20 Proven Tactics for Automotive Lead Generation

Car dealerships have often been slow in transitioning to a digital model .

Selling cars is an analog business with a very tangible product. This has resulted in “foot dragging” when it comes to digital transformation.

That said, when it comes to lead generation, customer behavior has changed. In fact, 86% of consumers will educate themselves online before going to a dealership. This makes it essential for car dealerships to not only meet their potential customers online where they are with helpful information and guidance, but gives them a great opportunity to take their lead generation efforts to the next level.

That’s what we’re covering today: 20 tactics that will catapult your automotive lead generation, as well as Userlike’s favorite tactic of all.

  1. Requesting a quote
  2. Website chat
  3. “Alternative” driving tours
  4. Car configurator / builder
  5. Credit score for information on possible financing
  6. Booking a car service appointment
  7. Reserving a car for a future release
  8. Request brochure / leaflet
  9. Test drive
  10. Find a dealer
  11. Trade in information
  12. Short-term rental
  13. Specific car release updates signup
  14. Owner center / online account
  15. Auto shows updates
  16. In-person dealership / manufacturing warehouse tours
  17. Tests that show you what kind of car you should buy
  18. Trial subscription
  19. Virtual appointment
  20. Mobile apps

Requesting quote

This is one of the first lead generation tactics all dealerships should have set up. When somebody requests a quote for one of your cars, they are demonstrating a very clear interest in buying. This makes them a warm lead that is likely easier to directly market to.

In addition, the car they request a quote on can also give you a good idea of their planned budget. Always remember this: for your average person, a car is a major purchase. There is often an inherent anxiety in requesting a quote for something this expensive. Anything you can do to lessen that anxiety will position you as a trusted partner during the buying process.

To maximize your chances of this person going through with a purchase, send them more information than just the quote. Good options would be further details regarding their specific car of interest, information on credit options and next steps for the test drive process.

Website chat

As I mentioned, the vast majority of your potential customers will spend time with online research before they ever contact you about buying a car. While this gives the modern consumer more power than they ever had in the past, it’s also a great opportunity for website chat.

BMW Neiderlassung using Userlike website chat
Our customer BMW Niederlassung using Userlike website chat

Cars are complex, expensive products that buyers naturally have a ton of questions about. Website chat provides a natural and helpful way to answer them. This means you can provide important details about car prices and test drives, all while further building up trust with your prospect.

Your website visitors will thank you for being instantly available with this valuable information during a process that can often be confusing and overwhelming. To convert a website visitor into a satisfied lead, be prepared to provide any information they ask for. You might also make it easy for them to access specific lead magnets by sending over sign up forms. This helps your prospects and also makes it easier for you to directly market to them.

"Alternative" driving tours

This kind of tour is an exciting way to showcase your cars in action and demonstrate their durability. It’s a more interesting version of a test drive and can effectively generate bonafide interest amongst the participants.

Driving tours are also a chance to play into the mystique of your model . Some buyers don’t just associate your brand with the utilitarian aspect of a car that gets them from “A to B.” Rather, they have a story in their mind when they think of it. Maybe that story is one of adventure. Maybe it’s one of a simpler lifestyle. Whatever your story is, driving tours help you tell it.

People signing up for this kind of tour are likely a mix of warm leads legitimately interested in buying and people that are just doing it for fun. Either way, be sure to provide information to the participants about buying their own model and the benefits of ownership. And just like a short term rental, make sure you record peoples’ intentions as soon as possible. This lets you pair them with the correct marketing material.

As for the tour itself? This is where you really have the chance to show leads what your vehicles are capable of. So get creative and don’t be afraid to have a little fun - within safe limits, of course!

Car configurator / builder

People want more options than just the specific cars you sell; they want to make one that is truly their own. A car configurator / builder gives people that option. This makes it more likely you will capture additional business and allows your leads to get excited about their “dream car.”

If somebody has become a lead through your car configurator, it’s all about selling them on the car they have designed. Let them know how long it would take your dealership to make this design a reality, as well as when they might test drive a similar model. You could also offer them different combinations that are similar to their configuration if you wish to upsell.

