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Defining Your Dealership’s Digital Road to the Sale

May 17th, 2022 by

The Road to the Sale has been the blueprint for sales success in the car biz since…well…forever. However, there’s one little problem with this process — it can’t start until you have a customer standing right there with you in your showroom.

The last few years have put the dealership experience under a spotlight, as the pandemic and inventory shortage forced you to fundamentally adapt your approach to customer service. As more people than ever look to complete most of their car shopping process on your website — not in your showroom — how do you ensure that you are giving the same great customer experience that leads a shopper to making a purchase decision without ever actually speaking to them?

The great news is that it’s not as tricky as it sounds. You can meet your customers where they are by harnessing your digital ecosystem to create a modern retail experience that seamlessly moves people further down the path to purchase. Having the right tools and tech on your website is just the first step. To truly turn your platform into a deal closing machine, you’ll need to define your Digital Road to the Sale.

Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that while we’re aligning each step of the in-store Road to the Sale process with its digital counterpart, we must acknowledge than in no way is the Digital Road to the Sale linear, so please keep that in mind.

STEP 1: THE MEET & GREET

Step 1: The Meet & Greet

As you probably know, the first step to the in-store sales process is the Meet & Greet. This is pretty simple right? This is moment when a salesperson and customer meet for the first time on the lot or in the showroom and engage in some small talk (what brought you in today?).

What you may not realize is the online version of the Meet & Greet begins with your dealership’s advertising and digital marketing efforts, and continues on your website through your related content and tools that effectively becomes your “why buy” message that encourages a shopper to choose you as their dealership.

You can also make digital introductions to your team by showcasing your top-rated salespeople on your VDPs using Salesperson Connect from DealerRater®. This allows shoppers to choose who they want to work with at your dealership when they’re ready to make the transition from online to in-store.

STEP 2: NEEDS ANALYSIS

Step 2: The Needs Analysis

After the Meet & Greet, the next step is the Needs Analysis. But with the online version of this step, the customer isn’t answering a salesperson’s questions — instead they’re on your website engaging with your inventory, answering their “Can I Afford It?” question with Online Shopper, or maybe even customizing a specific vehicle they want to order.

While all the steps to the sale are important, this one is crucial because if a visitor can’t quickly and easily answer their own most important questions about pricing, options and availability, then they’re just going to bounce from your website and continue their search with a competitor.

STEP 3: THE WALKAROUND

Step 3: The Walk Around

As you’ve seen so far, there is a 1:1 offline to online correlation for each step of the Road to the Sale, including the Walkaround. This time tested step is still recommended by sales managers all across the country, and you don’t have to retire it simply because much of the process has moved online.

Instead, just take advantage of the technology you already at your disposal here, such as engaging shoppers in a live video chat using Conversations, or texting your leads pre-recorded videos via Automatic. Whether you’re showing them a fresh new vehicle that just hit the lot, or you’re reviewing the ordering process for a similar unit, you can show off the vehicle while providing an unexpected level of customer service all at the same time.

STEP 4: TEST DRIVE

For the in-store process, The Walkaround is important because it’s meant to ensure that the salesperson has selected the proper vehicle for the customer that meets their stated needs, wants, and desires before taking it out for a test drive. And today you can accomplish the same thing with video.

The typical modern car shopper now watches 19 videos prior to making a vehicle purchase — the vast majority of which are review style videos. So you can easily accomplish this step online by sending your prospects test drive and review videos — or simply follow the path of many forward thinking dealerships and offer at-home test drives whenever possible. Because more often than not, a shopper needs to actually get behind the wheel of a car before they commit to the purchase.

STEP 5: TRADE-IN OFFER

With the digital version of the Road to the Sale, the Trade-In Offer is self-guided by the consumer on your website and is often the first thing they’ll do prior to engaging with your inventory.

Just like how the car shopping experience in general has changed over the past few years, so has the way you’re able to handle trade-ins on your website. For nearly two decades dealers relied on an assortment of trade-in “widgets” embedded on their website to collect information about a shopper’s vehicle, and then return a ballpark estimated value based on the data entered.

While giving your shopper an “idea” of what their car “might” be worth on your website used to be the best you could do, the trade-in tech now available from Accu-Trade allows you to go beyond the guess and present your website visitors with the exact amount you’ll give them for their vehicle, guaranteed!

When you present your shoppers with a firm number for their trade-in that they can count on, that’ll build the confidence needed to continue shopping with you, and not your competitors.

STEP 6: NUMBERS PRESENTATION

Step 6: The Numbers Presentation

The digital equivalent of the Numbers Presentation — which normally follows the test drive during the in-store process — probably already happened on your website before you even connected with your customer via chat, text or email.

It’s important that we don’t understate how the vast majority of car shoppers need to understand if they can afford their vehicle of interest in a meaningful and relevant way prior to contacting a dealership.

Your modern retailing experience is positioned to facilitate the Numbers Presentation in the Digital Road to the Sale process. Giving your customers the ability to be in control of the experience, and manipulate the terms and numbers to their liking is critical to converting shoppers into buyers.

STEP 7: F & I

Step 7: F& I

There are two parts to the traditional, in-store F&I process: The credit approval, and the product presentation. With the technology that’s available to dealers today, you can extend the capabilities of your F&I office onto your digital platform to incorporate both experiences.

What once was accomplished with pen and paper during the in-store Road to the Sale process can now can take place online with our (no-cost) instant financing technology, powered by your preferred lenders to accelerate the buying experience and increase profitability.

Also, take advantage of the opportunity to make your F&I products available as upgrades within your modern retailing solution. Giving customers the ability to discover what those additional warranties and coverages are, why they’re important, and how for just a few dollars more a month they can add valuable layers of protection to their vehicle, provides the affordability transparency that shoppers want.

STEP 8: DELIVERY

Step 8: Delivery

When it comes time to finalize purchase and take delivery, there are a there are going to be a few docs that require a wet signature, so the digital version of this step would be allowing your customers to schedule a convenient at-home delivery experience.

Remember, the goal of a modern retailing experience isn’t just to “get a lead”, it’s to make your entire digital platform more transactional. Recent consumer sentiment is also showing that this is exactly the type of experience they want when buying a car.

61% of recent car buyers said they would want their newly purchased car delivered at home from their local dealership.

