Industry News

When You Don’t Even Get To Make A First Impression

During the journey of today’s car shoppers, some dealers will have the opportunity to make far more sales to far more car shoppers than others. The simple difference between the two is that the dealer not making the sale isn’t making it because they probably got beat to the opportunity.

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The basic marketing/sales funnel model hasn’t changed in years. The start to a sale begins at a vague level of insight called the awareness stage; a car shopper knows they want a new vehicle and they know that dealerships exist but they’re not yet ready to care about where to purchase. They’ll eventually choose a dealership but not until later in their journey. The key is to make sure once they’re ready, they choose your dealership first.

Historically, caring about where to purchase started to come into play when car shoppers reached the interest stage. During this stage, they began visiting dealerships to gather information about vehicles. And, it was with this stage in mind dealerships established their marketing and sales models. The model worked fairly well as long as dealerships were the conduit between interest and information.

As shoppers arrived, they were handed off to a sales team member who helped move them through the remaining steps: consideration, intent, evaluation, and finally, the actual purchase. It was up to the salesperson to separate the specific dealership from all the others in the market.

Now, internet shopping patterns have become the norm. The original marketing/sales model isn’t just old. It’s extremely antiquated. Roughly half of car shoppers test drive only one vehicle before a purchase because they have access to every piece of information they need. Salespeople don’t have an opportunity to exercise their skills until a prospect has essentially already made a decision. The opportunity to earn their business has become a matter of where in the process car shoppers meet your dealership and message. Today, sooner is definitely better. And, being first is key to earning an opportunity.

The marketing versus sales influence model has drastically shifted. Many salespeople have already recognized it. They see customers everyday who have done their research, made up their minds down to the accessory package, and arrive already in the “evaluation” phase ready to test drive. It provides a different challenge for the salesperson, but it provides an even greater challenge for managers who have to allocate marketing funds to put shoppers in front of their salespeople before any other dealership has an opportunity.

Most broadcast, direct mail, and even digital media are stuck in an old marketing model mindset. They can stick a dealership’s name in a car shopper’s head. Done right, they can even give car shoppers a reason to pay attention. But in the day of the educated consumer, the one that makes up his or her mind before meeting a salesperson, that’s no longer enough. A customer-specific message delivered quickly, efficiently, frequently, and much earlier in the shopping process is what’s needed to win an opportunity.

It’s not a matter of better late than never. It’s now a matter of, if your message is late, it’s never.

Over 90% of your market isn’t listening to your advertising

Want to see which of your advertising media strategies work and which are a waste of money? It’s actually pretty easy.

For decades, car dealerships of all sizes have used different forms of spray and pray mass media to try and connect with car buyers. The question however, how can mass media really be measured to determine it’s true ROI. Is it a solid investment, a necessary evil, or just a waste of money?

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For example, take two of the most popular mass media advertising line items like TV and radio. They’re each a time-worn tactic few questioned because there was no true way to track their ability to produce traffic and sales. If car buyers showed up at dealerships to buy a new or used car then the tv and radio must be working, right? If no one showed up then they were simply explained as investments for building a brand and future sales.

Truth is, for car dealerships, most of the money spent on spray and pray mass media campaigns is wasted. That’s because only a tiny percentage of the audience is actually in the market for a new vehicle. Common industry experts estimate as few as 2 – 4% of the market is considering purchasing a new or used vehicle from week to week.

What’s that mean? As much as 95% (sometimes more) of every mass media dollar invested by dealerships trying to attract car buyers simply goes to waste because it’s not reaching the right audience. People simply aren’t listening because they have no need to.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Over 95% media waste may sound hard to believe, but let’s look at the numbers. Assume a 2 week tv buy reaches an audience of 100,000 adults ages 25 – 54, and one commercial runs 56 times (4 times per day for 14 days) at an average of $300 per spot. That’s $16,800.

Now assume the tv buy is two stations deep. That’s a total of $33,600 for the entire two week tv campaign.

