most current ping price to go to the competition.” incentives for any new car by region. It is consistent with the teaching that a more “I think there is a world market for “Print advertising will always give us transparent online approach is perceived maybe five computers.” – Thomas our strongest results since most dealers as a major positive by the consumer. Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943. have pulled out.” – Check “But it good for?” – Engineer “I don’t have a CRM, we have a good out the use of video on the home page. location and we can rely on our drive by Please note that the homepage showcases at the Advanced Computing Systems specials, aged used units, new car content, traffic.” Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on and a dealer spotlight video explaining the microchip. why a customer should visit this specific dealership. Video drives time on the site, “There is no reason anyone would which leads to an increase in conversion want a computer in their home.” – Ken “If you are going (phone ups plus e-mail leads against unique visitor count). Olson, president, chairman and founder to survive today, of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977. you had better love # – This is a concept for linking consumer “With over 50 foreign cars already on reviews to multiple areas including the sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t this industry.” web site and linking the reviews for —Phil Sura organic searches. Two options for dealer likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. driven reviews include: market.” – Business Week, August 2, 1968. and If possible, We could also come up with a list of link the reviews to the Google map. In famous bad predictions and statements addition to reviews on the Google map, from dealers and managers within auto make certain that you have pictures and On the other end of the spectrum, I an overview of the dealership on this page. dealerships. The list could include some work with a number of managers and of the following that I have personally dealers constantly testing new concepts to – Use this site to heard over the last six months: stay ahead of the curve with online initia- determine how your dealership ranks tives. We are in a period where ideas must with unique visitors and time on site with “I don’t want the Internet team to be tested. Status quo is not acceptable. other dealers in the area or dealers across control the entire dealership.” Here are some ideas that dealers are the country. These are key measurements testing or using: that many dealers are still not focused on. “Every dealer will be getting involved The concept is simple. If the average time with video so why would I embrace – This is a on site with your dealership is two video?” great way to add pages or listings. The minutes and the dealer site across the web site allows you to link content into a street is 13 minutes, you have a problem. “Staying with three photos of my web site, blogs, Word Press and My inventory is good enough.” Space. You can then convert the content Create a YouTube channel. Link videos into 50 different languages. This is a great into the channel. “I fired the entire Internet team way to connect quickly and easily to a because they were too expensive to keep.” larger consumer base. continued on P-DD29 DD 10 December 2009
  8. 8. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Peter Martin Improving your E-mail Delivery Rate How to handle inactive subscribers – re-engage or remove? I “… it’s up to you to n a previous issue we started dis- erability of your messages by the ISPs. cussing why delivering e-mails today With so much at stake the solution is rela- has become more of a challenge and tively simple: know what causes list figure out how long how “list fatigue” is a common problem fatigue, follow list management best prac- that has been overlooked. This is the sec- tices, try to re-engage your inactive to keep (subscribers) ond in a three-part series to help you subscribers, and if all else fails, remove clean your database and improve your e- them from your lists. on your list and mail delivery rate. What causes list fatigue? when it’s time to The risk of mailing to inactive There are a number of reasons subscribers subscribers ignore or delete your remove them.” When you mail to inactive messages. Some are preventable, some subscribers, your reputation and deliver- aren’t; and it is important for you to be —Peter Martin ability are at stake. ISPs routinely turn able to tell the difference so you know vacation to the Bahamas, some will decide old e-mail addresses that are no longer in how to handle it. to go skiing, some won’t even think about use into spam traps. These traps, which booking another vacation for years. A few are also called honey pots, are monitored Unpreventable: might book another cruise to Greece but by the ISPs to see which e-mail Subscribers no longer fit demographic – will want a 14-day cruise instead of seven marketers are continuing to send e-mails The unpreventable reasons are caused or they’ll want to visit ports they didn’t get to these invalid addresses as a way to when subscribers’ needs change and they to see the first time. Regardless, the identify spammers. no longer fit into your target demo- subscribers’ needs have changed after the Even if someone opted-in to your list graphic. No matter how great your e-mails initial purchase and it is up to you to with that e-mail address and remained are, the topic just isn’t relevant to that figure out what the subscribers want. active for a time, if the owner of the e- segment of your audience. This might Some subscribers won’t require anything mail address discontinued