DealerRater consumer survey Sept. 2020

And let’s face it, as car dealers you rely on word of mouth advertising, and what could be better than you happy customers telling telling their neighbors, friends, and co-workers. “I just bought a car totally online. Never had to visit the dealership, and they just made it so easy!”. It’s priceless, right?

STEP 9: FOLLOW UP

Step 9: Follow-Up

Effectively following up with your customers during and after the sale is a critical piece of the Digital Road to the Sale. Not only will it help you close more deals, but it can also lead to higher customer satisfaction scores and long term loyalty.

When it comes to your follow up strategy, if you want to maintain regular contact with your customers, sending text messages is going to be much more effective compared to emailing or calling. The reality is that 94% of people won’t answer a phone call coming from a number they don’t recognize1, and 74% of people say they want to receive more text messages from businesses2.

Whether you’re actively engaged with in-market shoppers helping them narrow down their choices, or you’re checking in with your sold customers to make sure they’re loving their new ride — you can use Automatic to follow up with all of your hottest leads at once via text.

Of course when you’re texting your sold customers, don’t forget to ask them to leave a review for your dealership. Fresh reviews that show other shoppers how your personalized, helpful, and convenient online car buying experience is so great, is often times all it takes to win them over.

1 Hiya State of the Phone Call Report, 2021
2 20 Texting Stats That Prove Businesses Should Use SMS, Zipwhip May 2021

LET’S GO ONLINE TO THE SALE

Want to learn more about creating your Digital Road to the Sale process, along with tips to making the entire experience easy for both you and your customers? Check out our Online to the Sale on Inspire+ where you’ll get all that and more.

Also, if you’re ready to talk about how our website, modern retailing, and messaging platforms can work for you — just drop us a line!

Let’s Talk Strategy

The Customer Follow-Up Strategy That’s Off The Hook

November 30th, 2021 by

Remember how exciting phone calls used to be? When the landline phone would ring (here’s a concept) … we would answer it. No second thoughts, no hesitations — even before Caller ID was a thing.

 “May I ask who is calling?” was a normal form of phone etiquette, and even if the person on the other end of the line was trying to sell you something, you’d wait until they stopped talking and politely say “no thank you” before hanging up the phone. 

But you don’t need to watch an episode of The Newlead Game® to know that phone calls are now just about the least popular thing to do with our phones.

The increased volume of spam, scam, and robocalls spoofing local phone numbers certainly is a big contributing factor to the dramatic shift in user behavior. So much so that Hiya, in their recent State of the Phone Call Report, revealed that 94% of people won’t answer their phone if it’s coming from an unknown or unidentified phone number. 

So what exactly does that mean for you and your team? Well it means that if the first step in your dealership’s process after receiving a new lead is to pick up the phone and call, then your chances of actually talking to that prospect are pretty slim. So maybe calling isn’t the best first step?

YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT YOU TO TEXT THEM

Like it or not, just like the use of a landline, gone are the days of the cold follow-up call. Your customers prefer to be contacted via text. In fact, 74% of consumers say they’d like to receive more text messages from businesses1.

So not only are your customers expressing they want to receive your text messages, but they’ll actually read your message (and presumably respond to it) FASTER than if you called and left a voicemail.

So only the question left is: how do you future-proof your follow-up process using text messages?

Well, the art of texting (yes, it is an art!) really comes down to keeping things friendly, helpful, and most importantly — fast. Communicating via text message is great, but the moment that you become too “pushy” or even not fast enough to respond, you can get a customer to ghost you just as quickly as you had them drop into your CRM as a lead. 

Consider these tips when texting your customers:

Keep texts friendly and to the point: Include a brief introduction, but also keep the conversation moving ahead so they’ll want to stay engaged with you. Are there other trim levels that they could be interested in as well? Is the vehicle they’re interested in a high demand unit that would necessitate acting quickly?

Pique their curiosity with smart questions: When you ask relevant questions, you’ll start building trust and establishing a connection. So asking a question like “How time sensitive is your need for a new vehicle? Do you have to have it this week, or are you flexible because customers who place pre-orders are able to save an additional $1,000. What do you think?”. You may want to also mention any conditional rebates they may qualify for such as military or college grad. 

Talk about their trade: Everyone is saying that they will offer top dollar for a trade-in these days. One way you can set yourself apart is getting that process started before they even walk in to the dealership. Text them a link that’ll open up the automated trade-in flow within Conversations and let them know they can get an estimated value for their vehicle in less than a minute.  

While we strongly encourage you to text your customers, we should note that you and your team should not be texting them from your personal devices. With risks ranging from lack of oversight into messages being sent, to potential legal issues related to lack of opt-in and opt-out mechanisms, make sure your team has a texting tool (and training!) in place before fully update your follow-up strategy.

Send and receive rich media SMS Text Messages right from the Conversations dashboard.

The good new is, if you already use our advanced messaging platform, Conversations, then you already have the tech you need to (safely and legally) follow up with any lead, regardless of source, via text.

MAKE TEXTING A PART OF THE ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

Having a modern, end-to-end retailing experience is critical in today’s world because when it comes to car shopping, people don’t just add a vehicle to their cart and buy with one click like it’s some toaster on Amazon.

Shoppers still need your team’s expertise in exploring and discussing their options prior to making a purchase. So we want to challenge you to think differently about the sales opportunities that come from your digital retailing solution, and handle them differently than you would from any other lead that lands into your CRM.

Think about it. Why are your visitors using the available tools on your website in the first place? There could be (and are) a myriad of reasons, but what it really comes down to is being able to answer the all important “Can I Afford It?” question, and to ultimately save time spent at the dealership.

So the trick to successful follow-up is understanding where the lead originated from on your website, and then reaching out in a way that is a natural continuation of where the shopper left off.

That’s why it’s imperative you handle your digital retailing leads differently than you would a lead that originated from a form based CTA. The last thing you want to do is invalidate all of the time the customer invested up front to understand their payment options and save time, by relying on an automated email sent from your CRM saying something like, “thanks for submitting your information! What kind of vehicle are you looking for? One of our friendly team members will be in contact with you shortly!”.

Yeah, no. That’s a surefire way to scare your customers off forever.

