20 Best Auto Dealer Lead Generation Ideas [2020]

When you operate a dealership, you know that leads mean everything.

These days, you have to re-write the playbook to find leads from younger audiences. You also want to make sure you are aware of the latest lead generation tips and tricks to stay ahead of the competition.

To help you get the most quality leads, here is a look at some of the best proven lead generation tactics that have been proven to increase quality leads and sales. These lead generation approaches will allow you to capture leads from just about everywhere your prospects spend time.

auto dealer lead generation ideas

Here are 20 lead generation ideas for car sales:

Each of these lead generation tips and tricks are already being used in dealerships across the country. Be sure to have a diversified spread of approaches to see what works best for your dealership.

1. Offer valuable content for contact information

Get contact information in the form of an email or phone number in order to further market to your lead. Using the “Freemium” strategy of offering valuable content for contact information is a proven strategy. Make sure that the content being offered is high quality, well-written and useful for the target audience.

One of the more successful lead magnets are “how-to” eBooks. Here are some eBook examples that you can use:

  1. What to pack for a campaign trip
  2. Top aftermarket accessories for your SUV
  3. How to winterize your vehicle

2. Hire a professional copywriter

While many dealership managers and sales associates will write copy for ads and sales letters, many top performing dealerships rely on professional copywriters to give their copy an edge. Copywriters, with experience in dealership marketing, know all the sales tips and tricks that can get prospects to take action.

auto dealer lead generation ideas copywriter

3. Ensure that the dealership website is mobile friendly

Younger buyers are more likely to visit your dealership website via a mobile device. Therefore, you will want to make sure that the website is mobile friendly. Here are some tips to make your device mobile friendly:

  1. Use short paragraphs.
  2. Avoid putting too much small type on the page.
  3. Make sure the site is fully responsive to a mobile browser.

4. Sponsor local organizations and cross-promote with other businesses

Keep your business out in front of the local community. One of the most effective ways to keep your dealership name visible is to sponsor local professional, college, high school and amateur sports teams. You can also sponsor charity runs, festivals, and other activities.

Finally, look at cross promoting with other local businesses. One example is to offer a free gift card at a local restaurant in return for a test drive. You can advertise the offer at the local restaurant.

5. Re-establish contact with lost prospects

For every sale, there are several prospects who visit the dealership, take a test drive and don’t make a purchase. If you re-engage with these lost prospects, you can turn some of these leads into sales. Use an enticing offer to heat up the lead. If the prospect is not interested, then ask him for the name and contact information of someone who may be interested in a vehicle.

auto dealer lead generation ideas follow-up

6. Make Use of SEO optimized blog posts

People who are interested in a vehicle tend to do lots of online research. To make your website more discoverable, create SEO optimized blog posts are likely to show up first in search engine results.

Here are some tips to create the ultimate dealership SEO optimized blog:

  1. Use your city name in the headline and/or copy.
  2. Create advice and how-to articles.
  3. Include a call to action at the end of the article.
  4. Make sure that the primary keyword appears in the headline, first paragraph and throughout the copy.

Also, you will want to answer commonly answered questions by people searching for vehicle purchases and leases. Some of the most commonly searched for questions include the following:

  1. How do I bring customers to a car dealership?
  2. How do I get more leads for car sales?

The article that you are reading right now is an example of an SEO optimized article. Notice that the main keyword phrase, “lead generation tips and tricks” can be found on the headline, in the intro paragraph and in several places throughout the article. This allows the article to be easily discoverable for sales people looking for tips on lead generation.

7. Always use the “big three” components in any marketing communications

No matter what type of lead generation strategy you use, make sure that they have the three core components of any marketing communication:

  1. A valuable offer – This includes the price, incentives, services and other extras that makes the offer too good to pass up.
  2. Putting that offer in front of the right people – You want to make sure you are targeting the right audience to get the best conversion rate.
  3. Give them a reason to act – You don’t want your lead to “think things over.” Give the lead a reason to act today in the form of scarcity.

auto dealer lead generation ideas marketing

Here’s an example of a campaign that uses marketing basics:

Every holiday season, Lexus offers the “December to Remember” campaign that has run for over two decades. This campaign targets affluent customers to offer Lexus vehicles as Christmas gifts. This campaign has helped Lexus become one of the top selling luxury brands in the fourth quarter of every year since the campaign’s inception.

You can take inspiration from this national car campaign and apply it to your dealership. For instance, you can create a campaign to market a vehicle purchase or lease as a holiday gift like Lexus’ successful “December to Remember” campaign.

