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Automated emails are very important to the success of your internet sales.

For starters, an immediate auto responder is nice because it lets the customer know they received the request. It builds confidence that the dealership will respond.

Auto responders also provide opportunity to provide information that they did not receive on the website they submitted the lead from. For example, your auto responder can automatically send pictures and brochures of the car they were interested in, links back to your website to view more info on that vehicle and even similar vehicles.

Take this screen shot below as an example. This is from a real internet lead from one of our customers just a few minutes ago. Someone submitted an eBay lead on this Jeep Wrangler. It is Sunday and the dealership is closed, but the system can respond with a whole wealth of information. Now instead of the customer having one reason to contact you, they might have 3 or 4 and have now clicked on all these links and spent some time on your website.

Think about how that compares to an auto responder that just says "Hey we're closed, call you tomorrow."

Automated emails are also very important for long term follow up. Sometimes you don't get a customer's phone number or they won't take your phone call. By using your automotive CRM software you can tell they are reading your emails. So it is important to keep sending them information.

Now think about 2 weeks later and you sold that Jeep Wrangler. Wouldn't it be nice to automatically email them some similar vehicles to that Jeep? Your inventory continues to change and so will the similar vehicles. You want to keep possible vehicles of interest in front of the customer. Maybe you got some more Jeeps in stock.

Matt Watson

Views: 37


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Comment by Matt Watson on September 28, 2009 at 5:06pm
@Tom Embedding videos in emails and posting them on dealer websites are great as well. Our CRM and dealer websites support those functions. We support emailing vehicle videos as well as salespeople introductions and even dealer videos.

Using similar vehicles doesn't have to be used in automated emails. It should also be used in emails that are manually sent by the sales staff.

2 weeks after a customer test drove your used 2008 Ford Escape, shouldn't you follow up with them and send them some other vehicles to consider? That Escape may not even be in stock any more.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on September 28, 2009 at 11:24am
@ Tom Vann - Thank you for participating and providing valuable insights... I agree with you about the single model page videos. MORE IMPORTANTLY; I would like to point out to other ADM members to take note of ANYTHING that Tom Vann recommends or suggests... With as many so called "experts" and "gurus" who have been in the car business and digital marketing for less that a couple of NFL seasons, it is important to identify the "Real Deal" when it shows up, because they do not usually tout their own qualifications, so I will take the liberty of doing so... Tom Vann is one of the original Digital Marketing Dealer Pioneers who helped create the space that so many of us now earn a living in... Back in the mid to late 90's Tom Van was on the dealer advisory board that served AutoByTel and he was one of the principals in the first Internet Sales Training company of its kind for the car business, called iNet, along with Danny Alkassmi and Doug Waikem. Tom and his brother Fred have built up an automotive dealer group from virtually nothing, except the tips Tom earned managing Chart House Restaurants in California. Their Team Hillsdale Dodge in Hillsdale, MI was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal back in 1998 for growing their business using the Internet... I personally learned more in one day with Tom and Fred Vann at their dealership in Hillsdale, MI than most people learn about lead management processes in a year! And, that was in 1999! Tom Vann has accomplished so much more in the real world of selling cars with digital marketing than 90% of the people I see getting up on stage to speak to dealers at various conferences, that if he were there I would be embarrassed. To this day, I am still working on sorting technology out in a way to implement the lead routing principles that Tom Vann taught me in 1999... For those that know me, they also know that there are very few people who I would defer to, but Tom Vann is one of those very few.

If you want to REALLY see the metal moving down the road from a dealer who truly "gets it" and embraces digital marketing with a strong dose of customer service, then go visit one of Tom Vann's dealerships. He has been building his dealership business using primarily digital marketing and Internet sales processes longer than many ADM members, and most of the Internet Sales Managers out there have been in the car business!
Comment by Clarence U Romero on September 28, 2009 at 9:51am
Automation is great, and the way to go if you have to have an auto responder. I don't think any dealership should have an instant auto responder. Customers know what it is, and it's pretty annoying to them. Matt has it right, when responding to a customer live or not the response should have other choices. The most expensive and the least and other makes and models.

