Automotive Digital Marketing

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What Is Your Mix Of Traditional and Digital Advertising Investments?

As I conduct training seminars and webinars for the automotive industry, I often ask dealers what is their current mix between traditional automotive advertising and digital automotive advertising. What is your mix?

In the traditional advertising category I would add radio, TV, print publications, newspaper, printed yellow pages, billboards, and direct mail costs. In the digital advertising category I would add website costs, Google Adwords or similar Pay-Per-Click models, digital display advertising, re-marketing, social media, third party leads, OEM leads, (SEO) services, and inventory advertising platforms like and the Automotive Advertising Network (AAN).

The responses I get from car dealers vary, but can range from 10% digital to 95% digital. This large swing reflects the tsunami of change that has engulfed the automotive industry in the last 10 years. These massive changes are not limited to the automotive sector. All business owners are being faced with the challenge of being open to reconsider if the yellow pages, radio, TV, and newspaper are connecting their brand with the majority of in market buyers.

The Opportunities For Education

Recently I spoke with a dealer who had just purchased an existing franchise store that need a complete renovation. He shared all the costs associated with the refit of the building and his upcoming opening. He wanted to turn around this store and make it profitable location.

The conversation we had was focused on how he could make the biggest impact on the market with this new point. Intermixed with the conversation was frequent reminders of how much he was investing in the store, how much this place needed a capital investment, and how much he wanted to make this work.

When I asked him on what portion of his budget was allocated to digital marketing, the answer surprising. Aside from his costs to setup his new website, he had not budgeted for any other digital marketing of the dealership. His advertising plans were solely radio, TV, and print, and I won't share what he planned to spend!


When I suggested an initial investment of $3,000 a month in digital marketing strategies, he said: "I don't have that much to spend."

Welcome to 2011 and the wide gap in knowledge and confidence that digital marketing is a core strategy for automotive retailing.

Eliminate The Extremes

It is easy to say that a car dealer that is only spending 10% in digital marketing is spending too little on new media since over 90% of car buyers use the Internet to research a car. It may also be safe to say that a dealer who eliminates all radio, TV, newspaper, and direct mail are missing a segment of their local market that is influenced by these channels.

Ignoring the extremes, I would like to suggest that to bigger opportunity is to move the majority of car dealers that under utilize digital marketing to the middle. From a survey conducting by PCG Digital Marketing with dealers across the country, the current average "allocation" for digital investments is 20-25% of a dealers total advertising budget.

I would like to see the average dealer investment in digital marketing move to 50% in the next year. Those that say 50% is still too little, I'll be working on another industry move in 2012! We can't parallel park the Titanic in Manhattan without some patience.

Moving digital spending to 50% would be considered a massive change but one that this industry needs to embrace. This reallocation of traditional marketing investments will not happen without a massive effort to reeducated the dealer community. Proper education on the strategies and opportunities that digital marketing can provide will help make those steps to 50% + with confidence. Today, dealers either are not moving because of fear or they just don't know better. Neither position is attractive to an entrepreneur.

Education For New Automotive Advertising Strategies

We can assume that dealers will make this move on their own but there will be a tremendous opportunity cost for those that take the slow path to 50%; an that still is not the end game. Since first responders are rewarded in search, the sooner dealers make this move, the more they will be rewarded. This move will need a coordinated effort by industry leaders, vendors, and educational agencies to educate dealers on all of the new media opportunities and marketing strategies for automotive advertising.

Dealer principals need to be able to clearly differentiate and measure the benefits of SEO, SEM, social media, display advertising, and inventory syndication. Every time I conduct a seminar at a 20 Group meeting or at an automotive conference, light bulbs go off in the audience. Dealers are truly thankful to be shown, in plain English, why their lack of digital marketing investments is hurting their brand.

Automotive Marketing Conference

We need to coordinate more "light bulb" experiences at 20 Groups, conferences, and regional teaching events.


One of those opportunities for education is the 2011 Automotive Marketing Boot Camp in Orlando, April 16th-18th organized by my company PCG Digital Marketing. The Boot Camp will be held at the beautiful Hilton Orlando hotel and has attracted a wonderful team of industry leaders and dealership employees to teach.

Dealers spending less than 50% of your total advertising budget on digital marketing and new media, need to attend and find out what is working for dealers that have made that have crossed that line If dealers wants to increase their dominant market position, they should attend to learn that latest strategies for digital marketing and social media from industry leaders.

I would also like to suggest that at least 2 people from each dealership should attend. Why? Because the best opportunity for change occurs when the dealer principals or GM learns side by side with their eCommerce Director or Internet Sales manager. Too many things can get lost in translation when one of these two roles are missing.

The good news is that attendees and educators at the Boot Camp will be willing to share exactly what is working and how they are measuring the ROI of that investment. Dealers can register for the Boot Camp and make the decision to invest in education and the future of their dealership today. The event website is located at:

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Tags: automotive advertising, automotive advertising agencies, automotive education, car dealer education


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