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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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VJ VJ eCommerce Director

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I can stand up now but only with a helping hand from my team - Chapter II "Diaries of an eCommerce Director"

So I got that squared away right from the get-go…my website looks good; First to Second grade content (I will explain it further down what means) is in place, but what do I do with all the leads generated via my website, website forms, 3rd party leads and so on.

What is here the status quo on response, follow up and long-term usage of these valuable leads, email addresses and phone numbers? I am getting with my team with purpose of finding out what they love and hate currently in their daily tasks. And “No”, I do not think that I always just have a typical “bitch session” occurring out of these meetings. It gives me more likely a 360 degree view of who in your team is “who”. Who is doing what? Who is “a sleeping” star? Who is “all words no action”, and so on…?

 It further allows me to guide particular leads to the right team members in place. Like the ZAG leads. These particular customers, who do not like the hassle and haggle, and want to receive a more “exclusivity club member” handling of their inquiry, requiring a sales person with great customer follow up skills and soft, courteous manners.

Almost like the proverb – It fits like a Glove.

Match your people for the right job

Next…and I am sure I do not have to stretch this one any longer – Look at your response times of your crew. There can be no excuse for any sales person in the Internet world having response times of >55 minutes and letting the incoming lead sitting there until the next stone age.

Come on, everybody should know by now, the early bird will catch the worm and with research showing a 50% higher chance closing the lead into a sale, when having contact with the prospect first, your action should be clear with no questions to ask.

Last but not least during my transition from crawling and staying up to the walking phase one immense important question comes next. How do we handle our phone calls? First at all make sure that you have dedicated phone numbers for each individual lead provider and website, so you can track your ROI and conversion much easier. The most important feature these numbers should include is the “recording” function, which will allow you and the other members of your dealership management team to listen to the calls and how they were handled by the crew. I know we as dealers spending a lot of money on training and other ideas, but phone training is in my opinion the most essential training part you should allocate money to.

Listen to your sales people and service advisors phone calls – you will have a pretty good idea why your closing ratio and conversion rate is where it is – Good or Bad!

Phone and Lead Handling must be priority Number One

I saw during my digital marketing career that most of the Internet people love to email, even so that the phone should be their desired tool to get the customer in. As I discovered in my analytics backend tool of my website providers – >80% off the generated website leads were coming in via phone calls and not just by form submission.

Eighty plus percent – and I still hear sometimes my peers complaining about their “website is not performing”, I would have to ask “what do you mean?” – “Is it your form submissions?” “You’re not getting enough phone calls?”

Really, what do you mean?

Is it really the website? Or is it the response how we handle incoming leads not captured correctly and not crediting our web platform for incoming calls?

Nevertheless I would love to share one particular observation I made after a Manager decided to cancel a digital marketing package in one of my stores, which I had assured him provided excellent digital online exposure … retargeting, display ads, banner ads, PPC, SEM, designated landing pages, mobile, designated phone numbers – you name it.

The argument made for the cancellation was “it looks like that it is not doing anything for us and we did not receive any more leads through it”. We Internet Pro’s know that these statements can be “smokescreens”, the real reasons are almost always the same – budget cutting or some salesperson has sold them some new “shiny object”. But I knew this was the wrong decision for the store and I had to prove it.

I received a chart with numbers on leads, visits, etc. provided by my OEM, showing my competition and their (as well mine) lead counts during national ad campaigns - painting a clear picture. Every dealership in this chart, which had stuck with the Dealer Advertising Package during the national ad campaigns, had more than three times more incoming phone calls than my “sorry ass” store, with no ad package.

I reviewed the same charts from a quarter back, and when we had signed up for the OEM ad package we were in a very different position: phone calls up, new car sales up, more 3rd party website referrals were all much higher! I figured out if we would have stayed with the package we would have sold 10-18 cars off the OEM campaign, not the 4 we did.

Cancelling it was just ”a bad business decision” or should I call it plain and simple "dumb"? So I am asking now, why would a dealership take money out of a proven program like that to save a buck or buy leads from 3rd parties, that close at 6% when everybody in the dealership world knows, that phone calls and website leads have 2-3 times the closing rate?

When we as eCommerce Directors or Internet Sales Managers know about these scenarios, we need to open up our mouth and discuss that with the executive leaders in the dealership. When she or he is giving you an ear and the time, I guarantee you will have success to close more deals when implementing the sources I just discussed. It is on you to be an advocate for these stats and to take your time to explain the findings to your GM or President, in case he is not digital marketing savvy.

You are the Marketing Expert and its Advocate

When you find too much of road blocks and the same old same old in your dealership, find a partner who will trust your expertise and that you can deliver a turn around.

Bryan Armstrong
Great post as usual. I really like the spin on the meetings with the i-net team. I agree, if an e-Commerce Director is going to be held liable for the results, he SHOULD have autonomy in his advertising creative and vendor decisions. No budget control combined with R.O.I. accountability is equal to taxation without representation. It's unconstitutional.
Amen my brother...AMEN!
Jeff Cryder
Great post VJ. Being young and new in the industry one of the mistakes I made coming into my role was starting to execute plans/ideas before ensuring we were doing the necessary things internally that make external marketing efforts effective. If I could do it all over again I would definitely of followed this approach. But, you live and learn :)
Shawn Vieira
I agree, if an e-Commerce Director is going to be held liable for the results, he SHOULD have autonomy in his advertising creative and vendor decisions. "where is the 'like' or '+1' button"
Lindsey Auguste
Both are at the top! :)

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