Information used to score Internet automotive leads comes from various sources, such as data from auto makers indicating which prior Internet prospects became car buyers.

“Past behavior predicts future performance,” says Jack Bowen, chief marketing officer for Urban Science a firm that developed lead scoring seven years ago.

Other buying predictors include lists of previous owners, people with vehicles coming off lease, auto-show attendees and the zip codes of shoppers submitting leads to dealerships.

Another indication of buyer seriousness is how much someone writes in the “comments” field of a Web page for lead submissions.

“The longer the comments, the more likely a person is to buy,” Bowen says.

Lead quality varies by website.

For example, says Bowen, someone researching cars for 45 minutes on Edmunds.com and then submitting a lead through that website is more likely to buy than someone on a non-automotive website who's submitting a lead as part of playing a video game to win a free pickup truck.

For one brand, a shopper showing an interest in a metallic car color indicates a greater chance of buying. (Bowen won't name the brand, citing client confidentiality.)

In scoring leads, Urban Science has developed these three categories:

  • Urgent. This person appears ready, willing and able to buy.
  • Priority. In the market but may need in-depth sales consultation or an incentive.
  • Standard. “They are further away from the purchase horizon but should be followed up with,” Bowen says.