Automotive lead generation.

Automotive Lead Generation: How Car Dealerships Generate Leads with Live Chat

Are you struggling to generate leads for your car dealership? Wondering how live chat could help you boost your automotive lead generation?

The fact that your dealership needs leads goes practically without saying. But what’s also interesting is that your potential customers need you equally as much. 

According to research conducted by Hyundai, for example, more than 95% of car sales still happen at the dealership. 

Automotive sales statistic.

(image source)

In other words, new leads are waiting to connect with you. You just need to know how to engage them with your dealership. 

Luckily, that’s exactly what we will help you with in this post. Below, we’ll show you how to use one of the most engaging lead generation strategies – live chat – to get more leads for your car dealership. 

But before we get to that, let’s discuss automotive lead generation in more detail…

What are the leads in the automotive industry?

When we’re talking about leads in the automotive industry, we mean one of the following:

  • An actual inquiry through your website
  • A person calling your dealership for information
  • A referral from an existing customer or connection
  • Any other potential customer that you engage with.

Note that I said engage with. This is an important distinction to understand about leads. A person becomes a lead when they engage with your company in some way – phone your office, send you an email, sign up for your mailing list, start a live chat conversation, and so on

In other words, a new website visitor is not a lead. They might become one if they decide to inquire with your dealership. But up until that point, they’re only visitors. 

Why is the distinction so important to understand? 

For one, it’s easy to assume that everyone who visits your website (or sees your online advertising for that matter) is a lead. But with such an assumption, it’s equally easy to focus on strategies that generate traffic to your site (like SEO or online advertising) and consider your efforts in lead generation. 

But to truly generate leads, you need to focus your efforts on engaging those visitors and connecting with them. 

In just a moment, I’ll show you exactly how to do it. For now, however, let’s cover several other aspects of automotive lead generation.

MQLs, SQLs, and so on.

Another distinction that you might have encountered is the division of leads into separate groups. These groups are usually identified by abbreviations such as MQL, SQL, and so on.

Now, all of those groups are leads. This means that leads categorized this way possess the qualities we’ve discussed earlier – They have engaged with your dealership in one way or another. Those groups then categorize by their likelihood of purchasing a car in the near future. 

The acronym MQL stands for marketing qualified lead. What’s important about those leads is that they have indicated their interest in your car offer based on your marketing efforts. So, anyone who visited your site by clicking on an ad or your content ranking in Google and converted into a lead is an MQL. 

In other words, they are part of an audience you’ve targeted with your marketing campaigns, and your marketing message has resonated with them. 

SQL, on the other hand, stands for sales-qualified lead. These people have engaged with your marketing message and gone further into the sales funnel. An SQL can be someone who originally downloaded a car brochure from your site (and thus became an MQL) but later inquired with you directly, visited the showroom, or engaged with your dealership in any other way. 

In other words, the person not only highlighted that they are a part of an audience you’re trying to reach (i.e., people from certain areas, social and economic status, and interested in changing their car,) but has also confirmed that you’re right in your assumptions, and have begun the sales process with you. 

Lead typeDescriptionExample
Marketing qualified lead (MQL)People who became leads through your marketing effortsA person downloading a car brochure from your website
Sales qualified lead (SQL)Leads who, through their actions, have confirmed their readiness to buyA person who downloaded the brochure and then set up a meeting with your salesperson.

Which type of leads is more important to car dealers – MQL or SQL?

Actually, the answer is both. 

You see – in most cases, your lead generation efforts will first generate MQLs. However, through nurturing and other automotive lead management strategies, you can convert those people into SQLs, and initiate the sales process with them. 

Some exceptions to this rule include referrals, for example. Usually, people referred to you by an existing customer are ready to discuss buying a car straight away. In this case, they enter your sales pipeline as SQLs, and you don’t need to do any lead nurturing to get them to that stage. 

Overall, however, most lead generation strategies attract marketing-qualified leads.

But what about the leads you generate with live chat?