8. Create high production walk through videos

When a prospect is interested in a vehicle, they will want to know everything about it. That’s why you should create a full “walk through” video of each model of new vehicle or featured used vehicle.

Select a sales associate – or hire a model – who is charismatic in front of a camera to present a complete walk-through vehicle. The video should contain the following information:

  1. Overview – Present the vehicle, the dealership, and the unique selling point that the vehicle has to offer.
  2. Exterior – Go over the main exterior features and discuss the design of the vehicle.
  3. Interior – This part of the video looks at the interior features, appointments and style.
  4. Performance – This section of the video discusses the engine, braking and performance. Driving footage can also be used in this part of the video.
  5. Safety – Discuss the standard and available safety features.
  6. Call to action – This part of the video should include an offer and a call to action to take a test drive or learn more about the vehicle.

As an example, Scott Smith of Rusnak BMW in Los Angeles uses attractive models as presenters in his BMW review. His videos on Youtube and Facebook get anywhere from 50,000 to over 250,000 views. Here are some examples of his recent car reviews. Notice that these videos follow a similar structure and include an informative voice over from Scott Smith himself:

2020 BMW X5 review:

2020 BMW M2 competition review:

2018 BMW X2 review:

9. Have every sales person conduct several sales calls per day

High performing dealerships don’t wait around for the leads to come to them. Each member of your sales team should make at least ten sales calls per day. They can base these calls on leads generated from the dealership website. Making at least ten sales calls, from each member of the sales team, can lead to thousands of dollars in increased sales.

10. Run a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign

PPC campaigns are one of the most effective ways to generate leads. That’s because the ad platforms on Google, Facebook and Twitter allow you to geo-target and “interest target” your audience.

To get the best results, hire someone who has experience with PPC campaigns. These PPC specialists can split test your ad campaign, get the right targeting, and lower your overall cost per lead.

Here is an example of a PPC campaign that you can run on Facebook: Target people who have shown an interest in your dealership’s brand. For instance, if you have a Honda dealership, target people who have liked the Honda autos page or any specific Honda vehicle.

Here is a look at a profile of that you can run on Facebook if you run a Honda dealership in Houston and are trying to sell new CR-V SUVs:

  1. Women
  2. Lives in Houston
  3. Age 25-54
  4. Moms
  5. Likes Honda page
  6. Income $40,000 to $100,000

11. Create a robust referral program

Referrals are one of the most cost-effective ways to get valuable leads is to have a top referral program. Make sure that your customers are happy with your service and give them a top incentive to refer your dealership to their friends, business associates, and family members.

auto dealer lead generation ideas referrals

Here are some of the top referral rewards that you can offer:

  1. Dealership store credit
  2. Gift cards
  3. Aftermarket vehicle accessories
  4. Dinner at a fine restaurant

12. Stay organized with a dealership focused CRM tool

You can make it easy for your dealership team to track their ability to follow up on their leads and track their workflows with a CRM tool. Create a sales funnel to help you manage every stage of the customer interaction. These CRM interfaces provide the ideal way for managers to assign, connect, and follow-up with each dealership lead. The result is that a dealership can experience better conversion rates at a lower marketing price.

13. Double down on the best third-party site for your inventory

Dealerships will often put its inventory on every third-party site including Cars.com, Cargurus.com, Edmunds, and others. However, you don’t want to spread your time and money too thin by listing on every third-party site. Find out which third party website gives you the most leads and double down on that site.

Once the best third party site has been determined, the dealership should invest in high-quality photography, video and descriptions to make its listings stand out from the crowd.

14. Use direct mail marketing with a strong offer

Direct mail, with strong offers, is still one of the most effective ways to get cost-effective leads to the dealership. Direct mail campaigns can consist of everything from letters to brochures and leaflets.

Here are the three things that all direct mail pieces should offer in order to get more leads:

  1. Attractive photos of the vehicle
  2. Well-written copy
  3. A strong offer

Here are some examples of direct mail pieces that you can send out:

  1. Holiday sales
  2. New vehicle introductions
  3. End of year sales
  4. Summer and winter sales
  5. Incentive focused direct mailers (ex, rebates, big trade-in value, service center discounts).

15. Make it easy for customers to share your message on social media

Looking to get free exposure and no-cost leads? You can literally double and triple your leads – for free – by adding share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms on follow-up emails.

You should also include share buttons on all photos, videos, and other content that you place on your website and social media posts.