use of that frighten some marketers but it is a simple and will fall off your list. However, you address and you haven’t updated your fact: people change over time. Some will be able to keep many of these records for that subscriber, you will look subscribers will move out of your region. subscribers if you continue to send like a spammer to the ISPs and your Some will retire and won’t need your serv- messages that are relevant to their needs. messages will be delivered to the junk ices for their businesses. Some will go to mail folder or they will be blocked. college and find that they are no longer Preventable: Even if an address hasn’t been turned interested in receiving e-mail updates Message is not relevant – If you are not into a honey pot, unused and invalid e- from their favorite teen boy band. These targeting and segmenting your list to send mail addresses will still bounce. ISPs fluctuations are uncontrollable and should specific, relevant messages to your monitor the number of bounces your be expected, and this group should be subscribers, you will lose them. Every campaigns generate, and once you reach a identified and removed from your list as message must capture the attention of certain threshold, your messages won’t be they have a low probability of making a your subscribers and provide information delivered. With churn rates as high as purchase and a high probability of becom- that is useful to them. If your messages 30% per year, it is imperative that you ing invalid and bouncing. don’t fulfill a specific need of your remove the old, inactive, and invalid e- Subscriber completes goal – Another subscribers, they will quickly stop listen- mail addresses from your lists. If your unpreventable reason for list fatigue ing to you. reputation is damaged it not only hurts occurs after subscribers make purchases Subscription best practices weren’t the deliverability of that one particular and their needs change. For example, if followed – Your opt-in process sets the campaign deployment, but your future someone signs up to receive e-mails from tone for all of your e-mail communica- messages as well. a travel web site on cruises to the Greek tions. An opt-in process that is quick and Handling inactive subscribers presents Isles, it is likely that they will no longer be easy, yet captures the right profiling data, a real conundrum to e-mail marketers. interested in receiving information on produces active subscribers. Confirming On the one hand, you risk potential sales cruises to Greece when they return from your subscribers want to join your lists if you remove inactive subscribers from the trip. Some of your subscribers will be your list. On the other, you risk the deliv- interested in booking their next cruise continued on P-DD29 DD 12 December 2009
  9. 9. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Joe Webb A Right Time to Call Call too early, and you’ll lose the sale A n individual is interested in a personalized e-mail with information receive an e-mail immediately back vehicle. They research the vehi- (and pricing) regarding their exact stating “no call” – or anything similar cle online endlessly. Site after vehicle requested, as well as some alter- (even if you receive follow up ques- site, they peruse through all the infor- native options. In this e-mail, you must tions), I believe you should continue to mation. To stay away from the also state, “I understand you are looking use that medium. E-mail may be their stereotypical car sales tricks that for this information quickly. If I do not security blanket. Taking that away from they’ve been predisposed to avoid, hear from you shortly, I will be calling them makes you the enemy. Respect they decide to send an e-mail inquir- you to confirm you have received this e- their wishes and continue with that ing about a specific vehicle to a mail.” Ten minutes after this lengthy medium of communication. number of dealerships. This customer e-mail is sent, you have earned the right Reaching out to them in the same could have called a dealership or sim- to pick up the phone and call. However, method in which they contact you ply driven to the local dealer more the phone call has to be under a guise shows your customers respect. We’ve all quickly. Instead, they do all of their other than, “Hey…got your e-mail. heard a customer say, “If I wanted to homework, hoping to prepare them- When do ya wanna come in so I can sell talk to someone in person, I would selves for their inevitable purchase. you this here car?” Now, I put a twang in have just called myself.” It’s difficult to Their goal is to receive information that call because that is what I talk yourself out of that one. I’ve tried, that will help them make the decision commonly receive while mystery shop- and more often than not, any potential between dealers easier. What happens? ping. Priceless. Instead, here is a best relationship is shot at that point. Use The customer’s phone rings. Sales rep- practice that I taught my staff at my the customer’s chosen method of resentatives call unexpectedly and dealership. communication and only call when you single-handedly shoot themselves in The call must be presented as, “Hello have given them fair warning. the foot by not utilizing the same Mrs./Mr. Customer, my name is ____ Otherwise, you are liable to come off medium that the customer has chosen and I am with ABC Motors. I don’t sounding like a telemarketer, or worse, to begin communication. mean to bother you, but I simply the dreaded car salesperson they were Why? Just as the customer has been wanted to ensure that you have received trying to sidestep. trained to research and negotiate from the e-mail I sent, answering all of your Opening a dialogue