This is where things get interesting… You see, live chat has the power to deliver both MQLs and SQLs. In fact, as you’ll see shortly, you can also generate hot leads with live chat, and do so quite easily, at that.  

Let’s compare live chat with another common lead generation strategy – lead magnets- to see how that works. 

Generating leads with ebooks and other lead magnets

Offering lead magnets is by far the most classic and quintessential lead generation strategy of all. It’s one I’m sure you’ve seen (and even used to become a lead) many times over. 

This strategy focuses on offering your visitors a lead magnet. The term – lead magnet – refers to an offer, be it an ebook, a brochure or another document containing valuable information your visitors seek at the current stage of the buyer’s journey. 

But here is the catch – To get that offer, the visitor must provide their contact details and join your email list. 

Here’s an example of a lead capture form for a lead magnet from Hubspot.

An example of a lead magnet in a car industry.

In the automotive industry, typical examples of lead magnets would include:

  • An ebook or guide to understanding car finance.
  • A checklist with criteria to look for when buying a used car
  • A list of makes and models you offer with pros and cons for each, etc.

Notice how each of those documents offers customers information that would help them answer a particular aspect of the process of buying a new car – selecting the right make or model, getting finance, and so on. 

There are two problems with this strategy, though. 

The first one is that lead magnets often deliver cold leads. These people eventually might be interested in buying a car. But overall, they are in the early stages of the buying journey, and the actual purchase might not happen for months or longer. 

The other problem is that this, and many similar lead-generation strategies are losing their effectiveness.  

Fewer and fewer visitors respond to popups or lead magnets, for example. Many consider those calls to action annoying or interrupting and click them off when the popup appears on the screen.

What leads can you generate with live chat?

Live chat connects your dealership with a customer. In other words, it opens up a direct line of communication and as a result, tends to attract customers later in the buying process. These people have already made a decision to buy a new car, do so relatively soon, and (this is an important bit) – evaluate your dealership as to where they want to get their car from. 

  • These people are highly motivated. 
  • They’ve done much of the research already too. 
  • Thanks to live chat, you can engage them directly and begin the selling process.

Here’s how it happens. 

Automotive lead generation with live chat

True – the majority of car sales still happen at the dealership. That said, most of the buying process – particularly early on when customers research new car purchases and so on – has moved online. 

As a result:

  • Customers expect to be able to find and learn all about their next car online.
  • What’s more, they expect their dealer to be able to provide customer support online, too, without forcing clients to endure a drive to their office.

Luckily, that shift in customer behavior has introduced a new, highly-effective lead generation strategy – live chat

Offering live chat on your automotive website delivers several benefits:

  • Live chat captures visitors’ attention like no other strategy
  • You can immediately respond to and chat with a customer with live chat. 
  • This fast response time translates to a high conversion rate. Because of that, you can convert them into a lead or even a customer pretty quickly.
  • With live chat, your dealership is available to customers 24/7 (even as they research new car purchases from the comfort of their homes at night.)
  • Live chat is ridiculously easy to integrate with your other tools

Solving the biggest objection to using live chat to generate automotive leads

One of the biggest objections against using live chat we hear from car dealerships is that it forces teams to use another tool and another interface. 

To use live chat, companies must implement (and learn) a new interface, keyboard shortcuts, etc. All the while they’re happy to communicate internally with their current tools like Slack or MS Teams.

The result of such context-switching is lost time and a lack of the ability to assist customers properly. 

Luckily, there is another way to do it too.

Live chat platforms like Social Intents (disclaimer – this is our tool) integrate seamlessly with messaging tools like Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, or Webex, and allow you to chat with website visitors from those tools directly.

Live chat for customer service.

As a result, when you use Social Intents live chat to generate leads:

  • You don’t have to learn a new interface or implement a new platform into your tech stack.
  • You can chat with visitors and convert them into leads directly from the communication tool you’re using already.
  • You can provide a much better experience to your visitors and your team.

Intrigued? Learn more about Social Intents live chat software and see how easy it is to chat with your website visitors directly from Slack or MS Teams.

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