Dealership Communication Tools

Are you getting all your Internet Leads?

finding-leadsMany of the conversations we get on the DealerRefresh forums are about dealership CRM choices and practices.  With all the different conversations cycling around this topic, I have to assume that many dealers are changing or signing up with a new CRM company.  I’m very glad to see the industry taking this extremely important technology more seriously, but I wonder if we might overlook some things during a change.

When changing CRM or ILM companies, you have to change your Internet lead address.  It is a seriously major pain in the ass if you have a lot of lead providers (OEM’s, third-party, freebies, classified sites, your own site, etc.).  If you’ve made a change, did you forget a lead provider?  Did you remember to inform CarFax, Vast, Google Base, or one of those other sites that you don’t pay directly for leads?

I have a suggestion that will make this change only take 5 minutes and open up many more opportunities for your leads:

Make 1 email address that is [email protected] and have all your lead providers send to that address.

Do the same for your other profit centers:  [email protected], [email protected], etc.  Then you control where things forward to off those addresses.  If you ever make another CRM or ILM change, then you’re just changing the forwarding address instead of having to contact all your lead providers.

Some other benefits of controlling your lead delivery address:

1.  You can have backup systems in place
I have all of our leads sent to each member of our BDC, the ILM tool available in our website’s backend, and to our CRM.  If the CRM is lagging on showing the lead, the BDC knows about it immediately.  If something crashes with our CRM, we can still respond to leads through the ILM in our website’s backend.  And I can quickly check to see that all leads are always coming into the CRM.  After being on numerous different CRM & ILM products, I’ve learned that lead forwarding for backup purposes is absolutely crucial.

2.  Lead Analytics
If you ever hire a company to grade or build reports around your leads, you can just add that company to your email distribution rules without having to have your CRM or ILM company set it all up.  This is more of a convenience.

3.  Reporting Systems
If you’re like me, you can’t always trust the CRM reports because your staff is working in the CRM; tainting the data.  Let’s face it, you’re never going to get an entire staff of sales people to understand why they should enter data and update data appropriately in the CRM.  Because there is a human “taint” to the data, I have to use an outside system to get accurate reporting on certain things.  Again, this is just another way to quickly and easily control where your leads are going.  Your reporting system can also work as your backup communication product.  In our case, we use an ILM.

4.  Never losing Leads again!
If you always use the same email address for where your leads are going, you never have to worry about whether you’re missing leads (unless the lead provider just isn’t sending – that’s a separate issue).  This is especially good when you do a lot of free trials or submit your company for various endeavors.

lead-routing-exampleEach CRM/ILM is a little different and none are perfect.  When you control your lead routing, then you have the peace of mind to know you can catch issues quickly and not miss any business.  Just remember to use your new lead routing address forever, and get it to ALL your lead sources.

<< Example of Checkered Flag’s Lead-routing setup

I know of quite a few dealerships who already practice this, but if you don’t feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

How is your dealership setup for Lead Routing?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • G
  • November 28, 2009
Great reminder of best-practices. I have done the same thing with each store I have taken over. The challenge, is knowing which companies you are SUPPOSED to be getting leads from. A disjointed store/process allows for a number of holes to appear where lead providers can slip if you're not paying attention.
This is a great tip. Dealers should be able to funnel all of their leads this way except for manufacturer leads since those are not usually sent via email.

The only concern is making sure the email forward doesn't slow down getting the leads to your CRM. You don't want to adversely impact your response times.

I have seen instances before with email delivery issues between the dealer and their CRM related to email delays from SPAM prevention. So you may want to ask your CRM provider to white list the IP addresses of your email servers if you are having any delays in the delivery of the email leads.
  • C
  • November 29, 2009
Along these lines, and with the inconsistency of email - I've always wondered by CRM providers don't provide an API to load in leads directly from lead providers. Most have adopted the ADF spec, but none that we've come across offer a way to send leads server side.

Great tip for the controllable email address to forward to the lead provider. As we deal with this weekly, it would be great for more dealers to adopt this best practice.

  • R
  • November 29, 2009
Good stuff, having your leads go into a duplicate database sometimes can get confusing, however it is probably the only way to monitor lost leads. But remember email leads are increasing at a slow pace nationwide, so concentrate on your phone leads. Develop a system that allows easy entry on a consistent basis of all incoming phone calls. Get those into your CRM/ILM and follow up. Use tracking numbers and double check if all calls are being handled correctly, capitalize on missed opportunities and if they are entered into your database.
@Chip Email isn't perfect but neither is using web services. The good thing about email is it has built in mechanisms for failure, queuing, and resending. A simple web service doesn't have those mechanisms. So it would have to be more robust, which most OEMs have created for their lead delivery systems across web services.

The biggest problem with web services would be standardization. There are somewhere around 30-40 CRM providers and hundreds of companies that send leads to those CRMs.

Special finance leads should be required to send over web services. A lot of special finance lead providers send SSNs in emails in the ADF XML leads.... which is really bad. They should definitely be sent via secure web service.
  • C
  • November 29, 2009
What I like about the web service is that it would have a request and a response, email of course lacks the response which I think is a big deficit. Maybe neither is a perfect solution, but the number of leads by email that don't make it into a CRM from our system is unknown at this point as we have no way to track it once it's emailed off to the provider. If we don't know, that means the dealer doesn't know, and the lead is never known to exist.

I will say I'm very happy that most providers accept the ADF spec. More standardization now means a much better future in terms of technology growth. Now if we could just standardize inventory feeds! :)

We receive data from every DMS and inventory company and we send data to hundreds of online classifieds.... You could argue that the standard should be STAR and almost no one uses it. But since everyone already has it all setup and it works, no one wants to change it either.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • November 30, 2009
Great best practice article and a nice reminder. Thanks Alex.

We have our own (1) lead addresses (per dealer). And before being with a group I always excised this practice as well.

Something very simple and but often overlooked. This also provides and easy way to get an additional copy sent to your phone for backup. There are some CRM's that somehow, sometimes are not dependable enough to rely solely on their inbox for accuracy or speed of delivery.