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No Inventory? No Problem. Marketing Tips From the Field for Your Dealership’s Success

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The automotive industry is consumed with the inventory shortage-- while gross is higher than ever, dealerships are finding it hard to strategize marketing without the usual suspects on the lot. That being said, it’s still critical that your dealership maintain a hefty strategy so that you don’t lose your brand recognition; this could lead to giving your competitors a potential customer for life that could have been yours.  Below is a roundup of the latest tips from the field to make sure your dealership is staying at the cutting edge: Brand Campaigns While inventory may be low, you can still maintain a good reputation for your dealership. Shoppers looking for their next vehicle don’t only prioritize the make/model they’re interested in, but also the shopping experience- starting online. If your dealership brand can provide a superb experience-- answering promptly and locking in the customer before they look elsewhere-- your marketing will see high ROI during this tumultuous time.  Make sure your brand campaigns are also answering current events. During COVID, this was all about hygiene and sanitization. Now, focus on how you have the right process for getting the vehicle of their dreams to each and every customer with the best customer service. Advertise Pre-order Options Your dealership is not the only dealership with low inventory, so marketing inventory which is not released or in stock will keep your dealership competitive and give you the chance to lock in customers for life that may look elsewhere if they don’t have this option with your store.  Dealerships that advertise future inventory support brand goals, engage and conquest new shoppers, as well as continue to see high quality conversion rates on their websites.  Finetune Your SEO   SEO is an efficient way to keep your dealership on the map without spending too much money. Find the high-search keywords in your market and include them in your vehicle descriptions, promotions, and blog posts. If your dealership doesn’t have a blog, now is the time to invest in one -- especially if you’ve cut back on other marketing resources. Blog posts are excellent resources for shoppers (the more descriptive, the better). Pro tip: take a high-volume search term and use that as the basis of your blog post. This way you won’t only be answering questions that people are actually searching, but you’ll probably have priority for showing up first on Google.  Work the Service Drive   We all know the importance of the F&I profit center. But while people are sticking to leases longer, or can’t yet find the car of their dreams with inventory shortages, service is more important than ever. Make sure your dealership is advertising all service options in descriptive ad campaigns. Double-check that you’ve properly set up your service center on Google my Business so you can be easily found, and separately for those interested in service rather than sales. Lastly, set up an easy-to-use service booking calendar on your website so it’s a seamless experience for shoppers.  Trade In/Trade Up Scoring inventory is gold right now, so make sure you’ve perfected your trade in campaigns. Make sure shoppers know they can trade in their cars without buying new ones. Shoppers are also interested in comparing trade in prices, so your dealership should have a seamless infrastructure for providing trade in values, at the most competitive prices. If you haven’t already, you can also train your service staff to focus on trade in upsells right from the service lane.  We already know that pausing marketing right now can hurt your dealership brand and ROI. With these expert tips, your dealership can now focus the marketing strategy to fit today’s climate and continue to bring in new customers for life.  *Isaac Hertzberg from Napleton Cadillac and Kyle Mountsier from Nelson Mazda were interviewed to help with this article
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3 Pieces of Content Your Car Dealership Needs Today

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Let me ask you this: What content is your dealership creating every day? More often than not when I ask that question I get pulled into conversations about which social media platform is best, which distribution method dealerships should be using to spread the word about themselves, or even whether video, photos, or written content does a better job stopping the scroll. What happens much less often is that I get to have a conversation about the message. What’s the story they want to tell? Facebook & TikTok. Email & YouTube. Radio & TV. Blog posts & matchbook covers.  Nothing wrong with any of them. Use ‘em all, but they’re all just tools to get your message on the inside of your customers’ heads. How the message gets there isn’t anywhere near as important as what that message is. The message is what matters. If you want to create better, more engaging, conversation-starting content, you have to tell a better story. Telling a better story starts with deciding what story you want to tell, then creating more content that spreads that message regardless of format or delivery platform.  A great story can be told in many ways, in many formats, on many platforms. A great story transcends. Community The greatest stories that your dealership can tell,  The stories that will resonate best with your target market , The stories that will bring you the most likes, clicks, shares, smiley face emojis, actual real live conversations with real live people, and yes, more sales, In those stories, you’re not the hero; you’re the sidekick. You’re not Batman; you’re Robin. Look for opportunities to create content that shines a light on other people in your community. “Look for your people, and lift them up,” says business strategist Sherman Mohr. For years, I’ve been encouraging salespeople and managers to attend Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie training to improve their communication skills. In How To Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie says we can make it easy for other people to like us when we go out of our way to make them feel important. Create more content that does that! Full profiles of your employees , not just the sales department. Spotlights about your customers’ businesses.   