Auto responders should be off while the dealership is in operation, and if it has to be on, it should be on a 15 - 20 min delay, as to make the customer think someone answered them.

Comment by Tom Vann on September 28, 2009 at 9:05am
Matt- Decent comment, but it has still has hiccups, doesn't it? I prefer video emails as autoresponders with the emails where it's our engaging people promoting our Package of Extraordinary opposed to leading with vehicles we only hope will stick in the minds of our clients. Be careful about being a salesbroker of will lose gross time and time again.

Building multiple video emails also allows for easy tracking as each email sent pings back as a tracker, and then our site tracks that site referral...get it?

Further...I suggest creating single page video sites with similar video emails, yet will last 5-9 minutes for a full scale presentation. You will own the market when you lead with your package of extraordinary benefits, and that package dominates conversation by those most influential in your market. That conversation will not be influenced by the "Big Inventory, Low Prices, and Good people" message.

Comment by Matt Watson on September 27, 2009 at 8:45pm

"If, in your example, a customer is interested in a Jeep and the CRM knows it, how do you expect the beleaguered Internet Manager to find the time and resources to build the inevitable "highlighted vehicles" e-mail to retain that customer, along with the necessary templates for every other brand/vehicle of interest, AND to maintain and change them every month as your featured vehicles drop off the inventory radar through sale or wholesale?"

I wouldn't and you can't because the inventory changes every day. That is what technology is for... to automate it. Our software does allow manually picking potential vehicles of interest and emailing them as well. But for auto responders, the automated version works well.

Technology is just a tool and doesn't replace people or processes. As you said, it takes all three. Technology is just a tool and sometimes it can be a competitive advantage.
Comment by Kurt William Hoppe II on September 27, 2009 at 7:48pm

Your post is definitely on the pulse of making a well-tuned Internet department (or, a tech and CRM savvy sales department) more efficient.

However, as Kim's reply also points out, the true commitment to working CRM is more of a triumvirate of people, process and technology. Without one factor in the mix, the others are doomed to fail. Technology allows your dealership to handle more volume at a higher pace, thereby cultivating more leads into potentially interested buyers. However, the total CRM cycle requires good, well-trained people with the necessary telephone and people skills to grow that interest, and solid processes to leverage the speed technology provides.

We should be careful not to allow the concept of automated e-mails to fully supplant the responsibility of the dealership's people to take an active hand in communicating with clients. Auto e-mails can serve as a crutch when there is lack of contact, but remember that only 7% of communication (and potential escalation of a customer through your sales process) comes from just words. Auto e-mails should escalate the customer into as high in the chain of Internet Lead Management as possible - by implying that the customer must move to an appointment and showroom visit. Without that distinct and clearly defined call to action, you will only get 7% interest. Get a customer calling the store - get them talking to your well-trained and non-script-centric BDC crew - and get your chances growing to upwards of 35-45% to achieving your goal of face to face contact.

In my travels as a CRM strategic consultant for my company's clients, it's been my experience that technology can and will only go so far. Without a clear direction and without people to manage the traffic and processes, even the best auto e-mails will go nowhere, or at least only improve your lot in sales 7% of the time.

We also have to keep in mind that while customization is good and personalization is ideal, there is still vast amounts of work required to keep up. If, in your example, a customer is interested in a Jeep and the CRM knows it, how do you expect the beleaguered Internet Manager to find the time and resources to build the inevitable "highlighted vehicles" e-mail to retain that customer, along with the necessary templates for every other brand/vehicle of interest, AND to maintain and change them every month as your featured vehicles drop off the inventory radar through sale or wholesale?

