Last Modified: August 17, 2023

Written By:Katherine Deighan

|Published Date: May 6, 2021|8 min read

10 Best Practices for Automotive Lead Response

Illustration of an email inbox with the Gmail logo in the top left corner. There are lines to simulate a subject line and text and a video of a car on a dealership lot.
Your dealership’s lead response is the most important touchpoint with a car buyer. But why is the lead response so vital to landing a deal? A powerful automotive lead response will engage your leads, drive in-store traffic, improve set-to-show ratios, and best of all, close more sales. 

The value in a car dealer's first response

Organic traffic and online activity are some of the most common automotive lead sources.  A strong automotive lead response is your dealership’s first opportunity to reconnect with a buyer who visited your site. This gives you the chance to leave a lasting impression, stand out from the competition, and build a positive customer experience. The average sold lead browses 7.5 dealership pages online but only visits 1.6 dealerships in person. These statistics show if you’re able to engage the buyer online and get them into the dealership, you’ll likely sell them a car. So, now you need to ask yourself, “How successful is my dealership at converting internet leads into in-store visits?”

Best practices for auto lead response

In this article, we’ll provide automotive internet sales best practices that will jumpstart your response emails, increase engagement, and drive traffic to your dealership. 
We accumulated countless data, examined the first responses car dealers send, and put together the ultimate guide to perfecting your dealership lead response. We’ve compiled this into ten best practices for automotive lead responses to engage buyers, drive traffic, and increase sales. If you’re interested in receiving personalized feedback on your dealership’s first response and want to see how it compares to your competitors—reach out to our team. We’ll have an automotive expert walk you through your current lead response and offer suggestions for improvement.

1) Speed of auto lead response

When online car sales leads engage with your dealership, you want to get in contact with them as fast as possible. Research shows your buyer is three times more likely to visit your dealership if your first response time frame ranges from 10-30 minutes. However, don’t let speed sacrifice the quality of your response. Refrain from sending a quick, automatic reply to your e-leads. This automotive lead response is generic, unhelpful, and doesn’t resonate with buyers.Instead of automated responses,  follow up with a human response. Yes, this means someone on your team should personally respond to the buyer and craft a tailored response based on their specific inquiry. This will engage your buyer and nurture them through your sales funnel. If an inquiry comes in after hours,  set up a more personalized automatic response, such as a video message, and let them know you will be in touch tomorrow.

2) Make subject lines detailed, personalized, and compelling

Crafting an engaging subject line should be your first step towards improving your automotive lead response. Your subject line is the main factor when it comes to your open email rate. A poorly written subject line may cause a lead to overlook your message. To create compelling subject lines, consider adding personalized elements such as the individual’s name, the vehicle’s make/model, and your dealership name. 
Auto sales leads are likely requesting information from more than one dealership when shopping online. So you can imagine their inbox will have tons of responses and follow-up information. Therefore, to win their attention, you want to ensure your subject line is detailed, personalized, and compelling enough to stand out against your competition. 
A screenshot of someone's inbox showing six different emails from a dealership with different titles
Take a look at 3 examples of subject lines, ranging from excellent to poor, and take note of which elements resonate with you. 
  • Excellent: Video of Katherine’s 2020 VW Tiguan at Covideo Dealership
  • Average: Your Grand Cherokee or Katherine – Thanks for reaching out
  • Poor: Your requested information or Thank you for contacting Dealership
Pro tip: If you’re sending a video email, make it known. Including the word “video” in your subject line increases auto dealer email open rates by 19%.

3) Keep it professional

After your email is opened, it must look clean, professional, and polished. For best results with your automotive lead response, use a branded email template with your dealership’s name, logo, and tagline. Only include what’s essential and relevant to the buyer, making it easy for them to consume. Too much text causes the reader to get lost or overwhelmed and move on. A good rule of thumb is the less the buyer has to scroll, the better.  Your ultimate goal is to create an appealing message that guides the reader to a clear and compelling CTA (Keep reading to learn more about this tip!) Beware of: Too much text, embedding dozens of photos, lots of scrolling required, catching your recipient’s attention because it’s too overwhelming. 

