I have a secret to share about digital marketing: you’re making it harder than it needs to be. As the previous head of digital for 94 dealerships in the Southeast, I was constantly struggling to create efficiencies in measuring and maximizing our vendors, building a digitally savvy team, and, ultimately, selling more cars and service throughout the month. Today, I want to share the top three questions that saved time, produced results and even made me better looking (or at least let me keep more of my hair).
Are you using Google UTM’s?
One of the greatest challenges facing many dealerships is how to reconcile the reports from third party vendors to a central place and measure their findings. We conducted a poll in collaboration with DealerOn and found that on average dealers used over five providers, and looked at seven different reports. Did you know that there’s a way to do this that is totally free and works with any provider including AutoTrader, Cars.com, LotLinx, e-mail newsletters or digital marketing? It’s actually built into your existing Google Analytics account!
If you haven’t already, request that your digital providers use “Google UTM’s,” or Urchin Tracking Modules, for all their campaigns. This will allow you to see what companies, marketing channels and campaigns are driving the results you’re looking for. It takes about five minutes for a good provider to implement and will enable you to quickly see what marketing is working best based off on-site behavior and conversions. I recommend using utm_source as the company name (ex: Force), utm_medium as the marketing medium (ex: e-mail, ppc) and utm_campaign as the unique campaign name.
Once you’ve got this, you’ll need to set up custom events within Google Analytics to monitor new vehicle detail pages (VDP’s), used VDP’s and leads as a foundation. It’s a quick five minute fix your provider can implement, or as an alternative, we offer it for free as part of our digital analysis.
Will you use Google Annotations to show what you’ve done throughout the month?
After speaking with many dealers, I have found that an ongoing frustration they deal with is an uncertainty as to what providers do throughout the month, and whether they truly understand their dealership and marketplace. The dirty little secret is that with many providers a single individual manages over 60 accounts per month. With an average of 170 work hours in a month, over 60 accounts, best case scenario someone touched an account for 2.8 times the entire month. Perhaps that’s enough, but wouldn’t it be better to see what’s truly happening?
The great news is that Google Analytics has a built in function called “Annotations” where you can request your provider list exactly what they’ve done, and then review based off your expectations in alignment with the actual impact to your website, leads and opportunities. If you ran an Email campaign, it’ll be noted and you can see what people did once they arrived. Changed your SEM strategy? See when that change was implemented and how many more leads it produced. Trying to look back six months? Your whole marketing strategy is waiting within your analytics.
Regardless of who you’re using, this will develop insight over time and also keep them accountable for understanding your market, goals and customizing your campaigns (after all, what are you paying that management fee for?).
How does your technology optimize for me?
I love technology. I might even be addicted to it. There’s a lot of marketing technology within automotive that genuinely excites me, but one of the hardest lessons I found on the dealer side was even the best technology used by enough of my competitors produces evenly mediocre results for all of us. Last year my credo was transparency, inventory factors (VIN specific targeting, what’s in stock, trim level opportunities to improve quality score), and true ROI (leads and calls tied to DMS revenue on a keyword or campaign level). I’m still a strong believer, but the market caught up and many good providers offer this by default.
Data is useless unless you do something with it. If you’re measuring how many VDP’s people are visiting, why not add that to your paid search strategy and bid more aggressively towards those keywords driving the most qualified shoppers? (PS: This also reduces the amount of service calls you get on sales campaigns). If you can see how much revenue people spent in service for your paid search campaign, why not bid more aggressively on the highest net revenue terms to make your marketing dollars go further? If you’ve spent time and money developing Unique Selling Propositions (USP’s) such as lifetime warranty, unlimited pickup and delivery, free oil changes—why aren’t they fully integrated into every qualifying vehicle listing and SEM ad through Callout Extensions so you can measure their effectiveness and value to your customers?
These are all things I encourage you to push your SEM, display/retargeting, and marketing partners to accommodate. It’ll make you more effective, better leverage the technology they built and you bought into, and creates smarter decisions with less effort on your end.