Of those 100,000 people targeted, only 4,000 of them (4%) are in the market to purchase a vehicle in the two weeks the tv commercial is running. Of those 4,000 prospects, only about 5% are in the market for the make and models of vehicles advertised. That brings the audience of viable prospects down to a whopping 200.

Knowing the tv buy cost $33,600, when it’s divided by 100% of the in-market prospects seeing it (200), the cost of reaching each prospect is $168. In actuality, the cost per prospect is most likely higher because it’s just not possible for 100% of all in-market prospects to see the spot. But hey, if we’re going to dream, lets dream big.

NOW CRUNCH THROUGH THE SALE

To continue this hypothetical example, assume the commercial worked really well and 50% of those prospects visit the advertised dealership during the time the spots ran (that’s 100 prospects).  Finally, let’s say the sales team is fantastic and is able to close 25% of the people who saw the tv spot and visited the dealership.

All told, the two week buy cost $1,344 per sale. Not exactly a stellar return on investment for even a best-case scenario. To make it even more concerning, it’s simply not possible to know each and every time customers who purchased a vehicle ever saw the tv spot. Any ROI calculations are strictly guesses and not accurate. It’s possible the cost per sale could be higher.

WHAT’S A DEALERSHIP SUPPOSED TO DO?

We’re now in a day and age where, if executed properly, advertising channels are trackable to real actionable results (phone calls, floor ups, website clicks, emails, texts, and chats). Taken a step further, what really needs to happen is that every advertising channel should be tracked to the revenue it produced. If advertising can’t be tracked, then how in the world can any dealership know it’s true value and what to do with it?

This isn’t simply a rant about tv and radio inefficiencies (ok, it kind of is but all mass media is inefficient if consumers aren’t targeted properly). The fact is, most marketing vendors and advertising providers simply don’t go through the necessary lengths needed to target the right prospects and prove the true value of what they’re doing, even though the technology is available to do it. Instead, vendors are happy getting away with putting ads in front of anonymous audiences and discussing hypothetical results and inaccurate returns. The reason, most dealerships don’t vigorously demand to see actual proof that their advertising efforts are producing measurable revenue.

The technology and resources are available, right now, for dealerships to hold marketing vendors, advertising agencies, and media investments accountable for real production (all the way down to a sale, the revenue generated, and profit made). Do the math for yourself and see what each of your media sources is truly producing for your store. If the results aren’t good enough, be open minded enough to seek out and investigate strategies that may be able to perform better over the long haul.

Massive technological advancements in advertising delivery and tracking technology have made this an unbelievable time to re-think what’s normal and consider smarter strategies for getting the most out of your advertising investment. The dealerships that embrace a new mindset of what their advertising should produce and the value it can bring will be well positioned for sustained growth and competitive dominance for years to come.

Want To Successfully Navigate The Unknown Waters of Advertising Technology? Learn 3 Tips How.

 

 

Have you ever felt like the abundance of emerging marketing and advertising technology, gizmos, and strategies is a bit like being in a tsunami of information? Just as you get comfortable in one area, BOOM, there’s a new wave crashing down. As technology progresses, it’s inescapable as a marketer. The decision to make is do you want to navigate the waters head on in an ark or risk it in a life raft.

When it comes to automotive marketing, doing something different from what you know can be a bit uncomfortable. You may ask yourself things like, “Will it give my store an advantage? Is it cost effective? How much time will my team and I have to spend on it? What if it fails?”

But, it’s even more uncomfortable when you find out you’ve fallen way behind everyone else because you failed to progress and evolve. That’s why it’s imperative to seek out and embrace new marketing and advertising strategies in order to keep your message where your audience is going to see it. Even though there’s a lot to sort through, the benefits of adopting the right strategies can be awesome.

  • Today’s audiences can be more tightly targeted than ever before.
  • Ads can be specific to the viewer; so, the message is much better received.
  • Engagement, leads, and purchases can be tracked to the specific medium.
  • Less time, money, and effort is spent figuring out how to reach the right people and more time can be invested working on selling more cars.
  • For automotive marketers wanting to adopt emerging technology and media but not drown in the tsunami of information, we’ve compiled three things to always consider when getting started.
1. Know your audience and their media habits.

