I'm starting my third decade in the automotive industry. There are two reasons that I believe right now is the best time to be in the car business. The first reason is the massive amounts of data at our disposal.
The majority of the guesswork that once went into guiding a dealership's advertising strategy has been potentially eliminated. We can know exactly where people are buying cars. We can know exactly which cars they're buying. We can look at a state, county, city, or even a zip code and determine which vehicles were hot last month and which ones will likely be hot this month or next month.
So much data is currently being accumulated about car shoppers that we can get a view at any level - from 30,000 feet all the way down to the individual buyer - of what they like, what advertising venues influence them the most, which messages resonate, and which types of vehicles we should be marketing to them.
The predictive algorithms are becoming extremely accurate to the point that deviations from the expected results are few and far between when viewed through the right lens. We don't just know what and when they're going to buy. We can predict whether or not we need to advertise in a particular zip code or not based upon likelihoods of sale. This is potentially extremely useful to dealers who are spending a good chunk of their money going after customers who would very likely buy from them anyway if they didn't advertise to them.
We can even potentially track sales all the way back to non-leads. As crazy as it sounds, the technology is available today to determine what drives customers to your showroom even if they didn't fill out a lead form or call the dealership before coming in. No, it's not about relying on the up-log. The data can tell us what drove customers in who never made contact with the dealership.
The Second Reason
As I mentioned before, there are two reasons that I believe right now is the best time to be in the car business. An astute reader will have noticed that I emphasized the word "potentially" multiple times in this article. The reason is simple: the vast majority of dealers are not taking advantage of these incredible business intelligence tools.
Owning your market isn't necessarily about spending more money than the competition. Today, it's about spending your money with actionable data guiding your decisions. Today, we have a plethora of dashboards and reports coming from multiple vendors telling us that they're doing a great job and that everyone else is terrible. It has gotten to the point that many dealers I talk to tell me that they don't trust any reports at all.
There are two companies that are on my radar today to be able to deliver the goods when it comes to proper business intelligence that gives dealers actionable data. I'll only discuss one here today because the other has me on a journalistic embargo, but the other one that we love is String Automotive. They have taken the data-and-dashboard concept and spun it on its head to give their clients an incredible view of what it takes to manage their advertising. If I ran a dealership today, I would rather have a $20,000 per month advertising budget with String guiding it than a $30,000 per month budget without them. What they've done in recent months with dealership intelligence is absolutely incredible.
Composites and the Internet Sales 20 Group
We attend a ton of conferences every year and they each have value, but one of the things I love the most about the Internet Sales 20 Group is that they take the concept of dealership composites to a level I that is imperative to success.
Attendees of the IS20G get a comprehensive analysis of their current digital marketing presence from website to SEO, social media to video presence. It's a refreshing departure from the generic data given to dealers at most conferences. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the IS20G steps it up to provide dealers with specific recommendations about their dealership rather than simple best practices that are somehow supposed to be universal in an industry that is anything but generic.
I have attended them all.
Understanding the unique data that drives your dealership's sales is the key to making exceptional decisions about the direction of your marketing.