4 Best Practices to Engage Auto Sales Leads

September 11, 2020 John Kehm

Dealership best practices for engaging auto sales leads have evolved over the years to keep pace with changing automotive consumer preferences and marketplace conditions. With each advance in technology or shift in the market, the best practices in automobile dealerships have kept pace as dealers innovated to close sales and build customer relationships better, faster and more efficiently than their competitors.

That remains true today, as broad trends have unexpectedly accelerated, and consumer needs have suddenly shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors in play. While the fundamentals of the automotive business remain the same, many dealership best practices for identifying and engaging prospective customers are changing – with dealers discovering the key to generating auto sales leads is to identify prospective buyers early in their car buying journey – or better, before it even begins.  

In this post, we look at four valuable auto dealership best practices for engaging auto leads in a rapidly changing marketplace to stay ahead of the competition, including:

  • Powering your outreach analytics with high-quality data
  • Analyzing your local market for opportunities
  • Maximizing your dealership’s virtual retailing process 
  • Proactively engaging loyalty and service conquest customers

Start With Quality Data

The past year has been marked by incredible volatility, impacting the finances of everyone from OEMs to buyers and driving major change in consumer buying habits. In fact, a recent automotive industry survey found one-third of customers intend on spending less on their next vehicle as a result of COVID-19. 

If your audience’s finances and buying preferences are changing, does your auto dealership’s data reflect that? When it comes to the quality of the data your analytics are using to generate auto sales leads, remember the old computer industry saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.” 

Low-quality data generates low-quality analytics insights, low-quality analytics insights create low-quality auto sales leads and low-quality leads cost you time, money and profits. There’s real money at stake: Gartner estimates that bad data costs the average organization it surveyed $15 million a year, in everything from wasted time to increased risk to decreased consumer confidence.

With increased competition and thinning margins, access to reliable data offers auto dealers an invaluable competitive advantage – especially when their competitors don’t have access to that same data. For example, Market EyeQ incorporates high-quality proprietary data from partners such as IHS Markit, TransUnion and CARFAX, with information from our dealer partners’ own DMS and CRM data, giving them a comprehensive look at the local market – something their competitors simply don’t have. As a result, our auto dealer partners report gaining up to 15 incremental deals per month, on average.

Pay Close Attention to Your Local Market

It’s always been important for a dealer to pay attention to what’s going on in the world outside their walls, but that’s arguably never been truer than right now. While this is certainly the time to search out the latest information about big picture automotive industry trends, consumer sentiment and other relevant information on a monthly or even weekly basis, it’s equally as critical that dealers monitor their local market for changing buying behaviors – and potential opportunities to attract auto sales leads. 

According to IHS Markit’s review of U.S. registration data, the automotive shopper mix is different in 2020 than it was a year ago. Compared to 2019, characteristics of 2020 car shoppers who are back in the market so far this year are:

  • More likely than they were to own a light truck, with pickups being the most popular body style overall
  • More likely to buy domestic
  • More concentrated in small towns and rural areas
  • Older
  • More likely to purchase than lease

Do you know which makes and models are popular right now in your unique, local market? By analyzing their local market and ensuring their available inventory mix reflects changing consumer behaviors, dealers can create a more welcoming environment for auto sales leads, paving the way for an exceptional customer experience from that very first touchpoint. 

This approach to engaging auto leads is especially impactful in today’s market where an increasing number of consumers are now considering both new and pre-owned options. Edmunds reports 29% of current new vehicle buyers are also considering used – a 5% increase in just a few months. By taking a comprehensive look at their local market, dealers can both create an attractive inventory and engage prospective buyers more effectively by matching them to the vehicle they’re most likely to purchase – whether that’s new or used.

Deliver the Sales Experience Customers Want

Consumers haven’t just changed which vehicles they’re shopping for – they’re also changing how they’re shopping. According to a recent study, more than 75% of Americans have tried new shopping methods, brands or places during the pandemic, and at least 60% have the intention of sticking with them in the long term. 

Online,  auto dealers aren’t just competing with local competitors or even other dealers – they’re competing with the estimated 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements the average American sees each day.

To both stand out among the noise and deliver the new experience buyers have come to expect, it’s critical dealers take a data-driven approach to their conquest marketing strategy. This goes beyond utilizing the right marketing channels. Rather, by leveraging predictive dealership marketing tools dealers can ensure they’re both targeting the right prospects and delivering the right message at the right time and in the format predicted to convert those prospects into buyers.  

Another notable trend is the rise of mobile online shopping: Comscore reports that in the first half of 2020, almost twice as many online automotive shoppers were on mobile devices than on desktop computers. 

Is your automotive dealership’s virtual retailing process optimized for mobile shoppers as opposed to desktop users? Is your BDC taking advantage of text and other forms of mobile communication? Now is the time to ensure you’re maximizing your dealership’s virtual retailing process to take advantage of every sales opportunity. 

Drive Auto Leads With Dealership Loyalty & Fixed Ops

Dealers have long understood the best auto sales leads are the ones you create, rather than discover. Loyalty sales are the most profitable thanks to the low cost of customer acquisition and pose a valuable opportunity for dealers to be proactive in identifying and engaging auto sales leads. 

Like conquest auto sales, predictive analytics combined with personalized marketing solutions are one powerful answer for how to generate and engage loyalty leads in an efficient and profitable manner. 

For example, according to IHS Markit, more than 3 million leases will expire before the end of 2020. Predictive analytics allow dealers to not only identify prospects coming up on lease-end, but also those whose vehicles will likely qualify for factory certified pre-owned status, offering dealers additional revenue opportunities, including F&I reserves, upsells and initiation fees.

Another long-time dealership best practice, service conquest can also be taken to another level with predictive analytics and personalized marketing solutions. The combination of high-quality third-party data with a dealership’s own internal DMS and CRM information and insight into a service customer’s existing vehicle turns service conquest into an increasingly powerful generator of auto sales leads – as well as a source of trade-ins to profitably fill used vehicle inventory. Using this data-driven approach, Mastermind’s dealer partners convert service customers into new car buyers at 4x the rate of competitors. 

 

To learn more about how Mastermind’s sales and marketing tools can help your auto dealership generate and engage auto sales leads ahead of the competition, contact us for a free demo.

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