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So many times business owners focus on the conversion or lead factor of their analytics. While this provides some insight into how successful your marketing campaign in, there's one crucial piece that you should be looking at.

Watch this week's Think Tank Tuesday to figure out what you've been missing in your analytics.

We’d love to hear what you have to say. Comment below and follow us on Facebook.




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Setting up Google User Explorer

Google's User Explorer lets us identify individual users by client ID and isolate data.  That way, we can evaluate the user and identify the path that they're taking so we can better personalize the experience for them.

You can also create segments to narrow down users who performed a certain action or engaged with specific content.  From these discoveries, you can personalize your website based on relevance.

User Explorer allows you to get a 360 view of your current and perspective clients.

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I'm a big fan of putting the power of targeting in the hands of the dealer. We're not one of those who believe that we know best about our clients' market, demographics, and customers and we try to put our expertise in social and search to play with their understanding of the area and their business to guide us to success.

The improved sourcing, data collection, and extraction of information about the markets gives us and dealers the ability to dive much deeper than ever before into understanding where and how to market.

We know the tactics. You know your area. Now, let's allow the data to enter the mix and we should have a winning combination.

We're starting to get pretty enamored with companies like String Automotive. After sitting on a few customer calls during their market analysis meetings, we've learned so much about how to spend the money and where to focus it. It has opened my eyes to this "third wheel" in a way that I never imagined. Perhaps there is more to data than just what we know mixed with what our clients' know.

Keep in mind, we are not a reseller for String Automotive and I don't want this to turn into a love fest, but I do want to highlight the importance of going much further into the numbers than I've ever imagined. That's the beauty of analytics mixed with DMS data mixed with everything else at our disposal (Polk, Experian, DMV - the data sources go on and on).

Regardless of whether you use us, String, or any vendor out there, I strongly encourage you to start going further with the numbers. For example, by cross-referencing your advertising spend by zip code with your own buyer data and comparing that to DMV data, you can see where the opportunities lie. Let's say you sold 5 Altimas last month in a zip code. This might sound great for some dealers, but what if there were 13 total sold last month based upon DMV data and you're the closest dealership to the zip code. Wouldn't that be disappointing? Shouldn't you either adjust your marketing message, your advertising styles, or your budget to try to make up the difference and start dominating in that area?

The data is cleaner than it's ever been, but the methods of analyzing the data have remained stagnant. It's companies like String that have opened our eyes to the possibility that we can make smarter decisions by letting the numbers guide us.

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There was a promise silently made by social media a few years back. It was so prevalent at the 2009 round of conferences from NADA to Digital Dealer that many might have thought that social media would eventually encompass the entire internet marketing required by a dealership to be successful. The promise was this: “Everyone’s going to be on social media in the next couple of years and you’ll be able to reach them.”

The first part of the promise came true, perhaps even more so than most had anticipated. Everyone is on social media in one way or another. Even if they are not active, from a car buying perspective, it can be assumed that members of any family out there trying to buy a car today are touched in some way by social media. It could be as distant as some of the friends of the buyer or it could be as close as the spouse and children, but everyone in America is affected by social media whether they know it or not.

The second part of the promise hasn’t quite panned out for many. There are certainly many dealers who “get it” and are able to drive traffic, generate leads, and make sales as a direct result of their social media actions. Unfortunately, these cases are few and far between. In fact, I was recently approached by “gurus” to help them find examples of dealers who were showing these sorts of successes. Even they weren’t aware of many examples of the mythical “Facebook Sale”.

They exist. We’ve seen them. They’re not quite as few and far between as Bigfoot sightings, but they aren’t easy to find.

That’s not the point.

While many will talk about the “intrinsic value” of social media, one does not have to be a Bigfoot hunter to find tangible value. It lies in understanding the effects and realizing that just as television advertising is effective without being easy to track directly, so too does social media make it challenging to find the value. The key is to look at the results as a whole by doing two things: find the numbers that can be tied in by absence and to put real indicators into place to measure the ROI properly. I refuse to try to convince dealers that there’s a value without being able to demonstrate it and dealers should refuse to accept that there is a value without proof. Here’s how…


Tie in Numbers through Absence

A dealer once told me that the only way he was able to track the effectiveness of his television advertising was to turn them off. When sales dropped, he knew that the TV ads had been working. When he turned them back on, sales went back up again.

