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Campaigning for drastically needed change

Neil Pascale, Columnist
August 6, 2012
Filed under Columns

That loud and lengthy groan you heard coming from the Midwest last night? Right around 10 p.m.? Yeah that was me, stumbling into my first presidential campaign commercial of the season.

It’s like hearing your weatherman mouthing the words “first frost” or your wife calling out, “Don’t forget my mom is coming …” (Separate topic: Is there a connection between the two?)

I will say this, however, the first televised bashing of the November election did awaken some inspiration on my end. My inspired thought? If there was ever an industry White House and I was cajoled to run, here’s what my platform would be: Improve sales by improving our web lead conversion rate.

Yeah, I’ll definitely need to spice up that platform slogan, but let’s face it — we’re awful. The growth of the U.S. economy looks flat out exciting compared to our web lead conversion rate. And the blame can be spread to all corners.

Consumers are expanding their use of the web for all things: shopping for product, reviewing that product to their friends and even purchasing that product. And yet, if you ask an OEM what percentage of their leads are worked by their dealers, the truthful answer is less than 50 percent. No matter what vehicle segment they serve, if they’re tracking web leads they send to their dealers, OEMs are seeing less than one lead worked for every two they forward to their network.

Amazing. And depressing.

Since it’s election season, let’s pass the blame along.

Is the dealer to blame? Often. Is the OEM to blame? Often.

Let’s take the latter first. OEMs that forward a web lead — a consumer who has expressed interest online in a specific unit — to their dealer often do so without thought about the landscape of their dealer network. There has been no industry study that shows how many brands a typical dealer carries, but it’s certainly common for dealers to carry between three and five brands. The largest volume sellers often more than that. And yet, most OEMs force their dealers to come to a specific website to capture the forwarded lead. That means a dealer salesperson who sells five different brands has to log in to five separate accounts to capture their web leads. Per day, every day. Can you imagine trying to access five different accounts several times per day on a busy day while providing a solid customer experience for the walk-ins? Impossible.

And yet, we know our inherent consumer time clock gives that retailer a very small window to respond to our queries. Let’s see,
I haven’t seen a response to my price question e-mail on that 2013 dual sport bike yet, and it has been more than 30 minutes? Time to shop somewhere else, for a different brand.

And let’s not forget the dealer’s role in this.

The majority of dealers either don’t have a lead manager or don’t require their sales team to use one. Why? Well, this vocal majority will tell you this: I have three sales guys for my three brands, and we get maybe five web leads per month from an OEM. So yeah, all totaled, we get maybe 15 leads from all our OEMs. You think my three guys can’t handle 15 leads per month?

OK, you respond. Maybe they can. But what about the other web leads? You know, the ones that don’t come from the OEM. A Traffic Log Pro study of 500 dealers found three-quarters of the web leads a dealer receives don’t come from the OEM, but from the dealer website or other third-party sites, like Cycle Trader. What about those leads, you ask?

Hold on, don’t answer that. Let’s see, your three guys are handling 15 OEM leads plus another 50 web leads. So that’s 65 a month, maybe 15-20 a week. Still workable for three guys? Yeah, probably. But wait, don’t you receive a lot more phone calls than web leads? Yeah, probably double or triple the number of web leads, you say. So of the 150-200 phone and web leads we’re talking about now, how many have they converted into appointments this month? And how does that compare to last month?

Oh, and by the way, of the 65 web leads you’ve received per month over, say, the past six months, how many of those approximately 400 e-mail addresses have you saved in a system that you’re now using for marketing purposes? Because after all, those e-mail addresses might as well be gold, right? I mean a leading Internet marketing author told hundreds of dealers at the recent KTM dealer meeting that they should entice their consumers to give up their e-mail addresses. Give them coupons, give them demo rides, give them anything, but get that precious e-mail address!

And yet, even when customers are willing to give up their e-mail addresses to the OEM and/or the dealer, we’re simply not using that consumer touchpoint opportunity to its fullest extent.

Forget the excuses and campaign rhetoric this fall and concentrate on two things: If you’re an OEM, work with an industry lead manager service to provide your web leads to dealers in one system, rather than forcing the dealer to comb through five different systems to capture five different leads. And by the way, one industry OEM has been doing this for years and not surprisingly has been breaking revenue records in a soft economy.

If you’re a dealer, give up the notion that your sales team, however small, can accurately handle, track, convert and then market to all of your leads by using a pen and a yellow pad of paper. The math doesn’t add up, and neither will your sales.

Neil Pascale is the business development manager for Dominion Powersports, the parent company of Dominion Insights, PowerSports Network, Cycle Trader, Traffic Log Pro and Ziios. He can be reached at neil.pascale@dominionpowersports.com.

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