You don’t need to overthink your follow-up here. Just stay focused on how you can help these customers save time. So don’t let your CRM email them, text them yourself! Introduce yourself as their personal shopper who’s going to make the entire process fast, easy, and fun. And don’t be afraid to step up your customer service game by texting something like, “I’ve got the 2022 Honda Accord you were exploring washed and pulled up to the front of the lot ready for a test drive for you! When can you come in?” And maybe even include a photo!

In other words — as much as you can — acknowledge that what they were doing on your website was received, and you’re there to keep things moving forward. Your customers will appreciate it!

While texting and digital retailing go hand in hand, if your solution doesn’t seamlessly integrate the two, then it’s going to be really challenging to maintain consistent contact with all of those sales opportunities.

That’s why we build not just texting capabilities into Online Shopper, but also the power to virtually desk all of your deals. So whether you’re working 1-on-1 with a customer, or are engaged with multiple shoppers at the same time, you have the ability to save your customers (and yourself!) even more time by collaborating on the details of their purchase, and also keep them engaged with text messages that include a magic link that’ll bring them right back to their digital garage on your website.

And speaking of saving time, it’s not just your customers who’ll appreciate having some of their life back. You’ll save yourself some time to when you bulk text your customers with the same message, while also providing each recipient a unique link back to their digital garage to continue their shopping journey.

IT’S ALL ABOUT 1:1 CONNECTIONS

It’s really not a secret as to why texting is so effective in following up with your customers. Not only is it the way consumers prefer to communicate today, but it truly is the way personal relationships are built. It’s much easier to create a 1:1 connection via text than it is through an awkward phone call (assuming you can even get someone to answer the phone).

Think about it like this…the car business has always been a people business. A shopper can’t buy a car without your help, and you can’t sell a car without a shopper to purchase it. So why wait for a website visitor to reach out to you, when your team can proactively greet each and every visitor to your website and encourage that connection?

You can do just that with Salesperson Connect from DealerRater® which allows your customers to create 1:1 connections with your top-rated salespeople right from your VDPs. Giving your customers the ability to choose who they want to work with at your dealership creates that instant connection, and practically guarantees your salespeople will be able to connect with each customer since they’re the ones who chose you.

IF YOU MUST CALL, CHECK YOUR CALLER ID FIRST

But even if you 100% agree that calling may not be the most effective way to make contact with a new sales opportunity, for a lot of dealerships — maybe even yours — making that call is still the required first method of outreach. 

If that’s the case, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. You just want to make sure that you’re giving yourself the best chance to have your phone call answered by understanding how you show up on your prospect’s phone when you call. 

Are you appearing as an unknown caller, or do you show up as the friendly neighborhood car dealer whose website they just used to explore payment options on a new vehicle?

What I mean by that is oftentimes a business’ phone system is an interconnected network of individual phone #’s which weren’t necessarily programmed with a proper Caller ID. So while your dealership’s main phone number properly identifies itself to other phones, the lines that your BDC agents and salespeople use to make their followup calls may not. 

So before you make your next phone call, go to calleridtest.com and enter in each of your outbound phone numbers to see if there is a proper Caller ID associated with those lines. 

If your dealership’s name is returned (note that Caller ID’s are limited to 15 total characters) then you’re good to go. But if just a City and State is returned, you now know that your phone calls have been a part of those that 94% of people won’t answer. 

Discover how you show up with CallerIDtest.com

Now don’t worry if your outbound numbers aren’t programmed with a Caller ID, because you can fix it. All you have to do is reach out to your telephone provider and let them know which of your outbound lines you need to change the Caller ID on. They’ll be able to program that for you, and you’ll increase the chances of your phone calls actually being answered. 

Just don’t get discouraged if your phone calls still aren’t picked up. While your gift of gab may be obsolete over the phone these days, know that with a little upfront texting, you can win your customers over by communicating the way they prefer and get them into the dealership so you can create a customer-for-life level bond.

Are you ready to embrace the text-first mindset to future-proof your follow up and make more meaningful connections? Drop us a line, we’d be happy to show you how!

LET’S TALK!

120 Texting Stats That Prove Businesses Should Use SMS | Zipwhip May 2021

5 ‘Ship Tips For Building Serious Long Term Loyalty

October 13th, 2021 by

So, you’ve won over the customer of your dreams. They are smart, easy going, funny…and you’ve already put their birthday in your calendar to remember to text them on their special day. But what if we told you that there’s only a 1 in 3 chance that they will be loyal to you when it comes to their NEXT car buying relationship?  💔 🥺 😭

I don’t know about you, but to me…that really hurts. Why does having a meaningful relationship with your customers have to be so hard? 

Building a loyal customer base, like any true relationship, can be tricky, and a ton of factors are at play here. When you’re only buying a car every 3-8 years, most people want to at least explore their options out there, especially if there’s been a change to their lifestyle during that time.

Think about it like this: Each time a shopper enters the market, it’s sort of like using a dating app — does this vehicle fit my standards? Does it come with all the features I need? Will it let me pick the Spotify playlist on a road trip? 

And while an in-market shopper might feel loyalty to their current vehicle model, make, or OEM — maintaining a connection with your dealership falls squarely on your shoulders. So how do you earn their loyalty and develop a long lasting relationship?

WATCH ON DEMAND

The first thing you can (and should) do is watch our recent webinar, How to Achieve Next Level Loyalty. Our team of experts will show you how you can build a retention marketing machine across channels to efficiently keep more of your own customers, and drive more reliable revenue.

But if you’re more of a reader than a watcher, keep reading for our best tips that’ll help you build serious relationships with your customers starting today.

THE LOYALTY EQUATION

We know how much effort you put into each and every deal from the first lead all the way up through delivery, so seeing only about a third of them come back is worse than a breakup. 

Now before you decide it’s a good idea to stand outside of your customer’s window in the rain holding up a boombox…let’s talk about what it really takes to create a loyal customer for life. 

When you look at the Loyalty Equation above, you’ll see that building a loyal customer base goes beyond just providing a great in-store customer experience on the showroom floor or in the service department. 

It’s the other half of that equation — your marketing and your brand communications — that allows you to actually strengthen the connections with your customers to keep them engaged with your brand. 

