Ask The Expert | March 2014

This month’s dis­cus­sion is pre­sent­ed by Scott Pech­stein of Auto­by­tel.

You Can’t Afford a Texting Mistake

How to use text mes­sage tech­nol­o­gy to increase sales while avoid­ing big fines in the process.

Change is occur­ring at such a rapid pace when it comes to text mes­sage usage, the sta­tis­tics quot­ed here will prob­a­bly be out of date by the time this arti­cle is pub­lished. How­ev­er, one thing is crys­tal clear – tex­ting is becom­ing the world’s pre­ferred method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and not just between fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends.Scott-Pechstein

63% of auto shop­pers research and shop online while at a deal­er­ship using their mobile device and 62% of those left to vis­it anoth­er deal­er­ship, accord­ing to a Jan­u­ary 2014 study by Placed, Inc.

It’s clear that text mes­sage pro­grams, includ­ing text mes­sage mar­ket­ing, are more impor­tant than ever before.  But how do you cre­ate a dia­log with con­sumers while they’re on your lot and, more impor­tant­ly, how do you cre­ate a dia­log that keeps them AT your lot with­out vio­lat­ing TCPA guide­lines – infrac­tions that can cost a stag­ger­ing $1,500 per text vio­la­tion?

Keep these crit­i­cal rules in mind.

  • Texts mes­sages should be ini­ti­at­ed by the con­sumer NOT by the deal­er­ship.
  • All text mes­sages should be stored in a sys­tem.  Beyond hav­ing a doc­u­ment­ed record of the dia­log for legal pur­pos­es, you should want doc­u­men­ta­tion of the dia­log text con­ver­sa­tion for your CRM/DMS.
  • The storage/message sys­tem should rec­og­nize “STOP” and auto­mat­i­cal­ly lock out any fur­ther text com­mu­ni­ca­tions with that con­sumer.

Today, sta­tis­tics show that many peo­ple will leave your web­site once they get to the lead form and many more will drop out of the process when asked to key in their per­son­al infor­ma­tion on a smart­phone. By lever­ag­ing the use of text mes­sage tech­nol­o­gy the right way, you can cap­ture and retain a larg­er per­cent­age of cus­tomer prospects.

Here is our advice:

1)      Imple­ment a com­plete mobile strat­e­gy that coor­di­nates stan­dard text dia­log with your mobile site and your mobile apps, then enhance these pro­grams with a smart text mes­sage mar­ket­ing pro­gram.

2)      Have a ded­i­cat­ed BDC or Inter­net staff mem­ber always avail­able for a text dia­log – at min­i­mum, dur­ing nor­mal busi­ness hours.  If not, out­source your efforts. Con­sumers expect a time­ly response once a dia­logue starts.

3)      Fea­ture key­words and short codes with­in all of your adver­tis­ing and on all of your win­dow stick­ers such as “Text STATE (key word for State Col­lege Ford, as an exam­ple).

4)      Dis­play “Text for Help” links on both your desk­top and mobile web­sites.  The links should be promi­nent­ly dis­played with inven­to­ry list­ings, request a quote forms, and as an option for how to con­tact the deal­er­ship.

Con­sumers wel­come the abil­i­ty to chat with a deal­er, but you must com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers in a man­ner they are most com­fort­able with while fol­low­ing the legal guide­lines in the process.  You sim­ply can’t afford not to.

Scott Pech­stein man­ages in-house and field sales of Autobytel’s broad range of indus­try-lead­ing prod­ucts, includ­ing TextShield, a text mes­sage admin­is­tra­tive dash­board.  He also serves as an auto­mo­tive indus­try spokesper­son, a com­pa­ny news media spokesper­son, and lead train­er of the Auto­by­tel Deal­er Insight series.