As an auto dealer, downtime at the dealership can be really frustrating. There might not be as much foot traffic, your website traffic might be down, and there might not be as many car sales leads coming in. It can feel like a pointless waiting game until the next busy season comes around.
YOUR 8-STEP GUIDE FOR INCREASING CAR SALES LEADS IN 2017
For this reason, many dealerships think cutting back is the best thing to do until after the seasonal lull. With proper planning and execution, however, your auto dealership can see results while every other dealership is hibernating.
If you want to be top-of-mind come the busy season and increase your car sales leads, follow these 8 tips for a successful start to 2017.
Tip #1: Be Opportunistic While Others Are Hibernating
It’s common for auto dealers to take a break from marketing their dealerships in the winter months because they’re seeing the same decrease in car sales leads and web traffic as you are. But what you might not realize is that you have an opportunity to get in front of potential auto leads without competing for their attention.
Think about it! The car sales industry is highly competitive with multiple advertisements being directed to consumers at every turn. If your competitors have decreased their budgets during this time or aren’t advertising at all, wouldn’t that give you an opportunity to get your message in front of consumers who might immediately think of you come car shopping time?
Be opportunistic. Use this time to send emails to your list, advertise to your potential customers, and get the message out about your dealership. Instead of thinking about this time as a downtime, think about the winter months as “brand awareness” season.
Tip #2: Update Your Website Regularly and Preview What’s Coming
Dave Winslow, Chief Digital Strategist of Dealer.com, believes that time is precious—especially for consumers who are spending valuable time on your dealership’s website.
Although most in-store purchases are conducted over the weekend, online behavioral data suggests that consumers are researching vehicles at the beginning of the week to fully prepare for their visit.
According to Winslow, 30% of total online inventory views and 37% of total leads occur on Mondays and Tuesdays. Given how early in the week consumers typically begin their research, it’s important for dealers to ensure their website and all of their social media channels are updated to reflect important information regarding new and used inventory, event sales, trade-in offers, and really anything else that would prove valuable to the dealership’s consumers.
Even if these consumers aren’t going to come until later, they might start researching now. It would be a good idea for you to update your website regularly with your current offerings AND maybe include a section that will preview what’s coming.
Tip #3: Keep Your Message Concise, But Make It Unique
In a highly competitive market, it can be hard to differentiate yourself in the midst of a lot of noise. But it’s more important than ever to do so in the automotive industry.
Potential buyers will not remember your message if it’s like every other auto marketing message they’ve ever seen, read, or heard. It must be memorable; it must be unique.
Depending on your brand’s style and flair, you can do a variety of things to stand out. You can try
- Connecting emotionally
- Using humor
- Identifying a pain point
- Selling luxury
- Selling an experience
…and more. Whatever you do decide to use, playing into a sense of feeling something—whether that’s adventure or nostalgia or happiness—will help your potential buyer connect with your brand on a deeper level.
Tip #4: Create Focused and Noticeable CTA’s
It’s no secret that auto dealerships are notorious for having too many calls-to-action (CTA’s) or unfocused CTA’s throughout their digital marketing. Too many CTA’s can be overwhelming for a website visitor—so overwhelming that they decide to leave.
If you focus your attention on one or two calls to action throughout the site, however, then you’re keeping it simple for the viewer and not diluting your message.
The other side of the CTA coin is positioning your CTA’s optimally. Scott Distel, an Inbound Marketing Consultant, wrote an article on DrivingSales.com on “Position[ing] your CTA Correctly.” When consumers peruse your dealership’s website, it’s important to keep any and all calls-to-action “above the fold.” They need to be placed on the part of the page that doesn’t require scrolling to get to.
“Several heat map analysis show that of all the viewers of your web page, only 50% view the matter placed below the fold,” Distel says. “Thus, with proper positioning of your CTA, you can double the impressions they get. This will help boost your website leads and eventually increase online sales.”
Tip #5: Use Auto Dealer-Specific Software
I think we’re all agreed that time is money, right? Under that assumption, using software or tools that aren’t beneficial to our organizations wouldn’t be money well spent, correct?
In an industry that is so large and competitive, it makes sense that so many different software for auto dealers have been created. But we still hear from dealerships who aren’t using technology to help grow their businesses or are using tools that aren’t specific to auto dealers. In our humble opinion, this is a serious bottleneck on the way to growth.
One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to invest in different types of auto dealer software programs to help your dealership run more efficiently. Not only are many of these programs made specifically with the auto industry in mind, but a lot of them are downright affordable!