Although almost all dealers are already engaged in some sort of digital advertising, as much as 80% of their monthly advertising spends are still broadcast media specific. That, despite the fact that there are fewer viewers in news and fringe time – traditionally the favorite time slots of dealerships. According to the Pew Research Center, late night news has lost nearly a quarter of its audience over the last decade, and viewership in other fringe times is dropping. Considering the fact that only about 1 in 20 households reached will be in the market for a new car, dealership media buys are talking to a shrinking market, of whom, only a small percent are truly active prospects.

A profitable first step is to consider the alternatives based on knowing your audience’s behaviors and understanding the mediums where they spend the most time. Emerging technologies can solve both the audience size and the percentage of prospects problem by reaching targets who are currently in the market for an automobile. It’s a much smaller population, but with a much greater return on dollars spent.

2. Hold the medium accountable.

The objective of campaign marketing is to sell automobiles, and the media rep (whether digital or traditional) sitting across the desk or virtual meeting should have a good answer to one important question: How can we track the sales results of this investment?

Having an accurate answer to that question is essential to allocating your marketing dollars to the marketing that produces the best ROI.

And there’s a second question the media rep should answer: How do you make sure that you are pushing the right message to the right prospect? Is it spray and pray saturation coverage or are audience members actively in market shopping? The fact that the prospect is identified as being in the market isn’t enough. What is the prospect in the market for? How long have they been in market? And what is the source of the data?

Media accountability starts with a clear explanation of what the medium is going to do, and how it’s going to do it. It ends with an accurate accounting of the units sold through that medium. Anything less is simply a vendor asking the marketer to “trust me.”

3. Put your message where the buyers are.

On the average, the typical cable-enabled American home receives over 200 channels. And on the average, they watch less than 10% of them. While broadcast tv and cable viewership is dropping, it’s increasing on devices that can connect to video content (streaming players, game consoles, computers, tablets, and smart phones).

Increasingly, viewers are where traditional advertising is not. And that leads to another question that the media reps should answer: How will your dealership’s message get to viewers wherever they are? And, how will the media company make sure they’re getting your message to the right audience members at the appropriate time in their buying journey?

These are questions that some media representatives aren’t used to hearing. In some cases, you may even encounter a blank stare. Those who will be most helpful to you in navigating the change in the way marketing information is both transmitted and received will have a ready answer. It’s because that’s the way they’ve designed their programs.

It’s answers to questions like the ones above that will help automotive marketers clearly navigate the confusing waters of emerging advertising technology. By gaining those answers, you’ll be able focus on doing more of what works and quit doing what doesn’t. Your pipeline will be full and you can sell cars and that’s a pretty sweet deal!

Why Being The ESPN of Automotive Isn’t A Good Thing

 

 

Have you ever paid attention to how something new and different seemingly comes out of nowhere and suddenly disrupts everything overnight? For businesses it can feel like a sucker punch.

Here are some quick historic examples. The introduction of the telephone to homes and businesses demolished the need for telegraphs. The television quickly disrupted radio listenership. The internet killed the need for most people to read newspapers. Email significantly impacted the postal system. Online movie streaming knocked businesses like Blockbuster into extinction. And now, the continuous evolution of smartphones and apps is turning multiple industries on their heads.

Everyone of those disruptors can be viewed as an overnight success. Or, were they?

The telegraph took nearly 60 years to invent. The telephone took about 35 years to come around. The television took over 20 years to get into the first living rooms. The internet has been slowly developed since the 1960s. It’s chronicled that email first began 40 years ago, and smartphones are over a decade old.

What all seemed to be overnight successes actually took quite a while to engineer, scale, and gain traction. When each finally reached a tipping point they seemed to spread like wildfire. The problem for the entities they disrupted was those competitors probably didn’t take them very seriously. In addition, they didn’t plan for the possible change until it was too late. They lacked foresight, creative thinking, and strategic thinking.

