Since the 11th Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas – a place where progressive dealers and managers will be learning some very cool and very cutting-edge strategies and tactics – was last week, I thought it would be appropriate if I delved into the uncool and old-fashioned world of proper lead management.
It all started when I was reviewing a mystery shop I completed for a 20 group the other day, and I was floored when I noticed the following e-mail among the responses:
Subject: Penny for your Thoughts
In an effort to better serve you, here is a penny for your thoughts.
Please let me know if you:
___ are still in the market for the 2011 Honda Accord and would like to receive further information.
___ might be interested in a certified pre-owned vehicle.
___ are currently in contact with another dealership.
___ have purchased a vehicle from our dealership and would like to be on our weekly sales and service specials e-mails.
___ have purchased a Honda Accord elsewhere due to price or distance.
___ have purchased a different vehicle and do not need further information.
___ are no longer in the market at this time.
Thanks for accepting my e-mail,
Not surprisingly, this e-mail was delivered to my junk/spam folder (along with about half of the other e-mails from this round of mystery shops).
There was a penny graphic in the e-mail that was a GIF (graphics interchange format) with animation. The penny, you see, appears to be “walking” on the page. How quaint, and how 2001. This e-mail and its countless variations have been used by car dealers for far too long; and when it was first introduced by some forward-thinker years ago, it was probably pretty impressive for consumers to see an animated image in their e-mail (if the e-mail made it through the spam filters).
Today, this e-mail is a joke. Since its introduction, both dealers and consumers have grown more knowledgeable and sophisticated regarding online commerce, and by using an outdated e-mail template, this dealer is just begging to be ignored.
Are your e-mail templates a joke?
Just as today’s online consumers are not impressed by these antiquated e-mails, they’re also not fooled by the overly-elaborate e-mail templates that are intended to appear as if written especially for them, but are actually automated messages firing to everyone and their brother in the middle of the night. In 2001, it was okay for dealers to send silly or untargeted templated e-mails – because they were probably the only dealer responding to a specific lead. Today, consumers receive responses from enough dealers that you must cut through the clutter or you will be eliminated. There are too many dealers doing at least a marginal job at this whole Internet-sales-follow-up-thing for you to be successful if you are just marginal.
As we learned in the 2011 Automotive Internet Study and the Role of Independent Internet Leads, quality of lead response is the most important factor for dealers to guarantee Internet sales success. For the successful dealers in the study, quality responses are what have set them apart from their competition and what have kept them from being eliminated early in the process.
Interestingly, most Internet managers still seem more occupied with managing their Facebook pages than they do securing sales from the leads they’re already receiving. In fact, I just learned about a dealer who spends hours a day and thousands of dollars a month on their social media pursuits. Admittedly, the dealer says they’ve never sold a car to anyone because of social media, though that doesn’t stop them from plugging away. (As an FYI, this dealer has just a few Google reviews online, no staff pages created and only two used car specials on their website. When I learned about their expensive Facebook strategy, I submitted an e-mail lead from their website to see how well they responded. As expected, their focus is completely misplaced and their response to my request was well below marginal.)
Are your e-mail templates FUSSE?
Last month, my Digital Dealer magazine article “Digital Marketing Independence – Growing First Party Leads,” focused on how to give your web site the proper facelift to drive more first-party leads. This month, I want you to turn your plastic surgery skills toward your follow-up e-mails so you can sell more of those first-party leads. It’s time to take your e-mail templates and make them FUSSE (fuhs-ee).
The problems with the “Penny for your Thoughts” and similar e-mails you are sending today is that: (a) they don’t appear as if they were written especially for the prospect and (b) they don’t create any sense in the prospect that an action is required.
In other words, your e-mail templates are ineffective. You are better off sending no e-mail than a bad e-mail.
