|Breaking new ground in the field of automotive Internet purchasing, Red McCombs, has far surpassed its competition in 2005. Since implementing their new Web site and CRM tool, three years ago, Red McCombs has managed an impressive increase in volume while also increasing customer satisfaction and even boosting gross profits. Located in San Antonio Texas, McCombs now has seven locations to service a variety of automotive buyers. Today the McCombs’ empire includes two Toyota, one GMC, one Pontiac/Hyundai, one Ford and two Car Smart dealerships.|
Throughout 2005, Red McCombs has taken its business to another level. Their business boom started three years ago when Red McCombs signed with a vendor, BZ Results, for search engine optimization, Web marketing, e-mail marketing, a new Web site and CRM tools that include everything the dealership needs for automated follow up. Since then, the Internet and digital marketing has become a tremendous part of the growth and movement of the dealership. Started as a stand alone venture three years ago, the Internet Department continues to expand. Internet sales now account for almost 28 percent of McCombs sales, up from six percent just three years ago! Rad Weaver, director of e-commerce for Red McCombs, explains “Our biggest improvement has been our search engine optimization and placement. I firmly believe that the Internet is where the customers are and you have to be there,” says Weaver. With placement on all the major search engines (Yahoo, Google etc.). McCombs is the only local dealer using such advanced optimization tools. With the help of their vendor, they have constructed an effective Web site and developed efficient CRM strategies capable of generating an increase in leads, traffic and sales. Although third party vendors such as AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, CarSoup and AutoSmart.com are still used to generate leads, Weaver finds it imperative to make sure customers are also drawn directly to RedMcCombs.com. Once a lead arrives a member of the Internet Sales Department receives a text message and responds within 30 minutes. To date McCombs has succeeded in turning approximately 25 percent of all leads into visits and almost 75 percent of those visits into actual sales! “The challenge with Internet marketing,” says Weaver “is getting people to show up, because generally they are shopping multiple sources. Our system has a built in solution that automates most of the prospecting, unsold and sold follow up e-mail tasks so that our people can focus their energies on the phone. We’re setting more appointments and selling more cars as a result.”
Another strategy Red McCombs has fined tuned this year is making sure everyone in the dealership in completely customer focused. Customer focus and service is a core value of the company and the dealership has devoted itself to going above and beyond for the sake of their customers. This year the company has put tremendous effort behind improving the entire customer experience. “We will actually take a car to someone’s office and let them test drive it there,” says Weaver. Once the test drive is a success and the customers arrives at the dealership to purchase the car and complete paperwork, McCombs has a “standing rule” that the customer will be out of the dealership in one hour or less. Red McCombs believes that the most valuable asset to customers today is their time and they try to do everything possible to shorten the time spent at the dealership.
In addition to planning and implementing larger scale strategies, Red McCombs also has developed some specialized programs to help grow the Internet Department and reach the online buyer. Below are some detailed examples of the latest achievements from the Internet Department:
The Virtual Test Drive: The virtual test allows the customer to experience a multimedia tour of the interior and exterior of the vehicle selected as well as an overview of what makes the car unique. The virtual test drive is used to increase appointments, sales and profits by engaging the customer and highlighting the unique advantages of the products that Red McCombs sells. The virtual test drive has two important benefits. First, it builds value for the customer because they are able to see the specific features such as available colors, interior and exterior overviews. The customer can learn about the vehicle’s specifications from braking to safety performance. A “virtual” sales person who explains the intended features of the selected vehicle guides them through their chosen vehicle. Secondly, Red McCombs is able to get valuable information regarding the customers buying preferences. The dealership is also able to obtain customer contact information enabling them to start a relationship and follow up with the customer with more direct communication.
Cash Cars: “We have seen a huge amount of interest in this program”, says McCombs Internet Sales Director, Tony Rimas. This program includes a special selection of vehicles that are offered to customers who would like to purchase an affordable car with cash while still enjoying the comfort of knowing it is safe and reliable. Cars selected for this program are to be purchased with cash only and vehicles are generally priced at or below $11,000. The Cash Cars program has proven to be a great deal for parents buying their teenage children their first car, businesses who want to purchase a car for delivery use or those who just want an extra car to drive around town in.
Fresh Start Financing: Because a substantial amount of the Red McCombs market is sub prime, the dealership decided to introduce its Fresh Start Financing Program. If there is any indication via phone conversation or Internet correspondence that a customer may have credit challenges, they are immediately directed to complete an online credit application. The customer is first prequalified to ensure they are offered a vehicle that they will qualify for financing on. “We want customers to be realistic about their purchase,” explains Rimas. Once they complete the application, it is forward to a central database, their credit is processed and the application is sent to a salesperson that is trained to handle the customer’s specific situation. If a customer is severely credit challenged, their application will go to a salesperson who works only with sub prime lenders. This program works well because it ensures customers are getting the attention they need to guarantee accurate financing.
Multimedia E-mails: Red McCombs has learned that digital marketing represents a faster, easier and cheaper way to contact more customers at a lower cost than traditional advertising. Since more customers are using the Internet to shop for a car, Red McCombs is shifting the way they market. They now rely heavily on their full suite of multimedia e-mails to alert customers to a variety of specials such as Year-End Clearance Sales, Fall Savings, Inventory Reduction and more. These minimovies play on even the lowest speed Internet connections and the ability to target the audience makes it easier to stay in touch with any one who submits a lead by sending only information that may interest them. The campaigns can be assembled in minutes and the automation makes it fast and easy to reach hundreds or thousands of customers. The dealership uses the campaigns to build a relationship with their prospects and also to stay in touch after the sale to bring their customers back for repeat sales and service business.
Car Smart: The concept behind the program is that a customer can purchase anything from a pre-owned Hummer to a pre-owned Ford Focus. All vehicles are pre-owned but the unique thing is that the program has such a large amount of inventory that there is something for everyone. This program really took off following employee pricing. “People are starting to understand that it is a better investment to buy a certified pre-owned vehicle that is two to three years old,” says Rimas. These vehicles are called Red McCombs certified because they are put through a 90+ point inspection and the dealership stands behind the inspection and the vehicle. Red McCombs two Car Smart locations still offer customers the same valuable financing options with the same superior customer service.
The last thing Red McCombs has done in 2005 to increase sales is to develop partnerships with large employers in the area. The dealership builds a special Web site for employees to go to and offer special pricing incentives on new and used vehicles. “To me this is a very effective way of marketing our dealership,” explains Weaver, “it doesn’t cost anything for us to set up another site and it also puts the employees in a unique buying situation.” This program offers a winning solution for both the dealership the customer.
Red McCombs is a true success story in the automotive world. McCombs has truly proven its ability to have staying power and has earned its spot as a top Internet Dealer. Whether it is going back to the basics of staffing the Internet Department or starting a new cutting edge Internet program, www.RedMcCombs.com will continue to be an Internet leader. “We are very excited about the future and we look forward to taking more customers through the entire process online in 2006,” says Weaver.
Vol 3, Issue 1
A record year for dealer participation programs pushed CNA National past the $500 million mark in distributions since the company’s inception.