Recently a new car dealer client remarked that they moved up in their regional dealer rankings for their brand for the first time in recent memory after making numerous changes in their “go to market” system. I would like to think that our multichannel targeted digital marketing program contributed to that result. However, massive other changes were made so it is impossible to tell in the short run.
It did make me think back not so long ago when I participated in a meeting with traditional media managers, representatives from a dealer agency and a local market third party research company which was presenting annual survey findings to all of us. The data was quite voluminous, and the analysis was cut every which way. One unavoidable fact in a sea of data stood out. Unaided recall of a place to buy a new car or a used car for the agency’s client had dropped during the past year while two of their direct competitors in the same city had increased by almost the same amount. Those two competitors were represented by the same rival agency and the survey results had not moved one way or the other during previous years. The agency representatives for the dropping dealer rightfully asked what are they doing that we are not doing?
The primary change had been that the competing two dealers through their agency had implemented a sustained omni channel digital campaign which featured sight, search, contextual retargeting, digital fencing, social media boosted posts, social media paid advertising on top of a modest search marketing budget. They also used some video pre-roll. The total budget for all these things was relatively modest representing a shift of about 5 to 10 percent of their marketing budget from traditional media and third-party digital lead vendors. Their new digital mix was a classic “mid-funnel” execution. On the one hand it was not complicated. On the other hand, it was not a single vendor solution or “silver bullet” that created the dramatic positive change. To put it in simplest terms the 2 dealers achieved increase in unaided recall by surrounding a car shopper with messaging during the research phase of the shopping process over 2 to 3 months rather than waiting until they were ready to make an appointment or walk onto a lot (bottom of funnel).
The agency whose client had experienced the drop in unaided recall immediately created a campaign with a similar mix, paying more attention to digital fencing key neighborhoods that their best clients came from, testing a variety of messages to determine which would get the best results, along with retargeting to make certain that the message could be delivered to an active shopper up to 20 times. It should also be noted that the agency was rightfully obsessive about the quality of the display ad look and feel to stand out from the clutter. They did not use one of those inventory feed display programs. In this case they continued to use 3rd party digital lead providers and they tracked results on the dealer’s website through Google analytics to sort out which sources performed best. The result? Their performance also improved steadily as they optimized messages, digital fences, and campaign delivery channels. They implemented these 5 distinct tactical executions, some with multiple channels:
1. Digital fencing (2 channels)
2. Site, search, contextual targeting / retargeting (3 channels)
3. Social media posts and paid ads (1 channel)
4. Paid Search (2 channels)
5. Video pre-roll (3 channels)
In closing, most dealers of any size use one or more agencies or larger dealer groups may use their own in-house marketing department. These agencies and marketing departments necessarily have their strengths and their blind spots. A well balanced sustained digital program can move the needle in this changing environment, but a marketer cannot set it and forget it. If they do results will get stale.
If you would like to have more information about the specifics of this case or how a program like this might move the needle for your dealership email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me directly at 949-297-6860.