It's a little bit of a complicated question you are asking. I am attaching a generic template for consideration for immediate/initial response. You will likely require several iterations of the generic (trade-in identified, incentives identified, vehicle in inventory, etc). So, while there can be variations, the generic does work quite well once you have made allowance for the nuances. Beyond that, subsequent follow-up templates are typically dependent upon a number of variables (ie., current/previous customer or not) and are potentially algorithm driven. That is probably too complex to work through in this forum. Happy to take this offline and talk through any questions, comments or concerns you may have.
As mentioned, it is a bit complicated, you will likely require several iterations and this is generic. That said, the objectives (and the field tested results) behind the template are:
1) Earn the consumers trust and confidence
2) Provide the information that
A) They already likely understand
B) Are most likely most interested in
i) Do you have the vehicle of interest in your inventory
ii) Do you have something similar in inventory
iii) Allow them to touch and feel the vehicle (window sticker) to understand package and price (MSRP)
iv) What incentives are available that might make the transaction even more desirable
3) The call to action is the subtle: "we can discuss the details.....as well as others as soon as we can schedule a phone conversation". Obviously a critical path leading to getting the customer to come in.
A) Omitting the incentive information is fine, with a soft cover as you have espoused. However, our testing (with and without incentive reference) showed better results when included. The only real problem is that some incentives can get complex......so they have to be softened at times and the "I would be happy to discuss them with you" element becomes more necessary.
4) Including a "click to call" link reinforces point 3. It is the "easy" button
5) If you are running an OEM enterprise model, then the template information should expand (ie., may include reference to customer marketing campaign offers, etc).
If you do the above correct, then you increase the likelihood that the consumer will engage in/continue a dialogue with you. That continued dialogue is the trigger for a visit. I have not seen a template that will, all by itself, consistently prompt consumers to simply read it and appear in your showroom. However, if someone has discovered that silver bullet, I'm very interested.
Most consumers are already pretty educated on the details. By sharing the details that are most important to them you are either:
1) acknowledging that you are aware of them as well (gains confidence and trust) - when they know
2) making them aware (gains confidence and trust) - when they don't know
We hear dealers say "by the time I get a lead, I'm playing catch up.....the consumer is more educated on the transaction they are considering than we are".
When you omit information, our research shows that this can alienate the consumer, particularly when a competing dealer provides the information......the consumer gravitates to the more open communication. That said, there is still an art and balance......don't respond with an autobiography.
Take a template, create a handful of variations and test them within your trade area. Let us know how things shake out.
Attached is an example of an email template that I like to call "The Mini Web Page” Each of the navigation buttons are active and allows customer the ability to navigate to multiple locations within your website and discover additional benefits that may move them closer to a conversation with your store. Each click within this email can be tracked and measured to determine the level of interested in a specific vehicle or service.
In this day and age we need to get off the templates. Get personal with every lead (auto builds trust- credibility). Answer their questions, look closely for their real agenda and ask your own question. Provide an up down model. Get off your own mouse and on the phone and drive them in. With numbers like this do we another template. If you get no answer, get more personal. Here's a webcam of me asking why don't I have an answer. Let me in, Im nice, different. Let the other guys send the 2 page templates. Be at their front door digitally ( maybe personally).
I agree! Templates suggest a fast "generic" answer to what is a very personal question and need presented by a new "friend" and potential client - in that order of priority. How can you earn trust and build a relationship based on a standard reply that invariably reads like one. The days of paper and pen may be gone but the message and thought that they invoked from the writer and the recipient are not.
Of course if you are swwamped with leads and you have more buyers and customers than you can handle - never mind! But frankly, I don't think so? My advice, take the time and ask personal questions from your heart and let your head listen. After all, what are friends for!
Always communicate personally and digitally in a way that reflects the way you always talk. Be yourself. People can always tell when they are templated. They are going to look at a paragraph or two and just say no. You have to grab them in a sentence or two , max. This whole deal is changing fast gang. DO you wait to see a website intro, no, you go away at T1 speed, because you can. You want info now and no bull.
Relationship based selling is an old wisdom being applied in a new virtual world and first impressions are irretrievable! Say what you mean and mean what you say is not just a political slogan - it is the best way to earn a customer's trust and business - in that order. We all have to accept that the auto industry has a well earned reputation that has to be overcome if we expect to keep up on the Wolrd Wide Web that is the future of the car business and our new online way of life!
Here is a little insight on what will be beneficial on grabbing a hold of the customer, especially before an email template is sent out. You would be surprised how an email template, when properly done, can give first impressions about your dealership & Internet Department.
This method helps me now and during my days at the Auto Groups as Internet Director & Sales. I am a firm believe this will help you too. Always getting an excellent response 8 out of 10 times when starting an engage with the first inquiry placed upon the consumer themselves. Let’s say the other 20% is the ones who want to stay anonymous (their prime start of looking to buy).
There are also a lot of common mistakes I see on a daily basis on receiving follow ups from clients I do business with and have tried to prospect in the past and current. So yes I do receive many however, this is what I see and again the most common mistakes made.