Credit score for information on possible financing

Somebody that requests financing information is likely more price conscientious than your average lead. While buying a car for many people is generally stressful , somebody asking about their credit score is likely thinking about the purchase even more.

They might be hesitant to spend so much money or feel uneasy about their long-term ability to make monthly payments. Sending this lead their credit score, along with possible financing options, can put their mind at ease.

Lexus credit application
Lexus’s option to apply for credit

This lead generation tactic is also an important marketing tool. For example, a car priced at a flat €40,000 can be psychologically discouraging for many potential buyers. Give your lead the option to pay €499/month, though, and it’s a different story. The car suddenly seems more affordable and the lead is more likely to buy.

In general, this tactic can give you a good idea as a dealership the kind of car that your prospect can afford. This can help you pinpoint the cars that you market to them. Offering services like a credit score “in house” (as opposed to through a third party) also simplifies the buying process for your leads. This can build brand loyalty if you are able to offer them better terms than competing brands.

For this type of buyer, the dealership that focuses on giving a lead the most options will be the most successful. Frame the purchase of this car not as a splurge, but an investment. To do that you might send them information on different models at various price points as well as the payment options they would have access to with their credit score.

Booking a car service appointment

Not all of a dealership’s profits come from selling cars. Offering various maintenance services is a good way to build your relationship with a lead for possible car purchases down the line.

BMW Niederlassung's appointment portal
BMW’s Niederlassung’s appointment portal

Car service appointment portals also get potential future buyers in the door. This can pay off long term, as customers are more likely to purchase from people they’ve already done business with than new businesses.

This is a lead that is quite high in the funnel. They don’t yet have a stated desire to buy a new car, and if they’re signing up for a service appointment at your dealership, probably prefer to invest in their current model than go shopping. You might send them information regarding a “trade in.” This will appeal to both their desire to save money and any longing they have for a newer model.

Reserving a car for a future release

This person has already made the decision to purchase in the future. They have signed their name and are committed to being the owner of a future model. This is often a lead that is enthusiastic about a specific model. It’s your job to justify that enthusiasm.

GMC Hummer reservation
GMC’s reservation of a Hummer EV

Your task with this lead is not to sell to them, as they have already made their choice. Instead, you need to assure them that their decision was a good one.

You might send them content regarding the best way to take advantage of their new car once they have it. Since they are locked in for a purchase, this is also an excellent opportunity for an upsell done right . Above all else, be communicative during this process, including updates on when the car will be released and any potential delays.

Requesting brochure / leaflet

This is a top of the funnel lead that is only looking for information. As you would expect, this is where the majority of your leads will start. A brochure or leaflet is a good opportunity for your dealership to begin building relationships with your leads, as well as convince them of the benefits of buying a new car.

A brochure also makes the process of buying a physical product more...well, physical. For many people, there’s something particularly gratifying about flipping through something they can hold instead of looking at yet another internet landing page. This is your chance to showcase your line of cars with pictures that typically look better on paper.

Jeeps downloadable and physical brochure
Jeep’s option for both a downloadable and physical brochure

In addition, the physicality of a brochure gives your customer the opportunity to go through your information on their own time. They are likely more relaxed and focused then they would be on your website. A brochure that conveniently lies on their table will also have multiple points of contact with your lead, thus making your job of selling them on a new car much easier.

When nurturing this lead, it’s important to remember that they’re already requested one physical mailing from you and might be open to more. A handwritten note can go a long way with this type of lead. If you decide to transition to digital format, email marketing can also bring success. You’ll be most successful following up about different car deals as well as how they can take a test drive.

Test drive

People will almost always want to test drive a car after they have gone through extensive research. On the rational level, a test drive is an opportunity for your lead to justify an expensive purchase by seeing how your car functions.

On the emotional level, however, it’s also a chance for them to fall in love with it. It provides an intimate chance to test the car without commitment and lets your lead get familiar with the feeling of sitting behind the wheel.

Providing a test drive is essentially a way for you to turn your lead’s private wish into a reality. Appeal to both their rational and emotional purchasing instinct, and you are creating the environment for that wish to turn into a more direct desire.