I’m just going to assume that your CSI scores for your dealership’s in-store sales and service experiences are top notch. Where I really want to focus is on how you can improve your marketing and communications with your customers in a way that’ll make them brag to their best friends about your relationship and scribble “Katie’s Kia” (in hearts, of course) on their notebooks.

‘SHIP-TIP #1: SEND A TEXT WHEN THEY NEED YOU

I know you might be old fashioned like me, and you like to actually use your phone to make…well…phone calls. It pains me to say this *sigh* but nobody will answer their phone anymore if they don’t know who’s calling. So instead of experiencing that rejection of leaving message after message on your customer’s voicemail and never getting a call back — engage them with a text message instead! 

Not only are you more likely to make that connection, but you’re actually communicating with your customers in a way that they wish more businesses would. You’re showing that you’re laid back and there to help them on their terms.

And I’m not just talking about following-up with new sales leads. At Dealer Inspire encouraging dealers to take a text-first communications approach with our solutions throughout their customer service.

Have a customer’s car in your service bay and you need to explain an issue that your tech found when performing a multi-point inspection? Text your customer a video to show them the issue, explain the fix, and break down how much it will cost to perform the repair (or how much you’d give them for it in trade value). Handling a touchy situation like this in a personal way is going to lead to more closed RO’s than a voicemail ever could.

Want to increase your lease retention? You can use Online Shopper to proactively connect with your previously sold customers who have soon-to-mature leases. Just text them a reminder with a “magic link” to instantly open their personalized digital garage, filled with a few upgrade options for their next vehicle. Check it out.

The long and short of it is that your text game has to be strong if you want to keep your customers engaged, happy, and only thinking about you when it comes to all of their vehicle needs. So embrace it, and use the tools you have at your disposal to nurture those customer relationships!

‘SHIP-TIP #2: SHARE YOUR FEELINGS (IN YOUR REVIEW RESPONSES)

I think by now we all know how important having fresh reviews are. We’ve even dedicated a most excellent webinar to the subject. While providing a review-worthy experience at your dealership is the foundation of any great relationship, that review won’t mean as much if you don’t take the time to respond to it. 

You see, when you respond to a review, you’re not only letting your customer know that their experience meant something to you too, but it also solidifies your connection for future appointments all while showing in-market shoppers the kind of customer service they can expect when choosing to work with your dealership.

And what you say in your review responses is super-important too, as 71%1 of shoppers are more likely to buy from a business who responds to their reviews.

And since your review responses are pretty much open love letters to your customers that everyone is going to see, you really should make your replies stand out. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Be Genuine: Be a human being with emotions, not a cold-hearted copy & paste robot. Address your customer by name. Write a thoughtful response, and show them that you care about their experience as much as they do.
  • Acknowledge Their Unique Experience: Every shopper’s journey is different. By writing a response that’s specific to to the reviewer, it will show the world what a great listener you are. And who doesn’t want to work with someone who listens?
  • Sign Off With Your Name & Title: A great tip for any relationship, be it business or personal, is to just be yourself! Always sign your reply with your own name and title so shoppers know that there are great people behind your brand that they can work with to buy their next vehicle.

Follow those simple tips, and you’ll be giving your future customers an early case of the butterflies that’ll push your dealership to the top of their list. 

That said, I know responding to each of your reviews across platforms for all of your dealerships is time consuming, but don’t all lasting relationships take time and effort? 

The good news is that unlike a personal relationship, there’s a tool you can use to ensure that all of your reviews are being responded to in a timely manner by real people. With AutoResponse™ from DelaerRater®, a team of real-life expert reputation management specialists will personally respond to every review for you to help you build your brand loyalty, show future shoppers your great customer service, and give you back valuable time to focus on the experience that generates your great reviews in the first place.

‘SHIP-TIP #3: STAY IN TOUCH THROUGHOUT THE OWNERSHIP LIFECYCLE

The best relationships are the ones where there is open and honest communication. If you’re only texting your customer when you need something from them (like their trade-in) or when there’s an open recall on their vehicle, then you’ll be in serious danger of your customer forgetting who you even are and all the special times you already had. 

It’s imperative that you’re not a stranger in the months and years between service visits and purchases. But if you over-text your customers, you’ll be at risk for being left on ‘delivered’ forever. So what’s a car dealer to do?



For those times when you need to stay in touch, you can use automated email drip campaigns that spring into action the day a vehicle is sold, allowing you to deliver personalized reminders and offers throughout the ownership cycle.

For example, let’s look at Doreen Green here. She just purchased a 2021 Ford Edge, and you want to make sure you’re able to predict her vehicular wants and needs throughout the ownership experience.

To do that, you’d create a series of emails that would be sent from your CRM are timed to specific events or milestones of her ownership experience. For example, here is what a 36 month drip campaign could look like: 

  • DAY 2: Thank You Email From The Owner
  • DAY 7: Review Reminder
  • DAY 30: Intro to Service
  • 6 MONTHS: 7,500 Mile Service
  • 12 MONTHS: 15,000 Mile Service
  • 22 MONTHS: Check Your Tires
  • 30 MONTHS: Replenish Your Fluids
  • 36 MONTHS: Trade-In Outreach

Now, you can go longer than 36 months. What you see above is just an idea to get you started. But you know what’s an even better idea??

We went ahead and created fully customizable drip campaign templates that you can download and tailor for use in your own CRM. Just fill in some blanks, tweak the copy to fit your dealership, and you’ll be getting your first drip campaigns set up in no time!

GET THE TEMPLATES

As you’re customizing these email templates, keep in mind that you want to personalize them for the customer. Don’t make them feel like they are just another customer in some CRM on some email list… Make them feel special! Valued! Like a VIP!!! 🤩

Your CRM probably lets you include a {{first_name}} variable in the subject line and email copy, so make sure you’re doing that for all of your outbound email campaigns to get a boost in your open and conversion rates. 

And lastly, you’ll want to create 1:1 conversation starters in your copy, and include clear CTA’s so your customers know exactly what to do next. The last thing you want to do is have your customer scratching their head wondering what your email was all about and then clicking that unsubscribe button because they just can’t take your awkward email blasts any more. 

‘SHIP-TIP #4: MEET YOUR CUSTOMERS WHERE THEY ARE ONLINE

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that only 36%2 of customers stay loyal to the dealership they bought their car from, and it’s only natural for shoppers to visit Cars.com to play the field and see what’s out there for their next ride, even if they are perfectly happy with their vehicle and you as their car dealer. 

