Steele Auto Group wins over car buyers with Twilio

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open rate for SMS marketing campaigns

Steele Auto Group, a network of car dealerships in Nova Scotia, found that blowout sales and inflatable gorillas on the roof just weren’t cutting it. That’s when marketing guru Todd Thompson paved the way for increased sales using a variety of Twilio-powered apps.

Teaching an old industry new tricks

The approach of auto dealers never seems to change. Dealers still pound on car hoods on local TV. Dealerships still run full-page ads in newspapers hoping to catch an eye or two.

Todd Thompson, marketing and development director at Steele Auto Group, was running ads online, in local publications, on billboards, and through direct-mail flyers. But he had no accurate way of determining which ads brought in the most business. He decided to assign a unique phone number to each ad so that he could track the most successful ones and allocate funds accordingly.

“There’s so much value in the Twilio API. The Twilio API changed the game for us.”

Todd Thompson Marketing and Development Director

Ads that make phones ring

Thompson searched the internet for a solution that could bring his idea to life, and he came across Twilio. To his surprise, Twilio offered Canadian numbers. He bought a number, ran a test, and lo and behold the phone rang. “Twilio really bridges the gap between the internet and the phone,” said Thompson. “To me, that’s power.”

He looked at other providers and realized they didn’t offer the ease of acquiring multiple numbers that Twilio did. Twilio gave him the power to purchase numbers at a moment’s notice.

Thompson single-handedly integrated Twilio within a few days, citing excellent support along the way from the Twilio team. Thanks to Twilio, he now had the tools to determine which ads were bringing in the most calls.

Call recording generates income

Thompson didn’t stop at call tracking. His next project was to set up Twilio Call Recording so that sales conversations could be monitored for quality and training purposes.

Now, when a customer calls the sales department, Steele Auto records both the phone number and the conversation. General managers receive the recording by email so they can review the exchange.

“On the first day that we used call recording, we sold a car,” said Thompson. “The salesman didn’t know there was more stock on a different lot, so the GM called the customer back. This one call paid for a year’s worth of Twilio.”

Twilio Call Recording also functions as a valuable lead generation tool for Steele Auto. The first campaign Thompson ran using call recording invited Subaru drivers to call in with their best Subaru stories. He posted their stories on the website and ran a contest for the best entry. The campaign generated 100 new leads.

Thompson admits to being “blown away” by all the ways he can use Twilio and has taken full advantage of SMS capabilities. Twilio SMS helps Steele Auto generate leads, advertise special sales, and provide better customer service.

Thompson built an app that notifies customers of maintenance specials by directly messaging their phones. They can text back with a simple “yes,” and a scheduler will contact them by phone. The service department also uses SMS to contact customers when they’ve completed servicing a vehicle.

“The beauty of SMS for customers is they don’t have to go through the time- consuming process of making the phone call and getting put on hold,” said Thompson. “For us, it really lightens the load on the phone, especially in the mornings.”

Another SMS-based service lets customers text in a request for a new appointment. When a request is received, it is matched with the customer’s vehicle information and converted into an email that is sent to the service department. When the service department replies, the email is automatically converted back into an SMS and sent to the customer. As a result, both customers and service advisors use their preferred method to communicate.

SMS marketing campaigns have generated the most success for Steele Auto. For events such as private sales, Thompson said the open rate for text messages is around 90% compared to the 18% they were getting with email blasts. And the response is much faster, too.

Easing the pain of buying a car

Thompson used Twilio to create several apps that generate leads by allowing consumers to start the buying process at home.

For example, Steele’s classified ads contain a four-digit code. Buyers can text the code to a Twilio number and receive a response that contains information such as price, mileage, and model.

To help customers determine what they can afford, Steele Auto offers an online pre-approval process. Thompson also customized a cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) system to take credit applications 24 hours a day. “Credit approval is very personal, and many people would prefer to do it anonymously,” he said.

For customers seeking to make a trade-in, Thompson created the site where buyers can find out how much their cars are worth. Buyers gain access to the site by typing in their phone number and receiving a code via SMS. From there, they fill out a short form to receive an appraisal. Because this phone number verification solution is so quick and simple, the completion rate is around 95%.

A solid API to lean on

Thompson believes that finding new methods of reaching consumers is the key to success in his industry. Having Twilio at his disposal gives him the ability to create new marketing solutions whenever the need arises.

“There’s so much value in the Twilio API,” he said. “It changed the game for us. Anything interesting or cutting edge we have, we built on the Twilio platform.”

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