I dislike getting my picture taken.
I’m not sure why, that’s just how I’ve always felt. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to renew my passport, because not only can I no longer pretend I still look like I did 5 years ago in the last picture, but I had to spend a morning waiting in line at a government building after getting my picture taken. Luckily you don’t need to smile for the camera for these.
When I went to the studio, I told them I needed a simple passport photo, got my best neutral face ready, and picked up the debit terminal to pay. The girl behind the counter handed me a form and told me to fill out my name and email address first.
I said “Why do I have to fill that out; can’t I just give you money?” She said that’s not how they do things, all customers must fill it out, it’s store policy. I was not given a reason why, but in the fine print at the bottom of the form was the typical text along the lines of “by filling out this form, I consent to receive further electronic communication”. Why? Must we complicate every benign transaction? I don’t like the idea that the next time I pop into a gas station for a pack of gum, they’re going to insist that I give them my personal information first. If I give my email address to the photo studio, they’re going to send me emails about their latest promotions, emails around Christmas trying to convince me to bring the family down for a shoot, emails about anything and everything – they’re probably even going to share my email address with the department store in which the studio is located, and I’ll get who-knows-how-many emails from them, too.
I didn’t say all of that, however, I just wrote down a fake email address without consequence. The perfect crime, right? She didn’t know it was fake, I got my photo, I left, and I won’t be receiving emails begging me to come back. If I need them, I know where to find them, and even then: unlikely. Like I said, I don’t like getting my picture taken.
Customers, and prospects, value their privacy.
The way customers want to interact with businesses is always evolving. Not so long ago, the newest and greatest thing to a customer was the ability to fill out a form on the website to submit their inquiry and get an email reply. Businesses then realized they should keep these email addresses for future marketing efforts, from e-newsletters to populating remarketing lists. Somewhere along the way, it became too much, and customers got sick of the constant barrage of emails from businesses they interacted with for a small fraction of time (and many they’ve never even heard of because someone may or may not have sold an email list to someone else).
We still tend to idealize form leads in the automotive sector. Sure, it’s great when a salesperson can get a neatly wrapped parcel in their email inbox containing the customer’s information and the nature of their inquiry written down for future reference. However, the rate at which form leads are being submitted is on the decline. Email is certainly not going away as a primary means of communication, but customers are increasingly reluctant to give up their email addresses. Some of the more distrusting prospects are even resorting to temporary email services, whereby a web service will provide exactly what it sounds like: a temporary email address which can both send and receive emails, giving no personal information away. Anyone who has worked in a dealership on the receiving end of form leads can tell you that plenty come in with the email address field full of gibberish text, or something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”, where users are hoping that the email requirement to get a free CarProof or trade appraisal is just a bluff, and the information will just pop on screen rather than having to come later from a salesperson. The distrust and frustration is plainly evident in how customers submit form leads.
On the other hand, phone call leads are on the rise, as are live chats. It’s easier than ever for a website visitor to launch either of those instantly, and information without unwittingly subscribing to future emails. Fortunately, different types of conversions can be tracked, and we can distinguish which phone calls are coming in as a result of clicking on an ad, to help businesses understand exactly where their leads originate. Strathcom President Duncan Cochrane expanded on this in his blog post discussing the different categories of conversions, and why it is necessary to know what exactly is being considered a conversion.
Many dealers still compartmentalize their incoming phone calls as being independent of online advertising, when they are in fact directly attributable to the campaigns, ads, and keywords which prompted someone to inquire.
It is also worth noting that CASL regulations are changing as of July 1, 2017, and it’s going to be more difficult to build and communicate with your email list.
But the point here is that we cannot get too attached to form leads as an indicator of effective online advertising campaigns. Unless your business has conducted intensive research, nailing down where every sale originates, calculating which source is most profitable, and has made some conclusions which no one else has yet… all leads should be valued. (#AllLeadsMatter). Therefore, our word of caution: completely altering a marketing strategy to gain a few more form leads, at the expense of what could be a large quantity of other types of leads, would be chasing a false positive.
Sure, you might capture a few more emails. But how do your customers feel about that?