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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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Replies to This ADM Discussion

You're welcome Ralph. I was going to just shake my head and move on as well but felt I needed to call out the bashing remarks toward dealers and AT. It gets a little old.

Because most people won't cancel AT for obvious reasons even though they don't like the pricing, how about talking about how to maximize AT? How to get the most out of it?

It's a lot easier to bash and talk trash than it is to give a SOLUTION to a problem or a BETTER way to do it.

That's why ADM is a great site, you can find a lot of SOLUTIONS and BETTER ways to do things. Well done Ralph.
I looked at the ATC issue long and hard and simply applied the same standards we use to judge every other vendor - 500% ROI or you're out. At the metro partner level of $4600 a month for a Ford dealer, the numbers didn't work and I cancelled. The District Manager came back after three months and offered Feature level with 20 spotlights for $1500 and we have been very happy with the results. When I see competing Ford dealers in my area paying over $12,000 a month for Alpha I don't understand what metrics they are using to justify that expenditure. I see the reports and know how many vehicles they are selling and there is no way that the numbers make economic sense.
It's always curious to hear what dealers say about ATC. As a former ATC employee (along with ATP, AXC and AMC) there is the never ending admiration for what they have become. But along with that comes the questions about the pricing and how dealers justify the cost. I will admit I work for a new to Phoenix competitor and we are going through our growing pains especially in the current times but we are growing and delivering value to dealers so we are on the right track. I guess Chris Hanson got me thinking when he said "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.", what is the real reason for the increase in sales? Is it the upgrades or is the other changes made to the processes? Very possible it is a product of both? Is it possible the sales would have increased under the old ATC package with the new processes in place and the ROI would have been even better?
I've always questioned the upgrades as in Partner and ALPHA, obviously it is for better placement and branding but then we hear from Mike Warwick who downgraded and is very happy and getting great results. Have we as "publishers" created all the new products and the higher prices to add real value? Could we not get just as good or better results with a combination of Inventory listings on multiple sites, SEM/SEO, BT and local display advertising. And do it for less money?
Great question Mike which is why I laid out all of the facts. I would say the answer is BOTH. Process and package. Once again to clarify, I'm not talking Alpha. Going from a basic package to a Partner gives you so much more visibility. There is no comparison.
I would like to weigh in on this discussion. First, I want everyone to know that I have no financial or personal interest whatsoever in AutoTrader or any other third-party lead provider. Moreover, I work very closely with dealers every day across the country. For this reason, I feel like I am uniquely positioned to evaluate various lead providers.

It is my firm belief that AutoTrader.com is well worth the money. Believe me, it’s much easier and more friendly to the dealers whom I serve to say otherwise, but I just believe that if done right, AutoTrader is worth every penny.

Notice that I said “if done right”. The problem is that so few dealers do it right that they never really get to experience what AutoTrader is capable of delivering and consequently evaluating its true worth. What I’m talking about is having the right inventory, the right price, outstanding photos, video & comments, and similar in-dealership processes for working with leads. Fortunately, I work with enough dealerships to have experienced the overwhelming value of AutoTrader when it’s done right.

Somebody just needs to look what Bill Pearson at Finish Line Ford in Peoria, IL does to understand the value of AutoTrader, along with great internet proficiency. In May, Pearson delivered over 330 used vehicles, and he’ll attribute most of them to AutoTrader. What Bill knows is that AutoTrader has ubiquity. What I mean by ubiquity is that there’s a high likelihood that anyone who walks into a dealership may have had a recent visit to AutoTrader. You can’t go to a sports venue in America or watch an evening of TV without likely seeing the name AutoTrader.com. It has become iconic in the minds of car shoppers.

Here’s a simple test that will allow you to determine whether you’re in a position to properly evaluate the value of your lead provider. Answer the following questions:

• How many search result pages did your lead provider supply in the last month?
• How many detailed page views?
• What’s the ratio of detailed pages vs. to search result pages?
• What is an acceptable conversion benchmark (i.e. detailed page view vs. search result pages)?
• Are at least 95% of your used retail cars on the third-party site right now?
• Are they on the site within 60 minutes of their acquisition?
• Do 95% of your vehicles on-line have a current and rational price?
• Do 95%+ of your vehicles have multiple high-quality photos?
• Do 100% of your vehicles have custom compelling comments (i.e. not VIN decode descriptions)?


