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No Surprise: Pied Piper PSI® Internet Lead Effectiveness Report

Yet another wake up call to OEMs and dealers was quietly released today, showing no improvement in regard to Internet lead responses. While there were a few that made steps and improved their overall performance (Porsche, BMW and Mini), the industry average dropped a point to 56 (21 of 36 brands dropped). The report sites lack of transparency to senior management on the handling and performance of online sales leads.

According to Fran O’Hagan, Pied Piper CEO, the Prospect Satisfaction Index® Report showed that 50% of leads were responded to within 30 minutes, while 1 out of 11 were not responded to at all. Matched with a still-under-ten-percent closing rate for all leads in the automotive industry and those who understand the impact this creates look at how the OEMs and dealers deploy lead management tactics. In short, the OEM-mandated programs are not assisting dealers to better performance; they lead to standardization, lack of true engagement with and sales to consumers considering vehicle purchases, aggregation of data manufacturers don’t find useful, increases to paid marketing campaigns (mostly via retargeting and display with very poor results) and more revenue for unqualified consulting companies.

Not to mention that, while the industry sold more units in 2015, most dealers in the country didn’t increase market share last year (most of our clients did, though). That stems mostly from the inability of dealers to close more leads and execute on more effective SEO and SEM strategies for their markets. However, most dealers hear their vendors scream “we did a great job got for you last month” every month. Bullshit.

OEMs must wake up and realize that many companies selling consulting, lead management and other online services to them and the dealer body have no interest in anything besides adding top line revenue to their balance sheets, showing misleading reports of how “effective” their conversion rates are as well as how websites “convert” as more vendors count SRPs, VDPs and basic requests as sales leads. Data manipulation by many vendors in the industry hurts dealers and decision-making around and for dealerships.

While more speakers at conferences yell about “this one template kills it” and companies produce studies and white papers created to sell more duplicated templates and follow up processes, lead response effectiveness will continue to drop. And more importantly, the three areas that are the only ones that matter: lead-to-contact, contact0-to-appointment and appointment-to-show rates. And don’t even get us started on outsourcing lead management completely as some vendors pitch and a few have built their entire businesses off of, unless you have a death wish.

So with record unit sales, more dealers spending in traditional marketing again, very few dealers investing in digital education and true sales coaching especially around Internet leads and the homogenization of dealerships, don’t be surprised by the next Pied Piper report showing a further decline in results.

 

Want to discover how your leads are being handled without bothersome mystery shops? Contact IM@CS and improve your results with our lead scoring!

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Automotive Digital: The Cost of Being Minimized

It's no secret that we're on the move. All of us. You might even say that the speed at which things change is breakneck. What is less known is that as we speed toward wherever "there" is, the more we seem to be willingly giving up. The homogenization of dealerships is rampant…and it's the dealer that checked the box.

Our industry moves at the speed of retail. There is no two ways about it. While the mainstream media still focuses on what happens with the OEMs, just know that you are the king, not the pawn. That is until you make a choice: hire the preferred vendor so you can co-op funds; use the standard POPs since it's easier; use the brand website so you don't have to "maintain" two. And so on.

Consumerism is driving retail, which is at conflict with the OEMs. At the same time, dealers by-and-large are giving up the ghost because of cost. Well folks, the greater cost is being minimized. You can want it as much as possible and you still won't have your cake and eat it to. At least not in the digital realm.

So while customers are screaming for attention, service, why-buys, value, appreciation, satisfaction and validation, you throw a redundant website, a canned script, a formulaic email, a prepackaged walkaround, a canned welcome and broken sourcing practices at them. All to hopefully deliver the same car that's available at multiple competitors.

Very few dealers are making the investment to differentiate everything about their operations. You will never sell more saving money. You will never retain more customers while cutting costs. You will never achieve market increases while focusing on consolidating services. You will accelerate your demise.

Progressive businesses continually stay in front of trends, measure more effectively, create opportunities, listen more effectively, invest wisely and attract more eyeballs and customers. Those that don't….don't. 

The OEM-supported and mandated programs that are happening and a growing rate many times are being managed by companies simply adding on costs. Their insight doesn't push results, it standardized you. BDCs are being recommended for management by two preferred vendors for one manufacturer right now. You will sound and read just like your closest competitor. Is that your goal? No, is that really your goal? How much money will you save to get your Internet lead and phone closing rates up 10-50%?

If you save $1,000 a month since you can receive co-op funds with one BDC company, did you save money when you lost 20 units that should have been sold otherwise? Your social media is accelerating you to the same fate with most OEM-pushed companies. However since you don't read your own dealership posts, maybe it really doesn't happen.

At the end of the day, it's all good since the reporting says you're doing a great job. Right? Wrong.

The cost of being minimized, standardized and homogenized has still not hit an industry that's nearly minting money again hard enough between the eyes. To those that are fighting the fight, staying agile, focusing on results as much as the bottom line and not losing their grasp on where the digital consumer (which is all of us) is guiding us…here's to you! You'll be the ones who win.