Features about local sports teams from sandlot baseball to the major leagues.  Active participation in community events. The next time someone comes in asking you to donate $500 to some local charitable, civic, or sports organization, don’t just write the check. Show up and help. Use your dealership’s digital footprint to help them spread the word. Get your team out in the community belly-to-belly with the people and then Tell That Story. Use Video and pictures to put more faces on Facebook.  Write a blog post for your website to boost your SEO.  Share it on your Google My Business page.   In his book Marketing Revolution , Mark Schaeffer says that in today’s media-saturated market with today’s media-savvy consumers, the businesses that present the most human messages and stories will be the businesses that thrive. Be more human. Commerce Rule #1 is “It Ain’t About You!” It’s about them, and specifically, it’s about how you can help them. The single greatest thing about the car business is that almost every single human being you’ve ever met has, wants, or needs a car. They’ve got 99 problems and their car is definitely one! Create content that tells the story of how you can help solve their car problems. The best way to do that is to show how you’ve solved other people’s car problems. Post Videos of happy customers saying how you went out of your way to find them the perfect car. Post photographs from the service department showing your new Express and after-hours lanes. And get more written reviews from customers, sales customers, service customers, stopped-by-on-my-way-home-to-get-a-free-ice-cream-cone customers. Customer reviews are the gold medal, brass ring, heavyweight champion of the content marketing world. You can tell your story all day long, but when your customers start singing the same song that’s when a story becomes a brand. Ask And You Get; Don’t and You Won’t. It’s the first thing they tell you in Sales 101; you have to ask for the order. Your dealership is in business to generate business. Create revenue. Nothing says commitment like money changing hands. If you’re not even asking for the money, less of it is going to change hands. In the official social media official playbook Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook! , Gary Vaynerchuk likens your social media calendar is like a prizefight with friendly, entertaining, community based or other ostensibly non-commercial content serving as the left jabs that lower defenses and leave an opening for the knock out punch. Asking for the order. Making it easy for them to take action. Making them an offer they can’t refuse. Promising them a car buying experience they’ll never forget. Everybody loves a deal. Create more content that gives them a deal. Then look them dead in the eye and ask for the order - call, click or come on down.
Dealer Marketing: Going Loco for Local Campaigns

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There's a good reason that car dealers should be going mad over local campaigns: the results. Now, let's get something straight first. There are so many variables that influence digital marketing -- your local market conditions, budget, tactics, creativity -- that no dealership will see the same numbers.  You can, however, expect to fall within a range set by our dealer partners whose strategy we have adequately executed and monitored: $4 - $6 Cost per Lead $0.50 - $1.50 Cost per Click 10,000 - 30,000 Interactions These dealerships also met a recommended monthly budget of no less than $300 and up to $1,000. If cost-efficiencies that deliver high-quality leads is your jam, let's define local campaigns to give you a better perspective on the  what  and  where . What are local campaigns? They are part of Google's continual innovation on advertising products and are tied to your dealership's Google My Business (GMB) listings. As more search results don't yield a click to a website property, it's more important than ever to have a robust strategy around local search engine optimization. Local ads leverage your GMB to deliver targeted ads in brand new placements. Local campaigns use the Merchant Center for inventory feed integration and Google's machine learning to populate highly relevant, hyper-local advertisements that are more likely to resonate with consumers and generate foot traffic and local actions or phone calls. Google is, in fact, so confident in the results local campaigns can produce that these ads are highlighted in the Dealer Guidebook 2.5 edition. Launching this type of campaign is relatively easy, tasking you to fulfill just a few requisites: Verified GMB Linked to Google Ads Minimum of 1 YouTube Video Link Images (1200x1200 & 1200x628) Where are local campaigns new placements? Local campaigns are delivered across all of Google's properties, including the Display Network and YouTube. These are now the most interesting placements, though.  You linked your GMB listing to your Google Ads account so your dealership's ads can also be placed on ...  Google Maps , where shoppers can identify the quickest route to the dealership thanks to the ad highlighting your location as the top destination. GMB Listing Profile , where shoppers can see the latest offers and promotions (for variable and fixed operations). Google Search Network , where shoppers will see the advertisement at the top of the local search pack. New placements bring new methods of optimization. These local campaigns aren't optimized by using historical search network mechanics, such as analyzing query and keyword data. Instead, advertisers will be tasked with analyzing and iterating on the actual content of the ad. Dealers Will Win on the Local Level If you haven't embraced the power of Google My Business, which is the crux of your local search strategy, you're likely to miss out on other opportunities that arise -- like local campaigns. The notion of "going local" isn't exactly new; it's just now getting the proper attention that it deserves. In a digital ecosystem where your real competition is third-party and aftermarketing websites, building localized content and ads have become the backbone of maintaining and growing your market share. There's no better place to start than your own backyard, for which local campaigns have been specifically built.  Start winning, my friends.