If you can’t answer all of these questions accurately and appropriately, then very respectfully, your conversation about the worth of any third-party site is just conversation.

Furthermore, if you are the primary destination site for car buyers, then isn’t it worth more? It also seems illogical to me that many dealers still continue to spend as much or more on traditional media than they spend on-line. How can you complain about the value of any on-line investment while you are continuing to spend as much or more money on traditional media that everyone would agree produces less ROI. I really think that it’s irresponsible to bash AutoTrader without first taking a hard look at yourself.
I had a conversation with some vendors and one of them made a typical negative comment about AT, how much they charge, prices keep going up, blah, blah, blah......and then he said "but its a great site, that's how I bought my last car. I looked on AT, found what I was looking for and bought the car".

Because I know him, I said, let me guess.....you didn't email the store or call the store, right? To which he said "no, I didn't. I walked in to the dealership, how did you know?"

I told him there are three types of people who shop on sites like AT, Cars, etc.

1) The Phone Caller
2) The Gather Info, print off and drive to dealerships.
3) The people who email.

My question is this. When you track ROI from AT, Cars or any other site, are you tracking all of these buyers in your CRM/ILM?? Are you?

As you know, the emails from AT, Cars, etc are easy to track by sending directly into your ILM. Phone is tougher but with a process, call tracking and matching data, it becomes easier. Walk-in traffic. Now for most, this source becomes more difficult. People who just happen to walk in and buy a car.

Is your best lead source just simply "walk-in" when you look in your CRM/ILM?? Not AT walk-in or Cars walk-in. Just "walk-in"? They just happen to be driving by.

If so, this is one of your biggest problems when it comes to tracking true ROI for any of your sources.

I'm not even going to discuss referral traffic from AT. Lets just look at definitely, without a doubt, cars sold from AT, Cars, etc.

1) The Phone Caller
2) The Gather Info, print off and drive to dealerships.
3) The people who email.


Fix this and you will look at things differently.

..
Great conversation and what a relevant one today. From what I have seen lately AT is stronger than a mad dog. I went from basic to Premium level 4 months ago. Wow what a bump it was. Really jumped up the numbers and number of real buyers too. Something I think that helped also was the advent of video and tying it to particular vehicles. Meaning, you can select videos that are relevant to that car besides a walk around. As as an example I might have an event that was on a particular model, and select that video to show up along with the other videos for that car. Nice tool. Obviously using the tools that help people decide on you is important to full utilization of quality vendor products like AT. I am at the Dealership level and find it fascinating to source these leads. As Chris has mentioned you have 3 types of prospects that boil down to the" Lot flopper" that somehow magically appear. These are the ones that are hard but not impossible to source. I found it interesting to watch when people arrive, even without a print out , the salesperson points to that particular car of conversation. Huh, somehow they-the customer, know which exact car to go to. This happens so often, and then it is fun to drill down and really see where they came from. Many people will say they went here or there, but in actuality they are driven to AT by way of KBB & edmunds. In each site (KBB-edmunds), right on the search page is"Search Local Listing". This is in both of these huge research sites. How strong is that. How can someone not be in that arena.
Ralph, I have a trademark on that photo! There will be an invoice in the mail next week. Let me know when you get it.

http://www.dealerrefresh.com/autotradercom-for-sale-not-anymore-is-...
I actually forgot where I snagged that image... But, then I remembered that it was sent to me by a so-called friend who suggested I use it in an ADM forum discussion... Conspiracy? Maybe... Perhaps another Forum discussion? An attempt to divert traffic? Where's Agent 99 when I need her?

http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/forum/topics/autotrader-d...
I often review older posts on ADM to provide insights and input regarding product evaluations that I am asked to prepare for the auto dealer and vendor clients of Ad Agency Online . This one surfaced while I was doing a competitive comparison of conventional inventory based marketing platforms and third party lead providers vs. some of the newer solutions like my client ronsmap that is offering free services and a unique business model that is more performance based. They aren't the only free posting site but the free leads are certainly a game changer as far as budgets and added value goes -- at least to my mind they are; and that is my question and concern.

I of course can add my thoughts but obviously they will be self serving and limited to observations and opinions that I have already formed based on the information and insights already discovered so I would appreciate it if the previous contributors to this post on ATC could/would visit http://ronsmap.com and their currently posted beta version and either contribute to the suggestion link on their site or reply to this post with your observed opinions of ronsmap with their leveraged social networking channels, free postings and free leads vs. ATC.

