If you ever travel south down the I-95 corridor, you will see a series of billboards. Mile after mile, humorous hand-painted, cartoony signs tell you about shopping, food, games, rides, and fireworks you can buy at a particular “wonder of the world.”
These billboards count down the miles until you cross over between North and South Carolina, then behold: This long-touted wonder is a tourist trap.
An experience like this has all the marks of a brilliant, brand-consistent sales funnel geared toward a captive audience. By the time customers make the decision to take the exit, they know exactly what to expect.
The fact is there are plenty of opportunities for you to engage potential customers and route them to your online and physical showrooms by using a similar multipoint sales funnel.
What you say—and don’t say—in your funnel informs customers about how you view their relationship with you, as well as their vehicle ownership experience.
So the question is: What marketing, advertising, and product education are you doing upstream to prepare your buyers for what to expect before they reach the F&I office, or see a menu of aftermarket products?
Today’s consumers travel many roads to vehicle and dealership choices. You’re putting your inventory and face out there to meet them, and inform them of their available choices.
Consumers you’ve educated at various points along their shopping journey are likely to be presold before stepping into the F&I office. Why not also introduce them earlier in their sales funnel to your aftermarket products?
Think of upstream marketing and merchandising such as this as lead development. The best time to make a good impression with your customers is not when customers walk into your dealership.
The best place to start nurturing a lead is online, particularly at the consumer-research stage.
A recent Automotive News article reported that consumers educated about F&I products before stepping into a dealership are more likely to purchase those products. The article also noted:
- 63% of consumers might still buy F&I products after their vehicle purchase, if it’s easier for them to shop and buy them online later.
- 58% want to see aftermarket product information on dealership websites. Consumers said that having this information available online helps them understand these products’ value.
11 touch points
Consider implementing some of these creative ways to drive aftermarket product leads from across the customer’s shopping journey:
- Promote these products on different pages of your website: the home page (or special landing page), inventory pages, finance page, and service and parts pages.
- Use blog formats to discuss the benefits consumers receive from purchasing products such as road hazard protection, service contracts, prepaid maintenance programs, or lease wear and tear. Also, explain how these types of coverage address consumer concerns like investment protection, road safety, family safety, and budget protection.
- Provide product information click-throughs from banner ads placed on third-party shopping sites where you market and merchandise your inventory.
- Attach product promotions to online calculators for payment, credit, and trade-in apps.
- Leverage technology to show consumers what aftermarket products buyers of the particular vehicle they’re searching for also purchased.
- Use education-focused merchandising signage, posters, and brochures in the showroom and waiting lounge. Also, videos that offer explanation and information about aftermarket products online—or in video kiosks in your showroom and lounges—have a huge impact.
- Offer customers an interactive survey and sales tools that help them identify their risk factors, and match these factors and their solutions to the products you offer.
- Start the in-store F&I process earlier in the selling phase. Some dealers have moved the product presentation phase of F&I away from the finance manager and put it in the hands of product specialists. These specialists sit with customers outside the F&I office to present, educate, and review the value of your products to buyers, considering their budgets, risk factors, and other buying triggers.
- At delivery, remind buyers who didn’t purchase aftermarket products that they still have the opportunity to do so, mentioning that the time for investment protection is always right.
- After the purchase, include product offers that you package with post-sale letters or service reminders, and conduct telephone or email recapture campaigns to customers to encourage those who did not originally purchase a service contract. Post-purchase, customers may be in a different state of mind; 15% will buy a contract after declining the first time.
- Sell in the service drive; 75% of prepaid maintenance plans are purchased by customers there. Although not a direct F&I sale, don’t despair: These retention programs help tie customers to your service department, creating a habit that converts to future vehicle purchases and aftermarket opportunities.
F&I professionals know that even more than PVR, product penetration is F&I’s game changer. Start recruiting those purchases early in the customer’s journey.
Aim for generating three to four products per customer. By the time they reach the “exit here” sign (via a high-end e-menu system), they are oriented, well-informed, and comfortable with the positive impact of the F&I products.
Ask your F&I agent for his or her expertise to help you sow leads for future aftermarket product sales, and to increase the number of products you sell per deal.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company, and chief digital officer for RouteOne, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at [email protected].0
From 2003 to 2019, he helmed MaximTrak, a digital F&I platform, which he founded and sold to RouteOne LLC in 2016. Until late 2019, he continued aspresident of MaximTrak and as chief digital officer for RouteOne, bringing to market solutions trusted by dealers around the world.
Jim is widely regarded as a thought leader in business technologies and wealth-building strategies for entrepreneurs and F o rtune 500 companies alike.
He is a graduate of the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business of Babson College, Babson Park, MA. He is married, with two children.
Latest posts by Jim Maxim, Jr.
- A Better 5-Step Plan to Product Sales Success - March 9, 2020
- Plan, People and Profitability: A Lesson in Chicken - January 12, 2020
- Digitize Your Dealership Operations Now to Be Ready for 2020—and Beyond - October 12, 2018