Table of Contents
Automotive manufacturers are developing more immersive digital offerings to attract and
convert the 90% of potential auto buyers who begin their new vehicle purchase with online
research. It’s imperative that auto dealerships follow the lead of these consumers by
connecting with—and motivating—those people to visit their showrooms and buy their next
In order to achieve continuous momentum for sales cycles, dealerships need web solutions
and tools that enable them to interact with auto buyers online in the most dynamic manner
possible, or risk losing them with a static informational push that doesn’t engage them
personally. The number and variety of vendor solutions can make the process of improving
online success confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. By developing an online marketing
strategy based on the Internet Trilogy of Interactivity, Intelligence, and Impact, dealerships
can get the best results for their investment.
The Internet Trilogy keeps dealer ISMs focused on reaping the technology benefits available
today, as well as positioning them for future industry developments so that they never miss a
step. The new rules for building online relationships that improve revenue generation from
Internet programs are based on three fundamentals:
Interactivity, Intelligence and Impact.
Consumers today want to control the buying process. They want to be dealt with on their
terms. The Internet has drastically shifted the way people access and use information,
pushing salespeople to the back-end of the process. Until a buyer is ready to raise their hand
and interact with your website, it’s possible you’ll never know they’re even considering
purchasing a vehicle. Achieving this interactivity is a critical fundamental for every single
online initiative a dealership undertakes.
People want to be educated via an experience that’s enjoyable. They want to feel
comfortable with their decisions—the higher the level of financial investment, the more
critical this level of comfort becomes. This means they want to learn what they need to
know to make a choice that works for them, how to evaluate their options and which
alternatives are available. Finally, buyers want to feel certain that their personal image will be
maintained or, even better, improved.
In this first section of The Internet Trilogy series, we’ll explore the Interactivity
fundamental. We’ll discuss:
• The difference between static and dynamic website experiences and how this is
affected by the roles and applications online incentives play.
• The importance of and opportunities to reach beyond your buyers’ initial attention
to generate engagement.
• How to put incentives and engagement together to drive conversions.
The concept of interactivity is indicative of two-way dialogue. The purpose of your website has
changed from an informational push to a relevance pull for your potential buyers. One of the
biggest challenges for today’s auto dealerships is that they have to re-orient themselves to the
buyer being in control of the conversation.
Your dealership website is the starting point for online engagement. People are used to clicking
from site to site, and if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll move on to another
search term or another website. Your website solution and tools should be flexible and be easy
to update so that you can continuously improve your content.
The interactivity fundamental focuses on using incentives, engagement and conversions in your
An incentive works in concert with the buyer’s belief about the benefit they’ll receive from
taking advantage of a call to action.
An incentive is an explicit or implicit promise made by your dealership. An explicit promise
may be a coupon that offers a website visitor something they find valuable in exchange for
their contact information. In addition to a monetary inducement, an incentive could be a
Every single page on your
website should have a call
more implicit promise like a quick turn-around of a credit application, or an immediate
valuation of a trade-in. In its most basic form, this is a concrete offer – save $250 dollars off
the price—or something similar that the prospect values enough to provide his or her
When evaluating the incentives your website uses to generate interactive activity, assess how
easy they are to understand, and make sure you actually deliver what you’re promising.
Call to Action
A “Call to Action” is simply a visual cue (a button, a link, a phone number, a form, etc) on a
website page, in an email, or a part of other marketing efforts to which you want your
customer respond. For instance, on a vehicle details page, you want a customer to call the
phone number for your dealership, submit a contact form, or search for another vehicle. Its
important that every single page on your website has a call to action and that you understand
why you want your customer to take that action.
To clarify, calls to action don’t necessarily mean form submissions. They could be “Watch
This Video,” “Click to Look at Features,” “Find Out About Financing,” or “See Our
It’s important for you to ensure that your website content motivates your visitors to interact
with it and that when they do, that it provides the content they expect. If they land on your
site on an internal page, it should be immediately clear why they’re there.
In a buyer-controlled process, your dealership is only as good as the last impression you
make with a potential buyer. Your website must set and deliver on your potential buyers’
expectations. That means that all of your incentives must exist seamlessly within the content
on your website. They should feel like a natural extension to whatever your website visitor is
involved in doing when they are asked to take action.
Consider the following content on your website:
• Links – What will they get when they click on the wording in hyperlinks or on
buttons? Are the descriptions leading to them clear?
• Web Page Objectives – Evaluate the purpose of each page and its incentives
around calls to action. Are they consistent?
• Coupon Offers—Do the offers you’re making match your customer profiles? Are
they meaningful? For example, a $250 cash incentive will not sway a luxury car buyer,
but would entice a first-time, or sub-prime, buyer for an entry-level vehicle.
• Specials Pages—Specials pages are some of the most visited pages after your
inventory pages. Maintaining these pages with up-to-date manufacturer and
dealership incentive offers should be a key focus. Pay attention to the vehicles
getting the most attention on your website. Can you create a related special that stirs
motivation for a showroom visit?