Human nature aside, that doesn’t mean you have to stand passively by on the sidelines while your customer searches for their next vehicle. What if I told you that you could meet your customers both in the search results and in their social feeds when they’re in the market to buy or service a vehicle? And not in a creepy stalker way, but in a totally helpful way that makes them wonder how you always manage to be so thoughtful. 

By exporting a list of your sold customers from your CRM, you can power your loyalty based search engine and social advertising campaigns so that you’re there for them, even if they weren’t thinking of you at the moment. 

FUEL: Search & Display will automatically bid-up on searches made by past customers that illustrate high buying intent, and deliver a personalized ad.

For instance, you can create a list of customers who purchased a vehicle 4+ years ago from you, and use that data within a “Trade-In” Google Ad Campaign within FUEL: Search & Display  — our dynamic inventory advertising platform. Then, when one of those customers is using a low funnel search query “Honda Accord Trade-In”, FUEL will automatically bid up to win that number one ad spot in the SERP based on the high intent, low funnel, shopping keywords in their query along with the fact that your customer was identified as the searcher.

Again, the idea here is to ensure that you’re not losing out to your competition when your customer turns to search first instead of you. It’s this kind of technological magic that allows you to be present during your customer’s time of need — welcoming them with a warm message, and then reminding them why they chose you in the first place.

On the social side of things, using your first party data can also come in handy to help retain your customers with maturing leases. So you’d simply export that list of customers from your CRM who have a lease due to mature in the next 3-6 months, and include that audience in your social campaign.

As your customer is scrolling through their Facebook feed or flipping through their Instagram stories, BOOM, there you are! Your dealership makes a thumb-stopping appearance right there in their feed with a compelling offer tailored specifically to them! Before you know it, they’re back on your website and in shopping mode looking to get out of their current lease, and into a new one. Crazy (in a good way), right? 

‘SHIP-TIP #5: WELCOME THEM WHEN THEY COME TO YOUR HOME(PAGE)

Sometimes your customers will be away from you for months at a time, and that’s okay because absence makes the heart grow fonder, amiright? But nothing rekindles that old flame like greeting a VIP customer with a personalized message when they come back to visit your website.

One of the most powerful tools on the Dealer Inspire Web Platform is our Personalizer tool that lets you create user experiences based on a multitude of mix and match rules. Think back to when we talked about those email drip campaigns. It just so happens that one of the rules within Personalizer is UTM_Campaign.

So going back to your email drip campaigns, you can include a UTM code within all of those links in your emails, and when your customer clicks through from an email to your website, Personalizer will recognize that UTM Code, and welcome them with a message like, “Thank You For Being One of Our Best Customers!”. Or better yet — show them that Exclusive VIP offer you just uploaded for an oil change and tire rotation. Doesn’t that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside?!

Aside from welcoming your returning customers with open arms, you can also adapt your website messaging to show what a shopper’s future ownership experience could look like if they choose to begin a relationship with you.

Setting the expectation for ownership through homepage sliders, VRP banners, special loyalty incentives, and even a landing page dedicated to winning over customers with what it means to be a VIP at your dealership now and forever is the perfect way to begin winning their affection. 

Everyone wishes they knew someone in the car industry to make it easier, and faster. You have the opportunity to BE that person. Express it on your website to show your customer that you’ll treat them like your personal referral each and every time. 

When your retention marketing is strong, the bond between your dealership and your customer goes beyond the delivery by giving them that “new car happy” feeling long after they’ve driven off the lot. 

GET THE RELATIONSHIP COACHING YOU NEED

At Dealer Inspire we strive to provide you with the tools and support you need to build long lasting connections with your customers. We’re even available to help you think strategically about your dealership’s loyalty building and retention marketing efforts. We’re just a thumb tap away from chatting about how we can work together so you can keep more of your own customers. Talk to you soon!

LET’S TALK!

1Brightlocal Local Consumer Survey, December 2019
2IHS Markit Trends in Dealer Loyalty Study, May 2021

5 New Year’s Resolutions Dealers Need To Win 2021

January 5th, 2021 by

While most people slow down and unwind a little during the second half of December in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, car dealers work harder than ever to close as many deals as possible before the big ball drops to ring in the new year.

So that means right about now you’re hopefully finally catching your breath and reflecting on how your dealership dealt with the challenges that 2020 presented, and how your business can grow in 2021.

If 2020 was good for anything, it showed us that your digital platform is your most valuable asset and taught us a lot about the good digital habits that are helping dealers win in this changing landscape. If we can all take what we learned and really commit to those habits year-round, we can take dealer ROI to the next level in 2021 while future-proofing the dealership experience for years to come.

So without any further ado, here are some New Year’s Resolutions that’ll help your dealership win 2021!

1. LOSE 10 LBS. (ON YOUR WEBSITE)

In the past two decades, we’ve looked to our websites to just generate leads so your team could then reach out and set appointments after they’re gone. But with customers now expecting and sometimes needing to complete more of the car buying process remotely, 2020 proved your website needs to be so much more to make the most of every opportunity.

Your website truly needs to be a digital dealership, where shoppers can quickly find vehicles, get their questions answered, and connect with friendly experts on your team who can start guiding them down the Road To The Sale to purchase, just like in-store.

That starts with having the right messaging (with live video) and digital retailing solutions that work seamlessly with your website experience — as well as the right commitment to using those tools — but assuming you already have those, let’s resolve to making sure shoppers can easily find them.

As dealers added new solutions in 2020, websites have put on a lot of excess weight with buttons and widgets that get in the way of guiding shoppers down clear paths — wasting opportunities on shoppers who give up trying to find instant, easy answers to their questions like “can I afford it?”. This excess weight is something that happens to all of us, especially around the holiday sales events, but now is the perfect time to reevaluate your website experience to foster a healthy conversion rate in 2021.

Not all buttons have the same value for you or the customer, so funnel your traffic to the buttons that are more likely to drive sales (not just form-fills). For example, a shopper who quickly filled out an [Unlock Extra Savings] form to see how it affected the price (someone will be in touch to tell them later) is not as valuable as the shopper who clicked [Explore Payment Options] and instantly personalized their payment, valued their trade, saved an account on your website, and started to add accessories and insurance products — so send more shoppers that way. 

