Month: May 2018

When it comes to marketing, make sure you're partnering with best.

BY CEO & Founder Steve White May 31

For decades, advertising enjoyed a fairly predictable business. Print, radio, and TV coalesced into a three-pronged approach that was mastered after decades of relative stability. Simply put, if a vendor demonstrated expertise, then clients willingly trusted them, generation after generation. Then the Internet happened.


The ones and zeros that began streaming through our phone lines created a reverberating disruption to media that is still being felt wirelessly today. From video pre-roll to dynamic targeting, to machine-readable content, advertising has been dealt an onslaught of changes. While some merged, and others went out of business, some have faced the tide, developed new capabilities and are standing tall against the emerging, digitally native competition. Or, so they’d have you think.


While there are some very talented agencies out there, the sad truth is that many advertising mediums talk the talk but do little to walk the walk. Understanding today's advertising strategies takes lots of thought and research. Nobody denies that it is complicated. Advertising vendors know that. Sure, they can speak the industry jargon, but when it comes time to spending the money and executing, the stakes are high, and it is truly a digital game of craps, some just using junior talent and white-labeled tools.  Some will win, some will lose, and some of them just sing the blues.


Unfortunately, some advertising vendors can’t attract the talent to properly shift into an omni-channel media strategy. Omni-channel media is a term used to describe all forms of consumed media, from billboards to computer monitors. Outside of the mega-budget ad campaigns, the newer, digital-first strategies can nimbly navigate the ever-changing digital landscape, while simultaneously reverse-engineering traditional media deployments. Hypertargeting granular demographic and psychographic segments is a way of life. Traditional media companies are sometimes too mired in the way things were to strategically implement new media campaigns. Instead, it’s merely treated like a tactic to convert consumers to traditional marketing channels.


What clients are faced with is a watered-down version of a digitally naive strategy. Instead of developing services in-house, key pieces are outsourced. New technologies are offered, but frequently gutted of the novelty so that it can be offered to a broader client base. It often looks cookie cutter because it is. Often, the outsourced components are marked up dramatically in the process, driving up the costs for hollowed services. When it comes to offering support, some traditional vendors can do little in the way of help, other than offering to “check on it.” Nobody wins in this situation.


There are some incredibly talented agencies for you to work with. If your advertising partner starts or continues, to offer new digital services, please do your research. Discuss what metrics they track and how they obtain the data. It’s not hard for an advertiser to take a report, throw its name on it, or white-label an existing tool while charging a premium in the process. As with any vendor, find out who some of the other clients (similar to the size and composition of your dealership) are, to get a better indication of performance for yourself. It’s not that your existing vendor can’t do these things. It's a matter of them offering these services overnight.


While the stability of traditional advertising channels has created a foundation for lasting partnerships, today’s technology requires vendors to get smarter and faster. While it’s easy for a vendor to say they offer enhanced product offerings, it’s much harder to actually make these offerings successful. Make sure your vendor is adding the talent, training, tools, resources and technology to demonstrate that they are fully committed to a digital strategy.


What’s more important: maintaining your vendor relationship or reaching new and existing customers as their media consumption changes?  READ MORE »

Facebook introduced Facebook Journeys, a new enhancement to their Analytics, which will reportedly give businesses an omni-channel view of the customer journey from introduction to purchase… but does it?

May 21

At the recent 2018 F8 Developers Conference, Facebook introduced Facebook Journeys, a new enhancement to their Analytics, which will reportedly give businesses an omni-channel view of the customer journey from introduction to purchase… but does it?

In their session, Facebook gave an example of a consumer (one of the speakers) who shared her journey towards buying a pair of boots. She explained how she jumped around before finally making that purchase decision. She began by explaining how she was a fan of a retail store and that, at some point, liked their Facebook page. She was served up an ad for boots that attracted her and went to their website (on her mobile device) to read reviews. While viewing the website on her smartphone she was prompted to install their app (which she did) and then proceeded to browse their site via the app. After some debate she finally decided to buy the boots, but the mobile site didn’t support mobile payments and she didn’t want to input her credit card information at that moment. So, she made a mental note to purchase them later. After a few days, she went to their website via her desktop computer and purchased the boots.

The message Facebook was attempting to convey with this story is that most analytics focus solely on desktop interactions and the corresponding conversion, ignoring all previous interactions. While this is true, it’s not really the omni-channel marketing they claim. Why? Because true omni-channel marketing attribution would extend far beyond the sources that Facebook Journeys tracks. Facebook Journeys only includes website visitors (if a business has the Facebook pixel installed properly), app installs, Facebook post, ad engagement and subsequent conversions. Here’s what report looks like:

Facebook claims that, with this data, a business can “connect the dots” between the first session and all subsequent sessions leading to the purchase, thus eliminating the “last-click” attribution most businesses (and analytics tools) use.