That brings us to the massive sports giant ESPN and the incredibly valuable lesson that can be learned from them. The lesson is: Don’t underestimate the power of technology and how one thing can disrupt everything. Even if you don’t see the impact right now, what may only be a small insignificant spark can become a raging fire if unattended and not planned for.

ESPN recently laid off around 100 people. What’s significant about it, in a company of thousands, was many of them were popular on-air personalities with big contracts that had no idea the layoff was coming.

The reasons are varied but many conclude the layoffs were a result of two reasons. Around 2012 ESPN spent billions of dollars scooping up contracts for the broadcast rights to many popular leagues like the NFL, NBA, and college football. It appeared to be an awesome investment at the time. Cable subscriber levels were incredibly strong and the financial gain projected to be even stronger.

Around the same time there was an emerging trend called cord cutters – people who decided to cut cable to stream their video content online. At the time, the technology was a little clunky to easily cut the cable cord but it was still possible and a few hundred thousand households gave it a shot. What was a small number of early adopters has now turned into a big problem.

Fast forward to 2017 and that little cord cutting spark is massive. Media companies like ESPN failed to see what something small with unbridled potential to grow could do. What was a few hundred thousand attempting to do something 5 years ago is now over 12,000,000 people who have figured it out. Technology evolved and so did the masses.

It’s currently estimated ESPN is losing billions of dollars in revenue from the mass exodus of the cord cutting population while still having to pay for massive contracts that aren’t going away any time soon.  Even worse, the bleeding isn’t expected to end immediately. It will take a massive strategic change to get back on track.

Cord cutters happened quickly but they certainly didn’t happen overnight either. The signs were there from the beginning years ago. Many just failed to acknowledge them and plan accordingly for the worst case scenario.

So what does it mean for automotive marketers? For decades, dealerships have been able to rely primarily on several key channels to drive traffic: print media, radio, television, and direct mail as well as some digital sources sprinkled in. Today they all still work but each one is facing challenges as well. The question is, what will happen when one or all of them are no longer effective at reaching who you need to reach efficiently and cost effectively?

What’s the plan once that happens? It’s not a matter of if change will happen, it’s a matter of when change will happen. How prepared will you be? Will you have seen the signs and explored ways to evolve as well? Or, will you do like ESPN and ignore them and be blindsided with your guard down when the tipping point occurs?

The invention of new technology can appear to massively disrupt the world overnight. Those with the foresight to be aware of emerging trends early and plan for how they can drastically change everything will have a leg up on overcoming the challenge. There’s usually plenty of time to do it if you know what to look for. And, if you think not doing it isn’t a big deal, just ask ESPN what the consequences can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Expensive, Common Mistake in Advertising & How to Avoid It

Raise your hand if you love wasting as much money as possible. We don’t mean if you like to spend money. We mean just throwing it frivolously out the window.

What about time? Let’s see that hand go up if you love wasting hours and hours of time with not much to show for it.

Just one more. Raise your hand if it drives you bonkers when your advertising doesn’t perform like you expect it to.

If you didn’t raise your hand for the first two and did raise it for the last one, this is specifically for you. It’s about the most impactful thing you can do to stop wasting thousands of dollars and dozens of hours every month on the most common mistake advertisers make.

So what’s the big thought? It’s definitely not earth shaking. In fact, it’s been around for a really long time. The problem is, it’s just not practiced effectively by most media companies and advertisers.

To setup the point, let’s first start with a question almost everyone has heard and maybe even over-contemplated.

If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

We all have our thoughts on the tree but what in the world has it got to do with advertising? The answer is absolutely everything. 

Similar to the tree, if your advertising message is deployed and no one is there to see or hear it does it make an impact? The answer is simple. No. The message was irrelevant because no one was there to receive it.

With irrelevance in mind, the most common and expensive mistake in advertising relates to audience and not understanding who your audience is and how to reach them. If you don’t know who to communicate with and how to get in touch with them, everything else in your advertising campaign is essentially worthless. Quick note, focusing on obscure demographics like adults 35 – 54 is not understanding an audience. The same goes for more focused audience identification tactics like equity mining, predictive analytics, and garage predictors. They’re all guesses. Some are more educated than others but still guesses.

