7 marketing strategies to optimize lead generation for auto dealerships

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These days, advertisers and audiences alike are dealing with more marketing noise than ever before. (Reportedly, consumers see or hear an average of 4,000 ads a day.) So when it comes to automotive lead generation, your competitors are all jockeying to get in front of the same prospects you’re chasing.

You need a marketing strategy to pierce through the noise, and reach your target audience. But do you have a cohesive strategy to accomplish this? You’ll need an auto lead gen plan that allows you to create personalized, relevant, and engaging marketing touchpoints to appeal to potential car buyers.

A stellar automotive marketing strategy helps moves car buyers through the purchasing process, and it empowers them to understand why they should listen to you over the thousands of ads they may see in a day.  

Why is an auto lead gen strategy crucial for dealerships?

An effective lead-generation strategy will set you apart from the competition by fostering a sense of familiarity and trust with the car-buying audience. The more you show that you’re listening to their needs, providing relevant content and resources, and facilitating valuable touchpoints, the more likely you are to connect with your ideal buyer.

According to a SurveyMonkey survey, US consumers say that trust either has ‘a great deal’ (31 percent of respondents) or ‘a lot’ (37 percent) of influence on their purchasing decisions. So if there’s a lack of familiarity with your brand, it’s going to be impossible for you to build trust with your potential customers.

Through lead generation tactics like creating value-added blog content, informational newsletters, or sharing test drive videos, you are introducing customers to what your dealership has to offer — fostering trust and confidence in your brand.

However, the first step in this process is developing well-realized auto lead gen strategy for your dealership. Let’s review the seven marketing tactics that should be a part of your dealership’s lead-generation strategy.

Top 7 ways to generate more leads for dealerships

1) Dealership website optimization

You might be tempted to underestimate the impact of web optimization, but a user-friendly and effective website can contribute greatly towards your auto lead gen goals. SurveyMonkey found that only 18 percent of survey respondents had ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ of trust in a company that did not have a website.

This development is likely just as true for potential car buyers, since over half conduct their car-buying research online. Also, 57 percent of customers visit dealership sites, a figure that’s second only to third-party websites. This means you cannot reasonably hope to reach your audience without maintaining your own patch of online real estate in search engine results– a user-friendly and informative website is a must-have.

2) Interactive web forms

At the root of things, your auto lead gen efforts should include basic information-collection from potential car buyers. According to research by the analytics firm V12, 90 percent of dealerships collect basic contact information, while 80 and 52 percent gather vehicle preferences and purchase history, respectively.

Not only do interactive web forms help you gather the information you need to better service car buyers, they also enable you to create more effective strategies to help turn an initial expression of interest into a quality lead. By learning as much as you can about your audience, you’ll be able to create more personalized and effective messaging, and further build trust and authority with your audience.

3) Mobile optimization for your website

Customers are not only taking most of their research process online, but the devices they’re using to drive decision-making are also evolving. As of 2016, 53 percent of automotive internet shoppers use a mobile device for research ahead of a purchase.

Furthermore, 71 percent of touchpoints on the auto-buyer’s journey occur on mobile devices. So in order to keep up with the competition, all of your digital material has to be accessible on a smartphone or tablet. (It should be easy for customers to express interest in receiving correspondence from you via their phone or tablet.)

Customers are receiving those 4,000 (or more) advertising messages in a day, and a good portion of this messaging likely occurs on their phones. Creating a mobile-friendly experience for your audience will put you in the best possible position when it comes to auto lead gen.

4) Email marketing

With the constant need to keep up with the latest-and-greatest in marketing technology, it can be easy to forget about the potential impact of older-school channels, like email marketing. The effectiveness of emails are still the subject of intense debate among digital marketers, and they may end up taking a back seat to other marketing priorities — especially paid ads — when it comes to auto lead gen campaigns and strategies.

But despite all the discussion and debate, email marketing is still one of the most effective auto lead gen strategies. Research by the marketing technology firm Ascend2 reveals that email marketing is still the most effective online tactic for lead generation. Email marketing creates opportunities for more intentional and personalized touchpoints, which in turn can produce quality leads.

5) Service and repair content

While all blog content can help produce leads, there is one topic in particular that can attract target audiences, cultivate leads, and move potential customers through the buying process. Today’s customers are holding onto their vehicles much longer than in previous years, and much like how the car buying process is primarily conducted online, the same is true for service and auto repairs.

The online sale of parts and services is now more common than ever before. By creating savvy blog and video content around repair services, you’ll have opened up another potential channel for auto lead gen.

6) Targeted Facebook Ads

Facebook ads enable dealers to search for audiences, filter searches by targeted information, and create retargeted ads for those who may have visited your Facebook dealership page. You can also use Facebook to promote your inventory, and boost the promotion of specific vehicle models based on search algorithms and customer data.

The click-through rates for auto ads are shown to be twice as high on Facebook when compared with other mediums. In other words, Facebook marketing is a great tactic for getting users onto your dealership page and into the sales funnel.

7) Touchpoint mapping

As you hone your lead generation and optimization strategy, you’ll need to gain a deeper understanding of how customers are interacting with your various marketing channels. A ‘touchpoint’ occurs any time you interact with potential car buyers — your aim should be to increase both the quantity and quality of these touchpoints, so you’ll have a higher chance of building trust and cultivating a relationship with potential buyers (and ultimately, creating leads).

You can achieve better results if you participate in touchpoint mapping — which involves reviewing all of the marketing channels that spurred an interaction with your dealership — and mapping out how these align with the typical customer journey.

Online customer behavior data allows you to see the content or digital tactics that lead to initial contact and conversions. By pairing this behavioral data with your touchpoint mapping process, you’ll gain a far better understanding of the customer journey, and how to optimize it.

Final thoughts

Lead generation optimization should not be a one-time process — the tactics mentioned above should be a component of your continuous lead generation marketing strategy.

Audiences are dynamic in their approach to the car buying process, so assessing the various touchpoints within your marketing channels will ensure you’re creating the highest-quality leads possible. By following these steps, you’ll be able to create a stellar and agile lead generation strategy that will help you beat out the competition and differentiate yourself in the eyes of your audience.

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