Somebody that is taking a test drive obviously has a very strong interest in a specific car. At this point they are far down the funnel and need a little more convincing before they make a purchase decision. Be prepared for any questions they might have. Since they might buy on the spot, it’s also a good idea to have a salesperson ready with various upsells.

Find a dealer

Even though the digital part of the customer journey has become increasingly more important in the automotive industry, many people are used to the traditional way of buying a car. They want a local car dealer that allows them to physically take part in the buying process. This is likely directly tied in with their need to trust who they’re buying from.

Porsches option to find a dealer
Porsche’s US option to “find a dealer”

In this case it’s your job to get them in the door. Send this lead any information they need (more is better) and get them to pay you a visit. While a test drive is the optimal outcome, you need to win their confidence. Be friendly, honest with what you can offer and work towards the essential foundation of trust that a physical visit can build.

Trade-in information

You need to empathize with the stress that buying a new car can create for your prospects. Many people simply don’t want or aren’t ready to take this step. They would prefer instead to trade in their current vehicle.

Surprisingly, a trade can be just as profitable for many dealerships as selling new cars. It also develops relationships with people that might be ready for a new model down the line.

Anybody interested in trading in their car should be given the appropriate information. This includes the best deals they can get with their current vehicle and details about the process. You might also give them a discount at your dealership if they decide to trade in within the next 30 days.

Short-term rental

Car rentals are common, and people do it for a number of reasons. This can be anything from taking a short business trip to fulfilling a “one time dream” to legitimately testing a car out before a purchase.

Whatever the reason, a short term rental lets your leads experience true ownership without the commitment. It gives them more time to test the vehicle than a simple test drive, but isn’t as serious as leasing it.

Because there are different motives behind a short term rental, it’s difficult to effectively narrow your marketing without further information. The first thing you should do is find out the reason somebody is renting your car. There are a number of ways to do this, but a simple survey given alongside the rental contract is usually enough.

With this information you can follow up with the proper materials and move a lead further down the funnel . And whatever their reason for renting, make the process quick, professional and enjoyable. Your customer service team can go a long way here in converting a renter to a buyer.

Specific car release updates

People are often unsure about buying a car in the future but still want to hear about its release. Maybe they have the budget but are still shopping around for different models. Maybe they’re saving up and particularly interested in one of your future releases. Regardless, it’s helpful to provide an easy option to sign up for future updates.

Even though these leads have signed up to hear about a specific vehicle, you can still educate them about other models. This gives your lead the comfort of more options and makes the potential process of buying a car through your dealership less intimidating.

It’s important to remember, like in our example above, that you can use humor to good effect when marketing cars. This can generate interest in the release, garner attention on social media and bring in a higher number of leads.

Owner center

When purchasing a car, people want information. They also want it quickly and easily and for this information to answer any questions they have. Useful education for car shoppers is valued at a premium.

Therein lies the value of an “owner center.” It’s a way of systematically providing an organized hub of helpful information, whether that’s “How To” guides for your lead’s specific model or detailed records of their payment history. Because this information is “straight from the source,” it takes on much more importance than disconnected blog posts they may have read elsewhere. In the face of potential scams and cars that don’t work as advertised, an owner center acts as a piece of comfort.

Of course, providing leads access to an owner center before they become a buyer casts a much wider net. It’s a great way to move your lead towards the bottom of the funnel and, if you are helpful enough, builds brand loyalty.

To maximize the usefulness of this automotive lead generation tactic, give users access to exclusive benefits that other leads don’t have. This might include discounts or first access to new model releases and events.

Auto show updates

Auto shows are a way for your leads to look at cars without the overbearing thought of dealing with car salesmen . This makes them more relaxed, builds trust and opens them up to a potential sale .

Events like these are important for your dealership. They’re an opportunity for you to shine a positive light on your vehicles and build rapport with people that aren’t ready to buy. Be sure to have informational handouts on all your cars for anybody that asks. You might also set up a booth that makes it easy to sign up for a test drive for the vehicles you present.