Without identifying and targeting the right audience openly looking for what you offer, it doesn’t matter how creative your message is. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest offer ever. It doesn’t matter if you structured and negotiated the most strategic and valuable media buy possible. The fact of the matter is, almost nobody that you really needed to see and hear your message received it.

Sure, if you saturate a market there’s a chance you’re going to reach some of your intended audience. However, how much did you spend to do it? What were the results? Do you know if the advertising worked or were results just coincidental with favorable market conditions or a push by the manufacturer? Also, is a saturation strategy highly sustainable financially or are you ultimately going to have more losses than wins? Can you maintain that when marketing conditions aren’t as favorable?

See if this sounds familiar. You need more sales. You get your ad agency, media buyer, or local media rep on the phone. Everyone goes to work establishing a media plan. You spend time crunching numbers and information such as demographics, audience size, reach, frequency, time slots, ratings points, cost per spot, cost per piece for direct mail, zip codes and geography, keywords, cost per click etc. The list goes on and on. You move on to developing creative messaging, tirelessly slaving over the best offers and incentives. 

The campaign starts and the excitement is high. Then, crickets. You chalk it up to time and give it another day for it to really sink in. Still crickets. After a few days some people come rolling in but nothing to write home about. Then, more crickets. What happens? After days and weeks of the same results repeating themselves someone finally says, “Well, it didn’t get the results we wanted but it’s an investment in branding.” For some dealerships, the cycle continues on and on month after month. You switch vendors and media. You increase budgets. You decrease budgets. But ultimately, just more of the same.

The problem is, the strategies and campaigns failed because a key step was missed from the beginning. The right audience was never identified and reached. Thousands and thousands of dollars were spent. Dozens and dozens of man hours were utilized to ultimately say, “I guess people know we’re here.” But, knowing you’re there without buying anything doesn’t keep the lights on and money in the bank to pay everyone.

Advertising without understanding who your audience is and how to reach them is like winking at someone in the dark. You know you’re doing it but they have no idea. 

When you precisely know your audience, understand how to reach them, and identify what they want to hear in order to buy from you… that’s essentially money in the bank. The question is, are you willing to depart from the status quo to figure it out? Otherwise, you’re left with not many sales and a lot of good looking messages that the right people never saw.

Evolution to Revolution: The Rise of Data-Driven Marketing

Over the past 25 years, digital technology has transformed dealership marketing from mass media into the age of personalized experiences. What was once “nice to have” is now the must-have way to engage customers.

The digital evolution has become a revolution. Marketers are using digital tools to reach prospects with pinpoint accuracy, replacing old-fashion shotgun mass market advertising with digital tools offering laser sharp accuracy.

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Data-Driven Marketing: The rules of engagement are written in code

A glance in the rear view mirror shows this amazing transition. Back in the day, newspaper print ads and inserts, radio, TV, billboards, and direct mail ruled.

In the 1990’s, the internet and emergence of digital advertising flipped the industry upside down with the first targeted communications. Email, instant messaging, websites and microsites offered consumers easier access to information and sales promotions.

During the 2000’s, PPC ads, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, SMS marketing and banner ads provided even more opportunity to attract car shoppers with information and promotions. Dealers also began embracing database marketing and equity mining.

An even bigger data picture

Since 2010, rich media ads, dynamic paid search advertising, webinars, Twitter, Facebook and other social media technology have become essential marketing channels. Also, advancements in cookie mapping, geolocation, and mobile apps have allowed dealers to target with pinpoint accuracy and tailor messaging to engage anonymous shoppers more directly.

Take it one step further and now personally identifiable information (PII) and available 3rd party data can be layered for the ultimate targeted experience. Through strategic, data-driven marketing, dealers can get the right prospects exactly the right vehicles, promotions and pricing at the right time. Often leading to bigger returns on their advertising investment.

