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Why Every Dealership Should Have A Giant Inflatable Gorilla

One of the challenges that dealers and managers face when analyzing their marketing budgets is sourcing traffic.

Do you find anomalies in your sources when reviewing the sourcing of your store’s traffic?

Is every customer being reported in your CRM as generated via a Walk-in, Billboard, Auto Mall or AAA? 

AAA sounds great until you realize you don’t even have a program with AAA. So you take that source off and the first one becomes “Auto Mall.” And guess where most of your traffic comes from the next month…. You got it, the Auto Mall.


Dealerships have powerful resources available that, if used properly, can help them better manage their marketing dollars and use that money more effectively. Garbage in, garbage out, however. 


Wise dealerships have processes in place designed to source clients. Most will ask this question during the initial customer interview on first contact as part of the salesperson’s “Meet and Greet,” while others do it in the box during the initial write up. Some dealers also do this while the customer is in finance as well.  Quite a few dealerships, however, neglect to integrate this into multiple touch-points.


A customer may not want to reveal what brought them into the dealership because they had a poor experience with their first contact and are afraid they will get immediately ushered straight back to that person (which is often what happens). Maybe they didn’t get the answers they wanted to hear from the first person (i.e.: the price was firm, etc.). Regardless of why the customer doesn’t want to be honest, getting accurate information out of them is imperative in analyzing the effectiveness of your marketing budget. The reality is that what most customers report to the salesperson is different from what they report to the finance manager. Most dealerships will assume that the source reported in the finance department is most accurate since the customer has successfully completed a transaction and is less likely to have motivation to hide what originally brought them into the dealership. The purpose of multiple touch points and effective software is to increase the likelihood that credit for the traffic generation is accurately given to the proper source. If you don’t know the source, you won’t be able to analyze which of your marketing is effective.


Whether you actually have a giant inflatable gorilla or wavy tube guy as part of the décor of your dealership or not, I challenge you to add one (or both) to your CRM as sources. If you actually have one, install that. Don’t tell anyone; just add it as a source. Then sit back and watch what happens. It’s Interesting but a recent study conducted by Performance Loyalty Group indicated the majority of dealer customers were sourced simply from drive by traffic, and in some cases it was as high as 40%. It may be noted that none of the survey participants have an inflatable gorilla.


I guarantee you that you’ll start seeing customer traffic from the “giant inflatable gorilla,” regardless of if you actually have one or not. And this is a problem. How can you truly analyze your marketing spend without accurate results? Sure, Internet and some other types of leads go straight into your CRM so you know those are accurate. But I am sure that you also get plenty of showroom traffic that you may, or may not know the correct source for. Was it your website? Was it your radio ad?


You need to know this. Your software & database can be a more powerful tool for your store if you put timely and accurate information in it. It can help you truly analyze where your money is spent and can even help save you money by identifying poorly performing vendors. The use of unique call-tracking numbers in all of your marketing is also valuable in sourcing and is recommended for all of your marketing including traditional and online efforts.


Despite all of the software and uses of technology to assist in proper sourcing, you have to rely on your people to do their job and get you the right information. In the end, it will help you better manage your marketing dollars which, as a result, will help increase sales by making your marketing more effective. Salespeople are afraid to ask customers because they fear the dreaded “half-deal.” Their biggest fear is that they’ll have worked with a customer for hours and be right on the cusp of making a sale.  But then the customer says they submitted a lead on the Internet, or spoke to someone on the phone. They’d rather not ask and, if this were the case, they’d prefer that someone else discover it. 


In these cases, there exists “plausible deniability” for the salesperson. If the customer has never been in contact with anyone at the dealership or, if they have been and it goes unnoticed, they stand to get the whole deal. If someone does notice, they can truthfully deny knowledge of the customer’s previous interactions with your store. They still lose half the deal (potentially) but the opportunity to keep the whole deal is too tempting.


For this reason, you need to make sure that you have as many ways and as many opportunities as possible to properly source your marketing. If technology doesn’t accomplish this, make sure that customers are asked multiple times, by multiple people during different parts of the sales or service process. While the customer may not want to disclose where they came from in the beginning for reasons I’ve mentioned, once a deal is closed and they are in finance, they may be more willing to share accurate information.


This fear of “half-deals” is costing you money. You have software in your store to manage your customer relations and track activity. It also helps you make decisions that can cost (or save) you tens of thousands of dollars. Install processes in your store that mandate accurate sourcing from your salespeople and enforce them with real consequences.


If you don’t, you’ll probably find that a giant inflatable gorilla brings you quite a bit of floor traffic… even if you don’t have one.

Views: 318

Tags: CRM, accuracy, automotive, budget, customer, gorilla, marketing, sales, sources


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Comment by Brian Bennington on January 12, 2014 at 8:29pm

Mike, Reviewing my post, which I should have done before saving, I inadvertently called you "Tom" in the last paragraph.  Please forgive my mistake, but it could have been worse. I could have called you Rebecca! 

Comment by Brian Bennington on January 11, 2014 at 5:50pm

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Ahhh, sourcing....  Well Mike, you've certainly hit on a topic that every dealership should take more seriously.  I've worked at and with dealerships for over 25 years and have yet to see a management team dedicated to it as much as they should be.  And, when management isn't that interested in something, the discipline involved to make it work effectively isn't practiced, thus, the "gorilla" gets credit.

I'd attribute the disinterest in it to reps who haven't been taught to incorporate discovering it in their "meet, greet and qualification," to sales managers who don't demand it on the write-up, to finance managers who, because they aren't paid on it, treat it as an afterthought, to the decision makers who "inherently" already know what works in their store and will disregard "new info" if they don't "inherently" agree with it.

Because I've always believed it's one of the three most important things to find out upfront from a customer, I'm dumfounded by the general lack of interest in it.  I hate war stories, but I'll never forget a "walk-in" telling me, when I casually asked him what brought him into our store to look over the new Lexus coupe he was admiring, that he'd just won the lottery!  He then proudly displayed the state lottery letter confirming it.  ( about eliminating the discount question!)  This is just one in about a zillion times sourcing played a key role in guiding my sales strategy.  When I did finance, if the customer came in because a family member or friend bought from us, I'd quickly look them up to see what they purchased in finance, so I could use it to reinforce my presentation to the new customer.

As for the 1/2 deal problems, I see it from management's view, in that who cares who gets credit for it as long as it's sold.  (Really, a smart rep will find out what management requires to keep them on the deal and then do it.)  As to marketing sourcing, how many dealers keep an organized record (database, spreadsheet, sample album, files, etc.) of their past marketing and promotions tracking what's worked and what hasn't?  As to "Garbage in, garbage out," accurate sourcing is the tip of the iceberg.

Talking with IT at a big high line California dealership recently, I was informed that they "thought" they had co-buyer info, but didn't think it important to maintain and utilize.  That means that any future dealership contact will only be addressed to the buyer.  How do you think that goes over with a wife (co-buyer) who wanted the car, was instrumental in making the decision, will be the driver, and whose husband (buyer) was only there to sign the papers?  While that's a somewhat extreme and, of course, customer relationship-damaging example, more commonly missing is title info (Mr., Mrs., Ms, Dr., etc) and/or even an indicator (M/F) of gender.  (This is data that if the dealership doesn't keep, the rep should.) 

Hey Tom, see what a can of worms you've opened?  If you ever do figure out a way to shed light on this that dealers actually buy into, that'd make a great post!                      

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