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Larry Bruce

Larry Bruce Founder / President / CEO

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Inbound Marketing: How To Win Customers By Influencing People


Lead > Contact > Show > Sell (LCSS). That is the very definition of Automotive Inbound Marketing.

Have you ever noticed that the vendors in the automotive marketing space who are minimizing the importance of leads are also the same vendors that have never been able to generate them with any success?

Marketing is a conversation. The start of that conversation is a lead. If you’re relying on lot traffic alone, you are not maximizing your sales potential.

By not seeking those conversations prior to the customer coming onto your lot, there is no way to know their motivations for being there. If you don’t know their motivations, then you are simply along for the ride. It’s much easier to sell a vehicle when you have information prior to the customer arriving, wouldn’t you agree? 

The dealerships that understand the LCSS process are the ones who are selling more cars.

Ask yourself this question:

“In today’s connected world, how do you expect to compete if you are not going to get more leads, contact more potential customers and get more of them to show up at your dealership?”

If you come up with an answer to increasing sales that doesn’t include increasing shown appointments through contacting more customers from leads, please enlighten all of us in the comments of this blog post. I assure you that we want to know.  

For those who do not have another answer, I am going to break down each step and give you data and suggestions that I hope will help you see increases across each step of LCSS.

Leads – Lead Generation is actually quite simple, I wish I could tell you that it was magic (it isn’t) and that I was the only wizard who knew the spell (I’m not). Not unlike medieval alchemists, however, it’s science and that can seem like magic. So I am going to give you the secret formula on how to turn leads into gold.

Lead generation is a formula and a four part cognitive process that happens in the mind of your customer.

Four Part Process:

Headline – First and foremost, you must have a compelling headline. People don’t read the web. They scan it. You need to ensure that your headline is compelling and will attract your prospect. Not only do you need to be able to grab their attention but you must also make them want to read or see more.

Offer – Clear, Compelling and Credible. These are the three C’s that must be present in any offer you make to your potential customers. Clarity trumps persuasion. If your dealership is simply producing cute slogans or creating offers that require lengthy explanations, than you are already dead in the water. Customers do not have time for cute. They also do not have the time to spend figuring out exactly what your offer is. If they don’t understand it, they will simply move on to the next offer. THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER OFFER!

Call-To-Action – What do you want the customer to do? Knowing the answer to this question is overlooked far too often.

In most marketing, especially in the case of web marketing, the calls-to-action are generic and non-compelling. An example would be “Get More Information.” This is not a call-to-action. If the customer does click on it, you are not going to get a lead. You are simply moving the customer to the next page that has your submission form below the fold with NO CALL-TO-ACTION at all. A call-to-action has to make the visitor want to act. While a call-to-action like “Get More Information” may increase your VDP views, those have ZERO CAUSATION TO SALES! There certainly may be a correlation but there is no causation. If you want proof, take a look at the highest VDP views on your website. You will find that they correlate to the most popular vehicles you sell. The VDP view itself did not cause more sales, its popularity did.

A Reason – In the end, you must give your prospect a reason to give you their information. If there is no reason provided, don’t be surprised that you didn’t get a lead. The reason you give your customers to convert into a lead is the single most important part of lead generation. If you cannot unlock a reason for customers to give you their information, you will not be successful at generating leads.

The Formula

Your ultimate goal is quality lead generation. A quality lead, however, is not simply a lead that results in a laydown at the end of the buying cycle.

Quality Leads - Quality leads are those that include an accurate name, e-mail address, along with home and cell phone numbers. The accuracy of the information in the lead is what makes it quality, NOT the customer’s position in the buying cycle. Lead generation is the first step. Without good contact information, the remaining steps are useless.

Contact – The lead simply tees up the conversation. Contacting the customer by phone IS the conversation. Without a phone conversation, you will have very few shown appointments. There are some in our industry that believe a contact is defined by connecting via e-mail. Nothing could be further from the truth! The ONLY definition of contact is by phone.