on the phone the comforts of their own home, the sales questions.” Emphasize “your” so they with the customer will forever remain associates have been trained to disregard realize they brought this call on them- imperative. What is equally important? the e-mail and get them on the phone. selves and that you are doing them a Knowing the right time to call. Now, let me state that I agree with the favor. Continue with, “With all of the training of some consultants that there is spam filters out there today, I needed to Joe Webb is the president of DealerKnows a proven importance to getting a make sure it landed in your inbox. I’d LLC, an automotive digital marketing customer on the phone. However, I hate to think that you didn’t get all of consultation firm. He also recently disagree with their beliefs that a call to an your questions answered just because of founded Dealer Signage Inc., a progressive, Internet customer comes before an e- a mail system.” Whether they have digital advertising network and signage mail. That is an antiquated and checked or not, once they have acknowl- company that allows dealers to manage the dangerous philosophy to be teaching edged and understand your unselfish media on their own televisions and deliver people on the floor during these times. I purpose for calling, you can say, “While targeted digital messages to their loyal cus- also believe that a one-minute auto- I have you on the phone, can I ask if tomers within their own dealership. responder confirming the receipt of the you’ve already had the opportunity to lead is not a worthy enough e-mail to test drive this vehicle?” Then follow your warrant a call. A call to a customer normal script/phone structure. If you wish to discuss this article with without their permission and without Your initial e-mail has provided them other dealers, or with the author, warning is often unwanted and automat- all of the information that they’ve please go to the “Discussion Forums” ically eliminates you from consideration. requested. At that point, you have at When do you reach out to them and essentially done everything that they and enter the “Internet Sales” forum or how do you do so without upsetting have asked of you and more. You gave e-mail him at jwebb@DigitalDealer- today’s temperamental customers? You them a warning shot that alerted them must begin by sending a detailed, of an impending call. Now, if you DD 14 December 2009
  10. 10. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Jeff Rubin Still Struggling with Handling Internet Leads? Ten years later, and we’re still figuring it out Ahh, the good old days. inventory, taking a test drive, working underestimate the importance of the It’s been more than 10 years since the the numbers and closing the deal that salesperson. Internet was going to revolutionize was such a critical element in prevent- So now more than a decade after retail automobile sales. Back in the late ing the guy in his underwear from this Internet party started there is still ‘90s there were actually dealers looking clicking the big red “Buy” link. no clear-cut way for a dealership to sell to sell their dealerships for fear of You can see simple proof of this cars over the Internet. This is because “Internet dealerships” putting them out concept right now in your showroom. dealerships, brands, and markets are of business. The dream of the Internet as a all very different, and a few different Auto-by-Tel and bottomless resource of information models have emerged to serve the were the rage. Then there was has very much become a reality. It is various needs. Let’s look at some of the, which was seeded by a now a rare exception to find most common Internet sales models $100 million investment by another customers that have not done some and discuss the pros and cons. One is giant Acknowledging that the amount of research about their car not necessarily better than another; it auto manufacturers would not sell purchases on the Internet. Some all depends on what is best for your them vehicles directly, their plan was to prospective customers have done so dealership. buy up dealerships all around the much research on their car of interest Probably the most typical Internet country, shut down their retail opera- that they come in to the showroom sales model is the dedicated Internet tions, and then use them as distribution sometimes knowing more about that salesperson. The Internet salesperson points for their Internet sales opera- car than does your salesperson. gets all of their customer traffic from tions. That never did work out for Therefore, given that the average Internet leads. They receive all Internet them, and they became another customer has nearly complete informa- leads, make the initial contact, handle casualty. tion about the car that they want, why the customer when they come into the So here we are 10 years after the would the salesperson make much, if dealership or sell the car by phone crash and what have we any, difference to the sale? Yet, if you and/or e-mail, and then deliver the car. learned? One of the best lessons, which check your sales numbers for last They may be on the same payplan as was rarely acknowledged during the month, last quarter, or last year, there the floor salespeople or they may have Internet boom and bust, was the criti- are huge variations in the sales volume a dedicated payplan. Depending on cal importance of the salesperson. between salespeople. Do you have one the size of the dealership, there may be The auto dot.coms attributed their salesperson who does 20-plus cars every one, a few, or many dedicated Internet failure to uncooperative auto manufac- month? Do you have another one who salespeople. Also depending on the size turers, franchise laws, dealers stepping rarely breaks 10? If the unlimited infor- of the dealership there may be a sepa- up with their own web sites (who mation of the Internet has created such rate Internet department with a would have thought that could have a level playing field, then how can this dedicated manager, or the Internet happened?), and the elimination of be the case? salespeople could report directly to the additional capital infusions. However, The reason is that the salesperson floor sales manager. it was taking the salesperson out of the always has and always will play a critical The advantage of the dedicated equation that turned out to be a critical role in the sales process. This is not a Internet salesperson approach is that element. During the boom CD, a book, shoes, or even a personal you still have a dedicated salesperson, years there was this ubiquitous image of computer; it is a big, expensive automo- usually with a sales-motivating a guy sitting at home at his computer at bile! No one makes this decision lightly. commission payplan, handling the 3:00 am in his underwear, surfing the There are options, colors, driving char- Internet customers. They have the same Internet for a new car, clicking the acteristics, service considerations, trade motivation to sell a car that any other “Buy” button on his dream car, and issues, and financing and registration salesperson does. Since the Internet then having the car magically appear in questions. Even the most educated leads are their only source of customers, his driveway in the morning. customer needs some help. Quite often they are also motivated to focus all of We now look back and think how even the most determined buyer needs their efforts on these leads. Another ridiculous this concept was, if just from someone to just say, “Buy the car!” The benefit of this approach is that the a logistics standpoint. However, it was point here is that as you look at your customer has primarily one contact the lack of a salesperson showing the Internet sales process, never, ever person, which is preferred by many DD 16 December 2009
  11. 11. customers and dealers. On the down- control that salespeople maintain over Also consider the telephone skills and, side, unless it is a fairly large your customers. The biggest downside particularly, the writing skills of the department, coverage is often an issue. of a BDC is having multiple contact salespeople receiving these leads. If there are two Internet salespeople and people at the dealership, which some Distributing leads directly to the one is on vacation and the other is stuck customers don’t like. There is also the floor salespeople also has its logistic doing a long delivery, then an incoming concern that the BDC reps are possibly challenges. Having the sales manager lead can sit for a while. One absolute not going to be particularly strong hand the leads out creates opportunities rule of Internet sales is that response salespeople, which may compromise for favoritism and creates a natural time to a new lead is critical. So take their ability to close your Internet bottleneck that will inevitably slow crit- coverage into serious consideration customers on an appointment. When ical response times. Distributing the with this model. Another consideration considering a BDC model, keep in leads to multiple salespeople through is how to handle skating when an mind that tracking the BDC originated Outlook is a particularly bad idea. Internet lead generated prospect walks appointments and sales can be very With Outlook there is no way for one into the showroom and is sold by a tricky. The BDC can also be a direct user to know that another user has floor salesperson. Watch the number of personnel expense as opposed to a already responded to a lead. Therefore, leads coming in and your closing rates. commissioned sales expense like most using Outlook to distribute leads to If more leads come in than the Internet other Internet models. Be particularly multiple salespeople will create a situa- salespeople can handle, then they will careful of how you charge the deal, split tion where multiple salespeople may tend to preview the leads and “cherry a commission, or do a pack for BDC contact the same customer from the pick” the ones that look the best. Most originated deals. This will be met with same lead (which is better than no one critically, do not compromise this posi- great resistance by your salespeople. contacting them, but is still not a good tion by opting to put a non-salesperson They will work to undermine the way to go!) The best way to distribute in this position. Dealers had often put process, and there exists a direct incen- leads to multiple salespeople is through “computer savvy” people in the Internet tive not to disclose a deal as originating your CRM system, either in a “round- sales position instead of real salespeople, in the BDC. Nevertheless, the BDC robin” or a “first-come-first-served” yielding awful results. Internet sales model is a very viable option and can set-up. This leads to consistent, effi- requires a very strong salesperson with be very effective, particularly in larger cient lead distribution, which can also great communications skills who can dealerships with more resources. If you be tracked and monitored. All CRMs also write reasonably well. The only decide to set up a BDC in your dealer- should be able to handle some variation technical skill required is the ability to ship it is advised to find a good of these set-ups. open an e-mail or use a CRM system. consultant to help get you going. So these are a few of your options for Compromises in this position will cost Probably the simplest model is just to handling all of those increasingly you dearly. give the Internet leads out to some or important Internet leads. You are prob- The big trend over the last few years all of the salespeople on the floor. This ably using some variation on one of as an alternative to the traditional can be done by e-mail, by a manager these models, but in these tough times Internet sales department is the busi- receiving the leads and handing them it is probably a good idea to re-evaluate ness development center, or BDC. The out, or through your CRM. The think- this important part of your business. BDC model entails a dedicated depart- ing behind this model is “an up’s an Remember that regardless of how you ment that handles all incoming Internet up”; treat all potential customers the decide to structure your Internet sales leads, makes the initial customer same whether they originate as an operations the operative word here is contact, and then focuses on getting the Internet lead, a phone call, or as a sales. Do not treat it as anything less. customer into the dealership and showroom prospect. In many dealer- turned over to a floor salesperson. The ships this is a reasonable strategy. As Jeff Rubin is president and founder of BDC may also handle all incoming with the dedicated Internet salesperson DealerServer, a state-of-the-art dealer- phone leads in the same fashion; they strategy, the customer deals with only ship CRM and desking system. Prior to may handle some or all follow-up calls, one primary contact person. The DealerServer, Rubin had been in auto- pre-sale and post-sale; and they also customer is dealing with a commis- motive retail since 1987. He holds a may handle service appointments and sioned salesperson with a vested interest degree in finance from the University service follow-up. Many direct market- in delivering the car and without the at Buffalo and an MBA from ing activities may fall under the BDC’s concern of sharing any of their Fordham University. responsibility as well. The BDC struc- commission. By distributing the leads ture may vary widely, however the focus over a number of salespeople on the here is on the BDC as applied to floor, coverage and response time may Internet leads. be better (but isn’t always – it still must The BDC model works on the be managed!) The downside is that If you wish to discuss this article with assumption that salespeople are better accountability and focus are not always other dealers, or with the author, left to dealing with customers face-to- great. The floor salesperson will often please go to the “Discussion Forums” face. Let them focus on closing deals focus on the showroom up over the at and leave the tedious follow-up process Internet lead. Given the alternatives of and enter the “Internet Sales” forum or to specialists. By doing so, you will get floor and phone traffic, the floor sales- e-mail him at jrubin@DigitalDealer- much better control of your follow-up person may be inclined to “cherry pick” process, and you separate some of the only the most promising Internet leads. December 2009 DD 17
  12. 12. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Rob Lange Online Buyers Have Wants Also Find what drives the customer, then sell to it E ach day, dealers are inundated The same should be done in address- use the Internet revolves around five with new ideas, products and ing the motivations customers have for main areas or “hot buttons” if you will. technologies to help sell more using the Internet as a major source in To make a connection with the cars. It’s an endless stream of equip- satisfying their car shopping needs. customer, to have them move confi- ment they’re told they “must have” to Making sure your online presentation dently toward your dealership, it’s stay on top of the ever-changing caters to customers who prefer to shop important to provide solutions to the online landscape. Trying to stay on top online first rather than the showroom is customer in each of these five areas. of these technologies sometimes leads Save time: Customers are busy and to more confusion, frustration and the look for sites offering all of the tools continued nagging thought that they they need to make a comfortable just can’t seem to get ahead of the buying decision. Once found, they curve. It’s time to take a deep breath. migrate back continually as they One of the easiest ways to connect “To make a connection research models, pricing, etc. Make with online shoppers doesn’t come sure you are represented on the sites from the latest, greatest, “must have” with the customer, to most visited by customers during the product. It comes from understanding shopping process. Some of the most- the online buyer, what is important to have them move visited consumer sites even offer them and addressing their buying exclusivity to dealers to represent their motivations in the way you present confidently toward make of car/dealership in a particular your dealership and inventory online. market. A recent survey showed that The greatest challenge dealers face your dealership, it’s shoppers begin using the Internet 12.4 today is how to continually outsmart weeks prior to purchase and finally the online competition because this is important to provide decide on a model five weeks prior to where an overwhelming majority of buying. This means they are influenced car shoppers begin their vehicle search. solutions to the for 7.4 weeks while using the web to It is easy to structure your online pres- decide what to buy and where to buy ence around what you believe is customer in each of it. Be the dealer to outsmart the important; however, structuring your competition and drive these customers online presence around what the these five areas.” to your