• Contact Forms—Evaluate your forms. Do you actually need all the information
you’re asking for or can you eliminate fields in the form to increase completion rate
and then gather this data via email or a phone call? Is what you’re offering in return
spelled out and positioned to be a worthwhile exchange for the customer?
• Finance Applications—Have you made it clear what they can expect after they fill
out the credit application? Will they be contacted by email or by phone? How long
will it take? What’s the expected benefit of taking action? Is your application process
Incentives come in many forms and will differ in effectiveness based on the buying stage of
your website visitors. You need to think creatively and leverage unexpected incentives to
motivate your website visitors and prospects to take incremental actions. Here’s a hint: not
all effective incentives are not about financial gain. Buying is a process. Creating an
incentive strategy that pulls your potential customers forward one step at a time will deliver
consistent improvement in Internet-related revenue generation.
Engagement is the ability for your online showroom to capture a website visitor’s initial
attention, and then extend their interaction with your dealership by providing information
they want via an experience they enjoy.
You’ve probably heard the word “sticky” used in relationship to website properties. Sticky
refers to the likelihood that your prospects will not only visit your website and interact with the
content, but then will also return to the website and eventually go to your dealership as they
move through the buying process.
A recent study conducted by R.L. Polk & Co. found that 38% of car buyers completed the
purchase from beginning-to-end in one month. This means that your website needs to quickly
“stick” your buyers by providing the content and information they need. Your dealership
website has engaged the prospective buyer when the experience on your website is compelling
enough to become the standard that all other online research efforts are compared against.
But it’s not just about the information; it’s about how you present it. Widgets, video, virtual
assistants, your website’s layout and the ease of navigation paths are all examples of
engagement components. The more involved your visitors become, the higher their
engagement. Think about how you can improve the experience your potential buyers have
38% of car buyers completed
the purchase from
end-to-end in one month
while building their next car, completing a credit app, or heightening their emotional
attachment to that smooth ride they’re eyeing via video.
While engagement begins with an incentive or other website activity, whether its extended is
dependent on your follow-up actions. If you promise a prompt response to a contact form,
but don’t actually call them until the next day, you’ve broken your promise and diminished
their level of active engagement with you.
The following components of your website are keys to engagement:
• Graphics – Do graphics outweigh other content? For example, if a button is not big
enough for your visitor to notice, they may not take the most important Call to
Action on the page. Are any people in your graphics markedly different from your
• Widgets—Widgets are plug-and-play modules that help your visitors interact with
your website. Examples include a video player, synchronized image rotation, virtual
assistant, specials scrollers, and quick navigation. The beauty of widgets is that they
can be adjusted and moved as you evaluate their effectiveness.
• Content – Consider the words you use on your website, how your visitors will
interpret them, and the overall style and tone of the website. Is your content generic
or designed with specific relevance for your customer base? Does it appeal to your
dealership’s target buyer segments, or is it for a general audience? The way you
present your content provides a prime opportunity to differentiate your dealership
from your competitors.
• Uniqueness—Do you offer your website visitors something they cannot get
elsewhere or display your content in a more accessible format than they’d find on a
competitor’s website? Is your credit application presented in easy, modular steps
when other dealers use one comprehensive page that overwhelms buyers?
In order to increase the engagement necessary for lead conversions, it’s imperative that your
content do more than sit there on your web page. People researching their next vehicle
purchase online are presented with a growing array of informational options to choose from,
so the words you choose and the interactive options available will contribute to your
dealership’s ability to build engagement that motivates these buyers to take the next step and
visit your showroom.
A conversion is the act of a prospective buyer taking a prescribed step forward in their vehicle
purchase process with you.
No matter what else you do in online marketing, if you’re not getting your web traffic to convert
to leads for your dealership that then convert to revenue-generating customers, you’re in trouble.
To get the best results, you’ve got to break this over-arching goal down into manageable
objectives you can both measure and manage for incremental improvements. Conversions
happen every time a potential buyer takes a step forward in their buying process with your
dealership. The cumulative process of these steps is your sales conversion funnel.
At the top of the sales conversion funnel is the process of your potential buyers finding you.
The two most common ways that this happens are through search engines and 3rd party
website listings or advertisements. Once a prospect has arrived on your site, it’s your
website’s job to motivate them to take the next step and incent them to reach out to your
dealership by providing some contact information and become a lead in the conversion
Once the potential buyer has transitioned from an anonymous website visitor to an
identified lead, the focus is on getting them to come to your dealership and drive the vehicle.
Conversion is king—both on
the Web and in the
Unless your site supports online sales, the primary purpose of your website in the new car
sales process is to generate leads for your sales team.
When your prospective customer arrives at your showroom the focus shifts to the more
traditional in-store sales process. Once they’ve taken a test drive and their interest level has
escalated, the focus shifts once more to closing the sale.