Now Is Not the Time to Pause Marketing Spend

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Reject every instinct in your body that's telling you otherwise. Now is not the time to pause your marketing spend. Yes, we're in a totally new normal and chaotic time in history. COVID-19 is changing the way we shop for groceries, plan weddings, and sell.  But as we assess the investments we're making and cut back to play it safe, stopping marketing efforts all together will put your dealership at a disadvantage.  Here's why: Stay Relevant Q2 2020 put all dealerships to the test: which ones will still sell during an unprecedented government-mandated lockdown and the first wave of the Coronavirus? And as we witnessed, the dealerships that were able to stay above water were the ones that had the marketing machine in place to do so-- the dealers that were set up for digital success to change, update, and optimize messaging across all platforms way before the COVID-19 wake up call.  So ask yourself, how long did it take your dealership to offer home deliveries, solo test drives, and extra hygiene at the showroom? If you answered more than one minute, you're simply not as relevant as dealers that were able to deploy marketing messaging instantly.  "You, as a company, either have world-class digital capabilities or you are falling behind."  says  Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation. And it's never been more true. This is the time for your dealership to stay on the map. It's time for your dealership to show up first to the in-market shopper who is stuck at home with a glass of wine and the power of Google. If you want to stay relevant, you need to continue your marketing efforts, even if you have to reduce or move around the budget in response to the market.  Stay Ahead  But it's not just about what happened and how we responded-- it's about staying ahead of the curve. Pausing your marketing ads and campaigns means losing your audience tracking, falling behind on brand recognition and targeting, and not having the means to bounce back with new messaging as the ever-changing market surprises us once again. Even if your budget is cut to a minimum, keeping your marketing afloat means that your dealership can be more flexible with its messaging to react faster to opportunities. It gives your dealership the ability to accumulate audiences for retargeting and enables you to capture the low hanging fruit that you can "afford" with a lean budget. The moment you pause your marketing spend altogether, you're not only irrelevant as shoppers search and find your competition instead, but you'll be slower to come back once you're ready to turn up the heat.  Turn Gaps in the Market Into Opportunities  Lastly, there is always opportunity in a downturn. If we've learned anything from iconic brands like Airbnb and Netflix, who crushed it during a downturn, it's to leverage gaps in the market as an opportunity for revenue. People still need cars. In fact, private transportation seems to be a hot commodity as a result of the pandemic. Public transportation is "risky," unsanitary, and poses the threat of exposure. It's clear that the automotive industry rebound is stemming from strong emerging markets:  millennials, one-car suburban families, and commuters .  People are still searching, debatably now more than ever. As consumers stayed inside month after month, the  shift to online  buying behavior was catapulted into reality. Social media consumption increased from 20.8% of total app usage (Jan 1) to 24.1% (Apr 12). Combined with a 21% increase in total global usage, social media advertising had become overall more cost-efficient for dealerships. Your dealership needs to capitalize on this opportunity- leverage marketing to target these buyers with the right message at the right time. If you stop your marketing spend, you will not reach these shoppers that are in the market for the very same reason you're thinking of pausing spend.  So while your gut instinct may be to pause spend through 2020, I'd argue that it's actually time to re-evaluate and make sure your spend, while perhaps lean, is accomplishing everything you need to stay ahead and relevant coming out of COVID-19. Because when you're already prepped for any outcome, you win.
