Automotive Digital Marketing

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Will Dealer Principals Choose To Lead in 2011?

I just got back from a 20 Group meeting and the more I speak to dealer principals the more I am excited about being in the automotive industry. I am very excited about helping dealer principals lead their business in digital marketing and social media strategies. That's right, dealer principals as leaders.


Having the privilege to educate and share my passion for digital marketing to hundreds of dealers each year, it is clear to me that many dealer principals cannot effectively lead their digital marketing strategies and inspect their advertising investments.


They would like to but they don't know the right questions to ask.

All of the dealers in attendance at this meeting said that they would like more leads from their main website because those leads convert the best. Yet NONE of the dealers could recite any important data points about their website:

  • How many unique visitors a month
  • How many page views per visit
  • How much time were they spending the their website
  • Bounce Rate
  • Top referring sources

For many of these dealers, they are investing thousands of dollars each month to maintain and market their website. Some advanced dealers may also be adding fresh content, videos, photos, and specials to "improve" the website experience. Yet in spite of these significant investments, they had no clear report on their desk to say whether these investments were moving the needle. Increased visitors? Reduced bounce rate? More leads?


None of the dealers had ever tested and measured the impact of changing their home page design. Frankly, they did not know that they could ask for those types of test. None had tested different landing page designs for their pay-per-click advertising campaigns. 


Larry Bruce has been like John the Baptist on this topic, as he has been trying to get dealers to do more with what traffic they are already getting. A/B Testing and conversion is surely a timely message from Larry Bruce which can save dealers significant money if they invest in education and testing in 2011.


Ironically, the dealer principal proudly admitted to testing different radio, TV, and print ads to find the right message that worked. Yet, when it came to digital marketing they never thought they could test that medium as well.  The good news is that they can.

Investing in Education is NOT Sexy

Spending the dollars to educate your staff may not be sexy, but it is critical for leadership in today's automotive retailing model.


I'm not sharing this story to put down dealer principals. I'm writing to challenge the automotive industry and dealer principals to make 2011 the year of empowerment. A year where investments in education are a priority because dealer principals see the importance of leading and INSPECTING their digital marketing investments.


If dealer principals can't inspect the work of their eCommerce team, vendors, and automotive advertising partners they can not effectively leverage the opportunities that the Internet and social media offer. If dealer principals can't speak the language associated with SEO, SEM, IRM, and social media they will not feel confident in vendor meetings.


PCG Digital Marketing Education


In 2011 PCG Digital Marketing is committing significant resources to dealer education. The commitment starts with the 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference, (DMSC) February 1-3rd in the Napa Valley. Dealers and dealership employees who admit that they need to learn more to lead, have registered. Where do you stand?


At this conference, attendees will be empowered to lead their dealership with effective digital marketing and social media strategies. The curriculum, speakers, and educational format will deliver solutions and processes to take back to the dealership that will move the needle in 2011. The conference diet is high protein and no junk carbs.


Are You Making Excuses?

I find it ironic that a dealer will try a new "advertising" idea (shiny object) for $1,000 and yet they won't INVEST $1,000 to send an employee to the DMSC who manages hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising and marketing. It's odd that dealers use an excuse that the beginning of the month "is a busy time to be out of the dealership" like they don't control workload and have backup resources in case someone is sick.


When I inspect a Google Adwords campaign for a dealer, it is not uncommon that in 75% of dealers I can save them thousands of dollars a year in wasted clicks or improved conversion. Why wouldn't a dealership want this as an internal skill?


When I inspect a dealership website, it is not uncommon that 85% of website are not tagged properly for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Why wouldn't a dealership want this as an internal skill?


Choose To Lead

I can go on with more examples but it is clear to me that the tools and strategies dealer principals need to succeed have changed and education has lagged.


That will change when dealer principals decide to lead ALL profit centers in their business. That gap is getting wider and I hope that we can provide the education and resources to close the gap between the haves and have-nots.


I hope dealer principals and eCommerce directors reading this article will be inspired to take action and meet me in Napa Valley to start a year of digital marketing leadership at your dealership.


If you can't make Napa, we hope to see you at our next conference April 16-18th in Orlando prior to the 10th Digital Dealer Conference


The conference website is:


Digital Marketing Strategies Conference Information

If you can make it to Napa, here are two links to get you started.


Anyone attending NADA will be taken on Friday morning from Napa to San Francisco by 11:00 am. If you are not attending NADA, you can connect back in SFO locally when our bus drops everyone back at the convention center.



Views: 86

Tags: automotive advertising, automotive conferences, automotive education, dealer principals


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Comment by Brian Pasch on January 19, 2011 at 8:57pm
Todd, I also invite you to attend the The 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference in Napa.  If you can get there, it would be a great experience!
Comment by Todd Vowell on January 19, 2011 at 8:05pm

That “mechanic comment” came out wrong, my apologies... (BTW, Dealers will know if anything is working with a decent P&L statement!)  

