Almost all of automotive agrees: sales are driven from conversations with consumers. For years, the automotive industry has relied on leads to start these conversations. But in today’s digital age, leads are too few and far between to be the sole focus of your marketing efforts. Conversations with today’s car shoppers start long before a lead would ever be considered. Yet, most dealers measure the success of their marketing efforts on the number of leads delivered and spend their ad budgets accordingly. Frankly, dealers hyper-focused on driving leads are missing sales opportunities with most car shoppers.

Let’s take a moment and put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes. If you were in market for a car today, what would it take for you to submit a lead? It would most likely require significant interest or an unbelievable price for you to submit a lead. Before that, wouldn’t you shop around several websites to look for a competitive price or even drive to the dealership once you’ve found the best price? It’s time to face it – the game has changed, and what once was the go-to tactic for marketers in automotive is now mediocre at best.

Here are two things every dealer needs to know about leads in today’s market.

Almost all of automotive agrees: sales are driven from conversations with consumers. For years, the automotive industry has relied on leads to start these conversations. But in today’s digital age, leads are too few and far between to be the sole focus of your marketing efforts. Conversations with today’s car shoppers start long before a lead would ever be considered. Yet, most dealers measure the success of their marketing efforts on the number of leads delivered and spend their ad budgets accordingly. Frankly, dealers hyper-focused on driving leads are missing sales opportunities with most car shoppers.

Let’s take a moment and put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes. If you were in market for a car today, what would it take for you to submit a lead? It would most likely require significant interest or an unbelievable price for you to submit a lead. Before that, wouldn’t you shop around several websites to look for a competitive price or even drive to the dealership once you’ve found the best price? It’s time to face it – the game has changed, and what once was the go-to tactic for marketers in automotive is now mediocre at best.

Here are two things every dealer needs to know about leads in today’s market.

Leads are not the be-all end-all for sales

Across all of automotive I keep hearing the same thing, “almost no one submits leads anymore.” And it’s true – only 1 in 4 shoppers are submitting leads. Think about it: three-fourths of consumers do not want to be contacted via the phone, yet that is exactly what is expected when submitting a lead form. The result: fewer leads. Leads are just a small facet of how conversations are happening, and it’s now your job as a dealer to evolve and realize that leads are not the only way to drive conversations with consumers.

Over half of those same consumers who don’t want to be contacted by phone also prioritized a great experience over the absolute lowest price¹. Consumer expectations for the automotive industry are changing to match the same shopping experiences they receive in other industries. The days of spending a large portion of your budget on price-focused, lead generation is coming to a fast end and being replaced by personalized shopping journeys. It is still worthwhile to spend ad dollars on leads, but if that makes up the majority of your marketing budget, you need to re-evaluate. To win in today’s market, you must provide the personalized shopping journey consumers expect.

Leads are not the be-all end-all for sales

Across all of automotive I keep hearing the same thing, “almost no one submits leads anymore.” And it’s true – only 1 in 4 shoppers are submitting leads. Think about it: three-fourths of consumers do not want to be contacted via the phone, yet that is exactly what is expected when submitting a lead form. The result: fewer leads. Leads are just a small facet of how conversations are happening, and it’s now your job as a dealer to evolve and realize that leads are not the only way to drive conversations with consumers.

Over half of those same consumers who don’t want to be contacted by phone also prioritized a great experience over the absolute lowest price¹. Consumer expectations for the automotive industry are changing to match the same shopping experiences they receive in other industries. The days of spending a large portion of your budget on price-focused, lead generation is coming to a fast end and being replaced by personalized shopping journeys. It is still worthwhile to spend ad dollars on leads, but if that makes up the majority of your marketing budget, you need to re-evaluate. To win in today’s market, you must provide the personalized shopping journey consumers expect.

You are missing opportunities waiting on leads

Many vendors understand the need for personalized shopping journeys, but at the same time, they do not have data advanced enough to deliver relevant messages at the beginning of a shopper’s journey. If you choose to market alongside the shopping journey, you can’t work with old data. You must work with a vendor who has evolved from aged data to real-time, actionable data. This means your vendor must be able to tell you when a shopper enters the market instead of merely predicting when a shopper might be ready to purchase. In order to accurately and effectively market alongside a customer journey, you need live data to know when the shopper is entering the market and how you are communicating with them.

