Preparing for the Era of Leads 2.0
Increasingly, many of the leads that dealers purchase from conventional third-party suppliers are leading only to frustration. That’s because the digital world has evolved—but lead generation and follow up processes often remain stuck in the 1990s. What might have been categorized as a qualified lead in the era of mass marketing is just the tip of the iceberg in today’s world of one-to-one customer engagement. In this new digital age where customer information abounds, technology enables you to instantly get below the surface to market to customers based on the information that’s important to them. Providers who expect to supply the highest quality leads cannot stop at lead generation.
Lead providers must evolve to a new era, one that we might call leads 2.0. As a dealer, soon it will not be enough to ensure that you are furnished an accurate zip code, a good phone number, and an active email address. In this new version of lead generation, your lead provider can help you engage your customer by appending additional data or even beginning the follow up process with a response matched to the individual’s particular needs and desires.
This advanced, much more effective method of lead qualification will begin by generating leads that result from a re-invented value proposition. The customer will not be simply submitting for a price quote, but receiving something of value back—such as a trade-in appraisal. And if the vehicle attribute most important to the customer is safety, then the response from the provider confirming receipt of the lead will include a safety message about the vehicle. In short, these will be leads from valuable prospects that have received additional treatment so that you spend your time most effectively with the leads that are most likely to buy.
To meet the expectations of these predisposed leads, you will need to engage with them quickly and with relevant information. That means, when you respond, you no longer will use simple template letters or materials, but customized information tailored to the individual.
Finally, you will need to track and measure your communications with each lead and customer in your database. By creating a continual feedback loop, you will ensure you remain aligned with each lead’s progress and changing attitudes. As a part of this tracking loop, remember that, once a lead becomes a sales customer, he or she may also become a lead for F&I and service.
You should consider each lead strategically to determine which offerings to highlight and at which point in the purchasing lifecycle—sales, financing or service—to begin your engagement. There are tools that will help you automatically mine your dealer database and prospect lists and automatically generate customized communications that are relevant to the customers’ position in the purchase cycle. From sales, to service to repurchase, engaging your customer through a multi-channel approach with relevant information will increase your sales and service profits. The reality today is that on average, 80 percent of customers who purchase from your dealership will not be returning for service after a year.
Leads 2.0 is still on the horizon, but it’s approaching rapidly. Right now, dealers can start preparing by looking for the lead providers who already are leveraging the tools of customer engagement—from mobile devices to websites to social media. Look for lead providers with unconventional, strategic and engagement-oriented techniques that can lead you away from disappointments and toward the new lead era.
Stacey Coopes is CEO of FordDirect, which provides digital marketing services that help dealers sell more vehicles. The information that is provided in this article is for informational purposes only. All information should be considered solely as the opinion of the author.