4 Automotive Special Finance Tactics To Grow Your Sales or Build Your Sub-Prime Department From Scra

Introduction: These Tactics Might Not Be For You

If you’re thinking about marketing to sub-prime customers as a means to grow your dealership’s new and used car sales, you probably fall under one of the four following categories:

  1. Never experimented with the special finance segment;

  2. Dabbled a little bit and made a few deals;

  3. Run a thriving sub-prime operation with room to increase your sales;

  4. Or you’re an automotive special finance ninja already functioning at full capacity.

If you never experimented with the niche, this blog post is probably not really for you. I intend to cover marketing tactics to help you talk to more special finance customers, but if you don’t already have the right inventory, the full gamut of lenders, and an expert special finance manager that understands the guidelines of each lender; more marketing won’t compensate for lack of fundamentals.

If you dabbled a bit in the niche, it’s time to commit. If you think selling cars to strangers is tough, selling cars to sub-prime customers is an art form. Dabbling will only waste your money because the people you are competing against are masters and have honed their craft for years and are continually perfecting their skills at the game. Commit to becoming a master first, then the tactics in this blog will be of value.

But if you’re running a successful special finance operation, this content is tailored specifically for you. You have all the fundamentals in place; you’re already committed to the niche with the right resources, you probably built great relationships with your lenders over time, and you’re winning deals against the special finance kingpins. You’re the segment that will benefit the most from the tactics I will share because you’re ready to harvest the fruits.

I’m not too worried about the fourth category because they’re probably not reading this blog post because they’re already at full capacity and they don’t need more leads.

So let’s focus on the people this content can help.

Tactic #1: Don’t Sleep With The Enemy

I wanted to uncover for you a few under-the-radar tactics to help you grow the sales of your special finance department because I wanted to provide you with a temporary edge over your competitors.

It’s no secret that the car business is very incestuous when it comes to marketing. Everybody is looking at each other, making sure to copy and imitate anything new; so having a few tactics that are harder to identify visually can be of great value for your operation.

In this train of thought, it’s critical that you never fail to remember the invisible giants you are competing with. Most dealers I survey rapidly point to physical locations around their store when asked about their competitors, but forget about the auto loan portals who bid against them for ads on Facebook, Google Ads and most digital platforms using highly sophisticated bidding strategies. These are the same portals who resell you leads from within your market after draining your monthly digital advertising budget.

You might not see them, but they are your direct competitors, even if you were able to negotiate an exclusivity with them. If you’re buying leads, you’re building their brand with your money.

It might be a means to an end, but first party leads should be your priority and your ultimate objective.

Tactic #2: Switch From Sub-Prime To Near Prime Marketing And Explode Your Sales

When dealing with sub-prime customers, you face an inevitable glass ceiling on your sales. It seems like the lower the credit score, the longer it takes to get the deals done and burning gas.

The solution? Change your marketing message to attract near-prime customers with a credit score between 560-719 which represent a higher percentage of car loans originations than sub-prime customers with scores under <560 and a much faster turnaround on deals.


First, you need to avoid any reference to the typical marketing lingo associated with bad credit car loans in your message. If you’ve been running your operation under a sub-prime brand like YourTown Auto Credit, for example, think about creating a second brand and stay away from the usual copy we see SEO companies adding to the Websites to make Google happy.

Near-prime customers probably had a 90-day delinquency a few years back and are scared of getting a resounding “NO”, but they won’t go through the humiliation of driving around with a bumper sticker advertising your sub-prime operation; and will most likely be unresponsive to the usual sub-prime message because they don’t identify themselves with the category.

The marketing angle that’s been producing the best results for our dealers is one where we position the new brand, not as a vehicle selling operation, but rather like an exclusive lender your dealership might have access to in the area.

You can see an example here.

This messaging works great for current special finance operations and works even better for franchise dealers who want to get in the space but don’t want to give a bad credit stench to their franchise and the dealership as a whole.

If you keep the look&feel of the marketing elegant, and the messaging angled towards bank-style verbiage, you will start getting leads and inquiries from a new segment in the special finance space that feels stuck right now between their fear of getting a humiliating “No” at a traditional dealership, and their aversion to visiting a sub-prime operation.

Tactic #3: Use Social Media To Hunt, Advance, Farm and Close Prospects Under The Nose Of Your Competitors.

There is so much controversy when it comes to car sales and social media. So much misinformation. Everybody has an opinion, b