Sales-Lead Generation and Interaction Adapts to New Platforms

Social media (SM), such as Facebook, and mobile messages on smartphones are changing the way consumers interact with dealerships and vice versa, according to a group of panelists representing OEMs, a dealer group, and data research and analysis firms.

During the recent J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Automotive Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas, NV, five experts presented their views and insight about managing auto sales leads in today’s world, and also discussed how dealerships and customers will handle it in the future.

The five speakers included:

  1. Sean Fox, COO of Reply.com (Panel Moderator)
  2. Valerie Fuller, COO of FordDirect
  3. Tom Mohr, president and CEO of ResponseLogix
  4. Ted Ross, regional director of business development for Urban Science
  5. Mark Taylor, business development director from AutoNation, Inc.

A summary of key points mentioned during the panel discussion are highlighted:

Some Characteristics of Sales Leads:

• Dealers have to convey valuable, relevant and meaningful messages to consumers. (Valerie)

• A lead is an expression of interest that may manifest on Facebook, in a chat, text message, etc. It is a function of two things: consumer status and stimuli. (Tom)

• Sales leads can help build trust in the car-buying process. (Tom)

Lead Generation Changes and Results

• Leads will be transferred through different media—social media and smartphones. (Valerie)

• Short codes on OEM TV commercials can help consumers follow steps through their mobile device to learn more about specific vehicle models and campaigns. (Valerie)

• Texting is proving to be a viable option for dealers, with an 18% convergence rate. (Valerie)

• Less than 1% of the 3,000 dealerships evaluated are fully equipped with lead-generation tools, according to one of their recent mystery shopping studies. (Tom)

• The number of people who fill out lead forms is becoming an artifact for Generation X customers and Baby Boomers. Younger people want control of the communication process and an instant, authentic response. (Mark)

• Successful dealerships master the different expectations of managing leads and responding quickly. (Tom)

• Google and other search engines are the primary modes of entering OEM sites and third-party sites. (Sean)

• Consumers are gaining more control over their interaction with dealerships. (Tom)

• Lead scoring increases close rates. A data ‘optimizer’ can deliver customer data and meaningful customer attributes to dealers in easy-to-understand “buckets” of actionable information. (Ted)

• There is a downstream component to lead scoring: to measure dealer performance and lead treatment. In dealer performance, the number and quality of leads are weighted to set a performance benchmark for a fair comparison across dealers. In lead treatment, they have noted a 24% increase in conversion rate just by delivering that data to dealers. (Ted)

• Segmented leads in discreet buckets help dealers prioritize higher-scoring leads from those consumers who are ready to buy now, along with their brand preference. (Mark)

The Future of Lead Generation

• Leads will evolve from a back-and-forth exchange to a transparent, direct conversation with the dealer. (Valerie)

• It is important to think about staffing dealerships with more specialists who can respond to a text rather than an army of sales reps. (Mark)

• Google will provide a proxy Gmail address and/or a proxy phone number to keep consumers anonymous so they are more willing to interact with dealers. This will, in theory, make consumers more willing to interact with the retailer. (Mark)

• Instead of dropping the bottom 30% of leads, dealers are finding new ways to treat these leads and deal with these consumers. (Sean)

• Lead scoring and improving customer engagement are ways to better understand the consumer. (Valerie and Mark)

• Data optimizers will help companies ensure that the consumer is exposed to a precision-targeted stimulus. (Tom)

• Dealers and OEMs will use a number of channels, including smartphones, to build relationships with consumers. (Ted)

• The younger generation is more involved in SM and willing to interact in new and different ways. (Mark)

• Traditional leads will evolve to more personal treatment and ongoing conversation between dealers and consumers. (Valerie)

Jeremy Detgen, Research Associate, media and market research at  J.D. Power and Associates

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