My personal preference is to get the Internet managers to work smarter, not harder. Yes, there will be work involved, that's the commitment required to run CRM most effectively. But auto e-mails should be "soft escalations", simply guiding the customer into the next phase of the sales process. Even just keeping your name, logo and hyperlinks in front of the customer is helpful without killing your dealership staff or wasting thousands of bucks in web dev costs. I also like the soft-worded and personal sounding e-mails, as if the salespeople were trying to talk to the customer, not send out a form letter. I've had a lot of success in auto e-mails being simply written, such as:

"Hello, Joe,
"Thank you again for sending me your internet purchase request on the 2009 Caliber. It's been a while since we've been in touch, but I don't want you to think I've forgotten you.
"Did you know that we keep receiving updates every month from Dodge as the new incentives are made public? If you want to save even more on the Caliber you were considering, you should give me a call this week, so I can compare notes with you.
"If you're putting your decision on the back burner for now, I understand. I take how I spend my money seriously too, and want to be sure that my decision is right. Since I don't want to be pushy, just visit ABC Dodge's website (hyperlink), and let me know if anything new in our inventory piques your interest.
"Of course, the best way to save money is to let me help you work with our sales managers and match your budget and needs to the right vehicle. I have open appointments in the next couple of days, and am happy to make one at a time of your convenience. Please call or e-mail me so that I know we can keep working together."

As long as we remember that e-mail is a volume business, and auto sales is a people business, we will remember that we must use technology to enhance the intimacy between buyer and vehicle and the relationship between buyer and salesperson. We must use technology to position the customer and make them receptive to the next phase, allowing the 90% of effort on the BDC or ILM department to be spent on the sellable prospects, not the care and feeding of the process and chasing the marginals.

Best regards, and success in your selling,

Kurt W Hoppe II
Strategic Services Consultant
DealerSocket LLC

Comment by Matt Watson on September 27, 2009 at 7:44pm
@Ken Duly noted... but you never know what someone is interested in. Like 60% of people don't buy the car the inquire on, right?

The Magnum is defined as an SUV by our system. That is definitely debatable, but it is what it is. I think it should be a Station Wagon...

The dealer also had a Jeep Grand Cherokee in stock that was cheaper and had high miles, but it didn't include it because the miles were too high.

As with anything it is never perfect.

Our original version once said a Ford GT was similar to a Ford Mustang because the dealer didn't have any other Mustangs in stock. Huge price difference of course. Luckily it is a lot smarter than that now :-)

Comment by Ken Gibson on September 27, 2009 at 7:15pm
I have to say that if my client recieved an inquiry on a 6cyl Wrangler with 25,000 miles, and he sent out a response with a Dodge Magnum with 50,000 miles, I would have to ask him "what were you thinking ?" Do ytou really think this prospect will consider you credible ?
Imagine walking into a computer store and asking about a $1500 laptop and the sales person says, look at this $1400 desktop that weighs 34 pounds and anchors your desk.
Come on guys, make sure the technology does the job - RELEVANCE !

Comment by Matt Watson on September 27, 2009 at 6:06pm
@David I agree with you on the poor word choice. In this example, that is how the dealer configured it. Our customers have full control over what it says.

Comment by Matthew Clark on September 27, 2009 at 5:53pm
Matt agrees with Matt - automation is a VERY powerful tool and used correctly it will enhance and improve the dealerships efficiencies. HOWEVER - used improperly (like any tool, misuse can cause it to be a weapon) it can make you look stupid. Automation should do just what Matt described above (autoresponse - 1st response) left unbridled, automation may have us sending follow up that is no longer germane to this sale I E we contacted the customer and found out they really wanted (or qualified for) something else...
Automation AFTER the sale is really part of a new process (not any less important) but automated responses and platitudes from other dealership employees (GM - Dealer - F&I) can go to ANYBODY we got an e-mail address from during the sale.
Not using CRM automation is not just foolhardy it can be costly (imagine having to PAY a staff member to make those contacts every day...)

Great blog Matt...

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