1.Monthly specials: Always make sure your specials are posted and updated at all times on your website. The consumer online is going to be checking, (they always want a good deal) and preventing them from going to the OEM manufacturer site or your next door competition.
• Provide the specials on your emails for the online consumer can just give it a click and off they go back to your website.
2.Even if they are not looking at either the new or used inventory, throw out those options to them ( 8 out of 10 customers drive off with a different vehicle they had initially intended on)
• Listing additional vehicles on the email you send out:
Ex: Inquired on a 2008 Dodge Dakota
Options: 2008 Dodge Magnum
2008 Dodge Ram
Used: 2005 Dodge Dakota
3.Make short simple emails. Too much is overwhelming to the eyes. Short paragraphs (max 3 sentences long).
• EX: Below
I hope this email finds you well. Our records show that you had inquired online regarding your interest in the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. You will be able to take advantage of our current specials listed below.
List your Special: 0 % financing for 60 months.
4.Biggest Mistake!! Are you ready? Review your templates before sending them out, testing to yourself or others in the dealership. Reason being, I see so many incoming email that say:
Dear (Customer Name),
Thank you for your recent inquiry on the (Vehicle Information VIN XXXXXX)
I get so frustrated seeing these and can just imagine how frustrated the consumer can be when receiving this email.
Many Internet Managers and so forth in dealerships daily rely on premade templates. Even taking the time to place together a short personalized email is very effective!
Just my 2 Cents on helping you all out! Any questions feel free to contact me.
First, I absolutely understand your thoughts on templates providing a consistent response with expected results vs. poorly written automated responses that don't provide any information. I also recognize that most dealerships don't have professionals like you that can think and write a reply to make a good first impression on an individual basis which certainly suggests that templates and examples like what you posted are better than what may be sent without any direction.
I understand but - how about providing an outline of key issues that should be included in a response rather than a plug-in template? For example;
I was excited to hear from you regarding your interest in our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan - great timing! We have a special program that includes a number of fantastic programs which I would love to share with you. For example, would you prefer a special finance program like 0 % financing for 60 months or would you prefer a $5,000 rebate?
Frankly, I would need to listen and learn more about your needs before I can honestly advise you which program would be best for you. How would you like to proceed? Can we speak on the phone or would you prefer to continue via email so I can get you the information that you need?
Happy to help any way that I can!
Again, I understand that less is more and that the facts need to be delivered in the first reply but a little "sizzle" sure makes the steak taste better!
Phillip - Thanks for the reply on my comment, I truely believe that what I have in my mind can offer the help with placing togethor a Response Templates that REALLY Work! as this post is intended for.
However, pulling out all stops beforehand and recognizing the need for a hot sizzling email template that a customer is absoultey going to take attention too is my point.
We tend to forget at times we depend on technology to do the work for us when we are dealing with live hot buyers or even in the realm of the buying experience.
As mentioned I would be more than happy to help any IM / BDC etc out there with advise and so forth. No No I am not going to do the sales pitch. I just have a true passion of Internet Departments and go to bat for them if I can be of absolute assistance.
I do like your email, to the point and yes of course SIZZLE!! Lets not just depend on the SIZZLE too much before taking the bite out of the STEAK is what my first comment was referring too.
Again thanks Phil for the response!
I will put my little PRO mind to work this evening and place togethor a template I feel will REALLY WORK!
A little additional primary research background for consideration. Research indicates that approximately 70% of consumers stated that they would "definitely" or "probably" go elsewhere in the event of a "poor" lead response from a dealership. Worse, only approximately 6% said they would "probably" or "definitely" not consider going elsewhere in the event of a poor lead response from a dealership.
A good lead response is defined as timely and relevant (ie., providing appropriate content).
What this means is that there is a high risk factor associated with getting lead responses right, including the double jeopardy factor for the brand itself. In other words, a poor lead response can not only force a dealer customer defection but it can also force a brand customer defection.
Given the risk, I believe, and my experience tells me, that a template is the best way to manage the risk and exposure to a poor response. As previously noted, that is the nature of this discussion board. Nancy, I hope you're getting the information you were looking for from this forum.
First, my compliments on the clarity of your message and the suppportive facts that you provide which are abolutely correct and relevant. It is only our conclusions that differentiate us.
The technology that is available today allows for instant response through integrated processes that link the virtual showroom with real world selling processes that have real people - real time - behind them. I agree that yesterday's Internet solutions required templates to provide the best combination of time and quality in response to a visitor to our "virtual showrooms" but with the development of text messaging and a variety of live chat and/or video and/or customer interaction programs the expectations of customers on the websites can be met much the same way as in the real world showrooms in our brick and mortar dealerships. No make that - must be met the same as in the real world since we can't block the trade or run down the online customers in the parking lot if we don't greet them quickly enough with what they want to know!
Of course many dealerships do not have the resources in staff or processes to stay competitive in today's technology driven auto industry but contrary to Obama's policy my experience - and success - suggests that they should fail and the more forward thinking dealerships should accept their customers since they have invested in the processes in both the real and the virtual world to earn their business by giving them what they want - when they want it, which is immediately!
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