The steady shift to data-driven marketing has revolutionized every aspect of dealer communications with car shoppers. Dealers can now address prospects with customized communications, on their terms. Mass marketing is being replaced with customized targeted marketing messages that are highly relevant based on the stage of a shoppers journey.

Car buyers simply aren’t responding to the same-old spray and pray mass media messaging. They now expect to be recognized, sold, and retained with communications tailored just for them and their unique needs. The forward thinking dealerships doing well today but looking ahead to the future are recognizing these prolific changes. The dealerships who aren’t are quickly getting left behind.

The Mother of Four Letter Words that Terrifies Marketing Vendors

With Halloween almost here, we think it is a perfect time to discuss a dealership marketing topic that’s incredibly scary. In fact, it’s so scary, most marketing vendors tremble in fear just hearing it. They’re so afraid of it, many won’t even talk about it. If they hear it mentioned, they immediately close their eyes, ignore it exists, and hope it quickly goes away.

So what is it that’s so scary it makes marketers tremble in fear and hide under the bed? It’s the mother of all four letter words in the world of retail. The word is SALE.

Specifically, how many vehicles do your marketing vendors help you sell?

Sure, plenty of automotive marketing vendors report measurements. However, too many vendors shy away from talking about the measurement that matters most – an actual vehicle sold.

To measure true marketing ROI, this is a problem too big to ignore. In order to understand what tactics are producing the best results possible, dealerships need end-to-end tracking that closes the sales loop and ties marketing investment back to measurable revenue.

Linking Tactics to Cash is Key

Most marketing vendors and media companies can generate activity reports that tally and measure website visits, VDP views, time on site, form submissions, phone calls, click counts, reach, frequency, and rating points.

Several of these metrics can be valuable insights. However, others are just fluff for trying to validate marketing performance that may or may not be working.

Without end-to-end tracking to a sale, it’s impossible to see which marketing tactics are making your dealership money versus the ones just making your marketing vendors money.

 

Tracking Marketing to a Sale Closes the Loop

Advanced marketing strategies and data technology exist that can merge consumer tracking information with a dealership’s DMS to measure which marketing tactics play a part in moving customers down the path to an actual purchase.

Upon implementation, it takes marketing accountability to a new, higher level. In turn, allowing dealerships to see if their marketing providers are driving audience engagement and if that engagement is helping to turn the audience into revenue generating customers.
Linking marketing campaigns to actual sales and revenue offers dealerships fact based insight to ensure they’re squeezing the most value out of every dollar invested in their marketing efforts.

If your marketing vendors aren’t reporting on the sales their services are generating for your dealership, ask them why not? They can and should be. It’s just too scary not knowing how much you could add to your bottom line if you were able to separate the true performers from the pretenders.

Are You About To Pay A Lot More For Your TV Spots?

Television has long been a primary tactic on many dealerships’ media strategies. However, the challenges television faces and the solutions being considered to help fix them may mean a much more competitive and expensive landscape for the commercial break inventory thousands of dealerships have been using for decades.

A recent edition of Advertising Age ran a story headlined “How Ad Tech Just Might Save TV.” Television, according to the story, has been suffering from attacks on all sides, from increased viewership of commercial-free content such as Netflix and other streaming services to spot-skipping digital recorders. Time spent for the average American watching television has now been replaced for the first time ever by spending more time online. In addition, ratings for television programming are increasingly declining due to more easily accessible on-demand news and entertainment programming available online.

It is, they say, a difficult time for television.

To make up for dwindling viewership and less ad revenue, broadcast and cable networks have both been increasing the commercial minutes per hour. Individual spots are being buried deeper and deeper inside longer and longer commercials breaks.

The Advertising Age story quotes Helen Lin, president-digital investment and partnership, Publicis Media U.S. “When you increase the number of ads, your lift potential is reduced.” In plain terms, advertisers buried in long commercial breaks don’t get very good results. If you’re not paying for premium placement there’s a good chance you’re not getting noticed very much even though it feels like you’re paying premium rates.

