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In respect of Steve Jobs’ passing and in honor of his well-known 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University (where he compared the very old Whole Earth Catalog effort to the Internet), here is my summation of the Whole Earth Internet Lead Catalog.

Five Why’s of Internet Lead Submission
Internet leads are submitted by an in-market customer for any or all of these five reasons (in no particular order):

  1. Dealership and/or OEM TV/Radio/Print Advertising
  2. Dealership and/or OEM Internet Search Results (SEO, SEM)
  3. Dealership and/or OEM Reputation
  4. Dealership and/or OEM Website(s):  Online Process, Price, and Inventory
  5. Dealership LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Three Types of Internet Leads
Regardless of the buyer, there are three types of Internet leads:

  1. 1st-Party Leads, which are from your own website.
  2. 2nd-Party Leads, which are from OEMs, your OEM website, and your inventory listing services (Autotrader, Cars.com, EveryCarListed.com, etc.)
  3. 3rd-Party Leads, which are from lead aggregators seeking leads from in-market shoppers.

 

The Absolutely ONLY Thing You Really KNOW About an Internet Lead You Receive

  1. That you got one!  The name, contact info, make/model desired, notes, etc. can be (and sometimes are) bogus.  NOTHING is sure until you begin trying to contact the shopper in the lead.

 

Now for something about the “Internet Closing” ratio and getting sales from leads:  Do we talk about a “phone closing ratio”?  No.  And an Internet lead, whether you know it or not, is just another way to get customers on the phone and ultimately into the dealership.  In fact, phone calls outpace Internet leads in most cases by factors of around 7 to 2!  An Internet Closing Ratio is an important number, but realize that—because 90% of your customers are shopping online—the real Internet Closing Ratio is actually your STORE’s closing ratio!  And, finally, speaking of sales:

 

Three Ways an Internet Lead Gets Marked Sold
Here are the three reasons you get a sale attributed to an Internet Lead (in no particular order):

  1. The lead is contacted and replies, an appt. or walk-in results, and a sale occurs
  2. The lead is contacted and doesn’t reply, and the shopper still calls in and/or walks in (for any or all of the “Why’s” listed above!), and a sale occurs.
  3. The lead is never contacted but remains a lead, and the store somehow sells the shopper a car anyway.

 

And it’s the second and/or third “Why” that gets dicey, especially when evaluating Internet Leads for quality and also when Facing Down the Beast OEM who says You Suck compared to other stores in your district.  It’s not really fair to compare dealers deep in a metro area competing with five other dealers to the closing ratio found at an islanded store Where There’s No Other Choice Nearby. 

 

And, no matter a sale is made, it may have nothing to do with the Internet Lead at all:  it’s completely possible that any contact of the customer was never attempted, that emails to the customer were diverted by a SPAM filter, that voicemails and/or messages left for the customer were not listened to, or that the customer just ignored all contact efforts.  AND THAT THE VISIT TO THE STORE JUST HAPPENED ANYWAY FOR ANY OF THE TWO ORIGINAL LEAD SUBMISSION “WHY’S” ABOVE!  And you closed it.

 

And THAT, my friends, is the Whole Earth Internet Lead Catalog.  At least on my earth.  :)

 

P.S. And my respects to Steve Jobs, who is no longer here, except he is--in what is arguably the largest humanitarian, artistic, and technology legacy ever in human history.  Not to mention inspiration!  Thanks Steve.

 

by Keith Shetterly, Copyright 2011

All Rights Reserved, www.keithshetterly.com

keithshetterly@gmail.com

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on October 11, 2011 at 8:57pm
Thanks Tom.  I also wanted to list out, in one page, a way to express every Internet lead.  And I agree with the view that ALL customers are Internet customers!  :)  Nice to see you at DD11, too!
Comment by Tom Gorham on October 11, 2011 at 4:27pm
Thanks Keith.  You've said what's been on my mind for a long time.Almost all sales are Internet sales today.  To my dealer's credit, when I reported our Internet sales recently, he said he considers all sales Internet sales.  The real purpose we serve is "conquest and retention".  What's the purpose in becoming a "Digital Dealer" if you still believe a significant number of your customers don't utilize the Internet?  This is foolishness.  The only question is, "how do you communicate with your customer?"  The answer is... the way the customer prefers.

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