This category is always a source of conversation among voters and providers. This category is not limited to Internet leads, nor is it limited to only those that generate all of their own leads. It encompasses all special finance leads provided to the dealership, and like the other two lead categories, the group average dropped. Few providers were able to improve scores from years past. Again, dealers cited lead quality and customer service as concerns.
Additionally, this category produced a few surprises, as vendors that have received top-level awards in previous years failed to secure enough votes in 2008 to be considered.
Strategic Marketing claimed the Diamond Award. Not only is this their third Diamond Award in this category, but they are also among a select few providers that have won Diamond Awards in more than one category in the same year (see Advertising – Direct Mail). Considering the decline in overall lead satisfaction, Todd Strause, president of Strategic Marketing, was asked what he saw shaping up for 2008 regarding lead programs: “I think in 2008 there will be more emphasis on lead follow-up, maybe from the vendor, who sells the lead to the dealer, putting follow-up programs in place. Possibly even more appointment setting on the dealer’s behalf from the third party providers to assist dealers in increasing the success rate with those leads.”
Moving up a position this year was BlueSky Marketing, who took the Platinum Award. BlueSky has picked up an award in each of the last three years. The only other provider to make the rankings this year is DealerLink, who claimed the Gold Award.