By Sri Kamma
Car enthusiasts are loyal to their brands. They follow manufacturers religiously, track new models, and engage online with other people in the community. It is really interesting and fun to attend car events where enthusiasts share their appreciation for brands during the weekends. I know the excitement and the thrill many enthusiasts feel because I am a part of several groups, including BMW CCA, Porsche CCA, Mercedes Car Club of America, Mustang Club, Corvette Club and many more.
Owners or prospective car owners have conversations in person about the unique technical features of their vehicles, modifications they have made, and recommendations for future purchases. However, those conversations do not end at weekend events. In fact, many continue in online communities such as auto forums, and can be a fantastic source of information for an auto dealer to locate leads. Prospective customers — auto enthusiasts and first-timers alike — use auto forums in a variety of ways:
- Purchase a new car: People looking for their next new car will often research or ask for recommendations online. In forums dedicated to specific brands, enthusiasts frequently ask and answer questions about nearly every model of vehicle.
- Limited production vehicles: This is for the real car enthusiasts. For brands like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes, limited production vehicles are very popular among loyalists. M2 by BMW, Porsche performance vehicles like the 911 GT2, GT3 RS and the GT4, and Mercedes AMG GT models have great demand. Enthusiasts often look to the car communities for recommendations or sources to purchase these vehicles. This information can be very valuable to auto dealers to secure buyers who most often are ready to pay a premium to have these vehicles in their possession.
- Upcoming launches: Brand loyalists keep a close eye on new releases, and online forums are where many of them engage to find the latest news. People subscribe to threads that show spy shots of upcoming cars. There is lot of chatter on the forums and often the post and threads include multiple prospective buyers in the market.
- Future products: Manufacturers test next generation vehicles with camouflage on them, and yet, there are sources who look for clues underneath the camouflage to see how the new model will appear. Their conversations build hype and prime future buyers for new models.
- Used cars: Not everyone is in the market for new cars or special models. However, many use forums to look for recommendations on current or previous model cars. People ask about reliability, gas mileage, style, history, technical features, and about a variety of other essentials when purchasing a used car.
- Servicing: Because cars require regular maintenance, owners may connect with others and request suggestions about servicing.
- Aftermarket parts: Forums are also great places for car enthusiasts to exchange aftermarket parts, which are anywhere from accessories to parts that can be showcased on their car.
- Parts: There are many owners or enthusiasts with classic cars to modern ones who would like to change the engine oil in their cars. These owners buy parts from local auto dealers or online stores if the price is reasonable.
- Classic cars: Classic cars are always fun to drive. There is a huge market since they are more affordable and many people would like to experience owning one of them. From either having a passion to restore them or to just own one, prospective buyers are always looking to purchase one.
- Performance Models/Track Days: Track days are geared towards motorsports or performance motorheads, who would love to drive cars on the racetrack over the weekends. Luxury car manufacturers have performance lines like the M Division at BMW, V Series at Cadillac, AMG at Mercedes. Some manufacturers have their own performance brands like the Corvette by GM. Prospective performance brand customers are always looking for open track days to participate in to find their next cars. The prospective buyers are on forums dedicated to this.
Prospective customers with varying degrees of expertise are using auto forums and online communities to find their next car or accessory. Because auto salespeople are knowledgeable, they can be approachable and reach out to customers or to people who ask in such forums. As a result, auto dealers have a new way of connecting with those prospective customers.
However, there is a major barrier. For dealers to connect with prospective customers, they would need a tool to scroll through millions of posts, find people with an intent to purchase cars, parts or servicing and find a way to connect with them. That work cannot be done manually, even if your team has a small army of social media managers.
Apart from being a car enthusiast and a brand ambassador in local car clubs, I am also an entrepreneur and founder of FunnelAI, which provides real time prospects from any social platforms for any industry. Being a passionate auto enthusiast, I launched and developed our social prospecting tool initially for the auto industry, to bridge my knowledge and passion for artificial intelligence and cars. Our product’s target is to empower auto dealers to connect with all and any prospective customers in online communities, which makes it easy for auto dealers to connect and engage in the community setting and provide options to customers quickly and effectively. Another feature we have at FunnelAI is social events tool, whereby auto dealers can be notified of their customer’s life events that could potentially present an opportunity for customer re-engagement, recurring purchases, retention, and relationship building.
FunnelAI leverages AI to read millions of public posts from over 500 forums and other social data sources, and can connect auto dealers with prospective customers in real-time. Unlike traditional lead generation processes, including social media ads, TrueCar, Edmunds and other sources, FunnelAI is different in connecting directly with the prospective customer with real time intent to purchase.