Help with Lead Source Mix

Stephen Brown
Being new to the industry (>6 months) and already in charge of the Internet Lead Generation, Distribution and Follow-up is a blessing and a curse. Good because it is equally challenging and rewarding, provides fantastic experience and pays. Bad because this is my first job and there is no one else at the dealership to draw upon. This is where the automotive community (specifically, you reading this) come in. My analysis of the data has led me to the conclusion that the Pay Per Lead business model is bust. We got too many leads on cars that were not in stock or a deluge of leads on low gross cars that closed at >5%. It also led me to believe that my website and flat fee sites like cars and autotrader are where moves need to be made. I need more than just those three to make up the volume I am losing from dropping the PPLs. Any suggestions?
Cassie Allinger
Hey Stephen - I was in the [exact] same position as you are a few years ago. Only difference is that I had only been in the industry for a month. Great start though by dipping into Driving Sales. Join Dealer Refresh too if you haven't already. If your dealership is selling new cars, the lead sources that will be useful to you will completely depend on your location. Have you researched your other local competitors and their lead generation tactics? -Cassie
John Druien
Hello Stephen - I help tons of dealers around the country work through this decision and it certainly isn't a "one size fits all solution." You're right that the quality of many 3rd party lead "aggregator" sites is perceived lower. You may focus from "aggregator" to "generator" sites like's NewLeadsPlus - still new car leads grown from search engines, but they're all actually grown, not repurchased multiple times. The biggest problem I have found with any dealer managing PPL business is the expectation of when the buyer is actually ready to buy. If you respond to a PPL in the same manner you do a lead from or your own website, those leads will fail. Biggest reason - many of those customers come in from search engines and are on the long end of the 6 month buying funnel. If you do not have internal processes in place that will help you manage leads for 6 months, you should cancel all pay per lead products - you're wasting your time and money. (If you're in a market that sells ResponseLogix - look that product up - it can make you as a one man show, a rock star with a full sales funnel sales strategy). and AutoTrader are always a good bet - but don't let them sell you the top package - you won't see more traffic that way and can blow your whole budget in one spot. And NEVER think your website is going to provide you all the lead traffic you need. Much of your own website's lead traffic will come from and AutoTrader users than are linking into your site. Start looking into the SEO game - at the inventory level. Forget worrying only about your dealer name or brand in the SEO - that's not what shoppers are using Google for - how are you approaching the long tail of search - H1 tags for descriptions, order of the words in the title on your inventory details pages etc. I am not going to give you all the secrets on here - but am happy to see another person jumping into the ever great world of online marketing. If you want to talk more, check out our site of - we are here to help, and have years of experience. John Druien
Jared Hamilton
Stephen, welcome to the industry, and welcome to DrivingSales. :-) Id say your analysis is partially correct. Each lead source has its pros and cons and thus serves a different purpose inside your mix. Your website leads are undoubtedly the highest quality and the lowest hanging fruit for you. Focus there. It already has natural traffic and a preexisting conversion rate which yields you your current leads. To increase these leads you have two paths (eventually you want to tackle both) 1. You can focus on driving traffic to that site, predominately with search marketing, social media, email marketing etc. More traffic will mean more leads. 2. You can focus on increasing your conversion rate through UI edits on your site, or pinpointing better traffic. I dont agree that the pay per lead model is bust. (Here comes the debate because plenty disagree with me) Its a totally scale-able business model, so you essentially pay for performance which takes a lot of risk out of the equation. If you are closing less than 5% your process is broke somewhere, you should be closing higher than that. BUT even at 5% closing, if your leads cost $20 each you are spending $400 per deal. Thats not good by internet standards, but I bet your store is spending way more than $400 on some of its car deals. Eliminate the most expensive deals first, not the 3rd party leads that generate higher ROI. Bottom line: 3rd party leads are lots of work since they are so competitive,(make sure you send back bad leads!) but if they cost less per sale than other sources. Keep them. They are scale-able and will help you reach customers you otherwise wont reach. Plus you can turn them on and off easily, making them relatively easy to work with. Shoot for a 6-10% closing ratio and drop your cost per sale into the $2-300 cost per sale. Conclusion: Fix your process to get the 3rd party lead closing where it should be. After you fix your process focus on traffic to your site (Search and SMM), build micro sites and increase conversion. Thats where your effort should be... IMHO
Arnold Tijerina
Hi Stephen, Welcome to DrivingSales! I agree with Cassie in that lead source "quality" is dependent on where you are. For whatever reason, some lead sources work (ie. convert to sales) better than others. I've talked to dealers who say X lead source is terrible (and by "terrible", most of the time that adjective is used being equated to "we don't sell cars from them.") but then I'll talk to another dealer, in another area that swears by them. We have a great resource available here in our vendor ratings. You can browse the "New Car Leads" and "Used Car Advertising" sections to help you get a better idea of what's working for our other dealer users. That aside, feel free to ask anything you'd like from us. We're here to help you. Collectively, you have everybody from Dealer Prinicipals to General Managers to Internet Directors and Salespeople to Vendors here that will gladly help answer any questions you have. You are also free to e-mail me directly at if you want my advice. I was in retail for 8 years as an Internet Director for a couple of large auto groups. I'd also suggest that, first chance you get, you look into attending one of the larger conferences that exist that focus on digital marketing for auto dealerships and/or getting enrolled in or taking some classes regarding the same topic.
Bill Simmons
Stephen, welcome to the car business!! And welcome to Driving Sales. Although I have many more years experience in the car business than you, I am still learning everyday. Especially in the areas of your question. I truly got serious about learning internet marleting for my store about six months ago. This community has been a GREAT help. I have learned that there is no "magic bullet". Just starting out, I would advise you to measure everything. I hope that your dealership has a CRM in place that can help you with that. I agree with Jared who mentioned that your best leads are the ones that come from your website. Therefore the goal should be to drive more people there. How do we do that? You can use many different ways to do that. I disagree with an earlier poster that said SEO is not important.I have just finished a class on SEO and have learned many free ways to advertise my business and inventory online and drive people to my website. Have you tried Craigslist? That website is in the top ten for me every month for click throughs to my website. And it is free! Those are just a couple of thoughts. Hope it helps.

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