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TAKE POLL 3rd Party Leads - Do you TRUST them?

Eric Miltsch

Smile, it's good for you!
Apr 16, 2009
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I've never been a fan of 3rd party leads. Even from my earliest days in the dealership my #1 goal was to drive the most qualified leads through my website.

Our new store is taking the same approach and I don't ever intend to buy leads. Any budget that would be allocated towards this can be better spent creating a better experience within our own site.
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Reactions: usedcarricky
Feb 11, 2012
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I first realized how terrible some of our 3rd party leads really are when I came across a lead we received in a couple of years ago with my moms name and my sisters phone number (obviously neither were interested in a new Prius and didn't do anything online). It really made me think about what these providers are doing to gather information.

I'm not a fan of 3rd party leads and to be honest with you we only purchase them from Toyota. Toyota has a tier system and also uses Polk to score them. We don't spend a ton on 3rd party leads and only purchase the top tiers in a small radius from our zip code. These also come way cheaper to us than if we purchased them from a 3rd party provider. I would be open to paying a little more for a better quality lead (although I honestly think 3rd party leads are getting outrageous but if we were selling more I would be all in!) I would still be a little skeptical as 3rd party leads in our industry seem to be trash. Always open for new things!
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Reactions: Jeff Kershner

Jay Juliano

Lot Lizard
Aug 13, 2013
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Yes and No. You must choose the right Lead Provider and have the right processes in place to brilliantly handle the Customer/Researcher to produce sales.

#1. A lot of negativity pertaining to the quality of 3rd Party Leads mostly stem from lead duplication. Usually this is due to the new research and buying pattern of a modern digital customer. Customer’s today research, research, and RESEARCH. They will fill out any form online if they believe it will A. aid in making a correct decision and B. aid in saving money. They also want their privacy respected. They are not customers yet and don't want to talk to someone who simply just wants to bring them in. These types of RESEARCHERS require a soft approach and long term follow-up preferably via email with INFORMATION that relate to their initial request to eventually convert them in to an actual customer. Most dealership BDC and Internet Departments are not properly set up to handle this type of customer, so they will often give up way too soon, deliver useless and pointless information to their inbox, or come off too hard and lose the opportunity or destroy the relationship.

#2. A LOT of 3rd Party Lead Providers are merely just lead affiliate networks. They partner with relative web sites and exchange leads for a monetary incentive. This isn't necessarily a poor business model but it certainly opens the door for poor affiliates to be signed with black hat tactics to generate money via bogus or low quality leads. Most respectable lead providers will in fact remove these affiliates and allow the return of such bad leads........IF you report it to them. This takes work a lot of work and communication. You MUST develop a strong relationship with your vendors in order for them to successfully work for you. Unfortunately, it is all too common to have a dealer sit back and complain internally when the bill comes instead of reaching out to their Account Representative to work together to make things right! If you order a well done steak and you get medium rare it helps to talk to your waiter before you scarf down the steak, bitch about the bill then cancel the credit card transaction later.


Aug 5, 2010
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I think you summed it up clearly, Jeff, when you deconstructed the issues with the 3rd party leads.
Let's face it, the quality of many of the 3rd party lead providers are subpar or suspect at best. However, they're only suspect because of the circle jerk of lead selling (and re-selling) to the multiple different buyers of said leads, from OEM to additional 3rd parties. (It's a profitable process, so you understand the financial gains from doing it).

I have no problem with 3rd party leads and would gladly recommend them to my clients IF they are all originating from the sources in which the form field existed. Some online shoppers may prefer submitting their information through these sites rather than individual dealer sites as it puts out a bigger net, and they feel they are being looked after by the organization. However, I believe the quality gets watered down the way leads are transferred and multiplied through their lifecycle. Give me a lead organic to the original site, where the call-to-action is realistic, and is exclusively sold/directed to only one dealership, and that is a very valuable lead.
Jun 12, 2009
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Jeff - you and I have discussed 3rd party leads many times and my opinion has always been that they are the least valuable of all types, but that is not to say that they have no value at all.

My belief is that using one source for third party leads to target a specific area for a specific model with a specific goal is the most successful approach. For instance, if I want to swipe market share from my closest competitor for our volume model, I would buy leads from his PMA/AOI for that model only and then send out low ball first email price quotes to gain 2-3-4 additional sales purely for the numbers and moving the units...in fact the strategy works best if you operate with the volume philosophy exclusively and do not expect ANY profit from these units.

The underlying issue is that the people on the front line responding to these 3rd party leads operate at a competitive disadvantage purely because they do not understand the nature of the source which promises a price quote...a promise that is very rarely if ever delivered upon by the average ISM since the lead typically does not appear to either ask for a quote or contain enough information to provide a quote....neither of which should prevent the ISM from sending a quote!

Amazing how it all comes back to education and training, huh?
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Reactions: Jeff Kershner
Sep 30, 2010
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From what I see in our stores, they are not all created equal. Our stores with domestic brands that receive 3rd party leads from the manufacturer, wherever they are getting them from, perform very poorly. The import stores, Toyota for example, we do very well with.

Special finance leads are another story. A few of our stores specialize in spi-fi and buy leads occasionally. They are all junk and leads that have already been sold to our other stores months prior. Or sometimes within the same month. There is no such thing as an "exclusive" special finance lead.