Although the article is generally optimistic about the impact of the digital solutions being considered to save viewership and profits on traditional tv and cable networks, it completely avoids the impact it will have on television advertisers. Particularly at the local level.

For instance, one of the solutions being heavily considered is for networks to significantly drop their commercial content. Viewers will have less commercials to watch and potentially a better viewing experience. Conversely, since inventory availability will be much more scarce, the cost of a commercial minute most likely will go up significantly.

If viewers are avoiding 12 or more minutes of commercials per hour, then the reduction of spots available to reach them will increase to maintain revenue goals. National and regional buys will take more priority with networks due to hefty media budgets and negotiating power and local advertisers will be left with paying a pretty hefty price to compete.

The good news for dealers, however, is that they have alternatives that are much more affordable and impactful if they can break the spray and pray mindset. The key is to do your homework and be as aggressive as possible to be an early adopter. Learn how to use quality metrics, insight, and decision making over mass quantity media tactics.
Dealerships are in an age where their advertising can be much more targeted and focused toward reaching the audiences they want walking through their doors on a regular basis. It all starts with understanding who your customers are, learning where they spend their time, and delivering impactful messages using media channels you know are going to reach your target audiences and that they’re going to pay attention to.

Television is still a great medium for reaching audiences. The question is quickly approaching, however, is it the best one for dealerships?

Are PPC & SEO Driving Sales, But You’re Struggling to Hold Gross?

So, you’re getting good news? Your Search Engine Optimization and Pay-per-click campaigns are working. They’re driving new customers to the showroom – and those customers are buying cars.

The bad news? Even with all this traffic growth and increased sales, gross profit is low. What’s wrong with this picture?”

Quite possibly, it’s low margin sales that are born from automotive customers’ commodity mindset that focuses on low price above all. Your PPC and SEO efforts have been successful at finding people who want to buy cars (now) but those shoppers are so far down the shopping journey, all they’re interested in is finding the dealership with the lowest price for the vehicles they want.

Following this model, your sales staff could be tied-up with too many of these low margin shoppers and potentially be missing more lucrative opportunities. To market to prospects more effectively and maintain margins you can be happy with, try these winning strategies.

Exit the “Race to the Bottom”

Too many dealerships opt into the “Race to the Bottom” primarily focusing too much of their advertising budget reaching out only to price conscious shoppers. Yes, these customers are needed as there are many of them out there. Yet, slugging it out with everyone else to make lots of low-margin sales doesn’t help the bottom-line. Instead, try staying competitive on price but stand out by putting more emphasis on services or add-ons that add value for the shopper and maintain a good profit margin for the dealership.

Connect Early in the Customer Journey

Build relationships earlier in the shopping journey before car buyers end up on third party classified sites to find the vehicles they want at the lowest price. Use your database and conquest lists to serve prospects marketing messages reflecting their unique interests and needs. The data is out there to target customers earlier in their journey and it’s extremely powerful if you learn how to harness it. Entering the conversation sooner and providing more personalized information will help your messages stand out from the crowd. It also means shoppers may start talking sooner about what they’re looking for instead of already knowing what they’re looking for and focusing solely on getting the best price. Your dealership’s sales team will then be able to build credibility and trust sooner, and guide shoppers down a path that’s beneficial for both parties.

Talk Experience and Expertise, Not Just Price

As long as car buyers must do business with dealerships for their vehicle purchases, dealers can communicate something very valuable third-party classified sites can’t: customer experience. This is a clear advantage with many demographics: especially valued by mature shoppers, time-pressed working parents with young children, and professionals on the go.

Most people expect a good deal, however, car buyers may be happy to pay a slightly higher price if they’re rewarded with something of value like convenience and time savings in return. Communicate with shoppers about how easy it is to do business with your dealership and prove it to them with tangible examples like video testimonials and reviews from other happy customers. It might just be the extra incentive needed to close a deal, even at a slightly higher price. That’s a win-win for everyone.