Reducing Wasted Ad Spend: The Key to Thriving in the New Normal

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At the beginning of COVID-19, people would throw around the term "the new normal." At the time, it was hard to understand precisely what that meant, and realistically, it still is; our landscape is still unfolding. But we can't wait for the "new normal" to settle in. We need to continue to navigate and adapt, which means assessing and controlling what the new normal looks like for your dealership.  And honestly, it's going to look different for every dealership. Vehicle sales dropped at the onset of the pandemic, but the industry appears to be moving toward recovery. However, despite vehicle sales rebounding, the same can't be said for other areas of the business that were impacted by COVID-19. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average dealership decreased advertising spend in July by 21.3% compared to the same period last year.  The root causes for the decline can all be attributed to the pandemic, though the reasoning can differ. Some dealers reduced ad spend due to inventory shortages. Others perceived a diminished return, particularly with vehicle sales increasing amid a pullback on ad spend. But did you know that you can still be efficient and improve your return on ad spend? To do this, you need to eliminate the waste — and you can do that by leaning on data.  Start with local analysis  In order to reach potential in-market buyers, you first need a good grasp of the activity within your local market. This requires understanding the sales performance of your core makes and models not only at your dealership but also at your competitors. Looking at sales trends by zip code can be especially telling. Consumers have always explored what options are available to fit their needs when in-market for a vehicle. Now, more than ever, consumers seek to maximize their budget without compromising on features.  Ultimately, you need to understand what your consumer is looking for — whether it's fuel efficiency or more legroom — and create marketing messages accordingly. Addressing their needs in your messages will ensure that they resonate and have a higher likelihood of bringing them into your showroom.  Start toward the bottom of the funnel Bear in mind that COVID-19 is still a fluid situation for many Americans. Some will have a newfound need for a vehicle, while others may put their purchase intent on hold. Because of this, you need to make sure you're reaching consumers who truly  are  in-market. To refine your audience, working with a third-party can help you focus on specific groups, such as those with positive equity on their current vehicle, those who had a recent vehicle incident, or those who have an expiring lease, to name a few.  Leveraging both sales data and focused audience segments will give you the opportunity to start your marketing efforts closer to the bottom of the sales funnel, rather than the more generalized top portion, where the "spray and pray" method is often used. While that method has historically been effective for awareness, today's savvy dealers realize that marketing isn't about awareness — it's about driving the bottom-line while being efficient.  Use data to define success It's important to decide what metrics matter the most to your dealership in the current environment, measure your results regularly, and adjust strategies according to what the data tells you.  At Experian, one of the most telling metrics is what we call High-Value Users, which helps us identify which consumers are truly the most likely to purchase. These consumers have exhibited behaviors that show a higher propensity toward a vehicle purchase, such as spending a certain amount of time on a website or visiting it multiple times.  Once you identify the High-Value Users, you can continue to refine your strategies and create even more focused campaigns. Becoming hyper-focused on these High-Value Users has shown strong results. According to Experian dealership research, High-Value Users deliver an average of 68% more web traffic, an 8% lift in sales, and 10% lift in market share.  Revitalizing and updating your marketing strategies isn't a one-time deal. To ensure efficiency, it needs to be done regularly. Correlating high-value user metrics with your audiences can help you measure campaigns' success and optimize them for the future. Understand how many sales a campaign is actually driving and what channels are most effective, then update accordingly. Oftentimes, working with a third-party is especially helpful in this area, as they can offer outside insights and insights specific to your dealership.  Marketing and advertising play a critical role in bringing people into the showroom, whether in-person or online. The perception of diminished returns is just that — a perception. There's still the opportunity to reach the in-market shopper. You just need to rethink your strategies. Focusing on using every marketing dollar to its full potential will help you not only navigate the recovery but thrive by consistently bringing people into the showroom.  
