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How SMS Marketing Turns Auto Dealer Lot Walkers into Leads

Published on March 8, 2017

Banner with company name and tagline Car Shopping Simplified

“Sometimes simple is superior, and that’s what this is.”

Challenge: The Road Code needed a way to drive leads to auto dealerships from a niche audience called “physical lot walkers”—people who walk around dealership lots looking at cars.

Solution: Offer dealerships a texting program to generate SMS opt-in leads from vehicle window displays.

Result: Text-based lead generation helped The Road Code differentiate itself from competitors and win dealership clients. The company now gets ~70% of its business from the SMS product, and they’re also seeing a ~20% close rate with new customers.

Paul Brocky started The Road Code back in 2011 as an online space for vehicle sellers to display their inventory. But it wasn’t very long before he ran into a roadblock—fierce competition from well-established brands.

“We quickly found out that it’s tough to compete with Cars.com, AutoTrader, and Craigslist,” Paul said in a recent interview with SimpleTexting. The big dogs didn’t leave much territory for the taking, so Paul and company had to go hunting for a niche audience.

After a bit of research, they decided to focus on those physical lot walkers and figure out how to turn them into leads. This is The Road Code’s success story.

The Challenge: Leads from Lot Walkers

Rows of clean cars for sale on a dealership lot

When The Road Code identified auto dealership lot walkers as their target, nobody else was really focusing on converting that segment. So it was the perfect opportunity.

Targeting lot walkers also made sense because people like to get up close and personal with cars before making a purchase. “Have you ever just bought a car online without seeing it?” Paul asked us. No way, we said.

Weather can impact lot traffic, of course, but you can always count on lot walkers coming around. People will be there, checking out rides, kicking tires, and imagining themselves cruising through a beautiful car commercial.

The Road Code wanted to engage those lot walkers before they moved on. Thence the question: What’s the best way to message and convert these people into leads for dealerships?

A Simple Solution

Poster with sign, Text VIP1 to 555888, in driver window of red car

Answer: SMS marketing. The Road Code started offering dealerships a texting program that utilized SimpleTexting’s platform along with signs displayed in vehicle windows. For example, lot walkers who saw the sign above could text VIP1 to 555888. In response, they might have received a message with a link to the dealership’s listing, like so:

iPhone screen with text message for vehicle price and info

The next example shows a sign notifying lot walkers about instant financing. In this case, interested car shoppers who texted PAY3 to 555888 would have received a link to the dealership’s financing options:

Sign in window of black vehicle, Instant Financing, Text PAY3 to 555888

The Road Code’s program is all about generating leads, so you know there’s something else going on in the background. As people text in to keywords, they’re immediately forwarded to the dealer’s cellphone. A dealer might see something like the message below, which reads “You have a new Road Code lead!” and includes the lead’s name and phone number:

iPhone screen with text message about a new Road Code lead

Pretty nifty, right?

Incidentally, The Road Code noticed something interesting at the intersection of auto sales and SMS marketing. As it turns out, the signs that work are the ones with messages about pricing and financing. Nothing else performs as well.

Why? Because with vehicles “everybody wants to know the price and everybody wants to know if they can afford it,” Paul said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Easy Street

SMS marketing may have been a road less traveled, but it certainly wasn’t a difficult drive for The Road Code.

Pitching it to new clients, for instance, has always been a breeze because the concept is so simple. “Demos are the easiest things in the world,” Paul told us. “Dealers get it. When they see it they go, ‘Oh, I get it, this is simple.’ And when they see that their lead gets forwarded to their phone, that’s even better. That’s what they really love, the fact that it’s not a lead sitting in an email. They can respond right away.”

There’s no learning curve to worry about, either. Nobody’s going to have trouble understanding how a text message marketing campaign works because text messaging is ingrained in our society. “One thing that drew us to SMS lead generation with SimpleTexting is the fact that all phones are SMS capable,” Paul said. “Everybody knows how to send a text message, from 18-year-olds to a 70-year-old.”

And dealerships like the results. Here’s what Ronny Kasabri of Ramsey Corp. had to say:

“Since we started using the text program from The Road Code we average about 2 leads per day and have closed a number of deals. The ROI is a no-brainer and we’re looking to expand the program even further.”

No-brainer ROI? No wonder The Road Code gets 70% of its business from text-based lead generation.

Summing It Up

Thanks to SMS marketing, The Road Code was able to stay in the race by driving new leads to dealerships. Instead of relying solely on online lead generation, they adapted with text messaging and started generating leads right from the lots.

“Getting the lead is great online, but the holy grail of leads is getting somebody’s cellphone number,” Paul said. “There’s nothing more powerful than a cellphone number because that thing is attached to you.”

It sure is. And it’s one of the easiest holy grails to get your hands on! 🙂

If you enjoyed reading The Road Code’s success story, drop us a note and let us know your thoughts. And if you’re interested in giving SMS marketing a shot, you can sign up for our free 14-day trial. It’s really simple, but don’t take our word for it—try it for yourself!


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