These days, when Matthew Strunk wants to truly wow potential marketing clients, he simply mentions one strategy: ringless voicemail.
“Most dealerships I’ve talked to about this technology are blown away that it exists,” says Strunk, the founder of BitMoto, a company that assists dealerships with digital marketing. “They’re not really aware that the technology exists and how powerful it can be.”
Ringless voicemail, or RVM, has increased in popularity the last few years, due in large part to the efficiency it offers businesses like car dealerships. With ringless voicemail, a dealership’s marketing team could record an employee’s sales pitch to customers, direct connect that audio message (after saving it as a digital file) to a communication company’s server, and then “drop” that message to hundreds of customers’ phones simultaneously. Once that batch of messages has dropped, individual customers are automatically left with a voicemail from a dealership, despite the fact their phone never rang.
“The nice thing about ringless voicemail technology,” Strunk says, “is that people listen to their voicemails—96 percent of people reportedly listen to their voicemail. ... When people get those [ringless] voicemails, it seems organic, because they might recognize the voice, or it just seems like they missed your call.”
Strunk, who worked as an Internet director at a dealership earlier in his career, has also become a believer in ringless voicemail technology due to its cost-effective nature. Instead of paying postage of 49 cents per direct mail piece, he notes, a ringless voicemail marketing campaign might cost as little as 20 cents per call (or $200 to make 1,000 calls).
“It’s really quite affordable, with the return you get,” he says of the evolving marketing tactic.
Below, Strunk shares tips on how to make ringless voicemail marketing beneficial to your dealership.
Start With a Small List.
If a dealership plans on entrusting its in-house marketing team to produce a ringless voicemail campaign, Strunk suggests starting with a small group of consumers (though some data companies, like Oracle, also make large demographical data available to dealerships to purchase). Strunk suggests studying how the evolving marketing tactic works, otherwise dealerships can quickly get overwhelmed by a flood of return phone calls.
And, Strunk adds, when sending out a mass phone message to customers, you want the message to feel organic, and not like stereotypical telemarketing.
Map Out Each Campaign.
Strunk has found loyalty campaigns to be effective, with calls made every seven days, over a span of six months. By spreading a campaign’s numerous phone calls out over months—otherwise known as the “drip” method—it ensures that a dealership won’t be barraged with return calls from customers all at once.
And, by calling a group of loyal customers, it lessens the chance that a dealership’s ringless message will anger a consumer who has no current interest in buying or servicing their vehicle (it should also be noted that laws for solicitation calls vary from state to state, Strunk notes).
“What I’ve found works, if you’re doing a loyalty list, is, let’s say someone purchased a vehicle through your dealership,” Strunk explains. “And let’s say they serviced their first oil change with you, and now they haven’t been there for a year, so it’s a lost customer. … Have a service manager record a voicemail saying, ‘Sorry I missed you, but I noticed you haven’t been in our service department in a year … if you’re willing to come back to us, I’d like to give you a free oil change offer.'”
Keep Messages Natural, and Concise.
As long as marketing voicemails are delivered by dealership employees who are confident, and don’t sound like they’re reading from a script, Strunk has found that customers will often listen for at least 40 seconds. Yet, he warns against leaving messages that last longer than one minute.
“Have one of the service writers record a voicemail,” Strunk suggests, saying, "'I just wanted to remind you that we offer a high-quality service that the manufacturer recommends.’ … You want to get the point across, but you also want them to call you back so you can work that lead into an opportunity."
Measure, Measure, Measure.
It’s important to take note of what types of ringless voicemail messages resonate with customers, Strunk says. And then, it’s important to use a ringless voicemail campaign’s tracking capabilities to your advantage.
“Make sure you’re measuring those results to see what’s working and what’s not,” Strunk says. “If you have 1,000 people to call, split it up into two lists of 500. Make two different voicemails that are slightly different, with a slightly different call to action, and see which one works better.”
Eventually, he adds, “you can run a report: out of those [consumers] that called you back, we can confirm, versus your open RO report, that this was converted into business, and you generate this much money in revenue. And you compare that to your cost of the campaign, and then you can actually measure the ROI.”
Establish an Internal Process.
Once you’ve put a ringless voicemail campaign in motion, it’s imperative to inform your entire dealership staff—especially those that are likely to field return phone calls from customers who received the automated message. Otherwise, confusion can reign; a service department employee might assume a customer is calling to check on their vehicle’s repair work, for example, though their vehicle isn’t actually being worked on at the moment.
“It’s just this totally weird, odd scenario if [employees] aren’t aware of it,” Strunk says of a ringless voicemail campaign. “So, make sure your operators are aware of it, so that way they’ve rehearsed, to make sure that the call gets transferred to the right person.”