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Russ Chandler

Russ Chandler Product Marketing Manager

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Lead Forms Are Dead. Period.

Lead forms are DEAD. Done. Finished. Gone. Expired. Deceased. 

I can probably come up with a few more synonyms for the word “dead,” but I think you get it already. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with static lead forms, they aren’t working nearly as well as they used to. So really, they’re not so much “dead” as they are dying. Still, it’s a slow, painful death that you & I just don’t wanna see. I’d rather watch cheap, store-brand paint dry for several hours than look at my analytics dashboard and wonder if I’ll get any friggin’ conversions from the static form on my dealership’s website. Think about it, unless you had finally reached the point that you HAD to talk to a dealer, how interested would you be in submitting your info into a static form black hole?

 

The point is that there are FAR better ways to engage with car buyers and obtain their information. If you’ve kept up with my posts on DrivingSales, you know that I've spoken quite extensively about what interactive lead capture is and how it can help drive conversions on and off your website to increase foot traffic in your dealership. That said, I’m not gonna go into great detail about interactive lead capture. Instead, I’m gonna explain why I think static lead forms are dead; and why you should honestly avoid them like the plague:

 

Static Lead Forms Don’t Provide Direct Value to Consumers

 

One of the biggest problems with static lead forms is that they don’t provide direct value to car shoppers. I mean, you can technically say that submitting a form will lead to a follow-up call for more information.. but is a follow-up call they requested really that valuable? Most consumers (or people, rather), like immediate satisfaction. If they’re requesting more information on a vehicle, an offer or a trade-in, they don’t want wait for answers. They want them right now. Static lead forms don’t do that. The sole purpose of static lead forms is to obtain information from consumers in order to collect a lead. They serve the dealership, and the dealership alone. Interactive experience platforms, on the other hand, provide on-the-spot calculations, offers, and discounts that enhance lead generation for car sales. The buyer is getting something that’ll ultimately help them move their purchase along. If it’s something they’ll still need to wait for a dealer rep to respond with, then that rep better have a high quality enough lead to start off where their website left off.

 

They’re Boring as Hell

 

It seems pretty obvious, but I feel like it’s worth mentioning. Static lead generation forms are typically pretty boring… even if there are some graphics and/or logos included. The majority of static forms include an area for consumers to put the following: Their name, phone number, e-mail and maaaaybe some kind of extra message. Outside of that, that’s basically it. I think the most exciting thing that static lead forms offer is that you might be taken to a “thank you for your submission” page. Unlike many forms of interactive lead capture, there are calculators, no independent data, no assessments, no incentives, and certainly responsiveness to how the consumer is engaging with your website. Not only do these forms not provide anything of value, but they’re not generating any excitement either. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the static forms on your dealership’s website (if you even have them), don’t get any sort of traction.

 

Your Dealership Receives Limited Information 

 

With interactive lead capture, your dealership has the opportunity capture valuable information from website visitors without even asking them. Simply observing the way a consumer engages with an interactive experience can build a robust profile of who they are and how you can help them. Further more you can collect customer-entered data in a lot more creative ways than free-from text fields and drop downs. The point is that dealerships (who leverage interactive lead capture) a TON of enhanced ability to collect the information they’d like to collect. Instead of collecting the standard contact information via static lead form, they can let customer naturally build a lead profile by simply letting them share their information in a way that serves them as well. Not only does this make car shoppers feel like they’re being listened to, but also it really does allow your dealership to LISTEN. You can easily learn more about your consumer base and provide a better, more personalized customer experience right from the get-go. You can’t do that with static lead capture forms. 

 

They Seem Like They’re Performing Better Than They Actually Are

 

Historically static lead form conversions have been slowly declining for a decade now. As content in general has evolved. Consumers expect much more personalized and enhanced online experiences. Calculators, assessments, multi-media and responsiveness are the new standard. If you don’t believe me just take a look at all of the best independent websites (Edmunds, KBB, CarGurus, ect.) and check out how much interactive content they offer visitors. Dealers are constantly battling to drive higher conversions and where static forms can still show value is with customers latest in the buying journey. If I were in a position where I HAVE to make contact with a dealership, of course I would still fill out a static form. If there was a better option they would take it and that’s why the best website products out right now are deeply interactive.

So great, you strong-armed the 3% of your traffic into the “mousetrap” of a static form. What about the other 97% of traffic? I’m guessing you put quite of bit of effort into generating that much traffic to let it all go with any meaningful engagment. Static forms only work with those in a position with no other alternative. There are tons of options for how you could be serving customers in the discovery and research phases of the process through interactive assessments, quizzes, calculators and more interactive experiences. Customers earlier in the buyer journey have other options, they can leave your website.