By taking a deeper look to discover website design mistakes like too many conflicting CTAs, or disconnected shopping experiences that are causing your customers to bounce instead of convert, you can make a serious impact in your business KPIs without spending more advertising dollars to acquire more traffic.

2. START WORKING OUT (YOUR DEALS ONLINE)

Once you have shoppers clicking the right buttons to start the buying process on your website — make sure your team is there to help them! These engaged shoppers exploring payment options online are just as valuable as the opportunities that physically walk into your store, so it’s important to staff your digital showroom and build the habits that will continue and close those deals that start online.

Instead of creating a dead-end to their online experience and forcing them to come in for an appointment to learn more, you have the tools to keep up the momentum and guide them closer (or all the way) to purchase online. Of course many customers will still want to visit the dealership before signing, but the further you can get them into the process online, the more likely they are to follow through and stick with your dealership. They may have submitted leads with other websites, but you’re clearly positioned to win if they’re actively working a personalized deal with you.

Whether they’re on your website in the moment or just left, watch how easily (and instantly) you can pull online shoppers back into the buying process by simply texting the kind of personalized question or recommendation you would offer in the showroom.

No matter what digital retailing solution you have, it needs to be backed up by your dealership’s people and processes, so now is the perfect time to re-acquaint your salespeople and BDC agents with your tech stack to ensure they understand how they can quickly close more deals like these, more efficiently.

The days of “just get ’em in” are officially over. In 2021, resolve to stop saying “just get ’em in” and instead say “let’s go Online to the Sale!“. You’ll have happier customers, and a happier team.

3. BE SMARTER WITH YOUR (ADVERTISING) MONEY

By the end of 2020, something else that became clear was that targeting audiences in your Digital Advertising campaigns was about to get a tad trickier than before.

With Google updating their Personal Advertising Policies restricting your ability to target specific zip codes, combined with the impact of COVID-19 on your business — it’s critical that you reevaluate not just how you’re spending your budget — but on what platforms, and which geographical areas you’re targeting.

The first thing you can do is reassess which areas your dealership did the most business in last year, so you can ensure you have optimal coverage with your paid search campaigns. You don’t want to start the new year by overspending in geographical areas that are no longer providing a sales ROI due to shifts in consumer behavior, and underspending in areas that have historically proven to lead to sales.

The easiest way to do this is to use your CRM or DMS customer data to plot your sales on a map to visually highlight your highest converting areas. You can then use that visualization to work with your Dig Ad provider to adjust your targeting as needed to maximize your spend.

Another recommendation is to use that data from your CRM or DMS to add a customer match layer to your audience targeting on your Google and Facebook ads that’ll help ensure you’re staying in front of all your sales and service customers when searching or surfing. Keeping your dealer’s brand top of mind is going to be more critical than ever in 2021.

You’ll also want to consider how to maximize the reach in your defined geo-targets by diversifying the platforms that you’re advertising on besides Google. For example dealers who have been advertising on Microsoft Bing have seen a 36% higher Impression Share and a 77% higher Click-Thru Rate compared to their same ad campaigns on Google.

Lastly, 2021 will officially usher in the era of true in-market audience targeting with highly valuable first party data. It’s critical that you understand what audience data you’re using to power your advertising, because it can be the difference between guessing and knowing that you’re targeting people who actually want to buy a car.

For example, powered by Cars.com’s 25 million monthly active shoppers, FUEL: In-Market Video has a 100% pure in-market audience, so you know every penny spent is getting in front of local shoppers who are looking for a new vehicle in the short term. Watch the difference that made for Julie Chisum’s advertising ROI at Toyota of Cedar Park!

As we start the new year, it’s a perfect time to rethink and refine where your dollars are going — and resolving to continuously optimize through the year.

4. BE MORE PRESENT (FOR SERVICE KEYWORDS)

COVID-19 brought many challenges, but in a weird silver-lining kind of way, it also helped reveal some opportunities that you have to improve the overall operations of your dealership.

If your dealership had to shut-down the sales side of your biz because of the pandemic and you were only able to operate your service business for a period of time — you probably focused on your Fixed Ops marketing in a way you haven’t in years. And as a result, there’s a good chance you had your eye on the local big box and independent service centers that are aggressively marketing to steal your market share.

Make this the year that you finally fix that leaky fixed ops marketing and resolve to build up your service department’s digital marketing to the same level as your sales department, so you can fend off these competitors and win back customers.

The first step is making sure you’re set-up to capture the local high-intent searchers who are looking for service providers like you. By having the right paid, organic, and local search strategies in place for your service department, you can show up first three times in front of these valuable customers.

Considering upwards of 70% of searchers are on mobile, that top placement is critical for capturing those valuable customers — since only the very top placements are visible without scrolling down.

To take your strategy to the next level on the SERP and beyond, check out our Fixed Ops Marketing Strategy Webinar so you can get the tips, tricks, and info you need to get up and running with a comprehensive cross-channel digital marketing strategy. This year you can optimize your dealership’s service presence to not just fend-off, but overtake, the competition (and without breaking the bank to do it).

5. SPEND MORE QUALITY TIME (WITH YOUR HAPPY CUSTOMERS)

A decade ago, review generation was all the rage because we recognized just what powerful (and free!) positive reviews could and would do for our business. However, it’s possible that over the past couple of years you may have lost sight of keeping your reviews fresh because you felt that your dealership had “enough”.

It’s understandable if your focus shifted from generating new reviews to other matters you felt were more pressing, but you really can’t ignore the fact that 97% of shoppers use reviews to choose their dealership, and 86% of shoppers don’t consider reviews over 3 months old helpful (BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey Dec. 2019).

Those two stats should tell you that you need to constantly be driving new, positive reviews each and every week. But it’s 2021, so don’t think you can rely on the same tactics you did a decade ago to drive new reviews, because this year it’s not just the review that will matter — it’s the actual words in the review that will give your dealership the boost it needs.

Before you start to reach out and reconnect with your customers, get up to speed on what a modern review gen strategy should look like today.