Here are some specific suggestions for software for auto dealers in different categories:
Website Building Software for Auto Dealers
Car Inventory Management Software
Financial Software for Auto Dealers
Auto Dealer Marketing Software
These tools are specifically designed to help you focus on increasing your efficiency and getting more car sales leads in the door. For more details about each, read our in-depth post about software for auto dealers.
Tip #6: Be Relatable Throughout Your Marketing Channels
Have you ever heard the phrase “people do business with people, not businesses”? It’s truer than ever in the age of information.
Over 72% of consumers will check out your dealership online before stepping foot in the dealership. Before they even step foot into your dealership, are you giving them a sense of who you are?
Talk about your dealership in more of a personal way and use multiple media formats to engage with consumers. When building or reconstructing your website and social channels, you might consider adding in an “About Us” or “Our History” page. Many successful dealerships have these pages, as they’re a great way to tell consumers “Hey! We’re just like you!” A page stating “We’ve been family owned for 20+ years and customer service has always been our #1 priority!” lets consumers know that they’re going to be cared for.
In addition to “About Us” or “Our History” pages, it also helps to be completely upfront with them regarding things you know they already care about like: saving time, making sure they’re getting a good deal, or simply confirming the details of an individual vehicle. You can place these points on the main landing page.
Tip #7: Build Trust with Great Resources
Another way your dealership can provide value—and therefore increase sales—is to give consumers as much upfront information as possible. You want to answer consumer questions or inquiries before they even think to ask them. On your social media pages, post pictures of your actual showroom so that consumers have an idea of what they’ll look like. Or maybe on your “Schedule a Test Drive” form, provide some insights into what the next steps will be (Ex: You’ll meet with one of our reps, who will take you to the car of your choice, etc.). Consumers appreciate the additional information more than you might realize.
Back in the day, dealers used to hold all the power. Consumers couldn’t access information about financing, trade-in appraisals, and inventory unless they visited the dealership and inquired about it. In today’s information age, this is certainly not the case. Because of automotive resource sites like Edmunds and NADA, consumers have the same amount of data and access that dealers do. They can now both get up-to-date information on pricing, availability and competitors FAST.
Think of vital information that the customer might be looking for that you can include on your website. Do you have resources available to better help the customer (like a FAQ section)? Do you have a payment calculator or an appraisal tool? Do you have a live chat option?
Tip #8: Use Interactive Experiences to Increase Engagement
The face of consumer engagement is changing and being driven by micro-moments, and auto dealers need to understand that consumer behavior is driven by speed and efficiency. If a consumer can’t quickly find the information they need from a brand, they are not going to interact with that brand for very long.
According to Think with Google:
“The average car shopper today makes just two dealership visits in the search for the perfect vehicle. That’s because today’s car shoppers turn to mobile to research models, find deals, and get real-time advice. David Mogensen, Google’s head of YouTube ads marketing and former automotive marketer, shares how to tap into this new auto buying process.”
It’s important for internet managers and web providers to set up their dealership websites in a way that allows them to create engaging experiences that allow consumers to find out what they need to know. “No such thing as too much information” holds true when it comes to complex, high-consideration goods such as cars; however it needs to be found quickly, or else that consumer will look elsewhere.
Additionally, other interactive experiences and tools like quizzes, calculators, and assessments allow information to be filtered and personalized to each consumer depending on where they are in their buying journey.
In the past, dealerships would use static forms; which wouldn’t give salespeople any indication of what stage of the buying journey consumers were in.
Our own Russ Chandler—who spoke about this very topic at the 2016 Driving Sales Executive Summit— explained the whole static form scenario best: “One of the biggest problems with static lead forms is that they don’t provide direct value to car shoppers. I mean, you can technically say that submitting a form will lead to a follow-up call for more information.. but is a follow-up call they requested really that valuable? Most consumers (or people, rather), like immediate satisfaction. If they’re requesting more information on a vehicle, an offer or a trade-in, they don’t want to wait for answers. They want them right now. Static lead forms don’t do that.”
But now, by utilizing interactive experiences that provide different indicators of where the consumer is in the buying process, leads immediately become higher quality for dealers, and information becomes more relevant for consumers. See how these micro-moments are influencing buying behavior?
“One of the reasons why they’ve been so successful is that they’re giving consumers a legitimate voice. Instead of it being just an exchange of information, consumers feel they’re filling out a buyer profile more than giving dealers contact information in order to be badgered.” Russ Chandler explains. “Almost all the questions asked (‘What kind of car do you want to buy?’ or ‘What is your current budget?’) allow dealers to better assist consumers with their needs. These questions allow dealers to really kickstart the customer relationship.”