While your lead management tool can be a great starting point to understanding performance, there is a lot it won’t tell you. When I started my career in online automotive, what excited me most, aside from the internet’s unique matchmaking abilities, was the transparency and accountability the medium offered its advertisers. Unlike a billboard on Route 21, we are able to see with precision where a lead originates, how it progresses through the funnel and when it becomes a sale. Simply no other form of advertising so clearly demonstrates its value. But I have to stop and
ask, Are we really seeing the full picture? Given all that is traceable online, are we losing sight of what’s not?
Evaluation of Our Business is Often so Focused on Email Leads and Call Metrics we tend to Lose Sight of the Larger Objective – Traffic and Sales.
When we place an ad online for either a new or used vehicle, the ultimate goal is to match consumers to the right inventory and drive them into the store where they ultimately make a purchase. The most effective online advertising drives quality traffic in multiple ways and on all types of inventory. Whether it’s in the form of an email, a phone call, a visit to your store’s website or a step into your showroom, effectively placed online ads should deliver in-market shoppers who are progressing toward a final purchase decision. While email and phone leads tracked through your lead management system are the most concrete evidence of this impact, they only represent a fraction of what online advertising delivers.
To get the complete story and better measure the holistic value of online campaigns, it’s time to look beyond lead management tools and the data they offer. We must start understanding what the limitations are of online tracking and start placing value on the intangibles that often do not readily reveal themselves. This is what we have always done with other forms of advertising, radio and TV.
Not All New-Car Leads are Equal, and They Can’t be Measured as if They Were.
Until recently, nearly all new-car leads were the result of online quote request products that drove email leads to the dealership. Buyers interested in a particular make and model would email the store to learn more about your price and you could easily track these prospects through your lead management system. New-car value from online services was easily measured – you’d simply divide your monthly cost by the total number of vehicles sold based on leads received to arrive at an accurate cost per sale. While this is still the right way to measure lead generation services that deliver quote requests, it will not give you an accurate measure of performance when advertising new-vehicle inventory online.
New Vehicle Inventory is Rapidly Displacing Request For Quote Leads as the Dominant Model in Automotive Internet.
Consumers want to see actual new cars available on dealer lots, and manufacturer sites, dealer sites and leading independent websites are all listing new vehicles on their sites to meet this growing consumer demand. This dramatic industry shift has consequences and requires a shift in measurement that your lead management tool won’t fully be able to capture. Just as with used-vehicle listings, consumers are free to link from new-car inventory to the physical store by means that can be tracked, such as phone and email. But they can also simply walk into the store with no traceable online activity. How will your lead management system track these buyers? Chances are, you may not be able to. Therefore, the next time you compare new-vehicle advertising sources, be sure you are not comparing apples to oranges based on the numbers in your system. You can evaluate one request for quote service against another, but you’ll be giving inventory services the short end of the stick if you only measure them on email value delivered, which is a fraction of their total worth.
Internet Customers Don’t Come with Labels.
Nearly 80 percent of all shoppers now go online as part of their automotive research process, but only a small fraction of those will ever send an email lead or call a traceable phone line. During the online research process, shoppers are deciding both what to buy and where to buy. If you’ve effectively marketed your store, buyers will come into contact with your brand at multiple touch points in their online shopping process, including listings, search engine results and perhaps a visit to your website. It’s in that process that they are deciding if you are a dealership they might like to do business with. If the answer is yes, the majority of shopper, your lead management tool never knows they took the bait. How will you source the sale?
A postsale survey administered in the F&I office is recommended to better understand the true source of walk-in traffic. Getting a true source can be difficult, as even when asked, shoppers can’t always clearly articulate what influenced their decision to visit the store. In most cases, it will be multiple sources.
Consider this: The average shopper on Cars.com spends approximately 60 seconds with a detailed vehicle listing page. That means your store and your inventory are the focal point of attention with an in-market buyer for a full minute of active consideration. Online shoppers are actively engaged in the process, and most take the next step toward purchase without ever picking up the phone or sending you an email. Despite the fact that online engagement and activity is often behind the sale, your lead management system won’t ever give you details on engagement levels, nor will it look for a correlation between recent online activities and sold vehicles. To better understand the value of engagement and its impact on sales, look to your online providers for detailed reports on what customers are doing online, how often your vehicles appear in detailed search results, and how many times buyers print your listings and directions to your store.
