It wasn’t that many years ago that 5-8% of the ad budget with email and a website on the Internet represented the lion’s share of a retail auto dealer’s investment and commitment to E-marketing. Fast forward to 2016 and growth in digital technology dominates the marketing playing field and as much as 30% or more of an automobile dealer’s ad spend.
Despite the incredible advances in the manipulation of those digital dots, there remains confusion of application and marketing integration in the minds of most dealers. I asked digital whiz guy Bob Myhal, CBC Director of Digital Marketing to shed some light on the subject.
Why is there such confusion surrounding digital automotive marketing?
Bob Myhal: Twenty years ago, automotive dealers had about five different ways to reach a potential customer…direct mail, print, billboard, radio and TV. While the print field has dramatically faded, the broadcast delivery options have become much more complex and hundreds of new digital marketing tactics have given automobile dealers infinite opportunities to deliver a unique and custom tailored message to each potential customer, addressing very specific needs and hot buttons.
It wasn’t that long ago that many dealers handled their own advertising because it wasn’t that difficult. A newspaper ad, a couple of radio and TV stations. An occasional direct mail program. With almost daily changes in the paradigm of search engine management and optimization, analytics, mobile, social, video, programmatic display, I just can’t imagine a dealer effectively and efficiently putting together an investment distribution without some professional help.
“most dealers and some ad folks have yet to realize that changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm have brought about a significant decline in ‘organic reach’.”
And what does that professional help look like?
Bob: Whether it’s ‘in-house’ expert, or an external ad agency, a dealer needs to have an objective professional who is staying on the cutting edge of evolvement in the digital world, attending seminars like the ones offered by Digital Dealer Conference & Expo, exploring every new idea out there and analyzing opportunities for integration into a dealer’s planned campaigns as well as overall return-on-investment metrics. I say an ‘objective’ professional because jumping on every single new idea that comes down the tracks is not only disruptive to continuity, but it’s easier than ever to drive your advertising costs off the tracks and difficult to interpret specific program ROI if you’re going down too many paths at once.
In the ‘olden days’ we talked about ‘reach and frequency.’ Does that measurement still work?
Bob: Actually, one of the more powerful metrics today is ‘recency.’ That is, how close you can tie your messaging to a specific buyer’s interest and media habits. For instance, younger consumers spend a lot of their lives in social media feeds such as Facebook. If they have done any recent searches or clicked on some form of automotive content, you have a good chance of making an impression with an ad placement in a space where they are spending time. Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter, today’s consumers are constantly checking and interacting with their feeds. To effectively market to them, you absolutely must design and optimize campaigns specifically for social platforms.
A lot of dealers seem to be frustrated with their advertising efforts on social media.
Bob: You have to stay on top of all the moving parts in order to ensure that you’re spending your time and money wisely. For example, most dealers and some ad folks have yet to realize that changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm have brought about a significant decline in “organic reach,” or the number of people who see a post that hasn’t been boosted by paid advertising. A couple years ago on average 20% of the people who like your Facebook page would see a given post. Over the last several months organic reach on Facebook has been throttled so now it’s common that only 5% or even less of your followers will see any given post.
But isn’t the name of the game getting people to LIKE your page?
Bob: That’s a waste of time. The real stealth power of Facebook lies in its paid advertising offerings which allow you to demographically target your prospects to unprecedented levels. Unlike paid search platforms such as Google Adwords, paid social products like Facebook Ads are active rather than passive. Rather than waiting around until someone types something into Google, paid social allows dealers to reach out to the best prospects at the best time within the social media feeds they inhabit.
Speaking of Adwords, in your opinion, is pay-per-click marketing through Google still a worthwhile investment?
Bob: Absolutely, provided that you do it right. Unfortunately, most dealer SEM campaigns are being poorly managed, wasting more money than any other digital marketing vehicle. Even basic SEM spend optimizations are often ignored. If you want to focus your paid search campaigns squarely on new car sales then you need to be sure to negate all traffic related to service, parts, maintenance, accessories, etc. If you are running your paid search through a digital agency, be sure you know what you’re paying for. What are the set up fees? What are the management fees and what do they include? Is there a set commission based on spend or is the provider marking up the clicks with so-called technology charges? Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
It seems that digital marketing can do more for ‘share of mind’ impression and brand building.
Bob: For a hundred years we’ve known that it takes a certain number of ad impressions to nudge a customer into action. Every customer is drawn into the so-called ‘funnel’ at a different rate and pace. A well thought out marketing campaign can use the power of digital placement to build trust and brand impressions that will make a contiguous broadcast sale promotion that much more effective.
And that brings us back to ‘reach and frequency’
Bob: If we can ‘reach’ that potential customer within a reasonable band of ‘recency’…when they are at the highest interest level, and pepper them with enough ‘frequency,’ we maximize our potential to move them to action. Google points out, for instance, that it’s not unusual for a millennial car buyer to engage with Google Search 100 or more times during their decision making process. The key is for individual car dealers to get in front of that buyer multiple times and to quickly respond to any and all inquiries when they are ready to move forward.
What excites you most about the future of automotive digital marketing?
Bob: The ability to marry great creative with the unprecedented access to consumer data and make effective real-time adjustments to our marketing campaigns. With digital, feedback loops are immediate and marketers can gain immediate insights into what moves their target audience to take action.
Bob Myhal currently serves as the Director of Digital Marketing at CBC Advertising, one of the leading automotive advertising agencies in the country. Bob has previously held executive positions at a wide variety of ecommerce and technology companies. A noted champion of digital marketing, Bob is a dynamic speaker and has presented at various Internet marketing conferences including SES New York and SES San Francisco. He welcomes your questions and comments at bob@CBCads.com.
Author: Jim Boldebook
JIM BOLDEBOOK is Founder of CBC Automotive Marketing, an advertising/marketing agency working with some of America’s most successful dealerships. He has been in the broadcasting, advertising and marketing fields for almost 50 years. EMAIL: email@example.com