Each of the steps in the sales process is a micro-conversion. The less time buyers spend in-
between these micro-conversions, the shorter your sales cycle. The less leakage from the
process you employ to move prospective buyers through those conversions, the higher your
As an Internet marketing professional, you may not control the conversion funnel once the
buyer takes an in-store visit, but you need to track the entire conversion cycle in order to
understand the quality of leads you’re providing to your sales team.
If the in-store visits that your online marketing process is driving are not quality leads, then
it’s like trying to fill a bucket that has a big hole—putting more water in faster will still not
fill the bucket. The same is true with each step of your conversion cycle. If just one of the
steps is broken, the entire conversion funnel will be affected. You need to pinpoint the
leakage in your funnel to maximize its effectiveness.
Analyze and optimize each step in your conversion cycle:
• Search Engine Optimization – Make sure your title tags, keyword phrases and
meta descriptions are as effective as possible to ensure your website can be found.
• Website Interactions – Are there enough interactive opportunities and calls to
action? How clear are they?
• Navigational Preferences – Your high-value content needs to be as easy to find as
• Form Expectations – Is it clear to visitors what will happen after completing a Call
to Action? What are the benefits for doing so? Is this clear?
• Response to Inquiries – These need to be prompt and worthwhile for the reader.
Are you sending what was promised? Are they personalized? Are there links back to
• Appointment Setting – Whether done via email, online, or on the phone, make
sure the process is easy for the customer and gets confirmed through the medium it
• Test Drives – Ensure that those arriving for a test drive are greeted personally and
that the vehicle they are interested in is ready and waiting.
• Sales Negotiations – Take care of as much of this process as possible online to
make the time spent in-store minimal. Does your website have an easy to use credit
application? Do you have all of the contact information you need?
• Customer Feedback Loop – Always gather insight to improve your sales process.
Take stock in what the customer has to say, and if appropriate, consider making the
Each step in the conversion cycle needs to operate in synch with its predecessor and the
subsequent step. If you do this well, you’ll have a wide sales funnel that creates momentum
by consistently moving customers through the process. Never lose track of the expectations
you set for your buyers. If you manage your conversion cycle well, you’ll rapidly increase the
leads and sales from your Internet marketing strategy.
From Interactivity to Intelligence…the next step in the journey.
Interactivity is no longer a nice-to-have component, but a necessary element of your
dealership’s online marketing portfolio. By integrating the Interactivity elements, you’ll build
a solid foundation for online lead generation, lead qualification and accelerated online
marketing driven sales. Incentives, Engagement and Conversions all work together to help
you accomplish those strategic objectives.
Incentives: An incentive works in concert with the buyer’s belief about the benefit they’ll
receive from taking advantage of a call to action.
Engagement: Engagement is the ability for your website to capture a visitor’s initial interest
and then extend their interaction with your dealership by providing the information they
want via an experience they enjoy.
Conversion: A conversion is the choice of a prospective buyer to take a prescribed step
forward in the sales conversion process with you.
But achieving interactivity is only the start. By incorporating the elements of the Interactive
fundamental, you’ll be exposed to a growing amount of information about both your
potential market and your actual leads. Gathering that information is great, but it’s how you
use it that plays into the Intelligence of your online marketing efforts, the second
fundamental of The Internet Trilogy.
Interactivity is an essential fundamental for an effective Internet marketing strategy, but
without the Intelligence derived from the interactions you’ve generated, it’s all a shot in the
dark. We’ve talked about your customers taking control of their buying process and setting
the terms for engagement and conversion. To widen your sales conversion funnel, you need
to leverage the insights derived from their behavior and respond accordingly. Incremental
improvements are best achieved when you know what’s working and what’s not.
Intelligence is a two-layer fundamental. It can help you improve how you improve your
marketing programs to increase your leads and sales. In this case, it refers to the data and
information dealerships gather about potential buyers. But, Intelligence is also about the
value your prospective customer ascribes to the information you’ve provided—based on
their expectations. You can measure and learn what is working by the rate at which they
convert at each step of your conversion funnel.
The steps you need to take to leverage Intelligence for your dealership are 1) Analysis, 2)
Insights and 3) Action.
The Intelligence fundamental has two levels. On the first level, Intelligence refers to the data
and information dealerships gather about potential buyers. On the second level it
encompasses the content needs of your potential buyers—from their perspective. The right
mix of Intelligence components will move buyers through their purchase evaluations and
help them arrive at the right decision—the choice to buy their next vehicle from your
The use of technology to enable online marketing programs has essentially changed what’s
possible for ISMs and the dealerships they work for. In the first section of this eBook,
Interactivity, we showed you how the elements of incentives, engagement and conversions
all work together to create a continuous stream of leads with a higher propensity to
transition to customers. While Interactivity is the basis for longer-term engagement in our
increasingly digital world, the driving force behind incremental improvements in the
marketing process relies on the application of Intelligence.
The online behavior of your leads, as they interact with your website(s) and email nurturing
programs, contains a wealth of information about what prospective buyers want, what stage
of the buying process they’re in, and how well your programs are delivering on their
There’s an old saying about relationship building which goes something like this: You’re only
as good as your last impression. Internet marketing is the embodiment of that statement. You are
already aware that your leads have no real barrier to abandoning your dealership in favor of
another where they find their online experience more interesting and enjoyable.