BONUS RESOLUTION: MAKE YOUR BROWNIE DIFFERENT

Oh good, you’re still reading! Remember way back at the beginning of this blog post when I said that your digital platform was your most valuable asset? Well, I should probably amend that statement to say it’s your digital platform AND your people that are the two most valuable assets your dealership has.

When it comes down to it, consumers often see dealerships as all being the same because many dealers tend to look the same, and say the same things. For example, I personally worked for three different dealerships that each claimed they had the largest inventory in the state — and I can assure you, for two out of those three dealers, that wasn’t the case.

If you virtually attended REFUEL 2020 then you had the opportunity to see famed entrepreneur, Jesse Itzler, tell the story of how a college marketing professor changed the trajectory of his young life by asking him one simple question during his final presentation — “what makes your brownie different from all the other brownies on the market?”.

The point Jesse goes on to make is that no matter what you do, there are thousands of other entities doing the exact same thing. So how are you going to do to stand out? How will people know that your dealership is different that all the rest?

To answer that question, we say that in 2021 you should embrace (and market) the people and processes — the customer experience — that truly make your dealership different. Don’t settle for the same old USPs that you’ve been relying on for years. Develop your your real “Why Buy” message and tell the world what it is that you and your people do and offer that no one else does, and why should that matter to car shoppers in your market.

That unique ingredient will make all your marketing efforts perform better, all year.

LET’S MAKE 2021 THE BEST YEAR EVER, TOGETHER

Everyone here at Dealer Inspire knows just how challenging 2020 was for our car dealer partners. The pandemic still isn’t over, and new challenges are going to be thrown at us along the way, but together we have everything we need to win this year.

If you would like to talk about your dealership’s overall marketing strategy for 2021, just drop us a line and we’ll schedule some quality time to talk things over.

Wishing you and your team nothing but the best in 2021 and beyond!

Let’s Talk Strategy

Your Showroom Is Now Everywhere

September 3rd, 2020 by

How to Beat the End-To-End Game with a Connected Platform

June 13th, 2020 by

Now more than ever, we need to make every dollar count and acquire more customers online, for less budget. Each opportunity in the current climate is that much more valuable, so together we need to up your digital game to get more of the shoppers who discover your dealership all the way to buying from your dealership.

That’s the game — carefully bridging the shopper through each phase of journey with you, avoiding all the pitfalls, gotchas, and other nasty surprises that can cause your online customer to have an unpleasant experience that’ll send them searching for somewhere else to shop.

If you’ve played this game in real life or in the classic 8-bit video game Super Kart Buyer 2 that we just made up — then you know it’s not easy. But with a little guidance, skill, and a connected platform of solutions, you can create a seamless shopping experience that will take more shoppers all the way from search to signature.

In order to win the online game of car shopping, you have to seamlessly connect the four phases, or levels, of the customer journey:

 

    • Advertising: where in-market shoppers first become aware of your dealership.
    • Website: where you engage and convert your shopper into a lead.
    • Follow-up: where you connect shoppers with a salesperson to guide them to purchase.
    • Dealership: where you meet the customer — at your place or theirs.

 

So how do you master these four levels of the game? Simple! All you have to do is tune into this webinar and we’ll share all the tips, tricks and cheat codes you need to succeed.

WATCH NOW

 
…But to give you an idea of what you’ll need to do, let’s break down the four levels of the customer journey you’ll need to navigate to lead to a sale.

 

LEVEL 1: ADVERTISING WORLD

Car dealers are no strangers to digital advertising. From paid search to paid social and everywhere in between, most dealers dedicate a significant portion of their overall advertising budget to digital channels.

But did you know that 10% of digital ads lead to a disconnected experience? That’s what our team found when performing an audit of over 1,000 ads from other DigAd providers. That means 10% of the time, when a user clicks or taps an ad, they’re being taken to a webpage that’s not related to the ad copy.

When you consider that the automotive industry spends about $12 billion annually on advertising, that means there’s at least one billion (BILLION!) dollars of spend being wasted on disconnected experiences.

And that doesn’t even take into account the times when an ad and its resulting landing page are aligned, but the actual website experience is so poor it causes the user to bounce off the website before taking a single action.

Usually the first level of a game is relatively easy compared to later levels, but for this game it can be super challenging if you don’t have the right skills to get through it.

In order to escape the Advertising World, all you have to do is change the way you think about customer acquisition in order to make sure you’re not wasting a significant portion of your digital advertising budget.

The issue is that most car dealers are marketing backwards. You shovel a bunch of cash into the ol’ advertising machine to “drive traffic”. The resulting traffic is sent somewhere(?) on your website and then 30 days later (maybe) the results are looked at but all you see are the final performance metrics and you don’t have a real understanding as to why things turned out the way they did.

In order to fix this, you have to reverse your actions so you can make the most out of every single dollar in your budget. We call this new approach D-M-A, and this is how it works:

Destination: Before you spend a single dollar on advertising, you start by building the perfect destinations (aka your website and resulting landing pages) for your customers to land on from your ads.

Measurement: Next, you need to make sure your analytics are set-up so you can monitor and measure the success of your campaigns.

Advertising: Once you’ve set all that up, that’s when you launch your engaging, relevant and targeted ad campaigns..

And look, we get it. Getting all this set up and working properly can be challenging. Thankfully there’s a cheat code that will help you ace the Advertising World each and every time.

 

CHEAT CODE — HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL

DigAd + SEO + Managed Services + Website = INVINCIBILITY!

When you have all of these services under one roof — when you can just call up your Performance Manager and have them connect all of your campaigns across channels and all linking to the right experience on your website (whether that’s on desktop or mobile) — you are basically invincible from ever having a disconnected campaign.

 
So I know it sounds weird for an advertising agency to tell you not to spend money until you’ve embraced the D-M-A mindset, but it’s truly the best thing you can do to set your dealership up for success. Because if you don’t, you’re going to really struggle getting through the next level of the game — Website World!

 

LEVEL 2: WEBSITE WORLD

We just touched on this above, and now let’s take a deeper look as to why it’s so important to have a great website experience. First up, there’s the simple fact that 79% of shoppers will leave and never return if they have a bad experience.

So it doesn’t matter if they found your website from a Google search, a Facebook ad or YouTube video — if that person visits your website and has a bad experience, not only are you losing that customer in the moment, but you could be losing them for good.

