Black Book® Online (www.blackbookonline.com), based in Boca Raton, FL, pioneered the online vehicle trade-in valuation industry, creating the most effective sales leads in North America. With the launch of Activator Complete™ in April 2011, Black Book Online now provides automotive shoppers with an instant and accurate credit score estimate along with a trade-in value range. Combined, these tools offer the highest quality sales lead available and represent the “Super Lead” for dealers and OEMs.
It’s not news that selling new and used cars to the general public has been transformed in the last 15 years by the advent of the Internet. With approximately 90 percent of car buyers doing their research online, 20 to 50 percent of all dealer sales now come in through leads from the Internet.
But what’s really amazing is that so few dealerships have optimized their operations to fully take advantage of what could be their greatest source of sales leads.
What do we mean?
Consider this question: Whose sales leads do you trust most? Leads bought from third parties, from the OEM or leads that come directly from your own web site?
Industry expert, Ray Fenster of RayFenster.com, LLC asked this question to dealers and the results were as follows:
- 17 percent rated leads purchased from third parties as “excellent;”
- Manufacturer leads score a bit better at 23 percent rating “excellent;” but
- Leads from dealers’ own web sites were rated “excellent” 40 percent of the time.
With this fundamental truth in mind, Black Book Online set out several years ago to convert Internet traffic and leads into showroom traffic and sales.
Its mission: Improve the auto buying process by bringing customers and dealers together through an online experience that’s friendly, informative and empowering.
That’s the what. Here’s the how:
Starting with what Black Book is known best for in the industry—collecting real-time wholesale pricing data from auctions all around the country. Black Book knows day-to-day, month-to-month, what the wholesale price of vehicles really are around the country (they are physically in the lanes of more than 50 auctions every week, no one else is remotely close).
These real-time wholesale prices are used as the basis for Black Book Online’s trade-in valuation tool, known as Trade-In Activator. Dealers and OEMs who use Activator offer customers a convenient, easy-to-use tool that gives conservative trade-in values for their cars for free in exchange for contact information. In doing so, the sales lead is developed on the dealer’s or OEM’s web site.
The fact that these real time wholesale prices are up-to-date and accurate is a bigger deal than one might suspect; with accurate data, customers coming into the dealer’s showroom are far less likely to be disappointed.
Today, Black Book Online’s products are on over 7,000 web sites and the overwhelming majority of OEMs and large dealer groups. Black Book Online generates more than 2.5 million, high quality leads every year. Dealers—and consumers—get timely, accurate and independent information. With car shoppers increasingly relying on the internet to shop for cars, these services are becoming more valuable in the sales process.
So what’s next?
Enter ‘The Super Lead’
Black Book Online knew it couldn’t stand still in a quick moving market. Sure, trade-in was—and remains—the best tool available for actionable, high-conversion leads. Buyers want trade-in values (along with inventory and pricing information), but there was a big piece missing, a final brick to be removed in the wall standing between potential buyers and the dealers. That brick was credit.
According to a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Black Book Online, nine out of 10 (91 percent) car buyers say that the information provided by car dealerships should be both more complete and more accurate, and 77 percent of financing car buyers think it is important to know their credit score when buying a car. Findings from the study also showed that most car buyers say it is important to know one’s credit score before buying a car. However, about 12 million U.S. adults who plan to buy a car in the next year say an unexpected credit score has stopped them from completing a car purchase. The survey was conducted online among a national sample of 1,063 adults 18 and over who indicate that they are at least somewhat likely to buy a car in the next 12 months.
Most people know that their credit scores will affect their ability to purchase, and what kind of rate they could get, but they also know that repeatedly checking their credit score, either using agencies (which require sensitive information such as social security numbers) or onsite at dealers, paradoxically hurts their score.
To overcome this dilemma, Black Book Online created a credit estimator product called Credit Activator, which gives consumers an estimated credit score range without asking them to divulge sensitive information such as their social security number or date of birth.
Customers are asked 12 questions online, and are instantly given a very narrow credit score range estimate that can help them in their buying process. Dealers, in return, get very accurate credit estimates on sales leads, along with contact information that allows salespeople to follow up.
Customers that fully engage with the tool provide their contact information for direct interaction with their local dealer. This, in turn, creates a “super lead” for dealers, collecting information critical to the sales process including make and model of the vehicle the consumer is interested in, their trade-in value and an estimate of a consumer’s credit score.
Before a financing offer is extended to a customer the dealer conducts a credit review process, which includes an independent credit check.
For a demonstration of the credit score estimator engine, please visit http://www.blackbookcreditscore.com/.
Dealers know the result…
“With car buyers doing their research prior to visiting our dealership, they come in more informed and ready to buy,” said Butch Watson of Chuck Fairbanks Chevrolet, a dealer from the Credit Activator pilot program. “It is a definite value-add to our business.”
Mike Maher of Weber Chevrolet in Missouri is seeing more than five leads a day using Credit Activator. “Dealership sales managers need to make the best use of their time and resources, which is why we often rely on leads from several sources. But, they have to be the right leads,” Maher said. “By using this new product, we have received 65 leads and sold six cars to date. It helps us by directing low-funnel, in-market consumers to us. This is a great product for your internet department’s tool box.”
When dealers combine the trade in estimate with the credit estimator, it creates a lead that results in the highest conversion rate in the industry, bar none.
For more information or to schedule a demonstration, please contact Jerry Petrotto at jerry.petrotto(at)blackbookonline.com or 561-544-1488.
President, Black Book Online
Mike McFall is the president of Black Book Online. In his role, McFall is responsible for company leadership, business strategy and overall growth. Since the 2000 launch, the business has grown to include more than 3,000 customers including franchise dealers and OEMs.
Previously, McFall held positions at AutoNation and GMAC, where he led marketing strategy, product and internet platform development. He innovated the first online credit application process while at GMAC.
Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Black Book Online
Art DeLaurier is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Black Book Online. His background in technology, management and business strategy coupled with his contacts in the automotive industry and the national e-Commerce arena help to create numerous opportunities to attract new customers and drive substantial growth of Black Book Online.
DeLaurier was previously the vice president of e-Commerce Technology at AutoNation. There, he helped to build an e-Commerce business strategy that set a standard most other major auto retailers now follow. Prior to that, he led several business technology initiatives for some of the most high profile brands such as Blockbuster Video, Pillsbury, Burger King and Eastern Airlines.
Dianne DeLaurier, Vice President of Product Management
Jerry Petrotto, Vice President, Dealer Sales
Lisa Carter, Senior Director of Dealer Support
Jim Coker, Marketing Director