dealership. customer says is important to them is —Rob Lange more effective. Level the playing field: Most will Sales 101 tells us to find the agree that your highest closing percent- customers’ “hot buttons” and tailor our ages come from those leads derived presentation around them. We’ve done from your own dealership web site. this for years in our product presenta- pivotal. The purpose of your online Your web site should provide the infor- tions and walk-arounds. If the “hot presentation is to encourage consumers mation the customer needs to see in button” is safety features, we make sure to visit your dealership rather than your order to feel comfortable to take action they know all about the Consumer competitors’. Annual studies have been and submit a lead. Your site also should Reports’ safety records and crash test done by various major sources outlin- contain complete new- and pre-owned results of their model of interest. We ing customer response to what they say inventory photos with detailed “seller’s also make sure the customer is aware of causes them to move confidently in one notes” and pricing on each vehicle in the features our car has over other particular dealer’s direction. inventory. In addition, the site should competitive models and how these They tell us the major motivations provide access to trade-in values; if it elements address their concerns. If and perceived benefits of using the doesn’t then consumers will leave your economy is a concern, we make sure Internet to help decide what to buy and site to find the information elsewhere they know about the EPA mileage esti- where to buy it. If you look at these with no guarantee they will return. mates and compare them to similar, less statistical surveys, you’ll see an overrid- favorable competitors. ing theme. Many customers’ decision to continued on P-DD29 DD 18 December 2009
  13. 13. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Tom Mohr How to Respond to Leads the Right Way Speed and the right information increase potential for the sale Nothing matters if a lead isn’t properly quote response, a new category of answered. technology solutions has emerged: No SEO or SEM, no mobile apps, “Too often, a Digital Response Management no 360 degree views of the car on your (DRM). DRM vendors deliver solu- website, no amount of third party salesperson with time tions that ensure the dealer can lead-buying matters if you can’t get execute very rapid price quote back to a customer right away with a to answer just one lead responses on incoming leads. quote. Too often, dealers underesti- mate this vital “blocking and tackling” but with four in the A comprehensive DRM solution step, pursuing all kinds of sexy strate- delivers at least the following: gies to gin up lead volume. They fail to queue will just answer • A very rapid price quote response to recognize that if a lead isn’t properly a customer inquiry answered, lead volume is meaningless. the freshest lead.” • Personalization of the message The arrival of an incoming lead —Tom Mohr • Tools to support dealer pricing represents “the moment of truth.” The • A brand-strengthening consumer point of lead arrival signifies the message moment when a customer has decided • New and used vehicles presented to put three to four dealers on trial. cern—followed by the invitation to • High message deliverability (avoids Who has a fair price? Who has what I visit the dealership for a test drive. spam filters, etc.) want in stock? Who will give me the • Follow-up e-mails and phone mes- best service? Who can I trust? How the sages over the ensuing five days if the DRM providers attack a problem dealer responds in the minutes or customer doesn’t immediately come in. that has bedeviled dealers for 15 years: hours after the lead arrives shapes the • Confirmation of a test drive date and the ability to send a price quote customer’s view of that dealership. time. response back to a customer right The simple fact is, according to a • Once the customer comes into the away. Increasingly, progressive dealers study by the Cobalt Group, that 25% dealership, a hearty welcome, discus- will ask their partners in dealer 20 of all leads don’t get answered at all. sion of product requirements, “lot groups, “What is your DRM system?” And the average response time on walk”, test drive and sale if possible. It won’t be long before all effective leads that do receive a response is over • And if not, an ongoing e-mail fol- dealers will have at least one. five hours. For the consumer sitting at low-up campaign that encourages the her computer waiting for a quote, customer to respond when she is back Tom Mohr is the president and CEO of these facts stagger. Why, she thinks, in the market and ready to buy. ResponseLogix, the leading provider of should it be so difficult to find a dealer automotive digital response management who wants my $25,000? The problem, of course, is that life software for Internet leads in a dealership is complicated. Many Creating an optimal end-to-end conflicting demands draw upon the customer experience that time and attentions of every Internet enhances a dealer’s selling salesperson, ISM, ISD and GSM. potential involves: Leads come in at the worst possible • A customer sending in a lead time—when everyone is engaged with • An immediate, personalized e-mail other customers, for instance—and response back to the customer, show- languish in ILM / CRM in-boxes. Too If you wish to discuss this article with ing price quotes on multiple new and often, a salesperson with time to other dealers, or with the author, pre-owned alternatives surrounding answer just one lead but with four in please go to the “Discussion Forums” her request. the queue will just answer the freshest at • A phone connection within one lead; the others go stale and eventually and enter the “Internet Sales” forum or hour, confirming the customer’s unanswered. e-mail him at tmohr@DigitalDealer- receipt of the quote and probing for To address the monumental chal- areas of interest, confusion or con- lenge of an effective and rapid price DD 20 December 2009
