Industry News

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.


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.