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Amy Taggart

Amy Taggart Marketing Manager

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A Closer Look: Third Party Leads

When last we met, I wrote about the feedback I'd gotten on what some dealers think when I say "third party leads."  The bottom line was that anything that came from online advertising outside the dealer's direct control was considered to be a third party lead.

Following that line of discussion, I'd like to take a moment to make the distinction between an inventory lead and a finance lead. Both can be delivered from an online ad or other lead generation source, but they're fundamentally different in terms of the information delivered and the intent of the consumer.

In the broadest sense, an inventory lead from a vendor like our sister company GET AUTO® will deliver someone who has searched for a shiny blue 2009 Mustang and selected a matching vehicle from your dealership's online inventory. They are looking for that car in particular, regardless of whether they are qualified to buy that car.  (That being said, consumers these days are getting finance savvy and may do their homework to find out what they can afford before they go out and shop, whether virtually or on a dealer's lot.)

On the other hand, a consumer that comes in as a finance lead is at the other end of the process -- they've completed a full auto loan application and are just looking for someone who can put them in a car. In some cases they'll have a particular car in mind, too, but more often than not, the dealer will be able to match them to the inventory on hand.

By not having a make and model already established, it gives a dealer the flexibility to have a realistic discussion about what car the consumer can actually afford to buy on the dealer's lot.  In addition, the finance lead is that much further along in the process because the consumer has already supplied all of their personal information in order to try to qualify for credit.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm biased toward one over the other, but I can see the argument that both inventory and finance leads are an essential part of the mix for dealers who want to meet their revenue goals.

Where do these two breeds of internet lead fall in your marketing mix?

Dennis Galbraith
Nice post Amy. It is important to make this distinction between finance leads and inventory leads. Many dealerships specialize in serving shoppers who are financially challenged. Others are not looking for those customers at all. This focus can have a huge impact on how inventory is priced online. It is also important to make a distinction between leads in search of a vehicle from the brand you sell (e.g. Auto USA, Autobytel, Dealix, NewLeadsPlus) and contacts from customers interested in a specific vehicle within your inventory (e.g. AutoTrader.com and Cars.com). How competitive a store is on price has no impact on how many leads a dealer can purchase, although the close ratio will clearly be impacted. Pricing and merchandising are very important components to both new- and used-car listings. Additionally, listings drive many forms of contact (phone, email, chat, and walk-in) that the dealership must be prepared to address properly.
Amy Taggart
Thanks for adding to the discussion, Dennis. I don't know how many dealers look at it so closely.
Chris Costner
Dennis, great points and Amy great info. I do see the difference in both types of leads, however I have never really made that distinction mentally. I see all of them as wanting to make a purchase. Whether it be a specific vehicle or whatever we can make happen for them. It boggles my mind that there are dealers out there not intrested in covering the entire credit spectrum. Great post.
Amy Taggart
Thanks Christopher - that desire to purchase you mention is key for both types of leads I discussed above. And we're starting to see more and more dealers interested in covering all the bases.

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