Partnering with shopper-journey vendors will help you shift your mindset to reach ALL shoppers in your market – and before your competition. Dealers that shift their marketing focus to embracing the overall customer experience often see a difference in the quality of their leads. They also see a noted increase in quality of showroom visits. Don’t wait for the shopper to submit a lead. Engage in a conversation, utilizing real-time shopping data to create an experience for the shopper.

You are missing opportunities waiting on leads

Many vendors understand the need for personalized shopping journeys, but at the same time, they do not have data advanced enough to deliver relevant messages at the beginning of a shopper’s journey. If you choose to market alongside the shopping journey, you can’t work with old data. You must work with a vendor who has evolved from aged data to real-time, actionable data. This means your vendor must be able to tell you when a shopper enters the market instead of merely predicting when a shopper might be ready to purchase. In order to accurately and effectively market alongside a customer journey, you need live data to know when the shopper is entering the market and how you are communicating with them.

Partnering with shopper-journey vendors will help you shift your mindset to reach ALL shoppers in your market – and before your competition. Dealers that shift their marketing focus to embracing the overall customer experience often see a difference in the quality of their leads. They also see a noted increase in quality of showroom visits. Don’t wait for the shopper to submit a lead. Engage in a conversation, utilizing real-time shopping data to create an experience for the shopper.

So … what can you do?

Start with evaluating your marketing approach. As a dealer, you have the power to put a strategy in place that holds your vendors accountable to evolving in today’s market. Your vendors should be able to match the fast-paced expectations of shoppers with real-time data. If they’re not, you need to make some calls.

Use these questions to evaluate your vendors. You want to know if they have the capabilities to help you market alongside shopper journeys.

  • How long has a shopper been in market before you start a conversation?
  • When and how often are you communicating with a shopper?
  • What data are you relying on to create conversations with potential customers?
  • Do you have a plan for every step of the shopper’s journey?

So … what can you do?

Start with evaluating your marketing approach. As a dealer, you have the power to put a strategy in place that holds your vendors accountable to evolving in today’s market. Your vendors should be able to match the fast-paced expectations of shoppers with real-time data. If they’re not, you need to make some calls.

Use these questions to evaluate your vendors. You want to know if they have the capabilities to help you market alongside shopper journeys.

  • How long has a shopper been in market before you start a conversation?
  • When and how often are you communicating with a shopper?
  • What data are you relying on to create conversations with potential customers?
  • Do you have a plan for every step of the shopper’s journey?

What’s the bottom line?

Leads are still viable and can serve as a safety net to catch shoppers at the end of their journey. However, starting conversations with shoppers on their terms the instant they enter the market is critical if your goal is long-term growth for your dealership. You must expand your measurement of marketing effectiveness to align with the reality; engaging with shoppers throughout their entire shopper journey is essential for influencing today’s shopper to sale.

As technology advances and data exponentially increases, take advantage of the data and resources available and cut the cord on partners who are not evolving to help you win with today’s shopper. Otherwise, you risk being left behind by a competitor who does.

What’s the bottom line?

Leads are still viable and can serve as a safety net to catch shoppers at the end of their journey. However, starting conversations with shoppers on their terms the instant they enter the market is critical if your goal is long-term growth for your dealership. You must expand your measurement of marketing effectiveness to align with the reality; engaging with shoppers throughout their entire shopper journey is essential for influencing today’s shopper to sale.

As technology advances and data exponentially increases, take advantage of the data and resources available and cut the cord on partners who are not evolving to help you win with today’s shopper. Otherwise, you risk being left behind by a competitor who does.

1. https://d8imphy647zzg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/132420_Car-Buyer-Journey_Study-Brochure_Single-FINAL-FINAL-3.pdf

1. https://d8imphy647zzg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/132420_Car-Buyer-Journey_Study-Brochure_Single-FINAL-FINAL-3.pdf