By Chad Carr
President, Rainmaker Consulting
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of this series. Last week, Carr addressed specific changes to the retail landscape caused by the explosion in Internet usage by your prospects. In this installment, he shares what dealers must do to recapture the prospects they are losing.
Recent studies have shown that 84 percent of all RV prospects began their search for a new RV online.
If 84 percent of your prospects were going to look in the Yellow Pages to find your business, you would be foolish and irresponsible to not have a full-page ad in that book. If 84 percent of your clients were going to find you by getting in their car and driving around to look at billboards – you should have a lot of good-looking billboards around town.
However, while multiple sources have confirmed the Internet is the No. 1 place people look for a new RV, most of the dealers I talk with do not have a good Internet marketing strategy in place. Sure, most people now have a web-site, but very few have good answers to these important questions:
- What is your strategy for driving leads to your website?
- What are you doing to raise your rankings on the search engines?
- How are you using social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in your marketing?
- What is your strategy for on-going communications with your Internet leads?
- How are you streamlining your process to drive down response time?
- What is your strategy for getting Internet leads in your front door?
Ten years ago, it was enough to have a website. Today, having a website is a basic requirement of business, but websites alone will not help us turn the tide on the dwindling sales this industry is experiencing. We must have an effective strategy for marketing through the Internet.
After more than a year of researching how retailers in this industry use the Internet, and comparing that to how the Internet is being used by successful retailers in other industries, I have come to believe that one of the biggest problems that can impact a dealership’s sales negatively is the lack of effective Internet marketing.
If 84 percent of our prospects are looking for us on line, we should be putting 84 percent of our marketing efforts into being found online. Yet most retailers have no effective strategy for being found online. And worse, almost everyone in this industry is terrible at responding to prospects that do find them through the Internet.
A recent industry study found that 80 percent of prospects that submitted an on-line request for information never received any follow-up on that request. I can’t sugar coat this one. That is terrible.
Think about this. If 80 percent of the customers who came to your sales center had to wander around by themselves and then leave before ever getting to talk with someone from your company, would that have a negative impact on your sales numbers? Of course it would.
That same study found that of the 20 percent of prospects who did get a response, the average response time was five days. If I had to wander around on your lot for five days before someone came out to answer my questions, then I would be pretty pissed off by the time you got out there. Do you think you would have any chance of salvaging a good working relationship with me if you started that relationship by ignoring me for five days?
I know there are retailers in this industry who are very good at responding to their Internet leads. Every one of those dealers made money last year and is seeing an increase of sales year over year.
However, many dealerships are not prepared to take advantage of the number one source of new prospects and are mistreating or ignoring the few prospects they get from this source.
Why is it we do such a terrible job with our Internet prospects?
A big part of it is that as retailers, we are used to a sales process that starts when a customer walks onto our sales center.
The Internet, as I reviewed in my last article, has changed that. Customers are now starting their decision making process six months or more before they will walk onto your sales center. During that time, they are narrowing down their options, gathering information and looking for a relationship with someone who can help them figure out how to navigate the buying process.
In the old days (five years ago), they did these same things, but they would do it by making early visits to a sales center or watching commercials or asking their friends about dealers. With the Internet, they can do all their research from the comfort of their own homes.
In the old days (five years ago), we could reach into our prospect’s homes to introduce ourselves through traditional advertising methods such as television, radio and newspapers. We could also count on open-houses and promotions to bring those early researchers out of their homes and onto our sales centers.
Today, we have to use the Internet to reach into their homes to introduce ourselves. That means a lot more than having a website. It means we have to make sure they find our web site while they are sitting in their living room searching at their computer.
Once they find us, we have to make sure we can give them enough compelling information that they will want to continue to spend time at our website and eventually reach out to us to make contact.
Once they reach out to us, we must be sure to get back to them quickly and to provide them with a compelling reason to continue to communicate with us.
Once we have established communication, we must develop enough of a relationship that they will come in to see us when they are ready to start looking at RVs.
All of this sounds complicated because it is. There is nothing easy about changing the way your business interacts with prospects. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. The good news is, if you can do this effectively, you will see a tremendous increase in sales that will provide you with profits and financial security — no matter what happens with the rest of the industry.
In my next installment, I will explain seven tactics you can use to help your prospects find your business on the Internet. If you can’t wait another month to get started, give me a call at 800.336.0339 or send an e-mail to chad@GetRain.com and ask about our free webinar – Unlocking the Secrets of the Internet.
Chad Carr is the president of Rainmaker Consulting, a second-generation family business that provides retail management software and consulting services for the RV, trailer and housing markets.
Rainmaker works with dealers ranging in size from five to six people up to some of the biggest and most well recognized names in the industry.
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