Leveraging this second fundamental of The Internet Trilogy can keep that from happening.
If you’ve applied focus to utilizing Interactivity in your marketing programs, the way to gain
traction with those elements is through Intelligence.
In this second section of The Internet Trilogy series, we’ll focus on:
• How to develop and assess metrics with meaning for marketing programs.
• What you should learn from the actions of prospects as they interact with your
website and email marketing.
• How to take action based on the insights gathered from informational analysis.
Analysis is the process of measuring the impacts of your marketing efforts to generate
actionable information that allows you to improve your marketing tactics.
Gathering statistical data is great in theory, but if you aren’t gathering information in an
intentional, prescribed method so that you can act based on the data, then you reap little
benefit from that intelligence. This is why it’s critical to evaluate all of your online marketing
efforts for calls to action and the resulting interactions those calls produce. You may say that
your goal as an online marketer is to generate X number of sales per month. But that goal is
too broad to measure how you’re getting those sales. You need to define specific metrics,
tied to your specific marketing efforts to be able to generate actionable information.
By gathering intelligence about actions taken during specific steps of the conversion cycle,
you stand a better chance of gaining insight that can lead to measurable improvements. This
is not to say that general statistics can’t be helpful, but if you cannot think of how a resulting
piece of information would cause you to change your marketing efforts, than its questionable
as to whether that piece of data is truly useful.
For example, imagine that you have 5,000 unique visitors to your website in one month. Out
of those visitors, you received 250 inquiries. That puts your website visitor-to-conversion
ratio at five percent. But this broad form of intelligence won’t tell you why you only
converted five percent, or how to improve that ratio.
Knowing your overall conversion ratio is a good benchmark, but for you to impact that
performance level, you need to know what pulled those inquiries in and what didn’t.
The following are some suggestions for how to develop & analyze online metrics:
• Website Conversion Points – Which pages or forms were used by the leads who
identified themselves? Of those, which were the most consistently completed vs. the
forms that showed high exit rates without completions? Evaluate the lesser
For analysis to be useful it
must be focused on the
why of cause-effect
performers for improvements. What differences are evident?
• Web Page Bounce Rates—Which of your web pages are being abandoned at the
highest rate (that is number of abandons divided by number of visits to that page? If
your entrance pages have a particularly high bounce rate (over 25%), there must be a
reason. If those visitors came from search engines, analyze the keywords that people
are using to come to your site and make sure that those phrases are visible and obvious
on your page.
• Lead Nurturing—If you use an automated campaign tool to keep in touch with your
leads, analyze which leads are responding to specific communications. Can you A/B
test the subject line to improve your open rates? Is a certain type of customer likely
to click through to your website? Do you have an action plan when someone does
respond to an email (like have a sales person contact them)?
• CRM Progression—Once you’ve identified leads, you’re probably entering them
into your CRM system for sales activities. Measuring the length of time at each
stage, the number of interactions required to produce sales and identifying which
activities motivate the best response can help you pinpoint areas for improving the
These are only a few ideas. Remember to focus on a behavior or action, and look for cause.
Analytics provide the best intelligence when they can be evaluated for cause vs. effect.
Insights are the intelligence that comes from analyzing the cause-effect behavior of your
potential buyers produced by your Internet marketing programs.
allows you to see where
marketing programs work—
and where they don’t.
In order to get productive insight knowledge, you have to look for incremental improvement
opportunities. You won’t achieve your online marketing goals simply by deciding you need
to generate more leads. Breaking your analysis down action-by-action allows you to see
where marketing programs work—and where they could be improved.
Web solutions and tools that are designed to provide dealers with a complete view of the
sales conversion funnel make discovering insights for improvement easier. But, imagine if
you had a system that not only generated the reports and analysis for you, but also provided
recommendations. Solutions that perform this feat are available today and can make
gleaning insights much less time intensive as well as taking the guess work out of which
actions to take.
Whether or not you have automated reporting or analyze your statistics manually, there are
additional things you can do to leverage your insights about the recent activity and results
driven by your Internet marketing programs. The key is to make incremental changes that
can be measured to ensure they improve the outcomes you’re focused on.
Consider the following opportunities to apply insights:
• Form Submissions—If your forms aren’t converting as many leads as you’d like,
try adjusting your fields. Do you really need their address, city, state, zip code at the
lead identification stage? Do you actually think they want to give you their work
phone number? Require as little information as necessary for your website visitors
to decide to identify themselves. Try changing one form on your website and
measuring the change in conversions for a period of time. Follow those leads and see
if the difference in the information you collect hinders your ability to motivate them
to follow-through and make an in-person visit to your showroom.