But how valuable is this information?

As illustrated on an individual level it might be relevant in some ways… but not in many; here’s why.

Facebook Journeys is limited to interactions that happen on your website and app along with Facebook activity. The consumer may have visited 12 other retailer websites selling the same boots before returning to the initial retailer… but you wouldn’t know that. And that type of activity is practically a given when it comes to automotive shoppers.

In addition, Facebook will not show you the customer journey on an individual basis, but only in an anonymized and – most importantly – aggregated form. So, while you could get an overall idea of a SET of customers over a given time, you can’t pinpoint an individual customer’s journey.  This only allows you to identify and adjust marketing strategies based on friction points between devices… which leads me to the most important flaw in this report:

Facebook Journeys does not show you an omni-channel journey, but rather a cross-device attribution journey.

True marketing decisions should be made on a more individual level as each consumer is different – especially car shoppers. Most retailers (such as the boot retailer) have just a couple of variables: can the target demographic afford it? And, what payment methods should be provided for the customer?

When it comes to car dealers, however, there are many other variables which influence shoppers, including, but not limited to, new or used (doubt the boot retailer is selling used boots), mileage, financing, negotiation, and more. Facebook Journeys can only show friction points within a transactional journey, not the entirety of that journey. And that’s important.

The one quote from the F8 session which I find most impactful and relevant is as follows:

“…smart, informed decision-making is what makes great product marketing. You really want to be able to see the whole customer experience and understand how customers are actually making their way through all of your experiences.”

Sadly, you can’t do that with Facebook Journeys.  READ MORE »

Dealers need standards to resolve the mysteries of marketing.

BY CEO & Founder Steve White May 11

Are you ever frustrated by the inaccurate sourcing of sales? I’m sure that most of you do everything in your power to track (as accurately as possible) the customer car buying journey from the beginning to the actual sale.

However, there are so many variables along the way that dealers often either get confused or simply give up and assign credit to the “auto mall” or “big giant gorilla,” (sarcasm intended). The sad fact is that, for the most part, the only way most dealers can measure what marketing sources are working, and which aren’t, is through the myriad of sometimes biased or incomplete reports provided by their vendors, which they must wade through; or the (incomplete) data contained within their CRM.

Well, help is on the horizon, as technology companies know about this pain point and have developed solutions that give marketers greater and more accurate insight into which marketing sources influence their consumers – and which do not.

Progressive dealers jumped on these solutions, along with the largest media company in the world – Google – who created a solution for dealers and other businesses. However, there is a BIG problem which is summed up in the phrase, “The largest media company in the world.” Do you really want the largest media company in the world telling you what is influencing your sales – can you be sure this data isn’t skewed in their favor? I bet you can’t guess who the main sales influencer will always be… GOOGLE!

Just as many dealers are cynical about the real results and credit each vendor and marketing source claims in their reports, they should also be cynical about Google. Why? Because Google takes more of your money than most other marketing solutions – whether that’s directly or indirectly through a marketing partner.

I find dealers who try solutions to help clarify what is and is not working in their marketing realm – and who pay attention and act on that data -- no more guessing, more knowing -- realize they can extend that same marketing budget and, with the right data, achieve even greater results – without spending a penny more!

But, and here’s the danger; when the magic wears off and that comfort-zone of “I FINALLY know now” slips in, sometimes marketers decide that, while the data was great, and accurate, because they have taken the necessary steps to optimize their marketing, they no longer need the solution providing the visibility/knowledge.

Wait -- That makes no sense.

That’s like deciding to stop measuring a salesperson’s performance, or the dealership’s sales numbers, or service department’s RO revenue, or upsells, or even the BDC’s appointment to show ratio; simply because you did it for a few months, it improved and then you decided you no longer need to measure it. Makes no sense, right?

The effectiveness of various marketing activities changes on a monthly, sometimes even weekly or daily basis. Something that’s performing this month may take a nosedive in days, weeks or a couple of months. Sitting on your laurels simply because you measured, analyzed and acted on data for a few months isn’t going to keep you going forward. In fact, it could easily start moving you in reverse.

Monitoring activity relative to marketing and sales is something that every business needs to do, including your dealership.

With margin compression in mind, failing to understand that measurement, analyzing data and taking action based on data insights are an ongoing, never-ending necessity can easily take a dealership back to the beginning. Resolving marketing mysteries requires a new standard. Your business performance depends on it.  READ MORE »