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What questions should car dealers ask automotive marketing suppliers when selecting their online marketing partner?
So you know your online marketing needs to be better and now you just need to find someone to do it. The following questions are ones you need to ask to ensure that you maximize your investment:
1. What increase in conversion rates should I expect?
Can an online marketing company guarantee specific results? I have yet to meet a credible company that is able to guarantee specific results. The truth is, every project comes with its own unique situation. However, a good online marketing company should invest time with you up-front to set target goals for any planned improvement and optimization work. Keep in mind though those pre-set targets can be both achieved and missed. The point is to focus on defining success parameters for the project from the very first day.
2. What time frame should I expect the project to be set up by?
Online Marketing is an ongoing process. There is always room for improvements. Some companies will provide the work within a month and disappear after the initial implementation. Your best bet is to find companies that offer support services in the months following initial implementation and will continue to work with you dealership to improve.
3. What happens if our conversion rates do not increase?
Some elements of your online marketing may already be performing at their full potential (if there is such a thing). There are numerous reasons as to why you do not see the desired results. When asking the chosen company this question, you need to pay close attention and really listen to how they answer you. A company just starting out in the online marketing space or that is not very good at what they do, will focus on the fact that you will see improvements. A credible company or practitioner will be focus on a transparent process, keep you updated on how the project is going, and be willing to provide additional work within reasonable parameters if the project goals are not met.
4. What are some of the risks involved in a online marketing project?
A red flag should immediately go up if someone tells you that there are no risks involved with any marketing project. Again, keep in mind that some elements on your online marketing might be performing at their maximum conversion rates. There is always a slight chance of lowering conversion rates, although it is a small risk with companies that know what they are doing. A recent client of ours came to us after a change in online marketing companies caused his lead rate to drop by 40%! Online marketing optimization will most likely require changes in site layout and copy, traffic direction and landing. There are times where such changes will affect results.
5. Do you follow a specific methodology to online marketing and conversion optimization?
If you are buying traffic, clicks or eyeballs conversion is the only thing that matters. Following any of the conversion optimization blogs should help you improve conversions. However, reaching double digits in conversion rates requires a unique and repeatable methodology. I have to add here that testing is not a methodology. It’s a component of a methodology, but cannot and should not constitute a whole methodology. Finally, the methodology should be easily adaptable to each specific project and dealership.
6. Do you work with any partners?
Online marketing work requires collaboration with design firms, SEO houses and other marketing companies. A good online marketing company will have some of these tasks in house. Some will work with partners to complete the work. Check their partners’ work and make sure that you are happy with it. Also ask what would happen if the partner defaults or does not deliver on time or within the acceptable standards of quality.
7. What are some of your failures?
If you work long enough in online marketing optimization, you will have few failures along the way. There are many reasons why a project could fail. An honest company will be open and transparent about the mistakes and lessons they have learned. A company that never had a single failure is too good to be true.
8. Do you work with my website company?
Your website is getting a significant amount of traffic, most of that traffic is looking for you dealership specifically so it is important that your online marketing company have creative ways to work with your website to increase conversion. Most website vendors in the automotive space have limits on the type of work that can be done on the site. It is almost impossible to find an online marketing company that works with all the different web companies in our industry, but the more experienced companies should have worked with some of the major website vendors out there. What’s more important than working with a particular website vendor is understanding what kind of limitations working with a templatized framework can bring.
9. What is expected from my personnel?
Having responsibilities well defined prior to the start of the engagement will make everyone’s life a lot easier. If the online marketing company is expecting you to complete any specific tasks, you need to have the time, money and resources ready to do so. Is your technical staff going to be required to complete any specific tasks? Should your internet group or management be prepared to participate in specific discussions? Answering these questions and preparing your team to support the online marketing company will impact the overall success of the engagement.
10. What conversion optimization platform do you use?
Always test, test, test! There is a variety of testing software available out there. Is the online marketing company going to use Google website optimizer or are they going to use proprietary tools set? Using Google website optimizer works in many of the cases but is difficult to implement takes longer to achieve results and you have no control over the testing process. Other company’s use 3rd party software that they have little control over the process and will be limited in their ability to optimize for the automotive industry and there are too many who use nothing at all and if they are just buying you some traffic that’s the company you need to run from.
11. What will I learn from you?
Are you expecting to learn anything from the online marketing company? Will they engage in knowledge transfer, or is the online marketing company solely focused on doing the work for you. There are times where clients hope to learn from online marketing companies while these companies are only focused and interested in keeping them as a paying client.
12. What kind of support will we receive?
Online marketing is never complete. It will not be sufficient for you to hire a company that will charge a monthly fee then no further interaction, or you have to continuously contact them. You need to find someone who will stand behind you and provide additional support if you need it and continuously bring new ideas and opportunities to your attention.
13. What is the cost?
Some sales people run away from answering this question. They want to tell you about all the benefits you will get and the value they can bring first. In all honesty, I am a fan of being up-front of what clients should expect to pay. In the end Online Marketing is just about the numbers if you're as good as you think you are then the price can be justified by the results.
14. Will you accept to be paid on achieved performance?
This might be the toughest question for an online marketing company to answer. Most online marketing companies are really consulting firms. Traditionally with any consulting practice, you pay for the time and effort spent by the company regardless to the results achieved. That is the reason, you -the client- need to make sure you are hiring the right company. However, there are few of us online marketing companies out there that operate on performance based models. These are the companies that are confident in their methodology and have a sustainable repeatable process and the companies you are most likely to have success with.
Okay, so I focused on online marketing companies in this post but the same questions would work for many of the online marketing disciplines.
Any other questions you recommend adding or removing from the list?