Just so we are all on the same page, the templated e-mails I’m writing about here are those that are intended for a prospect with whom we’ve not reconnected. In other words, these e-mails are not meant for buyers with whom we are having a dialogue, but rather those who submit leads, but never seem to answer their e-mails or call us back. Because of this, it’s important to understand that these e-mail templates have one goal: Compel a prospect to reconnect. Nothing more, nothing less. This is where FUSSE e-mails come in.
Every e-mail you send to a nonresponsive prospect must convey some covert (or overt) message that creates a sense of Fear (F), Urgency (U), Scarcity (S), Shame (S) or Excitement (E). As I wrote: your e-mails must be FUSSE.
Fear – Used correctly, fear e-mails can both motivate and educate your prospect. For example, if 30 days after submitting an online trade appraisal a prospect is still not responding to your messages, sending them an e-mail that explains the realities of replacing a vehicle versus repairing a vehicle might educate them as to the risks they’re taking by not upgrading to a new car with a warranty, while at the same time motivating them to set an appointment.
Urgency – One of the easiest messages for dealers to convey to any prospect is urgency. As car dealers, we live in a 30-day world and all of our current incentives are set to expire at the end of the month, right? For any new car prospect in your database that isn’t responding, a well-written template explaining that the current incentives will expire at the end of this month just might create the necessary sense of urgency to get them to respond to your team.
Scarcity – There is a truth in our industry about every used car: That is, each one is unique and there is only one. This truth helps you and your team create a sense of scarcity in every pre-owned unit you have in stock; and it’s important to convey this in your e-mail templates to nonresponsive used car prospects. Additionally, every dealer has new models and/or trim levels that are (at various times and for a multitude of reasons) scarce. Conveying a sense of scarcity in your new car price quote responses goes a long way toward driving up your closing ratios.
Shame – As shameful as it sounds, e-mail templates that shame a nonresponsive prospect into responding are my absolute favorite. Generally appropriate for use at least a week after the initial lead was received, well-written e-mails that make a prospect feel bad for their nonresponsive behavior are pure gold for eliciting not only a response, but a humble and apologetic one at that. Shame e-mails usually include a message similar to: “It must be me. While I’ve tried very hard to make sure you have all the information you need about why buying a car from ABC Motors is a great decision, I haven’t been successful at getting you to reply to my messages. Because I don’t want you to miss out on a great deal or the experience of buying from us, I would like to turn your file over to another customer service manager, if that’s okay with you. It’s been my pleasure to assist you thus far, but please let me know your thoughts so I might transfer your file.” Shameless.
Excitement – Probably the easiest message to write and yet the least used tactic by dealers, e-mails that are intended to congratulate and excite a prospect on their interest in a specific vehicle should be part of your regular follow-up to everyone. There is a good reason that dealers don’t do a good job of creating excitement with a prospect, and it’s all in the math.
If your dealership sells 140 units a month, then over the course of three years you retail more than 5,000 vehicles. During that same period, the average car buyer purchases just one car. This means that something that is completely routine for you can be a life-changing and stressful activity for the average buyer. Your messaging should convey a congratulatory tone filled with excitement for the prospect. Additionally, every e-mail you send to nonresponsive prospects should work to rekindle their “new car fever” by keeping the process as exciting as possible.
Sounds like a lot of work, Steve!
Well, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
In all seriousness, it really doesn’t require much work to rewrite your e-mail templates if you take a methodical approach to the effort. First, you should mystery shop every “successful” dealer you’ve ever heard about (hint: some of them have been featured on the covers of this very magazine), and “borrow” some of their better FUSSE e-mails to use as guidelines. Next, I would set a schedule to review and rewrite (if necessary) at least one e-mail template each week; being careful to ensure each e-mail is FUSSE (that is, does each e-mail convey at least one of the following messages: fear, urgency, scarcity, shame or excitement?). By taking this approach, you’ll have time to implement all the cool and cutting-edge strategies and tactics you learned at 11th Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition, plus have all of your templates in order before 12th Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition.