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THE AUTOTRADER.COM DISCUSSION THREAD BELOW WAS PULLED OVER INTO THIS ADM FORUM POST BECAUSE IT HAD TAKEN ON A LIFE OF ITS OWN IN A COMPLETELY UNRELATED ADM DISCUSSION POST: Please read the thread below and then add your commentary within this post... I want to recognize and thank Jon Groenig for this timely and important topic - RP

Reply by Jon Groenig 11 hours ago
Speaking of drama Jeff, isn't is about time for you to start another Autotrader bitch fest on Dealer Refresh?? It's been quite a while since the last one. :)
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Reply by Ralph Paglia 11 hours ago
Jon, you are right... I spent all day today with 8 GM's, The DP, Controller, Internet marketing Director and others at a dealer group's headquarters in Pittsburgh, and their number one topic that kept coming up was "what should we do about Autotrader... We feel like we are getting fleeced, but we also think we have to have them... What's your opinion?"

Anyways, there is a ton of anxiety over the Autotrader ROI model being inferior to other uses of monthly budget.

Reply by Stan Sher 10 hours ago
Autotrader is a household name and needs to be in place. People know Autotrader more then dealix, autousa, or autobytel. They don't realize where they go to submit a third party lead but they always know to go to Autotrader to shop for cars. If they were just another third party lead provider, we can say that it is more debatable. Autotrader needs to get on the dealer side more and stop the cocky behavior and things will be alright.

Reply by Ralph Paglia 1 hour ago
Stan, I have been an Autotrader.com fan ever since Cox Communications bought the platform from ADP... However, when I experienced being an Autotrader.com customer for two years while working at Courtesy Chevrolet, I always felt like we were being taken advantage of every time ATC came by to announce our rates were being increased. Also, I admire ATC for having successfully separated themselves from the nonsense of being a $20 lead provider. They have worked long and hard to position ATC as an advertising medium and NOT a lead provider, which is commendable and something I highly admire.

When Pete Ellis asked me if i thought dealers would be willing to pay for 3rd party leads, prior to founding Autobytel, I responded that I did not, because dealers prefer advertising their inventory and driving traffic to their dealerships... I was wrong, and Pete was right. Live and learn... But, the self-generating lead model that i have focused on ever since has finally come into its own, and Autotrader.com is a distinct part of most successful digital marketing dealership strategies.


Reply by Chris Hanson 20 minutes ago
Don't you think that because most dealerships don't track very well (many are just terrible at it), that they are not seeing the true ROI from AT??......

eMails are easy to track but account for the least amount of leads from AT

Phone Calls go to the front desk, sales are paged and where does it end up from there?? Are they entered in the CRM/ILM as AT leads?

Phone Calls go to ISM or BDC but no one matches up the AT call list to the one in the CRM/ILM to make sure that ALL AT calls are being accounted for.

People walk in with printed copies of cars they found on AT....they didn't call and they didn't email. Are ALL of those people being put in the CRM/ILM as a AT lead?

Over the last four to five months I had three of my clients UPGRADE their package with AT and the results have been huge! More cars sold. Yes, we have changed other things in the store, process, phone skills, picture process, etc. But the ROI from AT is one of the best. And they are selling more used cars than they used to.


Reply by Ralph Paglia 2 seconds ago
Chris... YES, I absolutely agree with you that DIGITAL ADVERTISING in general produces a broad range of benefits to the dealership that dwarf the value of electronic leads received. This applies to Autotrader.com as well as other forms of online advertising. I do not question the value of Autotrader.com, which is firmly established beyond a reasonable doubt, but it is subject to a lot of "if the dealer...", as are almost all marketing value propositions. In other words, to say that ATC generates leads, or that ATC sells cars for dealers, are both naive and ill-informed statements. Since ATC is a type of online classified advertising, a "publication" among thousands available to all dealers, the content of the dealer's ads (Vehicle Listings) will either capitalize on ATC's inherent value as a publication with available advertising space, or it won't.

Those Autotrader.com value propositions as a publication are NOT being questioned, for the most part... It is the dollars, the costs, and the very real fact that ATC has done such a good job of maximizing value for the OWNERS of ATC, which is your's and every ATC employee's job, that work in the opposite direction as what that same value proposition offers for dealers. Heck, I still like newspaper advertising... IF I COULD BUY A FULL PAGE AD IN THE AZ REPUBLIC FOR $1,000...

There would be no hesitation at all with Autotrader.com, nor dealer anxiety generated if the pricing were, let's say, the same as Cars.com... Why? Because ATC has more car buying consumers visiting the site than does Cars.com, so if the price were the same, then the value advantage would absolutely fall in favor of ATC... But, the pricing is not the same, and the premium that ATC gets, in this case, is disproportionate to the consumer traffic advantage that Autotrader.com has over Cars.com... Which by definition makes Cars.com a BETTER VALUE to dealers on a dollar to dollar ROI basis.

Keep in mind that the likelihood of a dealer performing their marketing duties better with ATC than with Cars.com is almost zero, because both publishers offer similar venues. Once again, let me say that I admire Autotrader.com and am an avid proponent of the publication's use as an advertising medium by dealers.... BUT, when I see a dealer paying $20,000 a month extra for the Alpha Program in a major metro, I have to wonder if that is the best next use of those marketing dollars by that dealer... In most cases I can prove that it is not... That there are a variety of BETTER USES of that additional $20,000 in monthly digital advertising spend available to that same dealer. Now, if that same Alpha program were an additional $5,000, then the value proposition benefit to that same dealer may tip the scales in Autrader.com's direction... Unless, of course, the other online advertising networks, venues, publishers, etc. lower their prices to the dealer and/or offer more value... And, to that point, viva la competition! To say or believe that Autotrader.com has no competition is worse than believing in the tooth fairy, because of the financial implications to the dealer.

The fact is that there are more publications competing with ATC every day for the dealer's dollars of monthly digital advertising spend... And, this is a good thing. We need this type of competition to offset Autotrader.com's well established track record of j****** up prices on short notice when they feel the market will support it. And, if I was a shareholder in ATC, then i would be all for that practice, but I am not... As a dealer, or a dealership employee, or a dealer advocate, it is undesirable to support ATC's objective of increasing each dealer's monthly payments to Autotrader.com.

But, do not mistake that for devaluing what Autotrader.com has been so successful in accomplishing... The single most popular brand for Americans to turn to when it comes to finding a used car listed on the Internet.

Tags: ATC sales, Advertising Products, Autotrader Alpha, Autotrader Dealer Value Proposition, Autotrader.com, automotive advertising, dealer internet sales, digital advertising

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Reply by Chris Hanson 6 minutes ago

Ralph, I agree with post of what you said for sure. So what we are really talking about is the Alpha program. The $20,000. Now that's a different story and falls not just under leads, calls and walk in traffic but also falls under branding, advertising, etc.

That's a hard one to decide. I will find out with one of my clients if this was a good move - the Alpha. We will see.....

The "normal" inventory packages are easy to decide. Do it, track it and review it. It works, the ROI is there for money spent and cars sold directly because of it.
In my opinion, Auto trader and like companies (Cars.com) are still the place to be among others. After a 4 store comprehensive case study, we were able to determine and improve AutoTrader RM factor numbers by as much as 400%. There are a few things that need to be done to maximize the site and potential.

The RM Factor while I may not have it exact is the number of times your car comes up in the search, then gets detail viewed and a lead submitted or phone call in.

When stores maximize the process and tools available to them they are able to see huge benefits to their lead generation volume. It is my opinion that stores are not maximizing their AutoTrader opportunity and need to change the way they think of advertising on all areas of the internet.

While I can’t nor do you want me to jump on my platform, you can contact me to discuss the various tools and processes we implemented to generate these gains.

Disclaimer, I am not a representative, customer or employee of AutoTrader nor do I benefit from these statements. It is my belief and I can back it up with data that AutoTrader is a strong lead generation tool if used properly. Dealers must take a step back and look at the process and check for self imposed roadblocks that can hold back the results.

Somebody once told me, anything worth doing... was worth doing right!!! Then I got grounded!!

Mark Burack
Executive Vice President
Business Development

Liquid Motors Inc.
1755 N. Collins Suite 109
Richardson, TX 75087

Tel. 214-393-2324
Cell 214-549-7779
Fax 214-296-9296

www.liquidmotors.com
mburack@liquidmotors.com
Having worked at both ATc [as we called it internally], and for some years on the Newspaper sales side [selling into Tier I, Tier II & III], in the end it becomes an analysis of Value, on a case-by-case basis, as with Mr Burack below. At this time, ATc is very much following in the path of newspapers, raising prices at every turn, it seems. And, like newspapers did for many years, they deliver value...even while the increases are not welcome.

At some point, the Value/Price equation will cross [as you ask about here], and ATc could suffer. Like newspapers. Don't think we are fully there yet. But with many dealers closing, ATc is losing a MAJOR part of its revenue base. How will that be recovered? Prices, for one.

Good topic; tough call; good points to argue on both sides.
ummmm yeah, am I in the right place? I was looking for the Mark Boyd bashing forum?
MMmmmmm... That would be two doors down to the left... This is the Autotrader.com bashing section!

You gotta laugh at the bashing stuff, and remember never to take unmoderated forum discussion TOO seriously...
LOL! Thanks, I'm heading down there now!
Chris Hanson is absolutely correct in pointing out that the dealer has to change some internal processes to see the true value of any kind of advertising investment, not just ATC. I find it almost cliche after all of my years in automotive advertising (yes, I've sold newspaper, radio, tv and now internet) that dealers will continue to question the prices they pay vendors for whatever product. Or the standard line, "I'm cancelling because it's not working" without looking into their own way of doing things. To address Ralph's statement: But, the pricing is not the same, and the premium that ATC gets, in this case, is disproportionate to the consumer traffic advantage that Autotrader.com has over Cars.com...ATC's packages offer many different components to chose from. All are competitive to Cars.com pricing and yes, ATC gets about 30% more traffic. Page views, time spent (stickyness) are much higher than Cars.com. Check out Alexa.com or Compete.com for those stats. As to Stan's statement about cocky behavior....those days are gone. We have a new Executive Vice President of Sales in Alan Smith who is much more focused on dealer success than years past. With that, if you ask any dealer on ATC now-- they will tell you so. ATC has held rates for current customers since last June and there is no rate increase in 2009. On the other hand, many of my dealers have mentioned to me some increased pressure from Cars.com to raise their rates in this challenging environment. Folks, there are more and better things ATC is in the process of doing to drive more eyeballs to your inventory. Stay tuned. How dealers market their vehicles and how dealers react to shoppers-- ATC can't control that. That's where the internal processes at each dealership will make it a "valued investment" or not.
I was not being fictitious when I wrote that I am a big fan of Autotrader.com, that is truly how I counsel dealers, but I also am a realist and know that without the dealer making some smart decisions and negotiating spotlight Ads in the mix, etc., to just simply sign up for everything the ATc rep pitches can be a costly mistake.

I am thrilled to hear that there is a dealer results advocacy brewing, because that's what Autotrader.com needs right now to start focusing more on dealer results and less on simply bumping up the dealer spend.
Many dealers participated in the "Dealer Scorecard" discussions at Autotrader.com's NADA booth and they were a huge success. Dealer principals, GMs sitting down with Autotrader.com reps to dig deep into what was truly happening within their store compared to their competitive-set in the market. It opened many eyes and gave dealers more information on how to better merchandise their inventory online. There was no sales pressure whatsoever within these discussions, but some dealers tried some new products from their learning because they "saw the value" and it wasn't shoved down their throats.
AutoTrader is a waste of time and money. Dealers do not need it to sell cars. Take what you spend on AutoTrader and put it to your SEM and SEO budget and get quadruple your return if not more. Dealers are lazy and don't use the AT tools anyway and AT's training is terrible to nonexistant. Your better off having a blown up monkey on you roof than wasting time and money with AutoTrader. AutoTrader has been successful in scaring dealers into using them. They use scare tactics like, "We sold the XXX package to your competition,......." Dealers who cancel AT see no difference in their sales numbers. AT is a scam.
Kris,

I really get a kick out of your Vandelayindustries.net (a .com does exist but not .net) as your companies website.....do you work for George Costanza?

That said, its hard to listen to someone on a forum who doesn't disclose who they work for and what exactly they do or doesn't include their contact info.

Dealers aren't lazy, they just need to be shown a better way to do things sometimes. And for many, once they see, they run with it. Most want to learn, they really do.

If a dealer does things right, the AutoTrader ROI can and should be HUGE. MOST vendors talk big about their product which is no difference than how any manager trains their salespeople to do. The question is, can they back it up?? From my personal experience from being an eCommerce Director and doing consulting for dozens of dealers......AutoTrader can back it up. (I'm not speaking of the Alpha package as I don't have enough experience with that yet).

FYI: I would stop giving the blown up monkey advise to dealers because I've seen a few of those in dealers parking lots and the ROI on those things is terrible :-)
Chris, thank you for taking the time to respond to Kris's vitriol... that type of gibberish and nonsensical response is something i see on many of the forums that are used by the general public, but has little value in a professional community. Normally, i just shake my head and move to the next comment, so i just wanted to thank you (Chris Hanson) for being a responsible member of this community and calling out the obvious lack of integrity shown both by the comment's verbiage and the member profile.

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