Lead Process Handling - How long is too long?

Eden Wood
We've been following a 17 week lead follow-up process for the last 6 months. This means, we send a generic message every few weeks to the unresponsive lead. We're wondering how effective this process is. Is it an annoyance to our prospects? We don't want to "hound" prospective customers! I'd love some feedback from other dealerships. How are you doing it? Does your program work? Thanks!
Lauren Moses
Eden, Great topic. Every dealership is different. I wouldn't worry too much about "Hounding" them, think about if your emails might be going to Junk mail. Though we ALL hope our emails aren't, it is a possibility. Also, don't forget about phone calls. Not everyone is constantly online or as 24/7 access to their emails. Those people are few and far between but they are still out there. I'll wait and see what others have to say.
Chris Pyle
Thank you for starting this topic. It's a current battle here so I'm looking forward to the comments. So we have 2 camps here at our Lexus dealership. Camp 1 (old school camp) says in 72 hours, if they don't respond, move on. Personally I think that's crazy and am a fan of leaving them active for up to 90 days. What I've been watching are things like distance from the dealership, details like did they pick an actual vehicle, did the respond ever, does the phone number work and so on. Plenty of leads go inactive for a few weeks then come back around. It's just part of the shopping pattern.
Chris Pyle
I think we need to remove the word "Internet" from "Internet-lead" all together. I mean if 99% of people do research on line, what does their initial method of contact say about them? Is it that they are more comfortable typing than talking? What about the person that doesn't know if they want to deal with your store or not and is simply trying to see who they like. We have the most success by treating all leads equal. Another words, you wouldn't hand a walk-in a mailer, so why send your e-leads an email blast? Instead, we try to send them things that are personalized and interesting, based on where they are in the process and what the customer views as valuable. Perhaps an article about an award(s) that model won, maybe a video link of the actual car they are looking at. We send them info about the dealership, about us, about our brand and so on. After a while if we stop hearing from them (or if they never have responded) we send an email with the subject line "I don't wish to be an irritant" where we offer to update their status if their needs have changed or if they are no longer in the market. That one has a surprisingly high response rate. If customers can tell that the emails they're getting aren't personal, or just an email blast, they aren't getting read, let alone answered.
Dan Ferguson
I think it was Cobalt that released research a few years back that indicated 33% of the customers that inquired or submitted a lead would buy within 7 days. That leaves 66% of customers that do not buy within a week, but have shown an intention to do so. Follow up with this group is crucial. I'd advise an automated email process in conjunction with a phone call follow up schedule every 2 weeks or so. Follow up in a professional, non-intrusive manner until they buy from you or tell you to get lost. Chances are they are going to buy from someone, it might as well be you. Following that same research, make sure you are quoting them on lesser priced vehicles as well as used car alternatives because a large percentage doesn't buy the car they first submitted a lead for.
Eden Wood
Thank you all for your feedback. All of your responses have been very thought-provoking. While we do have template emails, we do also send messages that are applicable to the specific lead, but maybe not enough. Thanks for your input, Chris, very helpful!!

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