Stories From the Field: Does Your Dealership Need A Marketing Director?

By Bruno Lucarelli

We all know that dealerships love to outsource.  In the days of newspaper domination, many dealerships relied on local agencies to act as de facto “in house” marketing directors, even though these agencies also represented much of their competition. It was a simpler time. There were only a few choices between print, radio and TV.

In the 2000s, digital media became more influential, and many dealers saw a chance to truly distinguish themselves from their competition. The newspaper stranglehold on their budgets was breaking, and there were chances to increase business, provided they spent their newfound funds smartly. The new millennium saw automotive retail awaken from a deep slumber of newspaper ads, radio spots, and TV ads. Other marketing channels became necessary.

From this chaos, the position of dealer marketing director was seen in a new, more important light.  This new, barely-understood position was frequently filled by a family member of an owner with no experience (would you make that relative your CFO?), demonstrating that dealer principals had no idea how critical this role would be.

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So what does a marketing director do at a dealership?  They ask tough questions and use available data to answer them, all to give the dealership valuable insight to move more inventory. Are the new or pre-owned inventory pages getting higher traffic? Are prospective shoppers using the credit application? This is not data a GM or dealership owner would think to look through, and it’s critical information about how shoppers purchase vehicles. 

The first order of business is to pool all customer data together. That includes email lists, service customer data, completed (and abandoned) website forms, and sold vehicle lists to determine what patterns exist.  Age, gender, geography and other key data points will paint the picture of the core client base and take the guesswork out of outreach and branding. This base will receive 60% of a dealership’s marketing time and resources.

It’s important to know what to look for in a marketing director, because a good one can be the difference between effective branding and wasted money. Understanding Google analytics and social media platforms is critical. They are useful tools for monthly analyses of all traffic and finding patterns of shopper behavior.  Especially useful is Google’s multi-channel funnel and conversion path information, which show how users navigate the dealership’s website. Valuable insights can be gleaned this way. For example, an important metric is homepage bounce rate. If it’s over 20%, that is a problem a marketing director can approach.   

Another valuable metric is the breakdown of paid versus organic web traffic. A high paid traffic percentage (over 30%) points to a problem with getting the word out about the website. It deserves more prominence in advertising, which a marketing director will handle accordingly.

What about driving new customers?  Unfortunately, this is where there’s no choice but to practice trial and error, but now with the insights the marketing director has gathered to tap into the core client base. A fresh, creative and informed marketing strategy is an invaluable tool.

Yes, a marketing director is crucial to the success of a dealership!  There are too many options out there for any GM to add this role to their list of daily tasks.  No GM can properly vet all the marketing opportunities in their area while also tracking success rates.  Millions of dollars are wasted monthly by local retail stores that don’t commit resources to ensure their marketing budget is implemented efficiently- don’t make your dealership one of them!