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From Search to Sale

The Internet car buyer is an elusive animal. Trying to hunt them down for the kill is not to be taken lightly. Dealers across the country continuously ask me what other dealers are doing to improve their closing ratios and CSI. I am constantly working to bring more traffic to their sites but as the old saying goes - "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". I have compiled some things that definitely make the horse thirsty and can provide a continuous water supply, but a little help from the dealer is still needed. This month we'll work to circle through the cycle of the Internet car buyer with an effective CRM process so that you can reach and keep improved CSI scores.

The first thing that is important overall is consistency in both the messaging and the response to the consumer. We have found that once we drove more traffic to the dealer's website that the phone calls began to outnumber the electronic responses almost three to one. Not only is it imperative that you have a way to track the calls coming from your website for the actual lead, you need to track the call for advertising ROI as well. That monthly SEO or website bill yields more in ROI than your newspaper or radio ad, but you'd have to track it to know it. If you can integrate the incoming calls into your CRM system - do it. You will be amazed how effective you can be once you merge your calls and emails.

Remember, people still like to use the phone. The primary goal of an effective website is to make the phone ring at your dealership. Search engines are starting to replace the yellow pages for basic information gathering. Sixty-nine percent of people who read the paper still go online for local information. When someone finds something online, it doesn't necessarily mean that they want to wait for a response. They will pick up the phone and ask their question. Your Internet department needs to have honed phone skills to handle the questions. But even before they get to the Internet department, call your dealership and ask the receptionist for the dealership's web site address or a manager's email address. Do they know it? The majority of the time they don't. Make sure they do! Again, consistency counts.

The next thing that we found is that not all websites are the same. Some definitely convert visitors into contacts better than others. The information that we gather is really pretty simple, but sometimes we lose sight of it. Having an effective search engine strategy to bring them to your site is only as good as the site is in converting the visitor into a contact. The sites that ring the bell have easy access on the first/home page of the site to the following: new/used inventory, contact form, and finance application. These have to be easy to get to to. They should never be more than one click away. If they can start filling out the form on the first page it makes it even stronger.

The dealers that are converting their site traffic to leads and their leads to sales all have something in common. They follow-up and track every one of them. They use either a very good process or a CRM product to make sure that even if the buyer isn't doing anything for the next thirty days that they aren't forgotten; hopefully they incorporate both. Are you sending them emails on a regular basis? Emails are cheap and you want to stay in front of them until they buy. The only difference between your Internet car buyer and your showroom buyer is the method they first chose to contact you. Use the same method, email, unless you've received their permission to call them on the phone.

Now that the buying cycle is well-developed and you've determined if this customer is going to buy or die, your CRM process and/or technology should be leading the way. A buying customer should generate one set of follow-up rules while a non-buying customer should generate a second set of follow-up rules. Consistently following up with your customer, in the manner in which they requested (email or phone), will work to your benefit when it comes to those wonderful CSI questionnaires.

With a finely tuned CRM process, you'll yield high CSI scores. And with high CSI scores, you'll get more repeat/referral business. Make sure you have a good water source, and someone to mind the trough, and the horses will keep coming every time.

Todd Swickard, Chief Executive Officer

Todd Swickard founded Auto Supplier Marketing, LLC in February 2002. Drawing on his vast experience from Compaq, AutoTrader.com, and Dealer.com, he was able to compile a multi-media company that targets niche markets across the country. In less then 6 months a site was launched and over 200 dealers from across the country had been formed into a network. All this with very little venture capital invested.

A veteran of the dot com industry, Todd has seen it all. It has been his personal goal to create a marketing company that drives results with ROI and accountability. His methodology keeps campaigns within budget producing infinite results and return on investment. Todd's true measure of success is in the success of our clients.


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