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From: Jared Hamilton
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Ed Brooks

Ed Brooks Automotive Digital Marketer

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Are You Ready to Say Goodbye to ‘Leads’ in 2015?

This a serious question; are you ready to say goodbye to ‘leads’?

Let’s start with a definition; I’m talking about the traditional ‘form-fill’, email lead. The lead where a customer raises his or her digital hand and says, “Sell to me!” The lead that accounts for maybe 15% of most traditional dealership’s vehicle sales. The lead that signals the start of the sales process at most dealerships. You may be thinking, “Brooks, you’re CRAZY. Why would I want to get rid of LEADS???”

The reason is pretty simple; at most stores, the sales process doesn’t align very well with the customers buying process. My contention is this is the main reason that more consumers don’t submit leads. Think about it, what’s in it for the customer? They have really enjoyed the control they have over their research and their shopping process. They may have already begun the buying process mentally. The last thing they want to do is give up control of their buying process and let your selling process take over.

This is why major industry players like AutoNation, Sonic, and CarMax are rapidly moving to a more “transactional” web presence. They are still creating a ‘digital interaction’ but it is much more fulfilling for both the customer and the dealership. No longer is the customer saying, “Sell to me!” Now they are saying “Help me buy!”

They are replacing the 'lead' with something better; something that gets both the customer and the dealership closer to a deal. Whether it's finalizing price and payments, really appraising a trade-in or completing financing. The big change is that this isn't done with an eye on 'just getting the customer in the store', and then starting the "real" sales process -- it is simply working together to further the customer's buying process.

The challenge here is to work on truly aligning yourself, your dealership, and your web presence to the customer’s buying process. It will mean giving up some control and that is always difficult, but I think dealers that embrace this ‘customer empowerment’ will be rewarded with more sales, happier customers, and better reputation.

Robert Karbaum
Even with the new "transnational" process, there is still an equal need to communicate with the customer. So the leads are not going away, simply (in time) changing.
Ed Brooks
Robert - I think, if dealers give customers a good reason to reach out, digital interactions and communications will increase, not decrease. One issue is that many dealerships aren't nearly as comfortable interacting digitally -- with the exception of their Internet Departments. Getting the showroom and the digital side more closely aligned will be the challenge. Dealers will have to move beyond a 'just get em in' to the showroom mind-set.
Robert Karbaum
I don't disagree. My thought was, even transnational leads will require contact. If the customer clicks "buy now", there surely is a immediate phone call to ensure satisfaction, discuss details, and possibly up-sell as well. Transnational leads will vastly move into the chat category however, as picking up the phone during an online transnational process is too disjointed.
Tony Mazzone
What we find is that when you give customers what they want, when they want it, 24/7/365, your 1st party leads will double & triple. We cost effectively capture & convert more online shoppers and deliver those shoppers the information they want Immediatley. As a customer I could be on 2 or 3 different dealers websites and find 2 or 3 different cars I want to buy, BUT I might not engage with any of those Dealers website forms. With our tools, your dealership could be the only one they contact because we give them a reason to contact you.. Good luck to you all and a prosperous 2015. Tony @ Automark Solutions
Ed Brooks
@Tony - I watched the video on your website. Unfortunately this is exactly the sort of 'Lead Gen' that the big boys are moving away from. The idea of withholding pricing information until the customer is willing to share complete contact information is anathema to operations like Sonic or AutoNation. The linchpin of their new strategies is clear, transparent, upfront pricing. But I wish you well.

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