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The Top 6 Digital Marketing “New Year Resolutions” Every Dealer Should Make in 2016

By the numbers, 2015 was an epic year for the retail automotive industry. 17.5 Million units! That exceeds even the most optimistic predictions 12 months ago. What an amazing accomplishment.

Nonetheless, we must now turn the page to the year ahead. And 2016 will herald the beginnings of the winds of change for interest rates. In the beginning of each New Year, every business is challenged to look back over the previous 12 months and evaluate what worked well and what still needs work. One area of change you may be considering in 2016 is your digital marketing strategy/plan. During the good times, it might be tempting to “leave-well-enough-alone” and conclude that everything is working fine. But in reality, this segment of your business is moving at light speed, evolving every day.

What worked yesterday could very well not work tomorrow.

Building a sound 12-month digital marketing foundation should be right at the top of your 2016 To-Do List. However, building your foundation  can be difficult with the constant barrage of “next best thing” technologies that seem to hit the market every day.  

To help you out, here are the Top 6 marketing resolutions every dealer should be making in 2016, and the questions you can ask to determine if these changes make sense for your business.

Develop a strategy that attracts new traffic sources to your site.

Ask yourself this question: Am I expecting better results in 2016 using the same platforms as I did last year, or should I be targeting different traffic sources for my website visitors? A recent Google Think Insight Study confirmed that auto shoppers, on average, use 24 different touch points during the shopping process. The question transforms into this: Is your 2016 plan diversified? You might have some combination of Google AdWords, display networks, third-party websites, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in your traffic-driving mix, but can you be sure that you’re fully covering all 24 places?

Are you also attracting new shoppers across different platforms such as third party sites, professional review sites, consumer review sites, and classified listing sites? Shoppers have become digitally diversified, and your 2016 plan needs to reflect that diversity.

Not all traffic is created equal.

You are selling cars, so establish a plan that identifies and drives car shoppers (not passive website visitors) to your site. There’s a simple gut-check question for this: Does my 2016 plan identify in-market shoppers that have declared the specific year/make/models that I currently have on my lot? According to Jamie Tilley at Modern Automotive:

We didn’t want to go the traditional route of just adding a bunch of third-party lead providers. So we started looking at ways that we could drive lower-funnel traffic and more ‘auto intenders’ to our site.”

By identifying specific in-market “auto intenders” - or VINtenders, as we at LotLinx like to call them -  you avoid overpaying for wasteful traffic. However, make sure that your plan connects these shoppers directly to the inventory or Vehicle Details Page (VDP) on your dealership’s website. Shoppers are fickle, and the Internet provides many alternatives. Make sure that you connect the shopper with the product once you identify them. (This will also help with your website retargeting efforts if the shopper leaves the page without making contact with the dealership).

 Not all inventory is created equal.

You treat your aged inventory much differently than a beautiful low-mileage trade-in with only one owner. Your 2016 digital marketing plan should do the same. It needs to focus on the VINs that need more online promotion vs. those that need less. Dealers, like Rory Klein at Klein Honda, who track VDP views as a key indicator of sales velocity know certain vehicles need more VDP level exposure to sell than others.

“Klein Honda as a dealership was above 32% with regards to our percentage of aged new car inventory. As of today, we are now at 8%! This basically means we are turning our inventory a lot quicker. ”

You need the flexibility to choose which vehicles receive the most VDP exposure, so you can target your aged inventory for those VDP views as opposed to the new cars that will sell anyway. Just simply distributing all your inventory on a few select platforms is not your best option. The result is an inequitable distribution of VIN view activity, where some of your inventory receives a landslide of views … and other VINs become “orphaned,” getting little to no VDP exposure.

Start thinking about doing car-by-car campaigns.

As our CMO, Len Short, explains: “Cars are like children...some of them need more investment than others.” What you don’t want to do is spend money marketing the cars that will sell anyway. You want to selectively market those VINs that are having trouble moving and keeping you up at night. So make sure to ask your vendors to help you develop a plan to take out your “hit list” - and if they can’t, find a vendor who can.   

That’s what Todd Cahan at Max Madsen Mitsubishi did:

“I diverted my full budget toward one specific model, which spiked the traffic for that model significantly. When I saw that happen, I realized that [certain] marketing tactics are really customizable. We can target results with it.”

Car-by-car campaigns can help you connect the dots between your advertising spend and car sales on the individual VIN level, optimizing your return on investment.

Invest in analytics.

It’s digital marketing—so, by definition, it can be tracked. If you haven’t already, 2016 needs to be the year you install and customize Google Analytics for your dealership website.

Customizing GA is the key here. Why? Because straight-out-of-the-box GA is not equipped to show you everything that is happening on your website VDP’s. With such a huge percentage of spend moving to digital marketing, the cost of ignoring metrics far exceeds the cost of investing in them. With tools like event tracking, it is now possible for you to clearly understand exactly what actions are taking place on your VDP level pages.

As Casey Jenkins of Jenkins & Wynne knows, “Connecting [your vendor’s] reporting with Google Analytics... is how we’re able to be relevant with our conversations and make it work.”  - Casey Jenkins, Jenkins & Wynne

Ask your digital marketing partners in 2016 if they are ready, willing, and able to detail their performance using Google Analytics vs. their own proprietary metrics portal.

Get into the bi-weekly habit of measuring the cost effectiveness of your plan.

Like we said earlier, this space moves at breakneck speed, you have to frequently check in on how your solutions are performing. Establish a set of goals that can be incorporated into your GA dashboard for each program you are investing in. Or create your own dashboard by which you manage your business.

Rory Klein at Klein Honda, for example, examines 4 Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for his dealership: VDP Views, Sales Velocity, Sales Numbers, and Marketing Costs vs. Walk-in Traffic.

If you select new partners in 2016, make sure to ask this simple question at the start of the relationship: Can you document the data points (or goals) you will use in 30-45 days to evaluate and track the success of this program? For example, if you create a new plan to drive VDP-level traffic to your website, be sure to measure the cost against other programs.

So, you’re now equipped with 6 New Year Resolutions that you can make—AND STICK TO—which help ensure your digital marketing activities are aligned with your business goals … namely, to drive sales FASTER and at less cost. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of my post with me, even if you vehemently disagree, please contact me:  geoff@lotlinx.com.