Digital Marketing Offers Big Opportunities

By Jeffrey Bellant August 30, 2019

 To independent dealers, digital marketing may seem like a new thing, but it’s just part of what dealers have been doing for decades.

“Marketing is the same as it’s always been,” said Tracy Myers, owner of Frank Myers Auto Maxx in Winston-Salem, N.C., a dealership started 101 years ago by his great-grandfather.

Myers knows a little bit about marketing. He’s famous for television ads and outrageous costumes. But he knows marketing may look different today, it really doesn’t change.

“We’re still trying to communicate the message we have to the people,” he said.

Thirty years ago, the Big Three were TV, radio and newspaper – and maybe throw in billboards, Myers said.

Now it’s all digital.

Experts concur it all starts with the website.

“The dealer website is the central hub of the dealer's online showroom,” said Kami Tafreshi, president and CEO of AutoManager, a Los Angeles-based DMS firm focusing on websites and web-based marketing.

Tafreshi said a dealer website needs to be mobile-first, fast-loading, customized and simple for customers with high-quality vehicle display pages, a call-to-action and contact info, along with search engine optimization.

AutoManager’s WebManager tool can help dealers with all these goals.

Kevin Lesage, director of Autotrader digital marketing, said a strong website is a must.

“As a digital marketing guy, I feel you really have to have a constant in your marketing strategy – a foundation that doesn’t change,” he said.

Building a website with a brand identity is first so a dealer has ownership of his direction, Lesage said.

“If I only rely on third parties and budgets get tight, all of a sudden that can drastically affect my business,” he said.

After the website, it’s getting out on third-party listings.

Tafreshi said being able to export out to those third-party sites is also important, whether it’s Facebook,, Craigslist or other social media channels.

Lesage said dealers need to make sure the tools and third-party listings integrate with their website or CRM because so much value comes with that.

He believes in personalization, in which each person may get a different experience visiting the same site.

Myers said the key is putting most of your money where you will get the biggest impact.

“Let’s make the biggest splash we can in one place and then invest the ROI into something else,” Myers said.

For independent dealers who struggle where to begin or where to focus, Myers said there’s one good starting place.

“Facebook,” he said.

He said it’s a good starting point for the smaller independent who’s selling 20 to 25 cars a month and looking at a sea of social media outlets.

“If everything else is a pond, Facebook is still the ocean,“ Myers said. “There are so many eyeballs on Facebook.”

Tafreshi said Facebook Marketplace is a newer channel helping dealers export their entire inventory to the site, rather than one at a time. For a dealership, it also provides free advertising to a built-in audience.

“Facebook Marketplace has been a game changer for the used car industry,” Tafreshi said.

Lesage said independents should have a strong “why buy?” message across the listing sites they use.

He also recommends independents look for efficiencies in marketing, which can come through the business units that they are already working with.



Myers said the mistake he sees dealers make is putting a $750 buy into one site, a $750 into a second site and a $750 into a third site.

“You’re not making a huge impact anywhere,” he said.

Lesage said there is room to experiment, but only after you’ve established your place.

“Make sure that you’re building a foundational strategy that you’re not going to change in three months because of a new flashy object that comes across the sales floor,” Lesage said.

“The bulk of investment should be on the foundational stuff, with maybe a smaller budget to experiment with or testing flashy objects.”

Tafreshi offered similar advice.

“At the end of the day, dealers typically need to test a variety of channels and then put a large portion of their advertising budget on those channels that are providing them the best ROI,” he said.

Like they did with other media, dealers have different strategies to draw buyers, with tools like Google AdWords.

“You want to be found organically,” said Daniel Koppy, a dealer based in Forest Lake, Minn. “So, you’re buying AdWords that are most used for your organic searches, such as ‘used cars near me,’ or ‘used cars in Forest Lake.’”

Lesage said measuring the quality of the shoppers is everything.

“A large percentage of traffic doesn’t show engagement,” he said, “and we’re really trying to help dealers figure out what investments lead to quality traffic that (actually) buys cars.”

He said if dealers aren’t measuring the quality of traffic, the chances are they are wasting a big part of their budget.

A customer who shows engagement is not just visiting a site, she is clicking on multiple photos of the car, clicking through the vehicle details page or watching a video.

Tafreshi said analytics and back-end data on a website help dealers measure engagement and success. Referral data and measuring click-through data  help dealers do this.

“Website performance and ROI are critical key performance indicators,” Tafreshi said. “Both (referral data) and (click through data) will maximize (dealers’) advertising budgets and help them understand which vehicles are getting more attention.

“This will inform future decisions that will inevitably maximize profitability and efficiency.”

Buy-here, pay-here dealers may have a difficult time with the traditional Internet listings, because so many of their deals are based on price.

“Buy-here, pay-here dealers can’t really price their cars competitively,” Myers said.

So targeted ads may work better for buy-here, pay-here.

“On Facebook, we target credit scores. We can target people within a 15-mile radius of the store,” he said.

With things like geofencing, Myers can target people who have visited a competitor’s lot.

Myers has an after-hours tool that if someone visits his lot after the dealership is closed, they’ll be served up ads specific to that customer, knowing the customer was there at that time.

“We’re marketing to them immediately,” he said.

Lesage said once a consumer has clicked on a site for a white Toyota Tundra, for example, it’s about staying engaged and following that consumer via the Google display network.

The next time a consumer goes online over the next 30 days, they will come across that image or ad for a white Toyota Tundra.

“Data companies are definitely listening,” he said. “They are definitely personalizing ads much more.”

Lesage said Autotrader has a tool called “audience retargeting,” so that when they click on the Toyota Tundra, instead of going to the third-party site, it brings the consumer straight to the dealership site that has the vehicle, even if the consumer may never have heard of the dealership.

Lastly, Tafreshi said dealers must pay attention to Yelp and other online reviews.

“Dealers who don’t understand how important third-party reviews are in building trust and, thereby, confidence in their brand, will lose out,” he said.







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Last modified on Wednesday, 11 December 2019 20:54

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