  14. 14. D IGITAL Dealer INTERNET SALES Paige Presley Ways to Create a ‘Sticky’ Web Site Use tools to create the ultimate online shopping experience I s your web site tailor-made for your can be edited within the control panel of Take it a step further by allowing target audience, or is it “just another your site. You can easily make your site your site’s visitors to build their own dealer web site?” Consumers look to stand out from other dealer web sites by vehicles. If they configure one that’s the Internet when conducting research displaying images on your homepage that not in your inventory, you have the on products they’re interested in buy- are unique to your business. For example, opportunity to offer similar vehicles ing. In fact, a report from Forrester rotate photos of your dealership, lot and that you have available, or you can find Research, Inc. indicated just over 83 showroom. Or further personalize your that vehicle at another dealership and million adults hop online to find more site by choosing specific images to be used have it transported to your store for the information about potential purchases, as buttons on your homepage and customer. which is why you need a robust web site presenting additional links that might Finally, but most importantly, you that delivers exactly what car shoppers interest your shoppers. should always be running up-to-date are looking for. specials. This is the gold that car shoppers To reach out to your online audience, are searching for on dealer web sites. you need to break away from standard Create attractive coupons and place them design molds and make sure to take “To reach out to your prominently on your homepage. Some advantage of the many consumer tools promotions tools allow you to also available today. By combining the beauty online audience, you display an icon in your inventory listings of sleek web site design with the brains to alert shoppers that specific vehicles are and functionality of consumer-oriented need to break away on sale. tools, your web site will offer a rich user If you have access to features like these experience, and you’ll see an increase in from standard design and aren’t utilizing them, then shoppers lead activity. are guaranteed to look elsewhere. Contact Begin by shaping your online presence molds and make sure to your web site provider to get started with with a solid search engine optimization these tools and ask to see what else they campaign to attract shoppers to your web take advantage of the have on the menu that will take your web site. Focus on including keyword-rich site to the next level. content on each page while ensuring the many consumer tools Once you start adding these elements title and meta tags contain the appropri- to your web site, you’ll enrich your ate information. Remember, when it available today.” shopper’s online experience, and you’ll comes to the structure of your web site, —Paige Presley see positive results in the form of more it’s not about the quantity of pages car sales. within your site, but the quality of You can also use the control panel to content on each page. monitor your web site’s stats, includ- Paige Presley is the marketing ana- Developing your SEO strategies is a ing how visitors got to your site, how lyst/writer for Dealerskins in Nashville, great start toward building a strong online long they were there and which pages TN. She enjoys mixing her passions for presence, but it’s only the first of many they viewed. This information comes all things technology and for following steps necessary to increase online leads. in handy when it’s time to make consumer trends by staying involved in Once shoppers make it to your web content changes. market research for the auto industry. site, it’s crucial for you to have content Another feature that will improve the that will keep them there versus heading shopper’s experience is the ability to to an OEM or third-party site for addi- easily compare the details of multiple tional information. The value of the tools vehicles. Mintel’s report, Automobile If you wish to discuss this article with offered by your web site provider lies in Purchase Process, says 74% of respon- other dealers, or with the author, their ability to produce beautifully dents used the Internet to research please go to the “Discussion Forums” customized and highly interactive web vehicle features and options. Make it easy at sites—meaning yours is unique to your for your shoppers to see what options are and enter the “Internet Sales” forum or dealership, not identical to the web site of available within your inventory by offer- e-mail her at ppresley@DigitalDealer- the dealership down the street. ing a tool that allows them to select and Many platforms have specific areas that view vehicles side by side. December 2009 DD 21
  15. 15. D IGITAL Dealer COVER STORY Jose Alonso Internet e-Commerce Director Jenkins Auto Group Jose Alonso, Internet e-Commerce Director for South Florida’s Jenkins Auto Group, is quick to acknowledge that he’s living the American dream, and even in this tough market he’s having a fine time exploring the boundaries of selling cars on the Internet. While he says the group’s market has fluctuated some in the past year, it’s been able to leverage the Internet to increase web site traffic 70%, push up first-party lead generation 50%, and increase lead to sales conversion 40%. A big shift from traditional to Internet advertising has helped, says Alonso, but so has a willingness to adapt, a sharp focus on follow up and lead management, and a keen eye for what works and what’s mostly hype. DD 22 December 2009
