Kevin Frye, the e-commerce director for the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family and former Naval Aviator, is a forward thinker and progressive marketer. Kevin manages the entire automotive group, which consists of 15 rooftops and 28 franchises. Jeff Wyler Automotive is listed on America’s top 150 dealerships. We had the honor of interviewing Kevin and picking his brain on some of the best practices in digital marketing for automotive.
Let’s start with one of the hottest topics in automotive right now: big data. How are you using big data to make marketing decisions for the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family?
We’ve been using big data for a while now. I think now the big push is leveraging real time data or near-real time data. We’ve been testing some of the different solutions out there, but basically, the first thing you’re trying to do is identify people whose behavior online shows that they’re shopping for a car. We want to identify people who were previous customers of ours, in addition to people who weren’t but are showing indications that they are looking for a car. Then we want to market to those people to drive them to our website.
The second goal is to use your database and real time data to be able to see that someone who you sold a car to four years ago is now showing interest in buying a new car. You can actually generate that as a lead, although you have to think about how to work that lead. You certainly don’t want to call them up and say, “I see what you’re doing online”–that will spook them! But you can use a soft touch to check in with them. We can see the cars they’re looking at, how much time they’re spending– it’s a lot of powerful data, it’s just a matter of how you work that lead to make the customer feel comfortable.
What are the top KPIs that you track?
We’re still big on VDPs. At the end of the day, auto marketing is about trying to drive eyes to the vehicles that you’re trying to sell. We also do a lot of work with Google Analytics goals. We set up as many goals as we can and track the goals achieved and goal values.
All we’re trying to do is see if the shoppers are exhibiting the behaviors we’re looking for based upon our marketing.
What do you think is the best way to engage website visitors?
Value building tools on your website. This goes back to what has never changed with an average car shopper. They have three primary questions when looking for a car: How much for my trade, how much per month, and can you get me financed? So you’ll find that the most successful tools on your website are going to be:
Trade-in valuation tool
Monthly payment tool
Preapproved financing tool
If you put those on your website, I guarantee they will be your top tool to engage visitors and convert them.
What do you think is the relationship between the dealership and the website?
Hands down what is happening in the market right now is that the primary decision is being made at the virtual dealership, which is the website. And that primary decision is whether or not they are going to visit you. So if you don’t have a tremendous focus on your website, you’re going to lose the battle. That means you need to have those value building tools there, present your inventory in the best format possible, and make it as simple as possible for the visitors to reach out to you. By the time they decide to visit you, they have pretty much made the decision to buy the car.
You’ll hear the statistic that the average shopper visits about 1.3 dealerships before buying a car. That extra 0.2 or 0.3 represents the dealerships that screw it up so badly at the dealership that the shopper actually leaves them to check out someone else. By the time they come to your dealership, you should be ready to give them a test drive and the best possible experience at your dealership so that you don’t lose visitors to competitors.
Yes, good way of looking at that. We hear those stats all the time, Kevin!
Assuming that nurturing leads means following up with leads that lose interest, how does Jeff Wyler nurture its leads?
Every lead that comes into your system has a cost associated with it. One of the big things that dealerships need to watch out for is salespeople who want to mark leads as bad and have that data completely removed from the system. Oftentimes they do that because it artificially inflates their closing rate and reports. But that is a huge mistake because there was an investment made to generate that lead. We want to retain every lead that comes in, even if it does not sell. Then we can work to encourage them to service their vehicle with us, or, long-term, to use big data to follow up with them when they are ready to buy their next vehicle in three, four, or five years.
As a follow-up, we hear a lot about duplicate leads being marked as bad. If someone converts on your website multiple times, how do your CRM and BDC handle those duplicate leads?
There are two reasons that getting a duplicate lead can actually be a success. First of all, when a lead comes in, you start working to make contact with them, and our approach is to try to build value, not pressure. The number one question the salesperson always has is, is this person still in the market? Every time we get a duplicate, it shows us that that lead is still in market and that helps us connect in a valuable way.