 

In an age where most car shoppers already have a concrete idea of what they want before setting foot into your dealership, it’s important for you to engage with them on a deeper level. Chances are, there are several very similar dealerships within a 5-10 mile radius of yours — and the eager, but cautious car shopper is going to go with dealership that makes the most sense to go to. If you wanna be the dealership that makes the most sense to reach out to — the one that’s most relatable, and has the best customer service, then you NEED to avoid static lead forms. There are WAY too many different ways to engage car shoppers at your dealership — and lead forms are NOT one of them. 

So, I’d like to know: what are your thoughts on static lead forms?

Update:

In effort to clear up any confusion in the difference among "interactive lead form" and "static lead form" I thought this image would be helpful. "Lead forms" will always be utilized, its the difference between being static and interacitve that make a dramatic difference. A classic example is when dealers collected trade-in information for appraisals with a "static form" that eventually turned interactive by evolving into a calculator that instantly presents an estimate value, among other interactive actions. I'm proposing that this same evolution has already began to take place with even the most basic of static forms like  check availability, eprice, test drive, promotion, special offer, ect. ect. 

 

Frank Jarosz

SO NOT TRUE 

Dimenished but not Dead 

Russ Chandler

Thanks for sharing Frank-- 

I agree, as I mentioned in my post, there will likely always be a place for static lead forms somewhere on every website. Some people, in the final stages of shopping for a vehicle will always be fine submitting a request for a sales person to reach out.

I still stand behind recommending dealers stive to create something interactive over a basic lead form when it comes to their lead generation strategy. 

Overall it sounds like we're on the same page though, lead forms have definitely diminished. But, for the increasing amount of the younger population that is much more tech savvy, is used to a "now" society, and prefers to be in control, meaning lead forms are indeed dying.  And, even those that did fill them out would probably have preferred to engage with something that was a little more interactive. 

I would encourage you to try taking one of your best or worst lead forms on you inventory pages and use an interactive experience in place of it to pick up more leads. You'll likely see a higher conversion and the leads that come with 3-5x the consumer data than you were receiving with a static form. 

I could have been pushing the envelope a bit by saying "lead forms are dead" but "lead forms have deminished" just didn't seem compelling enough :)

Russ Chandler

@Dealer Guy 

I sense a little sarcasm lol.

In my post above I said- "take a look at all of the best independent websites (Edmunds, KBB, CarGurus, ect.) and check out how much interactive content they offer visitors."

If we're defining interactive the same way Google is (allowing a two-way flow of information between a computer and a computer-user; responding to a user's input) then I would have to respectfully disagree. All of the examples you mentioned are leveraging very interactive expereinces over static lead forms where they can.

Does that mean they've completely eliminated the use of a static form? Definitely not. A small percentage of people are always going to still feel comfortable utilizing a static form, especially if there is no alternative available. 

The message I'm trying to convey, is that when offering customers the choice between a static lead form and an interactive alternative, the majority of people will choose the interactive option. I'm not trying to say there is its impossible to capture a lead with a static form, I mention that several times in my post.

The point is that if clearly consumers prefer an interactive alternative over a static lead form, AND it actually increases performance, wouldn't you lead your strategy with interactive lead conversion over static lead forms?

 

 

Mike Hughes

I don't agree with your assessment Russ, though I appreciate your input.  We are almost exclusively lead forms and have seen our leads grow from about 300 leads per month to about 1200 form fills last month. Our BDC has increased from 30transactions to 100-120 consistently per month.   We will continue down this path and couple that with  strong outbound call and email campaigns to maintain high customer loyalty and retention.  

Russ Chandler

Hi Mike, thanks for sharing. 

I'm happy to hear you've found success in lead forms and I think it speaks to the last section of my post. If your only using static forms and have a strategy built around optimizing your use of static forms without making them interactive, then your likely to see some level of production that is successful. But compared to what? Compared to do using nothing on your website? Compared to using something interactive? 

My challenge to you would be to take your best or worst static form, make it interactive and test the results. If you look at just the results of static forms, I competely agree, there are successes. But if you compare the results to static forms to the results of interactive alternatives, the results are significantly better. This is trend that has been gaining momentum both in our industry and in others. If you saw a major difference in results, making you noticiably more successful, a statement like "static lead forms are dead" wouldn't seem so far fetched. 

I think another good indicator that interactive is preferred over static lead forms by consumers, is by looking at all the new product categories on the market. Digital retaling, personalization, behavioral targeting, advanced online chat, market research tools, compariosn tools, assessments, calculators, ect ect. All of these products are leading the way in lead generation and conversion right now.

All of these are great examples of very interactive alternatives of engaging and capturing customers online that has evolved from static lead forms. My belief is that even the most straight forward static lead forms on your site like E-Price, Test Drive, Check Availability, special offers, promotions, ect, will continoue to become more and more interactive. 

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