After all, what are friends for!
At the risk of sounding self-serving I'd like to comment on this post; to be fair of course I'm one of the founders of ronsmap and I'm intimately familiar with its product, business model, and goals. That said, before I make comments about ronsmap that are relative to this community of dealers and vendors I'd also like to point out that first and foremost ronsmap is a "consumer centric" solution. We're focused on and committed to giving consumers an easier, faster, automotive shopping experience that gives them more control and confidence throughout the process. A tool that empowers them and encourages them to engage you the dealer sooner rather then later.

Now let's get down to it... how is ronsmap different for you - the dealers. How does ronsmap benefit your dealership, and how does ronsmap benefit you specifically.

First and foremost we have more than 2.5MM+ units in inventory. You can do full searches yourself on AT or Cars etcetra to see how our 2.5M+ compares to the size of their inventories. For example you'll notice that ronsmap has approximately 2.5MM and AutoTrader has approximately 1.4MM as of the writing of this post. EACH OF THE UNITS ON RONSMAP... Franchised, Independent, or Private Sellers are listed there FOR FREE! No Contract. No costs. All of your inventory (new and used) all of your photos and even video if you have them is also FREE.

Further, any basic lead generated from/through ronsmap is ALSO FREE! A basic lead of course includes a contact, means to communicate, vehicle of interest, comments, etc. That basic lead is ALSO FREE and again there is No Contract. No Cost. You enjoy that for FREE.

Further, when you visit ronsmap you'll immediately see that every vehicle/every dealership is a Premier Listing. It's a level playing field for all dealers as it should be. What distinguishes you and your vehicle... is well, You and Your Vehicle! Not payments that you're forced to make simply to move you to the top of a search engine. Incidentally there is significant research and studies (heat maps, eye-tracking, scroll/click tracking and the like) that prove conclusively that online shoppers "intuitively know" that vendors pay to be at the top of listings and less likely to click on them because of it. In-market consumers are found to scroll down to the 4th through 7th items before actually reading content and engaging closely. (There's a great study of paid-vs-organic where the pros and cons are fairly summarized in this blog: http://www.blog.accommodationguru.com/2009/05/27/seo-vs-paid-search/) You'll also find significantly more with simple google queries. )

Social Media in ronsmap was not an after-thought. From the very beginning, from the ground up we built ronsmap on the foundations, principles and technologies of social media, social networks, word-of-mouth, and crowdsourcing. We've integrated social media to benefit both you and the consumer. ronsmap is a portal in concert with a Social Media solution, it isn't one that has a plug in to a social media solution.

Many people have asked how does ronsmap list vehicles for free and give away leads for free? It's simple. We have an alternative performance based business model. You can - completely at your option - choose to purchase a product that's called the SellersVantage, and in the SellersVantage there's a different type of lead called an "intelliLead." I'd rather not comment/sell to you here in this blog post but to use the words from a GM at a dealer group that recently purchased the SellersVantage subscription: "... this is the most amazing thing we've ever seen, this intelligence is exactly what our BDC needs to raise our close ratios."

There's certainly a lot more then our SellersVantage to tell you about, and you can visit our site and request more information. Of course you can email me directly - but in a recap/nutshell... here's how we're different:

1) Today.... 2.5MM+ units in inventory and growing every day!
2) FREE to post inventory (we syndicate it to oodle, olx, and google-base too)
3) FREE to receive a basic lead (contact, vehicle, comments, etc)
4) Every dealer/vehicle is a Premier listing... your vehicle is immediately in your consumers' field of vision vs. being buried somewhere at the bottom of page 4 of a list.
5) Social Media is integrated in everything that happens with ronsmap. It's an automatic social media strategy that leverages consumer behavior to the benefit of you and your dealership.

Finally, we're in beta - so your feedback is welcomed.

I hope this helps and I apologize if this sounded too "sales-ee", I followed the post and thought it appropriate to solve curiosity's and dispel misconceptions.

More than any of the above - we'd love your comments and inputs. We believe that we've made a product that's good for consumers and good for dealers... we KNOW that we want to continue to make it better!

Lastly (of course): if you'd like to have all of your inventory posted on ronsmap simply contact your inventory managment company and ask them to add ronsmap.com to their distribution feed OR you can email us at dealerfeedrequest@ronsmap.com and we'll immediately help you with your inventory feed.

Thank you,

Ron

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