Precision Targeting Capabilities: A Dealerships Guide to OTT Advertising

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Audience Growth, Advances in Features, Targeting, and Data; Support Increased ROAS Roughly half of US adults over 18 use at least one OTT service¹, which translates into about 182 million OTT subscription video service users². OTT ad spending has seen double-digit increases in recent years, with +54% YoY growth in 2018, 41% in 2019, and 32% in 2020³. There is no going back; cord-cutting is here to stay, and this presents new and exciting opportunities for local and regional dealers.   ¹ (OpenX), ² (eMarketer), ³(MagnaGlobal) Before diving in, let's take a minute to review three key terms that are used interchangeably and sometimes incorrectly. "OTT" refers to the delivery mechanism for TV content online, usually through streaming or video on demand served "over the top" of traditional providers. CTV stands for 'connected TV's" which access programs through a DEVICE, like a smart TV, ROKU stick, or gaming console, to watch TV content online. Lastly, "Programmatic" is a METHOD of purchasing video ads from various networks and providers.  Improved Targeting OTT ads can be targeted by geography (typically zip codes or cable zones if you are buying it from a cable provider), demographics (age, sex). For automotive advertisers, you can select things like 'in-market for an SUV,' or "in-market for a Toyota." Using a combination of POLK and Experian data, you can both include and exclude certain buying segments (want an SUV buyer, but don't want a Nissan buyer, for example). The more you narrow the segments, the more you pay, and you want to be careful not to narrow the segments to the point that you are working with too small of a data set. Typically a good rule of thumb is to look at the budget you want to spend (3k to 5k per month is a good place to start), look at the fact that you want to reach each viewer with a reasonable frequency (say 5x monthly), and see what size population and targeting that leaves you with- and adjust accordingly from there. Responsive Content Whereas a basic OTT campaign can run as a mix of connected TV (big screen) or adding other devices (laptop, tablet, mobile), there is also an opportunity for dealers to generate additional content that can be served alongside the video ad while the ad is on-screen. This is referred to as "responsive" or right-rail content (since it often sits to the video's right on screen). This information is pulled directly from the dealer's website and will usually be monthly offers (leases, payments, etc.) customized by vehicle. They are not statically embedded in the ad but rather dynamic to change on TV as the offers on your website change. The obvious advantage is that consumers are served up to the minute information relating specifically to the vehicle(s) with which they have shown purchase intention. There is also the additional benefit of reducing the time and production cost to update the video content whenever the offers change. Reporting and Attribution This is an area where I see the most difference between providers. A basic, bare-bones report should include at least: A list of the networks or websites where the ads played. The number of impressions delivered. Video completion rate. A higher reporting level may include attribution to show you. How many people that viewed your OTT ad visited your website (website lift). How many in-market shoppers that saw your ad visited "A" Dealership, How many in-market shoppers that saw your ad visited YOUR dealership in the form of a cost per arrival.  Additionally, you can also see which ad creative and offers generated the most engagement allowing a/b testing of different messaging to improve campaign effectiveness over time. Finding the Best Program and Value for You OTT ads are typically delivered on a variety of devices within the household, including TVs, desktop or laptop computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Running an ad on the largest screen in the house in a long-form TV show is a much different environment than running the same ad on a laptop or cell phone. Ads watched on the 'big screen' are fully watched nearly 98% of the time. Contrast that to YouTube or Facebook, where most ads are viewed for under five seconds.   Ads are most typically sold on a CPM basis (CPM stands for Cost Per Impression). The cost per impression for the big screen can be as much as 5x that of other positions. Knowing this will help you to compare different offers more accurately. Since novice buyers may just blindly compare CPM's looking for the cheapest deal, some providers will include things like an in-banner video (think video display ad) and other delivery pieces to make the overall CPM look more attractive.  Beware of making a decision based solely on price. Ask the provider what portion of the campaign will deliver on smart TV's on LFP (long format programming) as opposed to other devices. Pricing varies across vendors and platforms and is also sold at auction, meaning it fluctuates depending on daily market conditions. As of today, a reasonable planning rate for a blended CPM would start around $18 per thousand, with automotive-specific packages incorporating purchase intention data, responsive formatting, and full attribution costing more. With precision targeting capabilities, new messaging options, enhanced tracking, and a lower cost relative to traditional TV, OTT is well-positioned to drive a higher ROAS for your dealership. The time is now to take advantage of this exciting new opportunity to promote your store.