I just meant dept managers of each division (New Car, Service, Parts, Etc) hold their subordinates accountable just as they are held accountable by the dealer. Dealers are adding another department head with Digital as they “see the light”. But I agree 100%; they need to know the basics. Thanks again Brian.

Comment by Brian Pasch on January 19, 2011 at 7:26pm

Thanks Todd for your vote of confidence. The 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference is filled with dealers who want to learn.  I could not be happier.

"Dealers don't lead their mechanics" is a true statement but they can inspect their service department and make changes to make it profitable. 

In the same way, I'm not suggesting that dealer principals inspect the work of their SEO specialists but they should inspect the traffic flow, lead flow, call flow each month to see if its working.

Holding the dealership staff and vendor accountable is the leadership role of the dealer principal. However, in order for them to inspect, they have to stop making excuses and get educated on the basics.

Comment by Todd Vowell on January 19, 2011 at 7:00pm

Hey Brian, long time, hope your well! I think I can help on your frustration with dealers not jumping on automotive digital marketing and social media strategies, more aggressively.

 The #1 Most Popular ADM Content Posts of the Past 7 Days is a 64 year old cat (Good lookin fella I might add) benching 300 lbs! Nothing wrong with that!

 It just shows that people are still more interesting than “internet digital search engine optimization bounce rate social media page view A/B testing” stuff!

 To make it even more twisted and confusing, is the fact that you teach dealers about things like social media and JZ benching 300lbs IS Social Media at its BEST!  Let that one sink in, go figure!

 I realize your question was rhetorical (I think) but digital marketing and social media strategies are still foreign to most dealers. Working with dealers for 25 years now, I know them well and this stuff can be confusing, ever changing, and still tough for many dealers to see the value (or better yet, figure out what the value truly is).

 Most dealers won’t lead their digital marketing strategies any more than they will lead their mechanics.  I think when dealers finally do “see the light”; they go hire an internet guru to lead their store into the “digital world”. You mentioned this in your post and you will see more and more managers in 2011, no question!!!

 Brian, enjoy all your post very much, you know your stuff and I love learning from you any chance I can get!  Good luck in San Fran and beyond!


Todd Vowell

Comment by Brian Pasch on January 19, 2011 at 6:12pm
AJ that is sound advice and thank you for adding your personal experience.

Comment by Aj Maida on January 19, 2011 at 8:23am
I will have to plead guilty here. When I first started we would laugh and joke about just say something like SEM, Optimization, Conversion or bounce rate and the Dealer Principal will leave you alone. There is another way to do this...a better way! It is what Brian is talking about here. I encourge all of us "Internet guys and girls" to take some time and educate our owners. The end results will surprise you. Bring them into the back end tool of your website and show them how to and explain why you are optimizing. Show them why you are placing certain conversion tools in certain places. Educate them and you will have a partner. The more my owner, Dom Papa, learns the better support I get to do my job correctly. Don't push your Dealer Principal away...embrace them. Show them this post get them to Napa or bring them to DD10 and arrive on Saturday for the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp...get them to attend an event like the one that Larry Bruce, Ralph Paglia and Jim Ziegler are holding this week in ATL. If you think education is expensive try ignorance!!! Educate your dealer principal it will be the best job tool you ever had!!!
Comment by Brian Pasch on January 18, 2011 at 4:43pm


Thank you for your comments. You have been a lighthouse for education as well with your radio show, advertising community, and blogs. 

As part of my workshop at this recent 20 Group,  I was able to give dealer principals simple spreadsheets to have their team prepare and send to them each month.  Once we went over the data, they were very encouraged that they could start inspecting their digital investments. 


Major learning steps can come from a day of education...dealers just have to invest in the experience and get out of the dealership.   Trying to train dealership staff inside the dealership is often futile because of interruptions.


Comment by Philip Zelinger on January 18, 2011 at 1:36pm

Hey Brian,

Great post and shared insights into the changing role of the dealer in today's consolidating technology and internet driven auto industry.  Deciding what to do and what to delegate has always been a critical part of the self assigned job description for an auto dealer.  However, as you pointed out they at least spoke the language so they could inspect what they expected from their staff. 

Fortunately, conventional wisdoms apply to digital marketing and advertising since human nature has remained a constant.  The opportunities lie with the efficiencies offered by newly developed technology driven processes and being able to know what you don't know when it comes to developing new opportunities using today's tools.

You can delegate the function but you can't delegate the responsibility.  The sooner auto dealers accept responsibility to train themselves along with their staff the sooner they will be able to delegate the day to day chores while focusing on tomorrow -- which will provide additional challenges and required training. 

Besides human nature, the only other constant in the auto industry is change.  Auto dealers must lead, follow or get out of the way of the dealers that have attended your training classes!


See you at NADA!

Comment by James Easter on January 18, 2011 at 1:15pm
Thanks Brian!  Insightful as always.  Can't make it out to Napa, but hope to see you at AMBC & DDC in Orlando.

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