Acuras option to sign up for show alerts
Acura’s option to sign up for show alerts

Remember this: there’s no rules against making your auto shows fun and exciting . Provide drinks, snacks and be sure to put on the smooth jazz. This is not only fun for your visitors but is sure to build your reputation as a dealership worth considering when they’re ready to buy.

In-person tours

Giving tours adds an element of fun to your dealership. It also allows potential buyers to “peak behind the scenes” and builds interest in warm leads. People interested in taking a tour of your factory are already in the “education” mindset. These are leads that want to learn from you, and it’s your job to teach them.

We all love origin stories , so you might discuss the history of the dealership during your tour. If it’s a warehouse tour, showcase the commitment to engineering excellence and safety that your cars are built with. Tie all of this into the benefits of owning one of your vehicles. Whatever you do, make sure you provide value. This sticks with people, and they associate your dealership with professionalism long after the tour has ended.

Tests that show you what kind of car you should buy

“Buyer’s remorse” is an emotion that new customers are often saddled with. And it’s all the worse the more expensive a purchase gets. That’s why a test that pairs shoppers with car models can be such an effective lead generation tactic.

It relieves anxiety by being clear about the car that best suits your prospects and minimizes the chance that they purchase one they later become unsatisfied with. No more buyer’s remorse!

Land Rovers 5 question test
Land Rover’s five question test

This kind of test also positions your dealership as an honest and helpful guide. By giving your website visitors a pre-purchase test, you are not simply selling them on the most expensive model, but rather the one that fits best with their unique lifestyle. Plus, as I said before, your leads do research before buying a car. A lot of it. This test is a way to shape their opinion as they move further down the funnel and steer them towards becoming a customer.

A self-assessment allows your dealership to better segment your leads and gives you important information that you can later use in marketing to them. As soon as you provide them their results you should also give them further details about their list of models.

For best success, pair this test with a car configurator tool that builds the perfect vehicle for them based on their results.

Trial subscription

Buying a car is a big life decision. And an expensive one, too. Some leads don’t want the longer term commitment that a full lease requires. They are simply curious to know what it’s like to have your vehicle for a while.

A trial subscription appeals to these very justified feelings. Of course, as a dealership, you want to maximize the chances that they convert their trial subscription into full ownership.

To do that you can highlight the benefits they get with ownership that they might not with a trial. You can also give them a discount or better financing options if they decide to buy within a certain timeframe.

Virtual appointment

A virtual appointment lets your lead show interest with minimal commitment. They don’t need to sign up for anything and the barriers to entry are low - they just need an internet connection. It’s also simply convenient. No trip to the dealership required, and no time taken out of their day besides the appointment itself.

This tactic is also a chance for you to sell to your lead while they are in the comfort of their own home. Their guard is likely not as high as an in-person visit, which makes this the perfect chance to sell through empathy .

Establish a connection. Thank them for their time. Be ready for questions, and of course, make the next step of an in-person test drive easy to take.

Mobile apps

An app appeals to your lead’s desire for convenience. It’s an easy way for them to stay connected to your brand without extra effort. If they’re already an owner, it also simplifies the process of getting their model serviced.

An app can be a great way for you to gradually move your lead down the funnel through consistent communication. You might give them, for example, the option to sign up for push notifications . This makes sending useful alerts about new models quick and easy.

But make sure you are careful with this one. While a mobile app makes it tempting to frequently market to your leads, you should only send them updates that would actually provide value.

Autohaus Scherers app download
Autohaus Scherer’s app download

Why live chat is your secret weapon in automotive lead generation

There’s a reason website chat is number two on our list above: it’s everything you need in an automotive lead generation tactic.

1) It enables quick communication. Live chat allows you to provide valuable information and real-time answers to consumer questions.

2) It makes qualifying leads much quicker and easier. You can understand which part of the buying process your leads are in with the questions they ask.

3) It makes upselling easier. This is possible through the fast transfer of information that website chat allows.

If you want to take full advantage of lead generation at your car dealership, give Userlike a try . We not only give you everything you need to generate more leads through the convenience of website chat, but to qualify them once you have.

After all, plenty of car dealerships already use Userlike as their website chat software of choice. In fact, six of the examples above are current clients of ours! Check out our features here and take your automotive lead generation to the next level.