2020 was a heck of a year, but the future is looking optimistic. Vaccines have made it to the public faster than ever, there is promise in the job market, and a disastrous world economy taught us more than a few lessons about preparing for the next wave of whatever bad news may come our way. Amazingly, many dealerships found paths to successful automotive lead generation, even with a decline in the new car market.
Of course, the dealers that thrived have done so, in part, thanks to the pre-owned market, where consumers have increasingly looked so they could move away from public transit.
Even so, dealerships still need to be diligent, particularly when it comes to automotive lead generation since so much of the industry has gone digital, which is a real game-changer for anyone in sales—especially car sales, which was traditionally almost exclusively in person.
So what can you do to ensure your lead generation remains effective and competitive as we emerge from our pandemic isolation and move into a changing world? Here are a few tips to help guide you.
4 Tips to keep your automotive lead generation in high gear:
Adapt to the new normal
Even though changes were already underway, the pandemic added some turbo to the way people shop for and purchase cars. Yes, customers will flock back to dealerships when it’s safe to do so, but perhaps not as soon as they’re ready to buy a car. Anticipate that many customers will start the process online and go from there.
That means that your online presence needs to be buttoned up and competitive. If you’ve got an older website that might not be the most user-friendly, invest in making it shine just as you would a car on your showroom floor. Websites should be easy to navigate, display up-to-date information, and make it simple for a customer to get in touch, whether through online automation or a good old fashioned phone number or email address.
To that same end, social media is now more critical than ever for automotive lead generation. With so many people online, one of your best bets for engaging customers directly is to remain active and responsive on your social accounts. Use Instagram to show people your newest inventories and Twitter and Facebook to open dialogue with people who might just be browsing to start.
Know your local market, learn your distant markets
One of the things that have happened with the pandemic is that some dealerships expanded their reach beyond their local territories to draw in more customers. With online shopping, contactless sales and delivery, and other pandemic pivots to keep the business going, you no longer have to cater just to people nearby. Dig into markets in other parts of your state or region. Remember, even though the market is rebounding, inventories are still touch-and-go. You might have what someone 100 miles away is looking for. Do all you can to make sure they stumble upon you in their searches.
At the same time, stay familiar with your local market. How many are people out and about in your area? What types of cars are people buying in a time like this? Is money still moving through your locale, or are you in an area where unemployment and underemployment have increased significantly? Knowing these things will help you better target your consumers, making for much more effective automotive lead generation.
Don’t discount previously-warm leads
No doubt you had some hot leads before the pandemic hit, which then seemed to go ice cold. For a time, that might be true, but that’s got mostly to do with money, not need. If someone was interested in a vehicle before, but then ran aground financially, they’ll likely be back on the market as soon as they’re back on their feet. Take note of such leads in your automotive CRM and set reminders to check in with them. It may be a while yet before they’re able to invest in a vehicle, but you want them to contact you first when that time finally arrives.
Finally, the virtual world has exploded for all kinds of business interactions. While your automotive lead generation strategies before may have included trade shows and other in-person events, look for online gatherings that can serve a similar purpose. These virtual conferences and events won’t entirely replace the in-person stuff. Still, they’re crucial to staying in touch with people, meeting new people, and ultimately driving lead generation.
Sure, a lot of this can take some effort, especially if online activity wasn’t your specialty in the first place, but keeping your name out there with a smile on your face will help build confidence in folks still shaky about making a big purchase. You might even consider hosting your own live virtual event to connect with previous and potential customers. It’s likely that you’ll find some good leads that way.