Before You Finalize Your 2019 Advertising Budget, Analyze Last Year’s Budget

By Brian Brown, COO, Dave Cantin Group

It’s the beginning of a New Year, which means a lot of things for your dealership, not least among them, a new advertising budget. In the days ahead, it’s a good idea to take the time and look back at your advertising expenses from last year. Try to get a general sense of what you spent your marketing dollars on. It’s an easy thing to lose sight of when you’re “in the trenches,” so to speak, so it’s worth it to step back and look at the view from 30,000 feet a few times each year.

What’s the Most Effective Way to Build a “Big Picture”?

There are a few ways to build an effective overall view of your advertising budget. It may depend on how you physically structure your budget in Excel or another spreadsheet program. But you should always include a summary sheet that breaks down your budget by category. It’s a good way to allow you or others to get a general idea at-a-glance about what you’ve spent and how you’ve spent it. Figure 1 is an example of what a yearly budget summary might look like.

Figure 1.

Web Management/SEO $44,681.00 5%
Search Engine Marketing
$156,100.00 18%
Social Media $15,775.00 2%
Custom Digital Campaigns $54,841.31 6%
Lead Providers/Third-Party Sites $189,496.77 22%
Direct Mail $198,094.92 23%
Print $5,000.00 1%
Service $30,526.41 4%
Merchandise/Signage $21,256.11 2%
Production/Infrastructure $13,670.07 2%
Sponsorship $32,445.05 4%
Outdoor $0.00 0%
Radio $32,722.35 4%
TV – Broadcast $0.00 0%
TV – Cable $56,228.55 7%


It’s easy to see that this store spent a total of $850,837.54 on advertising last year. It spent the bulk of its budget (63 percent) on direct mail campaigns, third-party lead sites and paid search engine marketing. It spent only about 11 percent on traditional media including radio and television (typically used for branding) and four percent on sponsorship (generally for branding and goodwill).

Did It Work?

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate how effective your advertising was last year. When looking at your store’s budget summary, evaluate what effect your efforts had on business for the year. Look at your paid search engine marketing budget ($156,100 in this example) and see how it relates to your overall web traffic. Was your traffic up or down this year? What about your pay-per-click traffic specifically?

Here’s where Google Analytics can come in very handy. This service, which is free, tracks and reports web site traffic, including who visited your web site and how they got there. It’s a good way to gain a holistic view of the effectiveness of all the digital marketing campaigns you are running to promote your store online.

Another way to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts is to examine your call-tracking software: make sure you know how to measure phone call conversions from your search, digital, and offline marketing channels. Finally, examine your CRM’s reporting functions to see how effective your store was at follow-ups with customers and prospects.

These are all ways to help you draw some conclusions that can help you identify trouble spots or not-so-great marketing campaigns last year, and help you make informed decisions in 2019!