“People buy from people not from websites or emails.”

Phone contact is where the conversation must take place. Purchasing a vehicle is still the second largest purchase most people will make in their lifetime. Purchasing a vehicle is very much related to personality and lifestyle decisions made by the consumer. Most consumers will require a connection to the person they make that purchase from. That will never happen through an email or on a webpage.

Response time is a very important factor when it comes to connecting with customers. Not for the reasons you think or have been told, however. Responding to the lead within five minutes doesn’t make the customer more receptive to you. While it may impress them, and it’s a great start, it’s not going to make the customer choose your dealership over your competition. What a five-minute response time will do is increase the chance that you will be able to contact the customer and that they are still receptive to your information and connection. Once you’ve passed the ten-minute mark, your customer is most likely back to their day-to-day routine of life.

ZMOT will tell you that a customer visits 18 different Internet sites before making a purchase decision. What it doesn’t tell you is that customers visit sites over a 50-day period during sessions lasting only 10-15 minutes at a time. They are not sitting down for two-hour research sessions about a vehicle.

With this in mind, your goal should be to connect to the customer while they are still focused on purchasing a vehicle. By contacting them within five minutes, the customer is more likely to give you their time and set an appointment. Time is the primary reason your customer is on the Internet. The more time you can save them, the more likely you’ll be to get an appointment. By focusing on getting an appointment rather than selling them a car, they’ll be more receptive to you’re the reason you give them to visit your store and, ultimately, set an appointment.

Shown Appointments – All too often, the only reason salespeople give a customer to come to the store is price-based. Salespeople are contacting customers and trying to sell a car, the dealership and themselves on the phone in the limited amount of time the consumer will give them. This is a very hard thing to accomplish. You are asking a customer to make a $40,000 decision over the phone. Most consumers won’t be comfortable doing this and that is why shown appointments hover in the 15-20% range. The ironic part is that some industry experts consider that statistic good. In order to achieve shown appointment rates of 50 percent or more, you need to give the customer a different reason to visit you than to make a $40,000 decision. The bottom line is that consumers want to be eased into the purchase. They are intimidated by this large purchase and, for the most part, won’t be willing to make it over the phone.

To increase shown appointments, salespeople should focus on the test drive and incentivizing customers to visit. You achieve this by making sure that there is no obligation, no pressure to buy and that you simply want to help them make the right decision and give them a gift for visiting. Incentives are the number one way to increase shown appointments. When your incentive is tied to the store visit, not the purchase, you will increase your shown appointments and those will translate into more sales.

Sell – Once the customer comes to the dealership, marketing has done its job. It is still up to the dealer to make a sale. Keep in mind, however, that if you are incentivizing your customer to visit your store, you must be prepared to deliver the incentive instantly while they are still at your store. If you cannot, it will do more harm than good. Ask yourself this question:

“When a customer fills out a form to get an incentive on your site for visiting your dealership what do you think they are expecting when they get to your showroom?”

They expect the incentive, of course.

How do you think they feel when you tell them “The check is in the mail”?

Now you have confirmed your insincerity to a customer who already doubted it.  They will leave feeling as if your incentive was just another hook to get them to come in.

When you do provide the incentive instantly and do so without any strings – not even a test drive – you evoke a sense of reciprocity with the customer. They will have more belief that you are being sincere in your effort. They will be more likely to listen to you and you will be more likely to get a sale.

Automotive Inbound Marketing is about providing value to your prospect in order to initiate a conversation on their terms. When they do reach out to you and initiate a conversation, make sure to provide value, make it easy and, most of all, save the prospect time. That is the number one reason that the customer is on the web to begin with and what they have the least of.

Grant Gooley
There is not enough content about writing content for your content lacking content! ;) On a serious note. Great post! We as professionals in the automotive industry need to educate, as dealers that is our JOB! With education comes trust = sales. So thank you for providing some great content about content here, I'm a huge advocator for everything said :)

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