4) Personalize your message

Your subject lines aren’t the only thing that should be tailored to each buyer. Continue using personalized elements throughout your response—in salutations, the email body, CTAs, etc. 
To personalize your message, use the lead’s first name, provide more information on the vehicle, or answer any questions in the lead’s inquiry.To leave a lasting impression, record and send a personalized video when receiving an automotive internet lead. In this video, introduce yourself and your dealership, then answer their inquiry like you would if they were sitting in front of you. Check out the video below to see a personalized video introduction in action, and use this as a guide for what to include in your dealership internet sales process to promote more auto lead responses.
Introduction Videos

5) Be helpful and give the buyer what they’re looking for

The best car salespeople recognize where the buyer is in their journey—and meets them there without pushing them. For example, if your lead requests more information or wants to compare the pricing of two models, it sounds like they’re not quite ready to be invited into the dealership yet. Be mindful of this when crafting your automotive lead response and call to action.Instead, develop a relationship with a lead, so you become the point of contact for the buyer, assist them in any way possible, and offer additional ways to help. Going above and beyond with your customer service shows the buyer you’re here to help, rather than just to sell. 

6) Include rich content (photos and videos) for the buyer

Rich content like photos and videos offers your buyer a real-time look at the vehicle. The most effective automotive lead response emails follow up with a personalized video message. In this message, it’s best to introduce yourself, answer questions, and, if possible, provide a walkaround of the requested vehicle. 
A screenshot of an email titled "Video for John - Kia Forte at Covideo Dealership" with some text and video of a women in a dealership parking lot with a car.
Car walkarounds give buyers a 360-degree view of the model while highlighting distinguishing features and sharing the condition of previously owned vehicles. To maximize engagement, embed your video in the email body using a video message platform like Covideo. If you don’t have access to a video platform, take a few photos to give the buyer insight on what to expect. 

7) Offer options

A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases an individual makes on average. So it’s safe to say your buyer may feel stressed. A buyer can become frustrated if they feel like you’re influencing or persuading them to buy a car, so instead, make them feel like they’re in control. To accomplish this, offer multiple options to your automotive leads. For example, if they inquired about a new car, maybe mention you have a used model on the lot that’s more affordable and still in excellent condition.This can also be achieved by sharing flexible payment options, asking about communication preferences, or highlighting the different trim levels (good, better, and best). Regardless, providing the buyer with choices shows you want to accommodate their preferences throughout the purchase.

8) Conclude with one effective call to action

You could have the best auto lead response email in the city, but your email is useless without a call to action. A CTA drives action from the buyer and guides them towards what to do next. Always include one, clear and specific CTA in your lead response.
To make your CTA more effective, use strong language such as “schedule a test drive” or “call me at….” rather than something more passive like, “Visit us – We’re open until 6 p.m.” However, remember to align your CTA with the stage of the buyer’s journey—you don’t want to accelerate the process if they’re not ready to commit. Pro Tip: The most effective CTAs are straightforward and specific. It saves you and your buyer time when you’re direct about the actions they need to take next and makes it easy for them to engage. This can be done by turning your CTA into a clickable button or hyperlinked text, like this link to schedule a demo!

9) Make it easy to contact your dealership

When your buyer is ready to contact you or your dealership, you need to make it easy and efficient for them to do so.
First and foremost, ask upfront the best way to communicate with the buyer. Some may prefer text and email, while others would rather jump on a phone call. Next, make sure there is only one main point of contact, rather than multiple reps reaching out. Limiting communication to just one salesperson builds familiarity and recognition between the buyer and your dealership. To build rapport, send a video introduction of yourself in the message. You can also create an email signature that includes your photo, name, and phone number.

10) Limit the number of emails

One of our final internet auto sales tips: always consider volume. How many times are you reaching out to a lead on a given day? You should be sending two emails at most that first day – one automatic (if necessary) and one personalized. 
Ideally, it would be best to follow up with a personalized video email immediately; however, if that’s not possible, send an auto-response while you create a more personalized message in the meantime. As we mentioned before, your lead is likely reaching out to multiple dealerships in your area. This means their email will be flooded with generic, impersonal messages. Avoid cluttering their email with a useless message and instead focus on sending one solid and powerful lead response. 

10) Convert online car dealer leads with your automotive lead response

Our team is here to help you master your auto dealer email marketing and drive more traffic to your dealership. We’ve created a powerful grading system that will show you the effectiveness of your current lead response. To see your score, reach out to our dealership experts for a demo. We’ll share your results and provide you with actionable feedback and quick email car dealer tips on improving. 
Start driving more traffic to your dealership today and convert online auto dealer leads into paying customers!

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