Sales leads are the lifeblood of the automotive industry – after all, it’s tough to sell your cars without having people to sell them to. So it’s important that auto dealerships are working as effectively as possible to leverage their sales leads. But are they?
That’s the question the 2016 Automotive Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up was developed to answer. This year, 538 companies across nine industries (59 of which, or 11 percent, were from the automotive industry) were secret-shopped to see what happens when research meets the real world. Researchers sent them direct, business-specific inquiries via email or Web form, presenting it as an interested shopper. Then, for the next 30 days, they tracked each company’s response time, response frequency, level of personalization and ability to land in the inbox.
The results were both fascinating and alarming, and led to what can be called the “1, 2, 3’s of Missed Opportunity”:1 out of 5 — The most shocking finding was that one in three of automotive companies we contacted did not respond at all. Zero. No response. A direct inquiry, a hot auto prospect asking to be contacted directly, was ignored by one out of three of the companies contacted.
2 out of 5 — Almost as surprising was the fact that more than two-thirds of the companies simply gave up trying to reach the shopper far too soon — after only two or fewer tries, when research demonstrates that the optimal number of communication attempts actually lies between five and 11.
3 out of 3 — Virtually all businesses have difficulty being consistently great at lead follow-up. Year-over-year, only five of the companies that received overall “A” grades last year were able to repeat their performance this year. Many did well last year but poorly this year, while others trended in the opposite direction. Clearly, it’s hard to be good at lead follow-up all the time.
So what does it take to be good? Understanding and exercising the most effective strategies for managing your critical inbound leads is pretty straightforward. The “1, 2, 3’s” can be readily addressed by putting into practice the “4 P’s” of effective lead follow-up for auto dealerships: Promptness, Personalization, Persistence and Performance.
Promptness — The faster you respond to a prospect, the better your chance of making a sale. According to InsideSales.com studies, even the difference between five and 30 minutes can substantially impact your chance of contacting and qualifying a lead.
Personalization — The more elements of personalization you can include in an email, the more likely the recipient will open it and respond — up to 137 percent more likely.
Persistence — It’s simple: The more times you try, the more likely you are to make contact with a lead. Taking the time to follow up is worth it — a Yesware study confirms that continuing to reach out even all the way to an eighth attempt and beyond will generate a higher response rate.
Performance — If an email ends up in the junk folder — as does nearly half of business emails — the rest of your efforts are in vain. Graphics-heavy, link-laden emails won’t get the job done.
Are you consistently practicing the 4Ps? Realistically, you might be a “1, 2, 3” and not even know it. And, for many auto dealerships, maximizing ROI on their hard-earned leads is a perennial struggle. But the good news is there’s a better way. A look at the top performers in the study suggests key steps to optimizing inbound leads:
- Prioritize promptness — Even when top-rated companies didn’t meet best practice levels, their response time was more than 150 times faster than the survey average. Even a small increase in response time yields a higher contact and conversion rate, so any effort here will pay off.
- Don’t give up — The most consistent factor among top-rated companies was their persistence. Every single one of them hit the best practices target of eight or more attempts at contact — and yet overall, persistence was the weakest category in our study. Many companies that find repeated follow-ups challenging are turning to automation to extend their resources and capture every possible opportunity.
- Make it personal — All of the top-rated companies used multiple elements of personalization in their email communication, and all but one of them received the top score for email performance. Here again, marketing automation tools and lead capture forms can make personalization simple. More sophisticated systems can go further, interpreting the details of the inquiry and mimicking a human response.
Inbound leads are far too valuable — and too expensive — to let languish. All those dollars that your dealership is spending to acquire leads will go to waste if you don’t have an effective lead management strategy in place. When in doubt, just bring back the 4 P’s of effective lead follow-up. Ask yourself: Are you really taking care of your Internet leads?