Planning is Key: 5 Ways for Dealers to Plan Their Digital Marketing Strategy
by Steven Laureys
Automotive dealers often struggle in digital marketing as it can be an overwhelming balance between the known and unknown. Connecting the dots to the myriad of technical terms becomes difficult and relating these data points to actual sales is nearly impossible. As search engines make changes and new offerings of smoke and mirrors come forth, the waters quickly muddy and thicken, creating paralysis by analysis. We have to shake off the niche terms and escape the bleeding edge to gain a firm foundation. We need to go back to the basics and market to your audience with purpose and expectation of results.
Every marketing dollar affects your bottom line, if spent wisely it increases it, if not it simply decreases it. Whether you are paid on net revenue or paid to be a good steward of the company’s money, your decisions have a lasting effect. Without a doubt, you are most likely working within the confines of a marketing budget that grows or shrinks based on forecasted sales. The question becomes, what is your plan for how you spend it. Unfortunately, there are all too many that do not have a plan.
1. Focus on the Objective:
This first challenge to overcome is to gain focus on the objective of your marketing. On a high level, everyone answers it the same way, “I want to sell more cars.” Great, which cars? Which vehicles can I make the largest impact in my current market? In what models am I struggling to achieve market share? What vehicles are in the highest demand? Which vehicles do I have the best accessibility to (on lot, Dealer Trade, allocation)? By forecasting your business on a model-level and ideally a trim level, you have a foundation for your marketing plan.
If I am planning to buy 50 Fusions and my top volume month in the last year is 35, I know that the Fusion line must be part of my plan. Transversely, I know that when I sell 50 fusions that I must have found success in my marketing plan. This becomes one of my objectives; clear, measurable, and obtainable.
2. Determine the Message:
The next step is to determine what your message will be. Will most customers respond to a payment-centric offer, special interest rate, zero due at signing, or something else? What is the national offer? Is there a regional offer? What is being offered by the top competitors in my brand? What is being offered by the competitors on the most comparable model? It does not have to be a race to the bottom, rather, part of the plan to make the decision with those factors in mind. If my model is much better than a competitor’s, then I need to make sure the customer feels and understands that when they are discovering the model. At the absence of value, they can only compare price.
3. Planning the Delivery Channels:
Once I have my objective and message, I need to plan which channels I will deliver the message through. This is where the division of budget is most important. I need to determine how much of my budget I will dedicate to branding and how much I will dedicate to converting. If the purpose is branding, then I am not expecting conversations to be started as a result. My focus is to get this information in front of as many eyes as I can.
This is especially important during a buy/sell, a promotion of goodwill efforts, a new model release, a new dealership opening, and even as a general awareness campaign (a.k.a. “don’t forget me” ads). The most popular channels for this are TV, radio, social and display ads. We will receive some conversations (conversions) from these but would measure the impact by reach.
Think of it simply, if I have $3,000 in my branding portion of my budget, how can I spend that money, and on what channel, to get this message in front of the most people in my desired audience.
If it is converting, then I am measuring based on the conversations created. I want to spend money on the channels that will allow me to get the highest number of conversions per dollar spent. For most dealers, their goal will be around $30 per conversion. So, if my converting portion of the budget is $3,000, I should have 100 new conversations.
4. Creating the Budget:
Next, I am creating the budget for the month and I can more easily determine what channels I want to spend money on based on the purpose of branding or converting. This gives new focus in the “how” I want to get the message out and understanding if I am successful or not.
5. Measure the Return:
As my campaigns are running, I can measure the return and identify if they are meeting the objectives and make changes if not. Keep in mind, you need to be able to measure those conversions to avoid poor decisions being made.
Make sure you’re able to measure your leads and chats back to the original source that brought you the traffic. Don’t just settle for vague information like “website lead”, what brought them to the website? In the same manner, make sure you have a tool that can measure your calls as well. Not just that they were on the website and saw a phone number and then made a call, but how did they get to the site? Did the call connect? Was it for sales?
The first time you embark on this path, it will take time. But, after a couple of months, it becomes easier and your decision-making capabilities become quicker and better. Most importantly, you will sell more cars.