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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. 

 

Jeremy Rich

Russ, I would have to agree with all the others as well. Your examples of interactive forms are still static forms. I agree that more dealers should use trade-in forms as a good lead capture form.

However, most of them are still static forms. I have created some very cool dynamic forms for dealers that change future questions with the customers input. This will dramatically improve the lead quality. Personalizing these static forms into dynamic forms are key and give the customers a better user experience.  A+ for coming up with a great topic for discussion. Thanks, Jeremy

Russ Chandler

Hi Jeremy, thanks for sharing.

I think the technicality folks are getting hung up on is in the interpratation of what I mean by "static lead forms". I completely agree, to capture someones information, your going to have to have a few fields displaying for a consumer to enter information. One could argue that inside any interactive or dynamic alternative there is still a "lead form". But because it's being utilzed dynmaically and is responsive to the user's input, it's not static, it's interactive. 

A static form wouldn't be personalized to the individual user, it wouldn't respond to their engagement and input. It would dynamically collect information or direct the user based on behavior. A static lead form is a box with a few free-form text fields to enter information and click submit. In which after your served up a "Thanks for submitting your information" message and your done.

Here are a couple of examples-

The message I'm trying to convey is that consumers want so much more that a transactional engagement with your website. YES, lead forms are still very useful tools online and in your lead generation strategy. But not "static lead forms", which is what the average dealer website is loaded with. I'm suggesting that static lead forms that dealers are leading off with on inventory pages would be significantly more valuable to consumers AND to dealers if they were interactive. Consumers want instant access to information and tools that help them discover, shop, research and buy. I think everyone can agree on that. 

John  Vincent

My Form submission rate has almost doubled in the last 2 years. I hover around 4.5 to 5% when I take into acount trade-in and finance forms. If I include chat its even higher. Not sure where you are getting your data from. Overall conversion rate is 15+% with 18K uniques a month. Sounds like you have been working some really crappy dealers.

Russ Chandler

Thats awesome John!

I think we're saying the same thing. Chat, trade in tools and credit apps are all very interactive lead forms. It's the "static lead forms" I'm calling out as dead. 

If your using any personalization or dynamic features on pages of your site that incorpate lead forms, thats a start to making them interactive. 

Lead forms will always be used to input information, but they won't always be static. The best converting features of any website right now are the most interactive and personalized pieces. 

For the sake of not turning this forum into an advertisement, if you decide you want to see an interactive version of a typical E-Price static form, shoot me a message. 

Gayle Rogers

I'll stick up for Russ on this one. While it's true that forms can and will create great sales opportunities for dealerships, it's a poor form of communication, crying out for an upgrade. 

Ask yourself, would you rather have a customer send you a lead via a form or call you on the phone...(Your answer should be the phone.) For every reason that you would choose the phone you are reinforcing the message Russ is trying to convey. It's time for the demise of the static form. 

Maybe the most important point he makes is the low value a static form provides a customer and a dealership. It's just not an ideal way to start a positive relationship. 

Look at CarNow. They are attempting to improve customer/dealer communication channels. (I have no affiliation with CarNow, just using them as an example.) I'm sure there are others out there as well that are trying to provide a better communication experience.

Last thing - Just because cars.com, autotrader.com, trucar, etc. are doing something, it doesn't automatically make it the right thing to do. Be open to the idea of improving on the status quo. 

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