For Dealers Who Can’t Use Cash Incentives (Or Want to Try Something New)

Online incentives are often what convince hesitant website visitors into actual leads.  While most dealerships use cash incentives, some manufacturers or state governments don’t permit this type of Internet offering.  For example, both Honda and Acura have very strict guidelines about what their dealers can offer, and states like Illinois, California and Texas have legal guidelines that businesses must follow.  It’s extremely important that you check and are up to date with both OEM and government guidelines (your State Attorney General’s office is a good place to look).  Both entities are generous with their fines and typically not afraid to hand them out.

If you’re at a dealership that either can’t offer cash incentives, or just want to try something new, what are your options? Thinking outside of the box will help here…what do your customers want?  Take a look at who your customers are.  Consider conducting a market segmentation to find out what is important to them so that you can offer what they want.  If you can find out the types of things that consumers want but aren’t buying, you’ll be better able to offer non-cash incentives that are relevant and motivating for these potential customers.

Of the non-cash incentives that I’ve seen work are lately, the most common seems to be a gas card.  The trick to getting this to work is making it a decent dollar amount.  Those $25 and even $50 cards aren’t going to drive much traffic.  Consider making them available to all who test drive instead of just purchase a car to up your conversion percentage.   Also, service and accessories coupons are often successful, but like gas cards, have to be for a significant amount to really draw traffic in.

There are some dealerships that, for one reason or another, are unable to use anything worth monetary value.  In this instance, wording is extremely important.  Make the customer feel that they will be getting a special price by shopping online by offering them “hassle-free pricing,” or depending on your state/OEM, a “special Internet price.”  Again, it’s necessary to check with the proper “higher-ups” to ensure you’re not breaking any rules here.

No matter what type of incentive you’re using, persuasive keywords will paint a nice picture in the head of your website visitor.  Break out the thesaurus and use those calls-to-action.  Invest in an advertising book specializing in sales words (leave a comment if you’d like me to recommend a few) to really clinch that conversion.  The words and phrases in these specialty books can help you distinguish yourself from other dealerships just by using the right language.

Because incentives have the ability to heavily impact your conversion rates, they need to be effective.  When something (OEM, state government) limits what you can use to draw customers in, it’s time to get creative.  Buyers want more than just money, so appeal to their desire for “things” to help them justify taking the next step in their buying process…whether that means submitting their information, taking a test drive, or buying their new vehicle.