  16. 16. JOSE, TELL ME WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED Internet. Some were selling two or a mailer it’s very hard to track the sales YOU TO THE AUTO INDUSTRY. three a month and some 15 or 20 a it generated. We’re moving toward I love sales and cars. Every client is month at the most, but a lot of those decreasing traditional media across the different and I love the challenge. I got were repeat customers. group and moving toward increasing into the car business around 2001. I So how important are Internet Internet advertising. For the whole always had a passion for cars. Before I sales at the Jenkins Group today? group we’ve probably cut back tradi- went into the car business I used to buy We are very Internet oriented. In tional marketing about 30% and I’m and trade cars every three months. I was most of our dealerships, Internet sales targeting even more. a general manager for a well-known make up 30% to 40% of sales, purely sporting goods store. A GM for a deal- online sales. Understand that when I What’s your process for receiving ership knew me and mentioned a say 30% to 40% that means the ones and distributing Internet leads? couple of times that I would be a good that are tracking online, not the ones The leads go into our CRM and are car salesman, so I decided to do it and who say they saw your vehicle online at then transferred to an Internet salesper- started with his Chevrolet store in a third-party site. Customers who son with a work flow attached. Starting Gainesville, FL. Then I went to a come in will say, “Listen, I went to in November we converted to a BDC. Lincoln store and then onto Honda in your web site,” but I’m not counting Now we have an Internet manager and Ocala, FL, then to Toyota in Ocala. I those. That’s part of the advertising. a staff of two to six people, in every came to the United States from Cuba at And we’re moving forward. We just store. The manager gets the lead and 14 years old. I didn’t know the language had an Internet boot camp with ADP assigns it to a particular salesperson and had to start working early. By 17 I to get everyone on board with the depending on the lead. Some used leads was in management for an office supply Internet process. go to the person who’s good at that, company in Miami and really have new to someone else. When a lead been a manager and leader my entire Explain what has happened to comes in it has a 35-day work flow, life. I always saw the opportunity and your sales in this tough market either an e-mail or a phone call made the most out of it. I know I have and how your business has attached to it, which means you have to achieved the American dream and that responded. complete your task in order to get to I’m blessed. Our market has fluctuated some in the next one, so you can’t let a lead sit recent times, but we have been blessed there. So now we get to a lead within How did you land as e-commerce to hold our own by using the latest three minutes to 10 minutes. We have a director for the Jenkins Auto technology wisely. For example, in the perfect system in place. Group? past year we’ve increased web site traffic The problem we have is that our I was working for a Toyota dealership by 70%, increased first-party lead Internet managers are so busy that 30% across the street when I was generation by 50%, and increased lead of our phone calls are going right into approached for some advice about the to sales conversion by 40%. We voice mail, and I can’t have that. So, on Internet by the GM of one of the stopped most traditional advertising November 1 we started the BDC for Jenkins dealerships. That advice led to and now focus almost entirely on the Acura, Mazda and Ocala Hyundai an offer to develop all five Internet Internet marketing. We were spending out of Ocala. Hyundai in Bradenton. departments for the Jenkins an average of $50K per month on The Leesburg store will have its own Automotive Group and here I am. I traditional media, but now we average BDC. Any web related phone calls will started January 12 of this year. only about $7K per month online, but go right to the BDC, which will strictly average 165 to 200 Internet vehicle set up an appointment, and will be Give me an overview of the group. sales per month. That’s a 50% increase confirmed by the Internet manager at The group includes five dealerships – from a year ago. I think our biggest that store. Their job will be strictly Acura, Mazda, three Hyundai stores problem now is handling the increased appointments. Somebody in that BDC and a pre-owned center – all located in lead volume. Some Internet reps are will be able to answer any questions North Central and South Florida. handling as many as 130 leads per that might arise. They will have a script month. We’ve managed to increase our to follow 100% of the time. This allows Was the group using technology online success by improving follow up my Internet managers to have more smartly when you arrived? and creating a work flow for every lead. time to get involved with the sales and No. The tools that they had in place push for closings, answer questions, were old and they were not measuring Why have you shifted so much of that type of stuff. anything, just buying, and nobody, your marketing effort? with the exception of one store, had First of all, you can measure it online Do you have one or several web any idea how to sell cars on the and second, when we spend $9,000 on sites? December 2009 DD 23