• Specials—Last month you had 3 offers advertised on your specials web page, but
only one of them produced a steady volume of leads. Assess each of the two that
didn’t perform against the one that did. Does that car appeal to your target market
more than the others? Is the description about the vehicle more enticing than the
text on the other two offers? Did the manufacturer do a big push for the better-
performing offer? The more intelligence you have about external influences the
better able you will be to decide if the problem is the content, the buyers’ orientation
or outside event influence.
• Homepage—Auto dealership homepages are filled with options. How effective are
all of your calls to action? What would happen if you shifted one call to action from
below the “fold” to above it, or from the left to the right side of the page, or
removed one of them? If your visitors play the featured video, do they have other
options from the video to get further information about that vehicle or to contact
you? Or do they have to go back to another page and search for those things?
• Email Communications—Whether or not you use an automated email campaign
tool or send each communication manually, you can learn a lot by your leads’
responsiveness. You need to have visibility about when they are opened, how many
times they’re viewed, if the links you provide are clicked upon and if they generate a
call back or an email reply. If your analysis shows that particular messaging generated
the most response, evaluate the messaging against the worst performing messages
and look for improvement opportunities. If the email replies you receive are all
asking for the same additional information, you should make including that
• Navigational Paths—After analyzing the click paths of your website visitors it
should be obvious if they’re struggling to find something that you can deliver to
them more easily. Look for patterns and then go try them yourself. By clicking
where they did, you can simulate their experience and determine if there’s an issue to
be addressed. Something as simple as a contact link or phone number display on an
inventory page can be the difference between generating a lead and losing one.
There are many more opportunities to glean insights from your analysis of the online
behavior of your website visitors, but remember to look for the things that can make a big
Action is what you do with the insights that you’ve gained from your analysis.
When you apply the intelligence extracted from analytical insights, stay focused on
improving Interactivity. Applied Intelligence is only as useful as the actions it inspires auto
buyers to take. When combined, a dealer’s actions and their potential customer’s behavior
should generate forward momentum in the sales process.
Your ability to easily take actions you determine will produce desired improvements depends, in
large part, on your website platform. You need a Web solution that offers you the flexibility to
modify your content presentation, and, sometimes, even your template’s look and feel—without
a major development overhaul.
The ability to change your website quickly and easily is one of the most important factors in
selecting a solution. The longest lever an online marketer has is the ability to test, analyze, and
then take action to iteratively improve their website, email, or other digital media. If you cannot
change your website quickly and easily, you lose the most important tool you have in
optimizing your online marketing efforts.
The following actions are suggestions for applying intelligence to improve online marketing:
• Generate Customer Profiles—Utilize current customer knowledge to help you
update your content to meet buyers’ needs and expectations. If your words appeal to
Baby Boomers and your customers are Gen Y – you have an obvious disconnect.
Applied Intelligence is
only as useful as the
actions it inspires auto
buyers to take.
• Update Conversion Cycles—Look for patterns of behavior that indicate a shift in
your conversion cycle and then modify your actions to address it. This could mean
adding more nurturing steps, responding faster or adding incentives at a pivotal
• Modify Your Website—Be flexible about making changes to your homepage to
consistently entice your prospective buyers to spend more time with you. Getting
them to the information they want quickly is imperative. Attention spans are short.
• Evaluate Calls to Action—Given what you’ve learned about how receptive your
website visitors are to your calls to action, which of them can be improved? Try
changing the wording, moving the links and make sure every page has a call to action
that flows naturally from the intention behind your potential buyers’ visits.
• Tap into External Influences—Stay aware of your manufacturers’ promotions—
both on, and off the Web. Creating content that ties in with themes they’ve already
put a lot of push behind can help you pull more local buyers your way. Don’t forget
about social networking activities that invite customer reviews and referrals. You
can gain insights that help you align the words you’re using with the words they’re
using to gain credibility. They can also affirm what’s working and indicate areas for
• Automate Repeatable Steps—One of the most important traits a buyer looks for
in a dealer is responsiveness. By applying technology to streamline repeatable
processes—like inquiry response by phone or email—you can increase the time you
have available for other tasks. Just be careful to make sure that you keep insights
about your customers in mind when you do so. Faster will only have the result you
want if what you speed up works in the first place.
Much of the ability to take actions is dependent on your website platform. If your website
infrastructure is too rigid, or your tools don’t “play nice” with the rest of your system your
ability to impact your Internet marketing results may be somewhat limited.
From Intelligence to Impact…the next step in the journey
Intelligence can become your road map for improving the performance of your online
marketing. The power of the information available from today’s technology is in the
granular capability of reporting and your ability to analyze the metrics to determine the
actions you should take.
Analysis is the process of measuring the impacts of your marketing efforts to generate
actionable information that allows you to improve your marketing tactics.
Insights are the intelligence that comes from analyzing the cause-effect behavior of your
potential buyers produced by your Internet marketing programs.
Action is the steps you take after arming yourself with the insights gained from analysis.
Thus far in The Internet Trilogy series, we’ve covered the fundamentals of Interactivity and
Intelligence. You’ve now, no doubt, developed a variety of ideas about how you can apply
these fundamentals to your online marketing programs. But there’s still more to come.
