Automotive Digital Marketing ProCom

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How many times have you heard that phrase? I know I hear it every day. The now reoccurring phrase... "Mr. Jones is NOT an Internet customer, he is Harry's previous customer! You're STEALING!"

In today's world of automotive sales the customers are changing like the business is itself. Waaaay back when, before the Internet came to the auto industry, customers would read a newspaper, talk to their neighbor who may have purchased a vehicle from you, stop in with calling or emailing, speak to a salesman, and eventually leave with the car. When they were in the market for another vehicle, they would bypass this entire process and head directly to the dealership in which they purchased their car or truck from.

And then all of a sudden... INTERNET SHOPPING was born. "Oh NOOO!!"

And now Mr. Jones, that purchased his new car from you and is in the market for another one may email you... He may go on your website and convert himself into a lead... HE MAY EVEN VISIT YOUR COMPETITORS SITE TO SHOP YOUR PRICE!!

"I DON'T BELIEVE YOU" says the General Manager of your dealership who has been employed here for 30 years!  "Mr. Jones has been buying cars for me for years!"

Well guess what happened...

The Internet has allowed our Previous Customers to test the waters. Mr. Jones may have always owned Ford and now he is looking at Toyota. Mr Jones may have always bought his vehicles from Harry and how he sending a masked email to your competitor, ABC Motors, to ensure the price you are giving him is the best one. Lets face it, while Mr. Jones is home and is forced to watch a Reality TV with his wife his mind is wondering. He grabs his iPad and he browses the World Wide Web. He Google's your dealership to find your competitors dealership advertising on top of the paid section. He doesn't know what that top part is, he calls it the "yellow links." He clicks it and now he is on ABC Motors website. And now he says to himself... "GAME ON!" Hell!, Why not? He is not doing anything exciting. It is Wednesday night and instead of watching the next signing competition he MIGHT AS WELL go car shopping, something that he planned on doing all weekend. Now it just saves him the time.

Thursday morning comes and the Internet receives a lead. Its Mr. Jones! He says, "I'm in the market for another Ford Fusion. Just wondering what kind of promotions you guys are having? Shoot me back an email when you get a chance." He is being nice... He already knows the answer to his question. He already landed on Edmunds.com and knows what rebates and incentives are out there. He just wants to hear what you have to say. You give him your rap and close an appointment, Mr. Jones is coming in on Saturday at 1PM with his wife.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones come into your dealer and seem a lot more educated then last time. They seem to know more about this vehicle and even more about your competitors vehicle. Hell, Mr. Jones even knows more then your "Certified Sales Associate" knows. But he likes you guys. He trust you guys... He has purchased vehicles from you in the past so he listens to your rambling, he corrects your mistakes in his head but doesn't say anything, and he leaves your dealership with a remark, "Let me sleep on this, I will give you a call on Monday."

Let me Bottom Line Ya!

Your previous customers are becoming just as hard to retain, convert, and now sell as a fresh Internet lead. We live in an informational, Internet based world. A world where people of all ages want Instant Gratification. I know from past experience, a previous customer does not relieve himself/herself right away. They want to hear what you have to say, they want to hear your pitch. Half the time your sales consultant didn't even leave a lasting impression - THEY CANT EVEN REMEMBER HIS/HER NAME!

Dealers need to give your Internet Department a break because they are the backbone of your dealership. They are the ones working every lead to the death. They are speaking to hundreds of your prospects and previous customers. They sit in front of a computer, speak on the phone, and do majority of the work. Previous customers are smarter car buyers then in the past.  They now shop differently and will contact the Internet department first.  Face it, there is no such thing as customer loyalty anymore.

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Comment by Joe Webb on December 28, 2012 at 5:14am

Good article.  We must realize that many customers entering our CRM nowadays have likely already had a relationship with our stores.  We've been capturing information long enough in these systems that we are starting to see more returning customers than conquest customers.  
With that said, a good CRM should be able to see who the customer's original salesperson was (if sold) and direct the new lead into that salesperson's box.  At the same time, the CRM should alert the ISM that a new lead has reached a floor salesperson so they can keep an eye on it.  

While I agree that the dealership owns the customer and the salesperson only owns the relationship, I do believe the salesperson should get the first right of refusal to lure his previous customer back in.  If the lead isn't addressed within the first hour, it automatically swings to the ISM, who can keep the salesperson in the loop.  The ISM can simply ask the prospect, "I see you've purchased from our Internet Sales Specialist Dwayne before.  Would you like him to assist you with the purchase, provided I supply you all the information you need?"
THAT is when departments can begin working together seamlessly and the customers' needs are served.  

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