For those who choose to be a mindless, factory clone, here's to wishing you the lost excitement, zest, fire and desire that you started with. You gave up the digital battle for whatever reason you did, hopefully you can save more than your money…

You Lost Me At Hello

Leads. Leads. Leads. Lead? Nope, the customer that should be
yours that will buy somewhere else. All the data (little data and it’s more
well-known brothers medium data and big data) says the same thing: people that
submit leads buy. And buy in a well-defined time frame. And buy from…….well,
it doesn’t matter. Most of the time it’s not you.

So what’s the deal? The deal is this: the more leads that
are typically generated deliver fewer customers. Why? Because we can’t change
an industry of salespeople, management, training and manuals before it wants to
shed its rich history of stuffing customers into cars, only going for the low-hanging
fruit and being “busy” which is a crock of bull. Between seemingly insurmountable
amounts of information and customers buying, there is a brick wall. Yes, the
one you keep hitting your heads against; the one that prevents us from being
great and gaining attitudes that push us outside of our comfort zones.

Internet leads are gold. Back in the 1800’s California Gold
Rush a lot of people went broke while a fair number made their riches. Fast
forward to the last fifteen years and, likely for many of the same reasons, a
few are making a killing while most are screaming “bad leads” rather than
actually looking at what the heck is happening in their stores.

Between a dealership’s website and third parties, the
average store can create enough business to sustain at least one person
dedicated to managing “leads” or a floor of great communicators (which everyone
says they are) sharing all of the business. The problem lies at the point where
a response is sent. For the most part, dealerships respond with crap, period.
Invite me into any dealership in the country, I’ll show you mediocre at best
responses within the 30 days period prior and many of them.

So what needs to be done to eliminate losing someone at
hello? Ready…here’s the rocket science: 

  • Read the lead, and most of the time the source
    lead, completely prior to sending a response. Then read it again. Then slow
    down and read it again.
  • The response should include answers to every question or comment provided by the customer and validation for the customer
  • The response should include a qualifying and/or
    a closing question every time. In
    every email. Every time. No matter what. Every time. And if you can’t think of
    one, write a couple and stick it to your monitor or keyboard (would you like assistance with anything else?
    or did you have any other questions right
    now?
    )
  • Hit send after you’ve read the email thoroughly,
    ensuring that everything asked by the customer has been addressed, value or
    benefit has been identified, your complete contact information is included and
    that no significant amount of time has elapsed since receiving the
    information/email/response from the customer. Hold it!! Read it again and make
    sure it is understandable and completely
    addresses what the customer wants and needs
    without being a Steinbeck.

The reason that most dealerships don’t receive equitable
responses from customers who submit online leads is….we send garbage! If it’s
easier and more rewarding to buy a $25 item from Amazon than a $30,000 car from
your store, shame on you!

Never send an email or pick up the phone (recorded phone
calls demonstrate that we do just as s**tty of a job on the phone as emails)
when (1) you don’t know what you are going to say, (2) don’t address the
customer’s needs, (3) can’t properly invite them into the dealership and (4)
talk/write more than asking questions.

Expectations around online experiences leading to purchase
are increasing. So it doesn’t make sense to miss the mark, then defend yourself
to your GM or GSM with anything other than “you know what, I don’t deserve to
manage your leads”. And by the way, that’s not much of a defense, however at
least it’s honest.

Remember that there is no such thing as a bad lead, just a
crappy response. Yes, there are bogus leads but you’re old enough and smart
enough to sell 20+ cars a month on 100 leads. Yes, you are. Go get ‘em tiger!

Best Practices:
Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Google Plus Pages Allowing Dealers To Do More (Half-Baked)?

With innovation and technology comes missteps and half-hearted attempts to "do it". As more dealers encourage their staff, and many times vendors, to push into new technology, software and social networking, which should be commended, the volume of missteps and simple ignorance increases as well. It's simple: if you don't know how to do something, get assistance. Just winging it in today's market won't pay dividends nor register with the public when it counts.

Google Plus Pages Equals Unknown_SMALL

Google Plus Business Pages launched more than a week ago and searches with typical terms (Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc) on G+ turns up car dealerships using Google Plus profiles as businesses. Not pages, Google Plus profiles as in personal pages. This is absolutely the same lack of common sense and willingness to "ask for directions" that has thousands of retailers on Facebook personal profiles rather than the appropriate business pages.

No different than buying a CRM and not utilizing more than 40% of its capabilities or paying $699 a month for a website without SEO services, multi-million dollar establishments continue to fudge it and then wonder why things "don't work" or "provide revenue or ROI". It seems that the more technology and opportunities avail themselves, the faster car dealers are willing to say "we don't have any more budget", "we're not looking to go after every thing we can possibly buy" and the ever-popular "we already are doing a great job using what we use". So things go 'round like they always do: crap in, crap out.

The jury is in on your decision to half-ass things: you're wrong! The rule is go big or go home.