Once you are focusing on two-way interactions that help you build trusted relationships,
you’ll see an increase in customer acquisition driven by your programs, and you’ll want to be
able to consistently repeat that process while improving it.
In the next section, Impact, you’ll see how the successful execution of online programs
occurs when your dealership’s efforts have an impact on momentum, transition and
outcomes during the buyer’s journey. By harnessing the power of the Internet Trilogy, your
dealership will create a consistent, closed-loop process with built-in levels of assessment that
enables you to improve and innovate to keep increasing revenues attributable to the
effectiveness of your web marketing and related sales strategy.
The Internet Trilogy fundamental that weaves together Interactivity and Intelligence into
quantifiable results is Impact. The beauty and, sometimes, the curse of Internet marketing is
fluidity. You have the ability to create interactive experiences and collect intelligence about
what online visitors are doing on your website or how they’re responding to your Web tools,
but the real benefit is in the Impact you have on vehicle sales.
As an Internet Sales Manager for an automotive dealer, you can implement interactive
strategies and act on intelligence, but if your tactics aren’t firmly aligned with your marketing
goals, then you risk failing to deliver on your lead and sales goals.
In the past, your marketing programs may have been measured by identified lead conversions,
but the application of and expectations for online marketing are changing. The future, which
may already be surfacing at your dealership today, dictates that technology should make
marketing results measurable. And once you can measure this impact on the dealership, you
need to show growth to validate that your department is contributing to dealership revenues.
This means you need a plan. You need to be ready to respond to each lead’s needs as fluidly
and dynamically as possible. This type of execution is difficult to pull off if you haven’t created
a strategy for each stage of the buyer’s journey, and made advance preparations for how you’ll
respond to them regardless of the stage they’re in.
In this third and final section of The Internet Trilogy, the focus is on Impact. This will combine
all you’ve learned in the first two sections and explores:
• How you determine and advance the momentum of your leads.
• The progression from anonymous website visitor to customer.
• Creating outcomes that validate your marketing programs.
Impact is all about setting goals and achieving successful outcomes from every Internet
marketing program. Because the Web is dynamic, the better your infrastructure, tools and
strategy, the faster you can shift on the fly to deliver what your prospective customers want.
But Internet marketing programs are not just about speed and immediate outcomes. The
current month’s sales figures are obviously of critical importance to your dealership, but so is
the long-term outlook for the reputation, brand and loyalty to your dealership from existing
Impact is about increasing lead generation momentum, transitioning leads from online
dialogue to showroom conversation and executing on both short and long-term objectives.
Momentum is the rate of recognizable action buyers take to extend their engagement with
While engagement depends on keeping your lead’s attention , momentum is all about
forward progress. If your leads remain engaged, but don’t take action, then you will struggle
with converting them into customers.
It’s imperative that the actions you take based on intelligence increase momentum.
Motivating website visitors to begin a dialogue with your dealership is the first step for
engaging new buyers, but increasing the commitment of existing customers to return for
parts, service and re-purchase is also dependent on the momentum of the relationships you
The way to improve momentum is to consider the fundamentals of the Internet Trilogy as a
closed-loop cycle for continuous learning and improvement. Just as poor, ad hoc marketing
programs start and end abruptly because there is no natural flow, so will the attention you
command from your potential leads. But, by focusing your efforts on continual
improvements you can measure and revise, your momentum will increase substantially.
Because momentum is the planned outcome of Interactivity and Intelligence, each activity
you undertake in regards to those components should have forward progression as its goal.
To Impact momentum, consider the following:
• Incentives—Consider the flow from one incentive to the next. Building momentum
from incentives means that each step should be obvious and engaging to prospective
• Engagement—Without engagement there is no momentum. Focus on capturing their
initial attention and then on what it takes to keep them. Look at presentation of the
informational resources on your site.
• Conversions—Momentum increases depending on how many of the steps in the
conversion cycle you can get website visitors to take. Make the flow natural.
• Analysis—Visibility into specific incentive responses, engagement with various
content resources and website visitor activity patterns can direct you to specific
• Insights—Focus on how each insight may impact your potential buyers. In order
for insights to drive momentum they need to correct or improve the buying
Iterative improvements are
the key to increasing the
impact of online
experience for your prospects. Simplicity is of paramount importance.
• Action—Creating interactivity and generating reports is great, but you also need the
capability to take action that improves conversion performance. Create a strategic
action plan and evaluate each modification based on its estimated impact to
momentum. Make sure the changes are fluid for your website visitors.
Momentum is a critical focus for improving the performance of your Internet marketing
programs. The components above are all integral to achieving lead generation, as well as
inspiring current customer loyalty for continued business.
Transition is the process of progressing through the sales conversion funnel--starting when a
prospect engages with your website as an anonymous visitor through his or her final
conversion into a customer.
Once you have momentum going, your focus needs to be on achieving transition. Once a
lead has identified themselves via an inquiry, improving the process for transitioning them
from online dialogue to in-person showroom appearance is critical.