Buyers Don’t Always Take a Direct Route to Your Website.
A quick review of lead source reports in most dealerships will show that the dealer's websites are their top producing lead sources. This makes perfect sens, and should be the case. After all, if the dealer's advertising is effective, then most buyers will visit the dealership’s website as they approach the final stage of their shopping process and get closer to making a purchase. Increased traffic to a dealer's website indicates more effective overall advertising. When a car buyer searches for the dealer's name using a search engine, what inspired them to search for the dealer's name in the first place? The dealer's advertising!
In order to measure your campaigns more effectively, consider what sources are driving traffic to your site. In some cases, the path buyers take to your virtual store will be clear – a transfer from a third-party listing, a search on a leading engine, etc. But in many cases, buyers will visit you directly. In these cases, it’s important to remember the cumulative effect of all of your marketing efforts that work to drive this web traffic. Chances are good that many of the buyers who land on your site have already completed their online research with third-party sites. If you’ve stayed in their consideration set, odds are they’ll visit your site as a next step before visiting the store and making a purchase.
Regardless of which performance metrics you choose to track, and despite all the many data points that can be effectively measured, it’s clear that online digital advertising has proven its value beyond just the lead counts that are generated. Isn’t it time automotive digital marketers and dealers turn their attention to the big-picture results?
The Automotive Digital Marketing (ADM) Professional Community website is built on a perpetually growing"Viral Expansion Loop" Networking Platform and serves Car Dealers, Dealership General Managers and their management teams, including Internet Sales Managers, BDC Managers, Marketing Managers, Sales Managers, Service Managers, Service Advisers, Parts Managers, Fixed Operations Directors and their teams. Launched at the beginning of January 2008, ADM has emerged as a valuable and proven resource for the entire spectrum of automotive marketing and Internet sales related professionals. Interactive Media and eCommerce Professionals at car companies (OEM) and tier 1 and 2 advertising agencies who want to see, hear and read what the best Digital and Interactive Marketing professionals in the automotive industry have to say about relevant and timely topics visit ADM on a regular basis or subscribe to the many RSS feeds and content syndication services available within the ADM community.
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AUTOMOTIVE IMAGE AND PHOTO RESOURCES
Did you know that there are over 4,000 photos listed on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community? And, do you know that many of these images are actually charts and graphs of the latest marketing trends and research? Did you know that many of these photos are actual ads used by dealers that worked exceptionally well? There have been over 4,000 photos uploaded and made available for use by all ADM members.
AUTOMOTIVE VIDEO FILE HOSTING
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GET ACCESS TO AUTOMOTIVE ARTICLES AND PUBLISH YOURS
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SOMETIMES CONTROVERSIAL, BUT ALWAYS FASCINATING AUTOMOTIVE DISCUSSION FORUM
Did you know that there are over 500 forum topics on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community? Have you checked the forum lately to see what your associates, clients and colleagues are saying?
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SPECIALIZED AUTOMOTIVE PROFESSIONAL GROUPS
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EVENT CALENDAR FOR AUTOMOTIVE PROFESSIONALS
Did you know that there are Important Upcoming Automotive Digital Marketing Events listed on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community? Have you posted what you or your organization considers to be important upcoming events on the ADM calendar so that other professionals will know about them, consider attending and register their intent? ADM members can create calendar events using the ADM site application that allows image and logos, links to registration pages, location maps that integrate with Google Maps, Outlook Calendar integration, invitation mailings using uploaded email lists, RSVP tracking and event management features and a whole lot more.
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Did you know that there are more than 500 MP3 audio files on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community? Have you checked out what other automotive professionals are listening to? Did you know that many of these MP3 files are automotive marketing and Internet sales best practice Podcasts, and examples of highly effective radio spots, along with powerful and engaging dealer website soundtracks?
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