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Lifting the Veil: Where do my leads come from?

When a lead arrives from one of your suppliers, do you ever question its origin?

In the initial days of the Internet, it was fairly straightforward. There were few options for the consumer online, and most leads arrived showing their points of origin. Now, more than 90% of your customers head online before choosing a dealership, and when they generate a lead, it’s tough for you to know where it really came from and how it got to you.

Let’s start by breaking down the two general “types” of Internet leads:

Direct Interest

Indirect Interest

Dealer Website


Search Engine



Cross-Industry Resale

Email Campaign

Trigger leads

Digital Ad


Information (3rd Party) Site



Direct interest leads are those generated by consumers who are seeking information on your make of vehicle, or specific vehicles in your inventory. By contrast, Indirect interest leads are generated as a result of a similar interest or related event, but not on a make or specific vehicle you stock.

Wait a minute: I get leads from people who didn’t submit a lead on a car I stock?

Probably. Recently, I went to a wine and food festival. Next to a beautiful new Buick was an entry form to win a trip to wine country. I completed the contest entry and two weeks later, I got a call from my local dealer regarding my interest in a new Buick.

OEMs are notorious for this “lead generation” method, but they’re not alone. There are companies who take leads from other sources – contests, home mortgages, credit bureaus (trigger leads), re-marketed leads – and sell them on the open market.

Is that why customers tell me, “I never submitted a lead?”

Not usually. In the overwhelming majority of cases, when you receive a lead from a reputable lead company, the customer did submit a request (whether they took the time to read what they were doing prior to submitting their information is another story).

Quite often, when a consumer submits a request online, they do so to many dealers at once, resulting in them receiving emails and calls from several people in a short period of time. Many of the emails are automated responses that don’t answer the questions they had, address the notes they put in the comments, or the expectations they had (like an instant price quote) when they clicked “submit.” Sometimes, they just want space and know that telling you, “I’m not interested,” “I’m not in the market,” or “I didn’t send you a request for information” is the easiest way to stop the calls and emails.

How do I make sure I get direct-interest leads?

First, work with reputable, established lead providers. Most have contracted with suppliers and sites to only receive customer-generated, direct interest leads. Second, capitalize on your search spend and site traffic by making sure customers on your website stay on your website.

Most customers leave your website because they don’t find what they are looking for, whether that’s a particular vehicle or information that they feel they can trust. When this happens, they go to independent websites that specialize in providing them with selection and information – and in turning that interested customer into a lead for you. If you can provide the customer on your website with tools and information they can trust – for trade in values, vehicle information, and even financing and payment options – you’ll convert more of your own traffic and reduce the defections.

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Tags: AutoUSA, Internet, Payment, Pro, auto, car, financing, lead, leads, marketing, More…new, party, sources, third, used, website


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Comment by Alexander Lau on June 17, 2013 at 6:25am

Or you can buy them from here:, that's what a ton of 3rd parties have been doing to peddle them off to dealers., etc. was using them, I do believe.

Comment by Bill Cosgrove on June 17, 2013 at 6:23am

Ralph- I rememeber when you could buy exclusive leads back in the early Special Finance days, pre 2004, then when everyone jump on the band wagon to provide leads it all got muddled when lead providers started using deceptive practices to capture lead information and buy and sell leads amongst themselves.

With some of the things that have come to light recently it seems to not have changed all that much since.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 17, 2013 at 6:20am

Josh, I agree. I was just posing some questions. The application I'm building is through approved inventory population, so it matches what a dealer expects. Generally speaking, most dealers aren't in favor of 'I get leads from people who didn’t submit a lead on a car I stock?'

Comment by Josh Vajda on June 17, 2013 at 6:18am

Alexander - in my experience, yes, dealers care a great deal about the lead quality, less about the delivering party. They place a different value on hand-raisers (people interested in their vehicles) than on cold leads or conquest leads, for the most part.


Comment by Alexander Lau on June 17, 2013 at 5:58am

Go and ask James Ziegler about this. I'm sure he'll have a ton to say about it. Also, do Dealers really give a care? Is a lead a lead to them, no matter? It's fairly simple to set up a website that pulls in XML and displays inventory. You could create a number of applications around this concept. I'm doing something brand new for a platform that no one has entered in the automotive retail world. Will dealers care if their leads come through me or an approved 3rd party?

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