This is likely a two-pronged exercise that includes both email and outbound telemarketing
campaigns. Transitions can be accelerated or halted based on the methods you use to
transition your prospects through each stage. If your email messaging is disconnected from
their experience on your website, then customers will stop to re-evaluate whether or not
you’re the dealer they want to do business with. Unfortunately, it’s often the initial
inclination of buyers to believe the worst of auto dealers, so work to establish your
credibility by delivering on the expectations set during their online experience with your
Average Lead Closing %:
Website leads – 16.6%
OEM leads – 8.9%
3rd Party leads – 6.7%
Because website leads have a higher close rate than OEM or third party leads, your ability to
execute on Transition by combining website activity with outreach opportunities can have a
Automated nurturing and response activities in combination with proper messaging can
impact the online-to-showroom progression to produce a noticeable bump in your close
ratio. Buyers want instantaneous recognition and response. Research shows that the faster
you can connect with the buyer, the better the opportunity you have for transition.
Leveraging a Web tool that instantly connects you by phone with the lead will make a lasting
impression about their importance to your dealership.
Transitions are best accomplished when your focus is on serving the customer, not on
selling the vehicle. Buying is an emotional process. Honor the customer by responding
quickly and competently to build trust. Trust is a key emotion that reaches beyond the logic
of business transactions—especially when the personal financial investment is high. The
advantage online marketers have with website-generated leads is that the person already has
an investment of time with your dealership and is responding to you, not to an
advertisement or an anonymous contact submission to a 3rd party site.
To capitalize on Transition opportunities, consider the following:
• Incentives—Transition opportunities convert better when the payoffs are perceived
as valuable, so make sure each incentive has a perceived important payoff for the
customer. Focus on these cause-effect interactions to transition leads.
• Engagement— Since transition is directly related to your leads’ attention level,
ensure that the online experience you are providing them is memorable and
• Conversions—Address each step in your conversion cycle to improve the natural
flow. Transition potential diminishes if the path isn’t clear or the effort expended too
• Analysis—Gather metrics about website activities you have the capability to impact.
• Insights—Look for opportunities for improving the usability of Web resources.
• Action—Ensure that your website platform and the tools you use are not only easy
to use but provide the capability for interactive modifications. If you can’t act on
insights, you’ll lose transition opportunities.
• Momentum—Impact momentum by focusing on your prospective buyers’
perceptions. Transitions that are intuitive are acted upon when momentum impacts
Transitions are the ultimate goal of Internet marketing. You have zero opportunity to
engage, convert or transition prospective buyers who are not incented to interact with you
based on the experience they have with your website and outreach communication
programs. Transitions are the outcome of all the steps taken during the conversion cycle that
Outcomes are the measurable Impact that validates your dealership’s Internet marketing
Return on Investment [ROI] is a common term. But, ROI comes in many flavors and can
impact decisions about the online marketing programs your management empowers you to
make. Showcasing the business achievements produced by your Internet marketing
programs is just as important for management endorsement as it is for continuous
Based on the types of interactivity made available on your website and the nurturing and
outreach programs you run, you will have choices about how you evaluate outcomes. As
previously stated, conversion is king, but measuring other outcomes is also important.
Your Internet marketing programs have two purposes: driving conversions for the 30-day
window (short term), and building brand, reputation and credibility for longer-term
relationships with your existing customers for longer sales cycle buyers (over 60% of new car
sales are completed outside this 30-day window), repeat purchases, and parts/service
The following measurements validate short-term Internet marketing goals:
• Lead Conversions—Although the industry average for website lead conversion is
around 2%, marketers who embrace the Internet Trilogy fundamentals see
conversions averaging from 5—12% and have reached 26%.
• Sales Conversions—Since 1 in 6 website leads become customers, improving your
lead generation will have concrete impact on revenues. Isolate the outcomes from
every step in the conversion cycle to determine specific performance improvement
• Traffic Increase—70% of those start their research with a search engine, so your
opportunity to bring new leads to your site is directly related to the quality of your
search engine optimization. Focus on local search opportunities to attract highly
qualified customers in your market.
• Specific Conversion Activities—Measure the outcomes for each conversion
activity on your website. Incremental performance improvements will have the most
Impact. Knowing where and how visitors convert will provide much more insight
than merely knowing the number of leads your site generates.
• Incentive Campaign Conversions—Incentive offers acted upon tell you about the
preferences of your lead base. By responding to them in context, you have the
opportunity to impact your sales conversion outcomes.
• Response Timing—Response timing for inbound inquiries is a key to upping your
lead-to-customer ratios, as is measuring their response to your email outreach,
nurturing communications, and showroom appointment reservations.
These are just a few possibilities for short-term outcome assessment. Benchmark and
compare the results consistently to gauge improvements. Keep an eye on longer-term
outcomes as well.
The following measurements validate longer-term Internet marketing programs:
• Customer Satisfaction—The propensity of your existing customers to return to
your dealership for service is indicative of their satisfaction levels. Measuring
conversions on special offers made through digital outreach, as well as survey
campaign results can provide a good indication of customer satisfaction.
