Give Us the Real Buyers

Internet leads - e-mails and telephone - are the fuel that drives a dealership's Internet operations. Without leads there would not be a need for a dealership Internet operation.

Internet leads — e-mails and telephone — are the fuel that drives a dealership's Internet operations. Without leads there would not be a need for a dealership Internet operation.

Fortunately, for many of you who are Internet managers/directors, automotive shoppers love starting the car buying process on the Internet, which results in plenty of fuel — or leads.

But there is a flip side to the equation. Many of those leads are submitted by people with no intention of buying a vehicle in the near future, if at all. It is those leads that frustrate Internet managers and salespeople, and creates dissatisfaction with their third-party lead providers.

The question is, what is the natural level of “true-intender” leads versus those leads generated and sold to dealers each day that are “non-intenders?”

What is a “true-intender?” In my opinion, it is a consumer who actively has engaged in researching a vehicle online, selected makes and models they are interested in and then requested information to satisfy their level of interest. These “true-intenders” have made a conscious effort to engage in the automotive shopping process and want to gather information so they can make a better decision. If a dealership is fortunate enough to receive leads from “true-intenders” they are very likely to be able to sell an appointment and ultimately sell a vehicle. This is what makes the Internet the wonderful tool that drives dealers to spend billions of dollars each year on Internet marketing.

What is a “non-intender?” In my opinion, it is a consumer who happily is surfing the Internet, enjoying visiting various sites, and then comes across an offer to enter a sweepstakes to win a prize. This unsuspecting consumer completes a demographic profile that asks some questions about their preferences in a number of areas, including vehicles, and next thing they know, a dealer is calling them trying to talk them into coming in for a test drive.

The “non-intender” is caught off guard, as is the dealer, and the outcome is often an antagonistic relationship that causes the future “true-intender” to not trust the Internet source or the dealer. This is of course, an extreme example, but each day there are consumers who very early in the automotive shopping process get pushed along faster than they wish and it causes unnecessary frustration and angst.

To address this issue there is a lot of talk about Internet Lead Scoring (See Cliff Banks' column in the September issue). Some lead providers are suggesting that they can even offer this in their services which will allow them to bring the dealer a better indication of whether a consumer is interested in buying. This is like prescribing a cure after you cause the illness.

My suggestion is for lead sources to help consumers channel their interest better in the beginning and stop trying to get them to complete a form they are not ready to fill out. I see a great deal of time wasted each day filtering through “non-intenders” and it plays on the psyche of the Internet sales team. If we would focus better on “Consumer Interest Channeling” we could bring the “true-intenders” into the dealership's lead-management system and let the “non-intenders” just enjoy the ride until they are ready to commit.

Of course, the business model for lead sources is to sell the lead, but I would venture a guess that most dealers would rather pay a higher price for better leads or “true-intenders” than a lower price for “non-intenders.”

Better quality leads will help everyone to sell more vehicles. Internet sales people will spend their time working leads that have a real chance of closing; lead response will increase and third-party lead generators just might see dealer satisfaction increase.

Now, the question is, which third-party vendor will be the first to take the leap and eliminate from its offering to dealers, all of those leads it knows are “non-intenders?”

David Kain is president of Kain Automotive Inc. He can be reached at [email protected] 859-533-2626.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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