The Entire DIY Marketing Movement is Misguided
I was on a call with a vendor the other day as he pitched his product. He wanted my opinion on their offering, so I asked that he show me his company’s solution as if I were a dealer-prospect.
His pitch was compelling and his company has a good product; but I’m not going to identify the company here, as his sales pitch centered on pandering to dealers’ fears of third parties involved in their customer-acquisition strategies.
Basically, he was telling me (as the dealer-prospect) to stop wasting my marketing dollars with third parties and to start doing it all myself… albeit, do it all myself using his product.
Selling Against What Works
It’s been common among automotive marketing vendors for many years to anchor their solution’s worth as a replacement to some other spend at the dealership. Almost two decades ago, we saw it with the classified websites when they attacked newspaper, television and radio advertising (even as they spent their own marketing dollars in newspapers, television and radio).
We see it with the pay-per-click (PPC) companies as they question the classified websites’ worth (all while the classified websites are, in turn, targeting dealers’ PPC spending).
I’ve seen it with chat companies urging dealers to eliminate every lead-generating website add-on in favor of an all-in-one solution offered by the chat provider. Of course, in those cases, the chat provider never bothered to tell the dealer that these solutions can all coexist; and that by keeping all solutions in place, the dealer would generate an industry-best conversion rate.
The Populist Message
We know in politics that the populist message can often work to get a candidate elected. Today, many digital marketing vendors are chanting the industry’s populist message when presenting their solutions:
“Why are you paying third parties to compete with you? Why are you paying third parties to sell your own customers back to you? Why blah, blah, blah, when you can do it all yourself?”
They do this, of course, because it resonates with dealers.
Does it matter that it’s not true? Not to the third-party vendor selling against the evil third parties.
You Simply Can’t Do It All Yourself!
The biggest digital marketing budget bloat we see when dealers are trying to do it all themselves is their Search Engine Marketing (SEM) spend. The logic behind that move is basically “I’m better off driving in-market shoppers to my site than I am paying some third party to sell me my own customers.”
That’s correct… if it was true.
First, let’s be clear, SEM is not DIY. All SEM involves at least one third party (Google, for example); and nearly all SEM involves someone (another third party) between you and the first third party to manage this spend.
Second, and this is the sad fact I’ve discovered with nearly all my clients, most SEM shows no acceptable ROI. Of course, you wouldn’t know that because your SEM vendor likely gives you zero transparency into what they’re really doing with your money.
All Digital is Measurable
Even if some digital marketing dollars cannot be traced to the sale, the great news about this budget is that all digital can be boiled down to some meaningful (or, at least, semi-meaningful) metric. The trick is to focus more on the metrics that can correlate to an actual ROI (like boring leads and sales) and less on those often touted by your vendors (like impressions and click-through rates.)
This means that if you can be tactical with your third-party spending instead of falling for the fantasy that you can do it all yourself, you can have measurable success. For example, Cars.com might offer an acceptable ROI when you compare the packages, buy those that fit your strategies, measure and adjust.
Tactically Deploying Third Parties Is Just Smart Business
I was working with a Ford dealer recently who was holding their own with all but one model – the F150. Their PMA was just outside of a metropolitan area and they wanted to conquest F-150 buyers in the neighboring metro.
If they tried to “do it all themselves,” they’d likely waste thousands of dollars on high-funnel, research keywords where they would be competing with local dealers, their own Tier 2 agency and their OEM. To suggest they would enjoy an acceptable ROI from this is laughable.
Of course, they couldn’t buy leads from their OEM outside of their PMA.
However, tactically buying F-150 leads in neighboring PMAs from a reputable third-party lead provider like AutoWeb (formerly Autobytel) actually makes sense from an ROI perspective. Moreover, it’s a simple fact that if you want to conquest you must incorporate third parties.
But Aren’t They Also “Selling Me My Own Customers?”
Popular thought; fun to repeat; sometimes gets applause when spoken from the podium at an industry conference; though 100% false for third parties like AutoWeb.
AutoWeb, for example, credits dealers for any lead that’s already in the database. In other words, they’re not selling you your own customers – heck, they’re not even selling you your own prospects. Of course, that doesn’t stop the next digital solution to sell against them as they try to get you to buy their offering.
Okay, So What Should We Be Buying?
Just as I recommend to my paying clients, I suggest you buy everything you can that provides an acceptable ROI. Acceptable to you, by the way, might be different than what is acceptable to your neighboring dealer.
Additionally, you should be open to any new product or service that is month-to-month, with little to no setup fee, and with a return-on-investment that is relatively easy to measure.
Finally, when the next “latest and greatest” solution is presented to you and the vendor insists on bashing another provider, ask them to stick to explaining how their product is going to improve your bottom line instead of selling against what works.
Good selling (and buying)!