Generating Referrals and Effective Followup

Everyone wants referrals, but a lot of salespeople are reluctant to ask for them.  It can be off-putting to some customers, and there seems to be a sense that if a referral comes without having to ask for it, it is more “deserved.”  There is nothing wrong with asking for a referral from customers that are satisfied after doing business with your dealership.  Here are some creative ways to make asking for the business of your customer’s friends, family, and colleagues:

Expectation:  After the sale of a car, tell each customer that you expect they’ll be satisfied with the process, and will check back with them in 30, 60, or 90 days to ask them if they know of anyone else who needs a new vehicle with a hassle-free experience and superb follow-up.  Of course, fit this to your dealership, and make sure that you actually do follow through with this promise.

Giveaway:  A lot of dealerships already send coupons, promotions, or discounts to their existing customer base through email.  Add some text instructing those customers to feel free to forward the email newsletter (including the discount) to anyone that might need it.  Your customers will refer their loved ones to your dealership while looking like the good-guys by saving them money.

Refunds:  Although this is essentially buying referrals, doing it in a round-about way makes it a little more interesting.  Tell satisfied customers that you will offer a certain percentage off of their next bill (service, parts, purchase, etc) for each referral they send to the dealership.  This allows you to track who is sending the most new customers to your dealership (they’ll have to tell you who sent them in order for the referrer to receive the discount), and they’ll be more likely to get their vehicle serviced with your dealership, bringing in additional money.

Asking for referrals from satisfied customers doesn’t have to be painful.  Try asking in a different manner (link to older post), or put a creative spin on rewarding those who refer customers to your dealership.

Dealership Demographic Targeting

Knowing how different groups of people use the Internet can help your auto dealership effectively target your online marketing and earn more sales.  When you take the time to segment and understand your market, it becomes easier for your dealership to send the right message to the right people at the right time, resulting in more sales for your dealership.

It seems as though one of the factors that most determines how users browse the Internet is gender.  eMarketer recently conducted a study that found slightly more women say they use the Internet than men.  The study also found that men tend to browse the Internet longer per online session that women do.  One reason for this increase in online engagement for men could be that men are more interested in watching online videos than women are.

Your dealership can use this information to better target men who may be shopping your dealer site for their next car.  Try adding videos of your new and used inventory to increase the amount of time your web visitors spend viewing your inventory.  Online video will also help satisfy those car shoppers who spend their time online watching videos.

This is one example of how knowing what your market wants can help your dealership sell more cars.  Placing videos of your dealership inventory on your dealer website can help increase the time that web visitors spend on your site, as well as how engaged they are while viewing your videos.  If you dealership isn’t taking full advantage of car inventory videos, you are missing out on potential sales.

Tracking Keywords and Website Analytics

When optimizing your dealership website for search engines, finding the most effective keywords to focus on is often the most difficult aspect (and one of the most important) of your SEO efforts.  With average search terms getting longer and longer, and 20-25% of the search terms Google sees are unique (never used before), it is getting more and more difficult to find the right combination of terms to optimize your auto dealership website for.

One tool to help your dealership find the most effective keyword phrases is to take a look at the search terms that car buyers are using to find your dealer website.  If your current auto dealer website provider has the right analytics, your dealership should be able to see exactly which keywords led to visits, leads, and sales for your dealer site.

Using this data will allow your dealership to tell which keyword searches are directly responsible for auto sales.  Using this information, your dealership can work with your auto website provider to tweak your SEO efforts, adding and removing keyword phrases as you track which are successful and which aren’t.

If your dealership manages your own pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns, this keyword information can be very useful when creating the list of search terms you decide to bid on.  This way, you can not only track their success in PPC campaigns, but how often each keyword phrase is leading to a sale through organic search.

How to Increase Car Dealer Referrals

Every sales person I have ever met is always looking for referrals.  Referrals tend to come with a level of built-in trust, which especially in the auto industry, can make it much easier for you to sell them their next car.  The struggle comes in knowing how to get your existing customers and salespeople (referral sources) to recognize potential referrals.

When most people ask for a referral, it’s a straight forward question like “Do you know anyone who might be in the market for a new car?”  When asking your customers this question, try tweaking it a bit so that it provides a solution to a problem your future customers may have.  This can increase the number of referrals your dealership gets, simply by helping your existing customers really think about the people they know who might need a new car.

For example, try asking your happy customers questions that address the reasons people purchase cars.

  • “Do you know anyone who has an unreliable car?”
  • “Can you think of anyone who needs to replace their existing car (accident, stolen, etc)?”
  • “Has anyone in your life received a promotion or had a baby?”

Another way to make this mindset work to increase dealership sales is to remind the salespeople you work with to listen for these key phrases in their daily life.  Expanding the view of the “I need a new car” that some salespeople may be listening for can help increase your dealership sales.

Referrals can come from a variety of sources, and helping your referral sources (customers, salespeople) recognize these key phrases can do wonders for your auto dealership’s bottom line.

Dealership Long-Tail SEO Searches

A recent study by Comscore finds that the “average” search term entered into Google continues to get longer and longer.  As it stands, the average search term contains just over 3 words, and this increase in the length of search terms doesn’t appear to be slowing.

This makes search engine optimization (SEO) even more important than ever for your auto dealer website.  Since Google uses “best-fit” guidelines to match search terms to relevant web pages, if a long-tail search doesn’t fit something exactly, Google will try to fit a web page to the search.  The better optimized your auto dealership site is, the more of these searches your website will rank for, even if you don’t have the exact words that were searched for.

While the increase in long-tail search terms is great for SEO effectiveness, it’s not as great of news for car dealerships that rely solely on pay-per-click advertising (PPC).  Many dealerships set up their paid ad campaigns so that their ads only appear for an “exact match” of keywords.  This means that your dealership ad will only show if the search term is the exact same as a keyword you bid on.  With search terms getting longer and more specific, the chances of getting an “exact match” to a keyword your dealership is bidding on gets more unlikely.  Slight differences in the way your account is set-up can make huge differences in your results, so it’s important that your dealership either has someone in-house who fully understands and devotes time to managing your PPC campaigns, or that you partner with an expert vendor.

Combining your auto dealership’s PPC campaign with an effective SEO campaign will increase the chances that your dealer website will be found in Google’s search engine results.  Simply relying on pay-per-click will make your dealership website show in search engine results less and less often as time goes on.