When sales, service and parts staffs are quick to Google the latest part that a customer brings up, right after they check ESPN highlights on their smart phones, why do things stop before the extra click to search for "setting up google plus business pages" and reading a quick particle or, better yet, watching a two-minute video that explains everything to properly establish their presence. Naw, it's better to wait until it's seemingly too late to make a change and your competition that you "beat" now has a more established foothold in the same technology, website or service. A local dealer, after offers of assistance fro multiple companies, apparently had to wait until their Facebook "friend" page had over 2,000 people on it before asking about making a business page. WHY??????????????????

We continue to be an industry filled with ignorance, denial, shortcuts, Band-Aids and excuses. ALL of the information is available if you're willing to ask the right questions and select the right employee, partner or vendor. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation but it's not impossible to weed through it. Recently, a top-OEM endorsed social media company executive informed an audience at one of the auto industry digital marketing events that deleting spam posts from Facebook pages was not possible but that they "scan and report" such occurrences. Yes, there is incorrect information out in the market from what should be reputable companies so always finding the right ways to do things can be a challenge.

So are the absolutely-essential, need-to-have Google Plus Business Pages allowing dealers (and other businesses) to do more, just in half-baked ways? Yes, sure enough. Just like everything else that is not known, understood, new and not managed. Until it is…..

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

When The Cover Comes Off The Onion

Let's face it, we still live in a marketing-based world. And nearly all of it still screaming for attention, sales, mass following, validation, acceptance and more while typically ignoring what matters most. Yes, it's morphed and transitioned and (partially) gone to the place called online but it is created and delivered in the same way it nearly always has. And for automotive, in both B-to-B and B-to-C arenas, the deliverables suck (we'll try to not use any more technical terms in this post).

It's not that the market, the public, the customers, the industry or even the actual providers don't expect any different, it's just that it's what's done. Is it that when you stop screaming "we're #1" it allows another company to scream the same thing, making it true? In the experience garnered by partnering with dealers all over North America, the most dissatisfaction expressed comes from dealing with companies screaming about top results while not backing it up.

Have we become so skewed that we'll actually do what we don't want to take part in ourselves? Or have we become so numb to the barrage of messaging that we don't notice? So let's take a layer off!

1. Old school. We practice what we preach, right? There is a lot of talk, once again, about "back to basics" and "blocking and tackling". Are you practicing what you preach, or is it time to get real? For starters, look at how salespeople are being "taught" typically, if at all. Motivational speakers? In-your-face, Glengarry Glen Ross "coffee is for closers" stuff (even though it may be true)? "Seasoned veterans that can do everything" sessions in your store? So…do you actually do that to customers? Do you talk to them that way? If not, why do you need it?

Salespeople are motivated by, wait for it, MONEY! If a salesperson is not on the ball, they may need a pep talk from an outsider for $5,000-$30,000. Right? More likely they need a couple days off, fresh air, a good book, some exercise and to get away from the naysayers at the dealership (which can also include management!). The first layer of the onion feel like the first burn of summer vacation…

2. Hyped 20 Group sales. For good and for bad, dealers talk to dealers that talk with other dealers. They recommend things. They invite speakers and presenters (don't forget the pitch masters) to their groups, associations and getaways. And then it happens: after providing a dealer/group with some great info, recommending appropriate partners, showing them how to best get the true answers as they consider the next move…you walk into the store that has been desperately needing a real kick in the behind treatment to get going, and alas…they had a round of golf with their buddy 86 states away and bought the same (fill-in-the-blank solution/vendor) because "they're selling cars like water".

No real research, no real competitive bids, no idea what they're doing. And, being as how it's automotive retail, after the install and training, the 30 days of excitement wears off and it's just another check. Until the next company comes in and…"nope, we don't need any new fill-in-the-blanks…we're all over it!". Yeah Bill (if you're a Microsoft fan or Steve if you like Apple more), you're all over it. That layer of the onion just put a divot in your business way bigger than the one you did on the 14th hole with your buddy.

3. Media. While that should be enough said, it still needs clarification. You are what you eat right? So, it is worth venturing a guess that you are what you read as well. Did you ever like a newscaster so much that the news was somewhat not as believable when someone else was on camera? That sure explains a lot in the automotive industry. A change of scenery is becoming more and more what the doctor ordered. Social media has surely facilitated the fact that a handful of sources is not as good as many good sources. Considering, at the same time, that there is definitely garbage out there called news, the world would just not be the same place anymore without the streams of great, timely and absolutely valuable information.

Or do you still get it from the same 10 people over and over and over? Better yet, do you get it from a place that sells what you end up seeing? Trust is absolutely required and good data is needed. So is a great line of questioning that deserves an honest, unbiased answer. Have you got your answer yet? The pain from that layer of the onion comes with a tear, a grimace and a cost.

 

Change is necessary, more than ever. And more than ever, things are remaining the same: The OEMs' ads. The Tier II ads. The vendors' pitches. The automotive media. The balloons. The gorillas on roofs. The radio spots. The newspaper. What are you trying to tell a public that is wide awake and ignoring it all?

Look outside, there's a new day. It's called opportunity. And it's not wearing yesterday's clothes. It's not driving a….oh boy. Better not go there. That onion might end up being really sour….

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results