16. Take high quality photos

High quality photos of dealership vehicles make a big difference when it comes to lead generation. Here are some tips that will allow you to take better photos and get more leads:

  1. Use the right angle – Some vehicles look better from the front while others offer the most visual appeal from the three-quarter rear angle. Discover which angle is best for the hero shot.
  2. Lighting – Make sure that the lighting is ideal to capture the best lines on the vehicle. Also avoid beginner photography mistakes like overexposure or placing a light source in front of the camera.
  3. Backdrop – Use a backdrop that will add drama to the vehicle. For instance, you can use a clean background for an interior shot of a skyline backdrop for your luxury vehicles.
  4. Color balance – Make sure all the colors are adjusted to create the most visually appealing image.

To see an example of excellent dealership photography, take a look at the inventory photos from O’Gara Coach Beverly Hills. Notice the angle of the hero shot, the lighting and the background of each photo.

17. Work actively to get more Facebook followers

Facebook is the most important social media platform for car dealerships. Therefore, it is important to build a big following on that social network. You can grow your Facebook followers with these proven tactics:

  1. Post often – Try to post at least once a day. Several times a day is ideal.
  2. Use video – Video had the ability to stop people from scrolling and spend time on your ad or post.
  3. Ask questions & offer polls – Asking questions and offering poll questions can increase interaction and allow you to get some quick market research. For instance, you can ask the audience which vehicles they are likely to buy, when they are willing to buy, and what type of incentives that want in an offer.

Here are some examples of Facebook posts that gets lots of attention and interaction:

  1. Ask a question: These types of posts get lots of interaction on a Facebook post. Example: Show a photo of an off road vehicle and ask, “Where would you take your road trip in the new Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro?”
  2. Take a poll: A poll gets more interaction and gives you free market research. For example: Which one of these vehicles are you more likely to lease? The options can include your three or four of your dealership’s most popular vehicles.
  3. Driving footage: Video gets lots of attention on Facebook. Driving footage can be exciting to watch with copy on the screen. For example, you can show driving footage of a sport car with the copy. “You only live once. Why not make the most of it? Test drive the BMW M240i at Rusnak BMW. Contact us today.”

18. Show up in local Google searches with Google places

Google is the first place most people go to when searching for information on local dealerships. Therefore, you will want to get listed on Google Places in order to show up in more local search queries.

19. Get Referrals from LinkedIn

LinkedIn members have the highest average income of any major social network. If you offer luxury vehicles, then being a part of LinkedIn is a must.

Request to be added to a LinkedIn member’s network. From there, offer valuable content in return for customer referrals.

Here is an example of an offer that you can provide in return for referral contacts: “The headline should be simple such as “Introducing Myself.”

The copy should be brief. Here is an example:

Hello Mr. Smith, I am John Parks of Mercedes-Benz of Dallas. Do you know someone in the market for a new luxury vehicle? We would like to invite your business contact, friend or family member to take a test drive today of our popular Mercedes luxury vehicles.

In return, we can offer you dinner for two at Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse – or cash bonus – for every lease or purchase that you refer to us. You can respond to this email or contact me at (phone number) at your convenience.

Thank you in advance,

John Parks, Senior Sales Associate, Mercedes-Benz of Dallas.

20. Make it easy to collect leads on every page of a dealership website

The entire purpose of a dealership website is to cultivate leads. Therefore, you will want to make sure that every area of the website offers some way to engage the prospect and get their contact information. Here are some ways you can cultivate leads on the dealership website:

  1. Place contact information on the header or footer – The header should have the dealership phone number in large type. Also include the dealership’s physical address and email address.
  2. Use a chat bot – Chat bots allow the website visitor to engage in a conversation and ask questions to an automated program that will request contact information and generate leads.
  3. Offer lead magnets – You can offer ebooks and how-to PDFs in return for a website visitor’s e-mail address.
  4. Put a contact fill-out form on every listing – Every listing should have a contact form for website visitors to request a test drive, reserve a vehicle or simply get more information from a sales associate.

auto dealer lead generation ideas website leads

Here are three dealership websites that have done an excellent job of putting lots of lead collection opportunities throughout their site:

  1. Reeves BMW
  2. Marina Del Rey Toyota
  3. Findlay Honda

Creating a playbook for getting more dealership leads

The best way to get more leads to a dealership is to integrate as many of these lead generation tips and tricks. Work to add as many of these proven methods to your dealership marketing plan and you’ll find some incredible, increasing results over time.

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