By Kristen Judd


At a recent conference, speaker after speaker talked about the importance of continuing to follow-up with customers – whether previous owners in dealer databases or leads in the CRM. The conventional wisdom in lead handling has long prescribed a periodic follow-up plan after 45 or 90 days that includes a series of “touches”: offers, phone calls, and the like. The traditional mindset in the owner retention side has been standard OEM programs with offers timed around equity position and trade cycles and other time- and mileage-based markers. Data has shown that these approaches result in some incremental sales. At 3 Birds, we questioned whether the current approach is effectively capturing all potential sales or whether some viable sales opportunities were being left for “dead.”

At 3 Birds, we are a curious lot. We like to poke conventional wisdom and see if it still holds up, especially because consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the past five years while the dealership ecommerce process has largely remained the same. So we looked at a pile of dealer data over an eight-month time period. It included:

  • 90,000 Sales Transactions
  • Over 350,000 Leads
  • More than 4MM campaign communications
Guess what? Turns out that, on average, there were more than 10 sales per month per dealer that the conventional approach was failing to convert. Now that we have your attention, keep reading for more details about what you may be leaving on the table every month. Here’s the story.

We looked at the entire customer activity record from the DMS and the CRM. We studied whether or not those who had been inactive for a period of time could be reactivated by various 3 Birds Email Campaigns. Campaigns included Sales, Service, Newsletter, Buyback, and other types of our proven campaigns. In order to claim Direct Contribution to the sale, we required that there be a period of inactivity, a 3 Birds Campaign be sent and opened (at a minimum), subsequent activity with the dealership, and a sale within a short time period.

The results are shown in the table below.

Days Aging SalesNewsletterBuy BackServiceRetentionOtherSale/Month
Database Retention47%43%2%4%1%4%5.4
Here is what the results show:
  • We found 5.7 incremental sales per month per dealer by sending 3 Birds Campaigns to leads that had been inactive for more than 31 days with 5.0 incremental sales per month from leads inactive more than 45 days and .7 from 31 to 45 days.
    • 46-47% of these eventual buyers engaged with 3 Birds sales-related Campaigns that include inventory, special offers, OEM events, and the like.
    • 46-49% engaged with 3 Birds monthly Email Newsletters which include product, ownership, and lifestyle content.
  • We found 5.4 more incremental sales per month per dealer from response to 3 Birds Campaigns sent to inactive owners in dealers’ previous customer databases.
    • 47% of these eventual buyers engaged with 3 Birds sales-related Campaigns.
    • 43% engaged with 3 Birds monthly Email Newsletters proximate to their eventual purchase.
Here’s what this means. Lead purchase behavior from sources like Polk and others typically shows that there is a surge of purchasing within the first 30 days of the lead submission. This can be as much as half the eventual purchase volume.  The other half of the eventual sales come over the next 90-120 days – throughout that period. What does this mean?  If means that half the people are ready to buy now and do. It also means the other half is not ready. Some are not sure about the make and model. Others need to take care of their trade. Still more have life conditions that have to work themselves out over time prior to a purchase.

While sending urgent offers and emails to “buy now” work for those buying in the next 30 days, this conventional technique turns off those who are not quite ready to buy. Think of yourself. If you are not buying for 90 days, do you want 10 phone calls and 10 emails asking you to come in today? Of course you don’t. So this results in opt-outs and other types of non-response. The same can be true for owners in the customer database.
Consider the 3 Birds Campaigns now.  The data in the table above shows that these customers respond to what is in those campaigns. They include articles about product features, reviews, and comparisons. They include articles about ownership and vehicle care. Some include lifestyle content. Others include special offers, OEM events, and actual inventory. The key to all of these campaigns is they include information that helps make the buyers’ decision easier and more satisfying. This information helps move customers through the purchase process and makes them feel better about the dealership, presumably by engendering trust. This all translates to an average of 11.1 incremental sales per month.

As a result of all of this data, more than 4.3MM campaign sends across 90,000 sales transactions and 350,000 leads we offer the following conclusions:
  • Conventional long-term lead follow-up programs are not sufficient to mine all the sales volume out of your leads.
  • Typical OEM and traditional customer retention campaigns are no longer sufficient to reactivate re-purchasing owners.
  • Capturing incremental sales from leads and owners requires a system that provides timely and tailored information. This information needs to include a mix of product, lifecycle messaging, and offers in order to trigger customer engagement and encourage a purchase.
3 Birds has a wide range of proven campaign packages that can help dealers harvest these incremental sales. Find the one that fits you—schedule a strategy session today. 
Kristen Judd