Moving Metal in the Digital Age

The room was way too small for the size of conference table where we were sitting. The tube TV in the corner, I am sure, was at one time intended for presentations. Now the TV just sat there covered in dust. In front of me was my new surface laptop and I was rotating it to face the man sitting across from me every time I loaded a PowerPoint new slide. We were about three slides into our “What makes us different” deck when he said “I just move metal, nothing fancy about it. It’s just metal, that’s all.”

We were there because the dealership was struggling. The owner/operator we were meeting with had been asked by his partners to meet with some agencies to see what was working for other stores and if they could replicate it here. The gentleman is correct, he does just move metal, however he was precisely wrong about his second statement. He should absolutely be doing something “fancy” about it.

The commoditization of the automobile industry has long been predicted because of the internet. Shoppers have at their fingertips thousands of available options for their next car. All of this has forced a race to the bottom on price which leads to new issues like thinner margins, operational cost cutting and more. Dealers believe they have less to spend on things like advertising creative, sales events, and promotions.

As a digital marketer, I can tell you there is no more competitive retail space than the automotive industry. Because of the low prices dealers expect to pay for things like their website it has forced providers like dealer.com to standardize and scale to huge numbers in order to make a profit. It is no wonder all car dealership websites look the same now. The sad thing is most advertising strategies are homogeneous too. The large agencies want to keep up with the rapidly changing internet landscape but in order to ensure consistency, they must prioritize process development in front of the innovation that dealers desperately need.

What is your dealership doing to stand out? Might I suggest a strategy to break from the pack? Facebook leads campaigns were launched in 2015 but how many of these campaigns have you seen for dealerships? Live streaming became popular in 2016 but how many dealerships are doing it, or even doing it well? Other no-brainer strategies exist like inventory driven search campaigns for used, dynamic inventory driven retargeting campaigns, small geo-fencing campaigns, Bing search, Yahoo Gemini search, but how many dealers are doing this? The answer is not many. This is where the opportunity is found.

Research shows Multi-channel campaigns consistently produce a higher quality lead, lower cost per lead (CPL) and greater return on investment (ROI) than using fewer channels. We have found this to be true with our automotive clients as well. The trick to this is choosing an advertising partner who is going to bring your dealership these strategies before the competition and then budget for them properly. For example, a competitive lot geo-fencing budget should be closer to $20 a month not $1000 a month. If you do the math it makes sense. Another mistake dealers make is allocating $10 a day for Bing or Yahoo. This will actually do more harm than good because your ads will rarely show and it would be better to add an extra $600 to your google adwords budget instead.

Our experience is a medium sized agency will be more adept at providing these strategies than the low-priced large ones. The medium sized agency who also does traditional advertising will have more experience with how to build a consistent creative strategy across all channels. Advertising will continue to evolve with newer technology, but the fundamentals of marketing still apply. It is still about product, placement, pricing, promotion, and of course, people. Innovation combined with execution is everything. The more you can follow these strategies, the more your dealership will stand out in 2017 and beyond.