Many potential customers are hesitant to share highly personal information online, which may cause them to exit your credit application without completing it. Use the first page to capture their contact information and save the rest for the second page.

Many potential customers are hesitant to share highly personal information online, which may cause them to exit your credit application without completing it. Use the first page to capture their contact information and save the rest for the second page. 

Lost in the debate over how dealers can drive more traffic to their websites is the fact that many — if not most — of you are missing a huge opportunity to increase your sales and profits by targeting a group you already know well: in-market automotive shoppers who need help securing financing.

One of the reasons credit ­applications and finance leads are so valuable is that the ­consumers who provide these leads tend to be far down the purchase path. Many of them are just about ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. These consumers frequently have lower credit scores and may have limited options as to what and where they can buy. This gives your dealership some ­pricing power, and many dealers also find that credit leads have a higher close rate and higher margins than the average up.

Because finance consumers are so valuable, most dealers have added a “Financing” tab to their websites. That’s a good start. But by adding more F&I content, you can take your finance leads to the next level.

Entry Points
Your website should include all the information that covers all of your customers’ financing needs. That includes a credit application — more on that in a moment — as well as a payment calculator, a “Get Pre-Approved” call-to-action button and pages for second-chance credit customers, distressed credit customers and first-time buyers.

Each page, including the payment calculator, must include a prominent call-to-action button that will lead customers to your credit application process. I frequently see dealership websites with compelling, unique content built around the needs of the credit-challenged car buyer — and all they’re missing is a visually compelling link to the credit app.

Update Your App
Another area where most dealers leave money on the table is in the implementation of their credit application form. If your credit app can only be processed once it’s completely filled out, you may be missing an opportunity to collect more leads.

Let’s say a potential customer clicks on your call to action and gets to your form. After they fill in their contact information, they realize they can’t complete the app without providing some very personal and confidential information. Scrolling down, they see the section that asks for recent employer or residence information, which they might not have at their fingertips.

Each of these realizations offers the customer a good excuse to exit the form. Some might prefer to provide sensitive information in person; others might stop with the intention of starting over later. Both groups represent zero new leads.

The solution is to divide your credit application into two pages: The first page asks for the “easy” information, including name, email address and phone number. The customer clicks “Submit” and, whether or not they decide to complete the second page, your Internet manager has captured the lead. So even if the consumer abandons the process, the dealer still retains an in-market, highly qualified lead they can contact and nurture.

Show of Force
You know your forms are secure, so why not demonstrate it? Put your prospective customers at ease by displaying the logos of your third-party security providers. Studies have shown that retailers which place logos from their well-known partners, such as McAfee, VeriSign and Thawte, on their checkout pages enjoy increased online conversion and consumer trust.

If your dealership takes these steps, you should quickly increase the number of the most qualified and profitable leads on your site. Shoot me an email and let me know what impact these changes have on your website’s performance.

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Your website is the best way to attract highly qualified, highly profitable credit leads. If you’re not getting the response your F&I department deserves, try one or more of these five strategies:

1. Maximize Your Exposure: Your homepage and global navigation (i.e. the links or tabs that appear on every page) must include obvious and descriptive links to all the finance-related content on your site.

2. Be Inclusive: Develop content pages for any consumer finance need that your dealership can address. What’s your specialty? Whether it’s special finance, new-graduate loans, military programs or Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the more quality content you can provide, the more likely you are to generate a credit application.

3. Get in on the Action: Provide intuitive, visually compelling call-to-action links to your credit app on every finance-related page on your site.

4. Capture Every Lead: Optimize the credit app flow by breaking the process up into multiple steps. In the first step, just ask for enough information to provide a workable lead for your sales team. In the event that the consumer abandons the flow, you’ll have one more chance to help them secure the vehicle and the financing they seek.

5. Measure, Test, Optimize: As with any change to your website, make sure you measure the performance of your new pages. By tracking the number of leads, calls and sales for each type of credit customer, you can continually improve your performance.

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