Lead generation for the next generation

The evolving art of attracting customers online and selling them in-store

By Colleen Malloy

“How can I help you today?” This is a phrase you’ve likely uttered thousands of times as customers enter your dealership, day in and day out. Why do we continue to use this line? This somewhat clichéd opener works; it’s an easy way to strike up a conversation with a potential customer.

How many times have you heard the response, “Just looking”? If you’re a salesperson worth your salt, you don’t let this rebuke end your conversation. Why? Whether just dreaming about replacing a push mower with a riding mower, or passing 15 minutes while waiting for junior to finish softball practice, this person who chose to visit your dealership has an interest in your products and services, even if the buying intent isn’t immediate. By gently pressing the conversation, good salespeople unearth these buyer desires, and great salespeople capture that customer’s contact information to keep the conversation going until that customer is ready to buy. (You’ve got a lead management process in place, right? No, well that’s a topic for a different article.)

This is good old-fashioned lead generation at its best. But how can you re-create these genuine human interactions online?

It all starts with your website. The role that your website plays is larger than just acting as an information portal — a great dealer website shares your unique “voice” as a dealer, builds the value of your products and services, and invites site visitors to walk down one of several different paths to purchase. The key takeaway is that you want your website to result in action, whether that comes in the form of a newsletter signup, a quote request or a phone call.

STRONG CALLS TO ACTION

In marketing speak, we call these invitations to engage with your dealership on your website “calls to action” or CTAs for short. Lead generation CTAs should be used throughout your site to capture customer information on lead generation forms. The key here is that you want to give shoppers a reason to give you their contact information — even if they aren’t quite ready to buy. Are you taking advantage of all of these opportunities to generate web leads?

Promotions and deals: Who doesn’t love a sale? While many dealers simply display their current factory promotions in a print-friendly format, this misses an opportunity to capture leads. Instead of just allowing customers to download your promotions, interrupt the process with a simple form that offers to email or text your customer the deal. Take it a step further and offer a “send to a friend” option and knock it out of the park by giving shoppers the option to subscribe to your email list to stay up-to-date with all of your promotions and offers.

Your dealership blog: If you’ve been reading my articles in Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) for the past few months, you’ll note that I weave in a benefit that your dealership blog can provide pretty regularly. This month, we’ve got yet another value that your blog brings to your dealership — it offers yet another avenue to invite prospective customers to sign up to receive more content from your dealership. In your blog’s sidebar, be sure to encourage site visitors to sign up for your newsletter to receive regular dealership updates. Want to take it to the next level? Use subscription pop-up boxes that interrupt readers once they started reading to invite them to subscribe. Hate pop-ups? I do too. Sometimes. But, I must confess that on many occasions they’ve convinced me to sign up when I might not have without the extra prodding.

Giveaways: From offering shoppers something as simple as a free service to something as extravagant as a sweepstakes to win a big-ticket item like a zero-turn mower, a giveaway is an excellent opportunity to capture leads on your website. Offering additional entries by sharing the promotion with a friend allows you to extend the reach of your promotion and opens up the opportunity for additional lead generation.

Product landing pages: Finally, and most importantly, you need to ensure that your product landing pages are optimized with multiple CTAs that engage shoppers in every stage of the shopping cycle.

Below, check out an example of a product landing page. Note all of the options that shoppers are being offered to engage with this single John Deere product under the Buyer Tools section.

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This effective product landing page allows prospective customers to select from a multitude of options, all designed to capture the lead.

DRIVE IN-BOUND TRAFFIC TO YOUR CTAs

Now that your website is a well-oiled engagement machine, you need to ensure your digital marketing strategy is working to drive traffic to your CTAs.

Social media: While cool videos and funny pictures can be an element of your social media strategy, be sure that you’re using your social channels to point your prospects to the CTA-rich content pages on your site that we’ve discussed — encourage social followers to engage with your blog posts, promotions and contests, as well as take advantage of sponsored social media posts to boost the reach of your social lead generation efforts.

Pay-per-click (PPC): If you missed the PPC article titled “Use paid search to target mobile shoppers” in July 2014 OPE, be sure to check it out at OPE’s Digital Edition archives at outdoorpowerequipment.com and or go directly to outdoorpowerequipment.com/2014/08/01/use-paid-search-to-target-mobile-shoppers/2505/. As you learned in that article, a strong CTA is critical to encourage your prospects to click through on your ad to arrive at your intended landing page. The CTAs that you’ll want to employ on your lead generation PPC advertising will differ from CTAs designed to seal an e-commerce sale.

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Manufacturer websites: Are you up to speed with the benefits of all of your manufacturers’ online marketing programs? If you haven’t taken the time to fully understand the marketing programs offered by your OEMs, catch up! You don’t want to miss out on what may be a very affordable or even free pipeline of in-bound leads.

While there are several different lead generation models used by manufacturers, a very common tool used on OEM websites is the Dealer Locator. Be sure your dealership’s information is included on your manufacturer’s Dealer Locator, and if you have the opportunity to include a URL, you may want to consider going deeper into your site than simply offering a homepage link.

Some manufacturers require you to offer site visitors arriving from their Dealer Locator a branded experience so that you’re not showing XYZ brand mowers on your homepage to visitors coming from the ABC Dealer Locator. Even if your manufacturer doesn’t require this continuity of experience, consider creating it yourself to drive interested shoppers closer to the product they’re interested in submitting a lead for.

Third-party classified sites: Third-party classified sites like Craigslist and eBay are excellent tools for driving in-bound leads to your product landing pages. If you aren’t using third-party sales channels to promote your inventory, be sure to talk to your website provider about tools that can help you automatically feed your inventory to these lead generating sites.

Employing these tactics can help you build a strong pipeline of in-bound leads; but remember, the Internet doesn’t sell, good dealers do. While these leading demand generation tactics are great ways to build your email list, it’s imperative to implement lead management and follow-up programs to ensure that your sales team is ready to take action to invite customers into the dealership and ultimately close the sale.

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Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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