The second reason is that the majority of duplicate leads are from finance apps, trade-in valuation, or credit preapprovals. This means we have been successful in building value, since they are investing more in the process with us, and are less likely to leave for another dealer.
When we get a duplicate lead, we have a secondary process that fires off in our CRM to review that lead and see if it needs to be worked differently the second time around. The classic example is when a lead comes in one car, but then the same lead converts on a second car. If that gets marked duplicate and bad, and you do nothing, you’re making a mistake because you might need to prepare a new quote on another vehicle.
People are saying that BDCs are now outdated. What do you think about this and if you agree, what is next for automotive?
I’m not a BDC guy so I may not be the best guy for this question. I’m adamant about working the lead from cradle to grave. I think a lot of dealerships are finding that with BDC, they just trade one problem for another– they thought the BDC could work leads because they don’t want their salespeople to, but then they have the problem of struggling to constantly man the call center, a high-turnover job at a minimal pay rate.
The question I always have is this: if you trust your salesperson to sell a $40,000 car, why would you not trust them to work the lead and make the calls? But they would often rather put it in the hands of someone else. It doesn’t make sense.
Speaking of mistakes, what’s the biggest mistake dealerships make in their digital marketing strategy today?
They’re trying to be everywhere online and it doesn’t work for most dealership’s budgets. At the end of the day, your digital strategy is going to be driven by the size of your budget. You have to prioritize where to put your money.
So to break it down:
The number one place to invest your digital marketing money is in your own website. It brings the cheapest leads, the highest gross per unit and the lowest cost per sale.
The second place, if you have the money in your budget, is to leverage OEM programs. They spend millions of dollars and typically at worst you’re sharing that lead with a couple other competing dealers, so it’s a little harder to close, a little more per lead, a little more cost per sale.
The final place is third parties. That’s going to be hardest to close, the lowest gross and the highest cost per sale– they’re the hardest leads to work in an extremely competitive environment.
When you take the approach of prioritizing, you’re going to maximize the return on your investment of your digital marketing dollars.
What are some of the changes you expect to see in 2017?
A few things. First, you’re going to see a slowdown in market overall.
Second, we have a problem of engagement in the showroom experience. What I mean by that is when you bring a customer into a showroom and you leave them alone to approach the desk to get a pencil, that customer is cheating on you behind your back. They are on their phones, looking at other dealerships and other websites, and you are losing them. I believe where that’s going to be solved, and we’re starting to see some movement at the manufacturer level, is with the use of iPads. Ipad use means you as a salesperson never leave the customer. You send information to the desk from the iPad, and stay with them, building value, keeping them engaged. The pencil comes back from the desk to the iPad, and if they don’t agree with it, you can tick that back. There are lots of apps, and even videos, that you can use to keep the customer engaged while you’re waiting on that back and forth.
Do you foresee a future when customers don’t step into the dealership?
If it goes that way, it won’t happen for a long time. I was involved with eBay motors from the earliest days. I sold over 500 cars in one year on eBay with fewer than 10 people actually coming in to test drive a car. So you’d think I’d foresee a move away from the dealership, but I wouldn’t say that. Buying a car is the second-largest purchase decision in a person’s life and most people still want to come in and see it, touch it, feel it, drive it. I think you’re always going to have that.
What kind of music do you blast in your car?
In the morning, when I’m trying to wake up, I put on some Willie Nelson. By the time I come home I’m usually listening to classic rock or heavy metal.
What discontinued car do you want to see on the road again?
I would love to see that Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit. That was one badass car back in the day.
Thank you, Kevin for all your time. We really appreciate your insight and thought leadership.
We could not agree more with Kevin’s insights and and tips for successful digital marketing in the auto industry. Make sure your dealership is implementing these best practices to reach more customers online and stay ahead of the game.