Photo: Floyd

Photo: Floyd

A few weeks back, I was helping a dealer evaluate his marketing budget. We looked at fixed expenses, traditional media buys and digital media. Everything seemed fairly typical, until we got to third-party leads. The budget for third-party leads was three times the amount it should have been.

I asked the dealer why he had chosen to invest so heavily in those leads. He said, “If you want to sell cars, you have to have leads. Sales have been down, and we need to move cars.”

That’s a very good point, but when we started to evaluate the actual cost per sale of his investment, we discovered these particular leads were not closing. Not only was he spending more than $850 per car closed from this source, he was also investing a tremendous number of man-hours chasing down dead-end leads that would never result in a sale.

So, where do you go to find low-cost leads that will require a minimum investment of time to get into the showroom, and have a high likelihood of converting to a sale? Look no further than your own backyard.

A lead generated from your own website is four times as likely to result in a sale. Your challenge is to make it easy and advantageous to fill out a form or pick up the phone. Let’s take a look at three tools dealers are using to accomplish exactly that.

1. Conversion Pages

A conversion page is simply a page on your website that contains a form to collect lead information. The trick to a good conversion page is in knowing how to get people to see it, and then having the kind of content that encourages them to submit their information. You must provide quality content that answers questions your customers may have. This will ensure that your page will come up in search results when someone is seeking information.
Next, add links to your conversion page in strategic areas of your website. Visiting that page should be the next logical step for your shopper.

Finally, be sure your conversion page has a very strong call to action. Your visitor should understand the benefit of filling out the form and anticipate the reward.

2. Marketing Automation

Your CRM is great at auto-responding to inquiries and firing out messages at timed intervals. But what if you could watch the online behavior of your service customers and know immediately if they are looking at new or used vehicles on your website? What about prospects who have failed to close, but are now returning to your site with an intent to buy? With a technology referred to as “marketing automation,” you can sit back and watch while a number of scenarios play out:

  • The system can fire off a predetermined message to the customer, tailored to the specific behaviors they exhibited and inviting them to respond to an offer.
  • The system can send an email with a number of options for clicking through, so you can more clearly identify their position in the sales funnel.
  • You can receive an alert by email explaining the behavior, and recommending that the customer be contacted by phone immediately. 

Marketing automation can be a valuable tool for many types of businesses, but the ability to gauge the intent of online shoppers makes it particularly attractive to auto dealers.

3. Exit Intent

We’ve all heard the statistics concerning an automotive customer’s online behavior: He or she will visit an average of five dealer websites, but an average of only 1.2 showrooms. If a shopper has been to your website, all things being equal, you have a 20 percent chance of seeing them walk through your front door.

The key phrase here is, “All things being equal.” Equal isn’t good enough. You need to better your odds. If you have a strategy to capture that lead before the customer leaves your website, before they go on to see what your competitor has to offer, your chances of bringing that customer in and closing the sale increase dramatically.

Exit intent software closely tracks each customer’s behavior on your website, and anticipates the moment when they intend to end their session. If you can convince a visitor to fill out a lead form before they go, you will have more opportunities to close the deal.

This gets a little nerdy, but stay with me, because the results are amazing. This technology makes it possible to understand a shopper’s interests as they enter your website. Their behavior on your website tells us even more about what they may be interested in purchasing. Ultimately, their behavior can also alert you to the fact that they intend to exit your site very soon.

Note that exit intent software is designed to present the user with the perfect offer before they click out of your site — not hit them with an annoying pop-up that appears after they have already tried to leave.

For dealers, examples may include visitors who have demonstrated interest in a new vehicle purchase. They may be presented with a screen that says, “You qualify for a down payment assistance voucher of $500,” followed by two choices: “Yes, I want my $500 voucher” or “No, I would rather pay full price.” When the shopper chooses the voucher, they are asked outright where they are in the buying cycle. Are they just browsing, comparison shopping or ready to buy?

Other messages could be tailored to address shoppers interested in pre-approval for financing, trade-in opportunities or service.

We have found that visitors who had intended to leave the website without converting are stopping to accept these offers and fill out these forms at a conversion rate of anywhere from 1.29% to 7.88%. That means that you can capture that lead before the shopper ever gets a chance to visit your competitor’s website.

The new year is upon us. Don’t feel that getting high-quality, easy–to-convert leads has to continue to eat up the better part of your marketing budget. By utilizing a few low-cost strategies, you can grow your volume and your profits while focusing your efforts on selling — not chasing down dead-end leads.

Nan Mossey is vice president of digital marketing for Potratz Advertising. Email her at [email protected]