• Customer Loyalty—In addition to returning for service, do your customers return
to you when buying their next vehicle? Your Internet marketing programs should
include specific offers for new lease and purchase options at relevant intervals.
• Customer Reviews—Social media is increasing the ability for your customers to
publish their views about your dealership. Putting an outreach program together
that asks them to share their stories can provide useful feedback and testimonials for
your website that improve your brand and increase your credibility.
Measuring outcomes can be accomplished in a variety of ways. This is only a sample of the
outcomes you can monitor to validate the investment made in your marketing program.
Putting the Internet Trilogy to Work for Your Dealership
Leveraging the Internet Trilogy produces valuable results and outcomes. The following are a
couple of examples of how embracing Interactivity, Intelligence and Impact have produced
successful outcomes for DealerOn customers:
• Bryon Casler had been the Internet Director at Williams Automotive Group for
several years before partnering with DealerOn. When he began leveraging
DealerOn’s tools his conversion rates rose dramatically. Now his website conversion
rates range from 8% to 15%. The monthly average conversion across all five websites
is over 9 percent. He and his staff of 10 are actively selling more than 1,000 leads per
month from their online programs.
• “DealerOn makes our websites engaging, thereby increasing our number of quality
leads and ultimately aiding our dealership in selling more cars. Of the 3,700 leads that
we anticipate this month, 70 percent will come from our own dealer website."
- Pat Hayes, Internet Director, Victory Automotive Group
As online marketing becomes the most effective marketing channel for your dealership,
creating a strategy to engage with and learn from your customers will become a core
competency for dealership growth. To get the best possible results, you need a vendor who
has the expertise and innovative outlook to help you consistently generate returns into the
DealerOn is a vendor with a lot of firsts. They were the first to develop a coupon-based
incentive campaign tool with the option to schedule a test drive, the first to create a virtual
assistant, the first to build the technology for an instant lead-to-phone connection, and the
Mastering theInternet Trilogy
will become a core competency for
dealerships who want continuous
growth from their online
first to develop a virtual inventory program. But DealerOn doesn’t rest on their laurels.
They continue to be passionate about innovation.
Take a look at what’s coming in their v3.0 platform upgrade release:
• Video, lots of it!
• Video test drive reviews for all new vehicles
• Virtual Assistant 2.0 – Video driven interactive experience
• Upgraded Google Analytics engine for website statistics
• Smart Reports™ – Revolutionary new reporting platform that makes intelligent
website update suggestions and is F&I integrated
• Impact Specials™ 2.0 – Automated intelligent creation of specials
• The absolute best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Platform in the industry
continues to improve with the following enhancements
• Dedicated city pages increasing geographic specific content relevance and
• Custom page names for ad-hoc content guaranteed to index better
• “Breadcrumb” navigation for even better indexing and usability
• Widget Vault™ expansion to include more interactive conversion tools
The real consideration when you begin to implement a strategy based on The Internet
Trilogy is the access you’ll have to high-value expertise helping you take full advantage of
your Internet potential. DealerOn‘s account managers and customer support teams have
expertise in online marketing best practices to help you grow your online business.
But it gets even better. DealerOn will pro-actively review your website performance and give
you actionable feedback on strengths and weaknesses. They’ve made it their mission to
learn what works in online automotive marketing for their customers. The DealerOn team
is committed to continuously developing and refining online marketing tools that deliver
results that far surpass industry averages.
There’s never been a better or more opportune time to take advantage of the benefits the
Web can deliver to your dealership. DealerOn invites you to learn more about how
Interactivity, Intelligence, and Impact can deliver online success beyond anything that your
dealership has ever achieved.
Please contact our DealerOn sales team for more information and to take a look under the
hood of our Web platform. Dial Toll free: 800-381-6604 and press 1 for sales.
About the Author
Navid Azadi is one of the founders, and the CEO of DealerOn, Inc. Navid is a ten-year veteran of
the web and technology industry. His career has included consulting and employment positions
with Fortune 500’s: Verizon, HP, and Peugeot. Working with the Internet since its infancy has
provided Navid with pervasive knowledge about best practices in website design, optimization,
and marketing opportunities for a variety of companies that have gained strategic growth through
embracing online opportunities.
About DealerOn, Inc.
Since 2003, DealerOn, Inc. has been helping automotive dealers gain the edge they need to drive
success through online marketing channels. By leveraging DealerOn’s website design and hosting
services, our suite of web tools and professional services, our customers produce higher online
lead engagement and conversions. DealerOn was founded by auto industry veterans to provide
expertise to automotive dealerships that empowers them to get closer to their customers by
harnessing the Internet with the latest web technologies.
DealerOn provides auto dealers with an in-depth understanding of consumer behavior, web
analytics, and automotive trends to develop and sustain an online profit center for the long
Visit our website at www.dealeron.com and our BLOG at www.dealerrevenue.com.