DRIVING IDEA:

Not every car buyer is going to be the ideal customer and dealerhips need to be equipped to successfully meet every shopper’s needs. However, it is possible to focus your dealership’s efforts to attract the best customers for your store’s needs. By targeting car buyers earlier in their journey, being competitive on price, offering value added services or incentives, and communicating how easy it is to conduct business with your dealership, you’ll be able to keep customers happy and make a fair profit in return.

Are Your In-Market Audiences Really Active Shoppers or Are You Getting Taken for a Ride?

Advertising has always been full of buzz words. Sometimes they are important. Sometimes they’re misleading. Sometimes they’re misused just because a media rep or advertising vendor wants to say something that sounds trendy and important.

There’s a relative new term that’s been introduced with the advent of the data marketing revolution. The term is “in-market.” And it’s all three of the above.

For automotive marketers, “in-market” should mean that their advertising is reaching people who are ACTIVELY in the process of shopping for a vehicle. The idea is that if the objective is to sell automobiles, it’s more important to talk to a person who wants to buy an automobile than to someone who just purchased or doesn’t intend to for quite some time.

Media reps and advertising vendors may emphasize that their strategies are aimed directly at consumers identified as “in-market.” That’s well and good, so long as they can tell you exactly what they mean. “In-market” can have a variety of definitions. For many vendors, “in-market” doesn’t always mean “actively shopping”.

So how do you tell if your media is reaching actively shopping, in-market car buyers or if a vendor is pulling one over on you?

For some vendors, “in-market” may mean that based on a demographic profile targeted, your advertising might reach someone shopping for a car. A small percentage of audience members might be actively shopping but the large majority of the demographic profile targeted won’t be.

Or, for other vendors, “in-market” may mean that based on predictive data like vehicle equity and lease expirations someone should be coming into market. However, the phrases “should be” and “definitely is” are two entirely different things.

Then, there’s vendors where “in-market” may mean they utilize anonymous 3rd party offline or online data to target audience members that display characteristics that they may be thinking about buying a car. It has the potential to be highly accurate but it’s often back-filled with useless audience information to bolster numbers for overall reach.

The problem with all of them is their identification strategies aren’t necessarily a true indicator of someone actively shopping for a new vehicle. At best, they are all educated ways to blindly throw darts at a small target on a very large wall. Each is just slightly more accurate than the precursors.

To really get to the heart of reaching active, in-market shoppers – automotive marketers have to get beyond the sales pitch and find out exactly what “in-market” means, and how each of their vendors proves it. To truly locate and target active in-market shoppers, it’s all about extremely accurate data that’s based on real-time activity. And, most marketing vendors don’t have access to it.

Below are four basic questions anyone can ask to get to the truth. A media vendor’s ability to answer them specifically, without a lot of rambling, will tell you whether “in-market” actually means real shoppers that turn into eventual customers or if they’re just utilizing a buzzword to keep up with trends.

Question 1: Where do you get your audience data? The idea is that if they can’t tell you their sources how are you supposed to know if they’re speaking the truth.

Question 2: How current is your data? The speed at which active car shoppers move can vary greatly between awareness, familiarity, consideration, and purchase. Data that’s more than a few days old can mean that it’s too old to utilize and produce effective results.

Question 3: How accountable do you hold your data providers? If a vendor doesn’t own the data they use then they have to be purchasing it from someone else. If they are, how do they hold their vendors accountable for good data that produces results.

Question 4: How do you measure performance for the data utilized? If the right data is being used then it should and can be measured. Any marketing vendor who says they use data to reach car shoppers should be able to tell you exactly what their data and strategies are producing towards the goals you’ve set.

Data-driven marketing has, in some ways, taken the already vague world of advertising and made it even less distinct. There are dozens of ways of reaching prospects, and they are at least that many levels of accuracy. The key to making sure that the marketing dollars spent provide the greatest return is in making sure audiences reached are the right ones and then choosing the most productive media. Then, it must be insisted that performance is based on real-world measurement—sales rather than audience. And now, because of the active in-market shopper data that’s available to everyone, it’s something every dealership should and can do.