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6 ways to drive auto leads to your dealership

Auto leads: couple walking towards a salesperson

Key takeaways

  • Earn referrals from past clients and local businesses to gain the trust of potential customers
  • Engage potential auto leads early in the sales process with helpful videos that showcase vehicles on your dealership lot
  • Invest in advertising, like direct mail and digital ads, to stand out from competitors

When the average consumer buys a car, they keep it for about eight years. As such, vehicles are long-term investments that customers aren’t regularly returning to buy. To grow a successful dealership, you’ll need to generate new auto leads each day so your sales team can follow up with potential customers and close deals. Here are six tactics you can use to capture contact information from car buyers in your target market.

1. Create a referral program

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful ways to spread the word about your business. (93% of people trust their friends and family for information about brands.) By creating a referral program that encourages past clients to recommend your dealership to people they know, you can speed up your lead generation efforts and build trust with new leads faster.

Your referral program should reward customers when they bring new clients to your business. Consider offering gift cards, cash rewards, free oil changes, or other incentives in exchange for successful referrals. To increase the odds that new car buyers will choose your business, you can also offer a discount to the referred customer.

2. Partner with local businesses

When consumers first consider buying a new car, they don’t always head straight to car dealers. They may reach out to their auto insurance company, contact a lender, or even discuss their options at an auto repair shop. These local businesses, much like your past clients, can refer high-quality leads to your dealership and help you become a preferred car dealer in your community.

Building a referral network can help you drive a reliable stream of leads to your car dealership. For example, you can partner with an auto loan company to give each other exclusive automotive leads. Consider what companies in your area frequently get customers who fit your target market. Then, reach out to business owners via email or LinkedIn, inviting them to chat over a video call or coffee about a potential partnership.

Alternatively, you can meet local business owners at automotive industry networking events in your area. When you meet business owners who could be good fits for your referral network, make sure to ask for their business cards and follow up after the event.

3. Publish video walkthroughs for car buyers

Auto leads: influencer recording a video of himself at a showroom

Many car buyers use the internet to learn about vehicles long before they speak to a sales manager at a dealership. If you want your car dealership to stand out early in the sales process (or sales funnel)—when customers are still shopping around—consider creating useful and relevant video content that helps consumers make smart car-buying decisions.

Your videos can include vehicle walkthroughs (or walkarounds), reviews of specific car features, and even breakdowns of your trade-in and auto financing processes. Share these videos across marketing channels—including social media like YouTube—with relevant keywords that car buyers might be searching to ensure your video will show up in search. For instance, if you’re publishing a 2022 Nissan Rogue walkaround, you can include “Nissan Rogue” and “VC-Turbo engine” in your headline and description.

Make sure to include a clear call to action (CTA) to turn viewers into auto leads. For example, you can end your videos by saying, “For more information, send us a text message at [your phone number].”

4. Boost your visibility with online review platforms

When auto sales leads are ready to buy—or at least make a serious inquiry about inventory and prices—many turn to online review platforms like Yelp to find dealers in their area. Running digital ads on these platforms can significantly boost your visibility—for context, over 80 million users visit Yelp to search for local businesses each month.

When you add or claim your Yelp Business Page, you unlock the ability to invest in Yelp Ads. These ads highlight your business in a number of key places on the site and app, including above relevant search results and on your competitors’ pages. 

To optimize your results, take some time to complete your Yelp Page before launching your first ad. Add high-quality photos and update your business information to engage potential leads and ensure the best customer experience.

You can also take advantage of Yelp’s free CTAs—like Request a Consultation or Request a Call—to get more high-quality auto leads from your Yelp Page. These features capture more information about your leads in real time, which you can save in your customer relationship management tool (CRM). When they view and update shared information about prospects in your CRM, salespeople can better personalize their outreach and make the customer experience feel more cohesive.

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5. Engage local shoppers through direct mail

While online marketing is essential in the modern world, offline advertising can still help your company stand out. Direct mail is a tangible piece of promotional material that potential car buyers can physically engage with. When it includes a CTA and an enticing deal—like a limited-time special finance offer—you can get local car sales leads to visit your dealership sooner rather than later.

Using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool, you can target specific ZIP codes or neighborhoods as well as specific demographics (like people aged 25-40 or households of four or more) so you’re reaching the auto leads in your target market who are most likely to buy.

6. Establish a memorable brand personality

Salesperson talking to a client

During the sales process, car buyers see a lot of marketing from dealers in their area. While this messaging can quickly get muddled together, you can help your dealership stand out by focusing on your unique brand personality—the human traits that define your brand.

For instance, if your brand personality is friendly and charming, your communication on all marketing materials can be written in an upbeat tone. In addition, you can focus on hiring charismatic sales team members who are trained to provide a consistent customer experience, whether it’s on social media or on the sales floor.

This brand consistency not only makes your brand more memorable but also helps show potential auto leads that your dealership is reliable.

Win more auto leads, sell more cars

The best lead generation strategies can help you stand out from your competitors and gain the trust of potential customers. To start driving auto leads to your business, build up your referral network—including your current clients and local business owners in the automotive industry—to become a go-to business in your area.

Then, to speed up your lead generation, invest in direct mail and online advertising (like Yelp Ads) that get your brand noticed. Video marketing and high-quality photos can further engage your target market and persuade car buyers to provide their email address or phone number (especially when your brand personality shines through your content). Also be sure to include a call to action whenever possible to help turn more shoppers into auto leads.

As you start the follow-up process and strengthen your relationships with new leads, learn how to close a sale so you can seal the deal when your prospects near the end of the sales process.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.