 

 

I think we can all agree that’s not a situation you want happening on your website, so how do you make sure you’re not serving up a poor website experience? Well, there’s a lot of factors involved — from technical aspects like pagespeed to design elements and accessibility. But to truly master this level, the one thing you really need to address is, how well does your website answer questions?

You see, every visitor is coming to your website to find something out. Do you have the content and tools to answer them?

For example, one of the most important questions that almost every car shopper has is, “Can I afford it?”. What we have found is that 75% of shoppers won’t even consider visiting your dealership if your website doesn’t answer this basic question in a transparent and meaningful way.

And make no mistake, answering this question with an MSRP or “Internet Price” won’t cut it. Shoppers are looking for real payments based on their personal preferences, terms, and credit.

How you deliver the answer to the “Can I afford It?” question is equally important. For decades now, car dealerships have relied on Get E-Price type CTAs to capture leads by withholding the pricing answer from potential customers — the only problem is people expect instant answers to their questions.

Think about it. A shopper visits your website, does a bunch of shopping, fills out a form but they don’t get the answer to their question. So now what, they have to wait? For who? For how long? Why don’t you know? And why do you not want to tell me right now? Is this what it’s going to be like when I go into the dealership? This isn’t fun!

 

 

And look, I’ve done enough mystery shopping in my life to know that even after a shopper clicks the Get E-Price button and fills out a form, a lot of dealers still won’t even respond with a meaningful quote. This is one of those frustrating experiences that will make a shopper take you off their list and move on to the next dealer.

Online Shopper™, our end-to-end digital retailing solution, is designed to solve the question problem along with many others: when you remove extraneous CTAs and focus on driving your shoppers to explore their payment options with Online Shopper™, not only are you giving your visitor everything they need to make a thoughtful and educated decision, at the same time everything they do will be delivered to you within the lead that’s created so you can have more productive follow-up.

And speaking of follow-up…

 

LEVEL 3: FOLLOW-UP WORLD

A lot of dealers mistakenly think they’ve won the game once the lead is received. And I get it because I know that seeing your advertising entice folks to visit your website and then seeing those visitors have a great experience that also results in a lead for your dealership can be highly satisfying. But the game’s not over yet, not by a long shot.

This next level of the game is so important because it’s all about having helpful follow-ups with those customers who’ve engaged with the technology you put on your website specifically to answer all their questions.

Just like shoppers are expecting instant answers to their questions on your site (well, everywhere really), they’re also expecting dealers to change the way they communicate. While an endless stream of emails and phone calls was once the standard for dealership follow up, today it’s just not effective enough.

 

 

Using the same out-dated tactics you’ve always used to follow-up with your leads isn’t going to work here for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is very practical. When asked how they’d like to receive their digital garage key to access Online Shopper™ from any device, 66% select text, and only 33% select email. So right off the bat, you CRM’s email-heavy follow-up process is rendered useless to a majority of Online Shopper™ users.

No email you say? Well great, I’ll just pick up the phone and call…

Not so fast my friend!

Before you start smilin’ and dialin’, make note that 76% of people won’t answer a phone call if it comes from a number they don’t recognize. Then to make it even more challenging, Apple recently added a feature in iOS 13 that allows a person to automatically silence any incoming phone call originating from a number that’s not already in their contacts.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad here, I’m just laying out the facts so you can see that the absolute best way to follow up with a lead is with a text message.

But what if there was a better way? What if there was a way to treat an online customer who’s on your website right now the same if they were standing in front of you on the showroom floor?

Well it just so happens there’s a cheat code for that!

 

CHEAT CODE — HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL

Website + Live Messaging + Digital Retailing = A SALE!

The Dealer Inspire connected platform allows you to create an experience that treats every website visitor like a walk-in by giving you the tools to interact with guests in the moment to close the deal. Remember, you don’t have to follow-up with a guest if they never left 😎

 

For those customers who you do need to follow up with, I’d remind you that an Online Shopper™ lead is even better than a walk-in because of all the information you have up front before you make contact with the customer. You get their contact info, vehicles of interest, their preferred finance scenarios, credit rating, trade-in info and personalized monthly payments. So your job is easy, make a connection and guide them through the rest of the process leading to the sale. Piece of cake!

 

LEVEL 4: DEALERSHIP WORLD


Ok, here we are: the final level of the game.

Like the levels before, if you’re not prepared this can get really tricky and ultimately cost your dealership real money.

The reality is people are going to visit your website, use the tools you provide to customize their perfect deal and then one day they’ll magically appear on your showroom floor without you ever having made contact with them prior to their visit.

If your entire team isn’t prepared to handle the online to offline transition, the results won’t be pretty.

Think about it…a shopper knows exactly what she wants. She’s got her exact model and trim picked out, calculated her monthly payment, has 3K down, and even has her trade-in evaluated. At this point she’s done all the work on your website, and just needs someone to help her take the vehicle for a spin and then sign.

If your salesperson greets this customer and doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or does but doesn’t have the tools to actually continue the progress the shopper has made, that’s it.

Game over.

If you have a digital retailing tool, you need to set-up your dealership to greet shoppers and allow them to seamlessly continue their experience. With Online Shopper™ all you need is your website up on any device that’s connected to the internet, and that’s it.

Your salesperson can greet the shopper, ask if they started creating a deal on your website, and if the answer is “Yes”, then they just need to enter the customer’s phone number or email on whatever device is handy and all the work they did online will be available for both to review.

You don’t need a big fancy kiosk for this either (although they are pretty cool if you have one). The customer can literally just bring it up on their phone.

Again, this should be easy. At this point your salesperson’s job is to pick up where the customer left off, assist them in getting any last answers to their questions, going for a test drive, and then signing them up.

 

HOW WILL YOU PLAY THE END-TO-END GAME?

So there ya go, that’s the game and we at Dealer Inspire can help you play it at the highest level possible. Our company was literally built as an advertising agency first and then step by step we built the technology to bring that traffic all the way to signature.

Whether you’re an existing client using some or all  of our solutions, or you’re brand new to us and are looking for help — It’s our job to help you use our connected platform to its full capabilities so you can grow your business efficiently and continue to adapt, especially during these uncertain times.

If you’d like to learn more about anything we talked about here, or just want some more tips and tricks for playing the end-to-end game, just drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

 

Let’s Connect!