Your Dealership’s Craigslist Survival Guide

Nov 12, 2016 | Digital Marketing

When one of our dealers said they were no longer impressed with their Craigslist results, we were shocked. But as we listened to the store’s call recordings, we realized three things: 1) two of the callers never reached a salesperson, 2) three of the callers were never redirected to a second vehicle option, and 3) we really needed to write this article.

Your Dealership’s Craigslist Survival Guide

When exploring any new digital marketing channel, there needs to be trial and error so that you can understand what doesn’t work before mastering what does.

Luckily, we’ve done the trial and error for you. So whether you’re doing Craigslist in-house or through an agency/vendor, your dealership NEEDS this Survival Guide:

Have A Plan And Stick To It

So you have a dedicated ad spend for Craigslist advertising! Great—now what?

Here’s what you should nail down on Day 0:

  • Who’s logging into the Craigslist portal and checking CRM leads?
  • Who’s listening and auditing your recorded calls? (All calls should be recorded!)
  • What’s the process for leads to be added into the CRM?
  • How are Craigslist leads followed-up, if at all?
  • Do you have Craigslist listed as an advertising or lead source to track its ROI?
TIP: Ensure you’re using UTM codes in your Craigslist ads, as well as lead sources in Google Analytics. That way, when shoppers visit your website via the URL placed on each of your Craigslist vehicle ads, you’ll know exactly where the leads are coming from.

Optimize Every Listing

The results don’t lie, Craigslist moves pre-owned cars. So why isn’t every dealer on Craigslist? Most dealers’ Craigslist ads simply aren’t optimized for conversions.

To get the most calls, clicks, and sales from your Craigslist ads:

  • Add your dealership’s accolades and “Why Buys”
  • Unless you are EXTREMELY competitive with price, don’t include it in your ads
  • Know your markets: not all markets are the same, and not every day is a good day to post vehicles
  • Know your audience: use the right language (even different ones) to appeal to your specific target audiences

TIP: Because they are extremely motivated to buy, Craigslist shoppers can be turned off by price quickly. Therefore, we recommend only giving out pricing once the shopper has called or walked into your dealership so you can offer them multiple options.

Route Leads Like You Mean It

Be thoughtful and strategic about who will be assigned to handle your Craigslist inquires.

The Craigslist shopper notoriously closes FAST (about 13 days faster than traditional online leads, to be exact). This makes it imperative for your team to have a routing process that gets leads to your team as quickly as possible.

TIP: To track calls easier, see if your vendor can dynamically change your dealership’s number so that it registers as “from Craigslist.”

Be A Salesperson, Not An Order-Taker.

When a Craigslist lead calls in about your vehicle, the first question you’ll likely hear is, “Is it still available?”

Remember, your #1 priority is to set an appointment and get the customer into the dealership. (Duh, Cara.) But check out this example:

Here are some tips to keep the conversation going:

Ask why

Ask WHY they’re in the market for the vehicle they’re inquiring about. This will take the conversation beyond price and help you get a better understanding of what else you can show them.

Give multiple options

Once you know the vehicle type they want, pull up ALL vehicle listings that are similar to it so that you increase your (and their) options. (In other words, SHOW THEM THE WHOLE MENU!) If you have more than one vehicle available that will pique their interest, you will be more likely to bring them into your dealership for an appointment and test drive.

Go the extra mile

If you have multiple rooftops and can move inventory from store to store, drill home the idea that you’re willing to help them find what they’re looking for, even if it isn’t currently on your lot.

Walk The Walk

As with every digital marketing channel, education is key.

If your team has never spent time in Craigslist’s auto section, there may be a disconnect between your employees and your customers when trying to relay information.

Encourage your team to go through the site just as a shopper would. Observe how listings are laid out, and how you would reference a vehicle to a sales rep if the tables were turned.

TIP: Remember, no two shoppers are alike. Make your team aware of the different attributes shoppers could pick to reference a vehicle, such as the phone number extension listed on vehicle ad or the vehicle stock number.

Track + Monitor Your Leads

Your dealership will never be able to gain value from Craigslist if you’re not tracking and monitoring your inbound leads.

Listen to your call recordings

Listen to your call recordings. Listen to your call recordings. Listen to your call recordings.

You won’t know if Craigslist is truly effective for your dealership until you do this, so DO IT. Plus, these phone calls reveal incredible insights on both your shoppers’ engagement with your team, as well as your team’s sales abilities. Use the recordings for future phone coaching, or to offer your employees kudos for a job well done.

Review your traffic in Analytics

All click traffic to your dealership’s VDPs, SRPs, and even credit application page is trackable. Make sure someone is reviewing your Google Analytics (or other applications used to track website traffic).

Survey your showroom

Train your sales team to ask ALL shoppers about how they heard about your dealership or came to engage with your dealership. It’s the easiest way to prove (or disprove) if your ad dollars are bringing in showroom traffic, but you’ll need your entire team on-board.

TIP: If your Craigslist vendor doesn’t offer free call recording, you may want to think about a new one––this is one of the most crucial aspects when it comes to Craigslist’s success.

Make The Most Out Of Craigslist

Despite the fact that Craigslist can rake in hundreds of leads for your dealership, making the most out of those leads takes strategy, processes, and careful monitoring.

It’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, but remember that Craigslist shoppers are motivated buyers. These aren’t the leads you want to miss out on.

Not using Craigslist yet? Let us show you how our vetted Craigslist partner uses proven data and science to get listings to the top of the Search Results Pages. Get the tour.

Blog Author - Cara Lane

Written By Cara Lane
Cara's hybrid love for marketing and sales has made her our beloved Inbound Marketing Manager here at Dealers United. Outside the office, she's busy doing mom things, like chasing her kids around the playground and sipping lots (and lots) of wine!


Who is Dealers United?

Dealers United is a game-changing automotive company dedicated to helping auto dealers improve their dealerships. We have helped over 6,500 dealers nationwide cut costs, save time, and sell more cars.

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