Get More Customers in the Door

In a time of economic turbulence, generating showroom traffic is more critical than ever.

Purchasing great leads isn’t enough. You might be buying the hottest subprime auto leads on the market, but if you can’t get potential customers to walk in your showroom door, you’re wasting your money.

At a time when consumers are more cash-strapped than ever, it’s critical to maximize the leads you are buying by converting online leads into face-to-face prospects. It’s a simple numbers game; the more traffic you generate, the higher your odds of closing a deal.

Through many years of generating online leads for the automotive industry, I’ve learned that the dealers who have the most success with purchased leads are the ones who invest time and money into follow-up efforts to draw people into the showroom. There are several simple tactics you can use to ensure more leads are walking through the door.

Here are a few of the most effective I’ve seen:
1) Contact prospects immediately – A potential customer who has filled out an online credit application is typically a very motivated buyer. Many customers fill out more than one credit application online, so just because you are buying exclusive leads doesn’t mean you can sit on them. If you let prospects wait, a competitor will get to them first or the customer may lose interest.

The value of a lead decreases significantly over time. I have found the best results are achieved when dealerships call their leads within the first five minutes of receiving them. Your lead provider should be able to deliver leads only during hours when you have salespeople available to call the prospects immediately.

At Modern Consumer, our dealers frequently ask for lead delivery only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some ask us not to send leads on Saturdays when walk-in traffic tends to be higher. Other dealerships close on Sundays, so they request no lead delivery that day. Your lead provider should be able to work with your schedule, and only send you leads on days and times when you are able to realize their full value by contacting them immediately.

2) Call the customer before checking credit – Someone who might not pass credit on their own merits can often provide you with a co-signer or other information to amend the credit application and improve the chances of being approved for a loan. You won’t learn this if you run credit first.

3) Offer incentives – Often, potential customers perceive very little differentiation in the advertising messages of competitive auto dealerships. When you get the customer on the phone, do something to make your offer memorable, and provide an extra incentive. I’ve seen dealers offer everything from cruise and vacation incentives to Wal-Mart gift cards and DVD players. Many of these cost the dealership very little and deliver big results.

4) Provide transportation – Potential customers in the subprime market may not already own a vehicle. Offering transportation to your dealership is a relatively small expense that could go a long way to closing the deal. Some dealerships provide bus tickets or cab rides. Others send a car service to pick up customers to bring them to the dealership. In a more unusual and extreme example, Dick Hannah, a large dealer with multiple locations in the Pacific Northwest, flew customers from Idaho into Washington State to get them approved for vehicle loans. There was no dealer in the immediate area, and mountains separated these potential customers from the Dick Hannah dealership. It worked; the dealership found that customers who were willing to take a flight were in most cases committed and ready to buy. While it may not be necessary or feasible for most dealers to go to such lengths, the point is, providing transportation to your showroom is a simple and effective way to boost your lead conversion rate.

In conclusion, the credit crunch is squeezing everyone, and there’s more competition than ever for customer leads. Make your dealership stand out by providing a superior, differentiated customer experience, and be aggressive in following up with your prospects.

Special Finance Insider Vol. 2, Issue 6