The same premise can be applied to social media, particularly if you’re investing enough time and/or money. The sad truth that few gurus will tell you about social media is that there’s a secret plateau. They won’t tell you this because they either don’t know about it or they know that it’s not beneficial to them. The plateau is the place between getting started with social media and hitting the tipping point. Unlike other forms of marketing, social media has a tendency to remain flat up until the point that you really start to hit it hard. The difference in results between a mediocre presence and a pretty good presence is almost unnoticeable. Those who have a pretty good presence aren’t seeing much more in the way of results than those who have one that’s a notch above poor. This is the plateau.

That’s the bad news, particularly since the vast majority of dealerships today fall in between being a notch above poor and pretty good. It’s also the good news. Those dealers who break through the realm of “pretty good” can see a sharp improvement very quickly once they get to good, great, fantastic, outstanding, and beyond. I’m using these esoteric terms because it would take multiple blog posts to try to define the difference between pretty good and outstanding. It’s not about numbers. It’s not even about engagement. It’s about results.

This is where the absence comes into play. If you have a doubt about the effectiveness of your social media, turn it off for a month. Tell your vendor to stop posting and promoting. Tell your internet manager to put up a status update on the various social media sites that you’re “taking a break from social media for the month as we work on putting together something great for all of our fans”. Then, do it. Get off of social media. Don’t post. Don’t reply. You’ll still want to monitor just in case, of course. If your social media is tied into a reputation management service, don’t stop that aspect.

Everything else, shut it down for a month. Look at the numbers. Do you see a dip in traffic, leads, and sales? Make sure to take other factors into account such as fluctuations in search marketing spend, offline advertising, etc. Take those into account and check your results. If your numbers move noticeably, you’re probably getting more benefit out of social than you knew about, so you’ll want to turn it back on. If you don’t see much of a difference, it may be time to explore other options.


Put Real Indicators Into Place

For fixed ops, this is easy. All you have to do is run events on Facebook while posting “social media only” specials simultaneously on the other social networks. If you create an event on Facebook for “$14.99 Social Media Oil Change Special” and then post it on your other networks, you’ll be able to see whether you’re reaching people with the message or not. You can create a coupon on your website that is not in navigation if you want, or simply tell them to mention that they liked your store on Facebook when they’re getting their oil changed. Make sure the service department is extremely well-aware that this test is important. You don’t want them telling their “buddy” customers about it while they’re at the store.

With sales, it’s a little harder but there’s a key performance indicator that can help you make a determination about the success of your social media effort. If you go strong on social media, advertising on Facebook and doing all of the things that we ask dealers to do, you will see one number rise on your analytics – searches for your dealership by name. Getting people to click off of Facebook to go check out your inventory is ineffective. Getting the branding out there, being at the top of mind, and making sure that when people in your area are in the market to buy a car that they’re checking you out on search and on your website – that’s a true test of your social media effectiveness. Not surprisingly, the same can be done for television and radio advertising as well.

Of course, there are more tangible ways to detect it, namely traffic to the dealership itself. This is an area that I can’t talk about quite yet because we’re still testing, but the results so far have been nothing short of fabulous.

* * *

Social media doesn’t have to be a mystery. It either works at your dealership right now or it doesn’t. It’s important to do the things necessary to check the effectiveness an understand whether or not you’re truly reaching your audience. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you can dramatically improve it by making the right changes.

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Focus on Total Conversions, Not Conversion Rate

There's a big, fat lie in the automotive industry that has been circulating for years. The idea that many hold onto is that conversion rate is the most important number when trying to determine the quality of a website. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Here's a fact - the worse your search marketing is, both for SEO and PPC, the higher your conversion rate is going to be. This cannot be disputed. If buyers are only able to find your dealership on search if they're typing in your name, that means that the only people visiting your website are already inclined to consider doing business with you. Searches for you by name will always yield the highest conversion rates from the visitors.

As your search marketing expands and you start bringing in people from a more diverse range of searches, the traffic goes up, the total number of leads go up, but the conversion rate drops. Total number of leads, however, go up. It's very simple once you understand the dynamic.

Let's say you're currently getting the majority of your search traffic from a variation of your name. Look at your analytics to see if this is the case. With the majority of your traffic coming from searches for your name, the math may look like this:

  • Traffic from Search: 5,000
  • Conversion Rate: 10%
  • Total Leads: 500

Now, as you improve your search marketing and expand your reach, your traffic can go up. Let's say you improve your SEO and start ranking in not just your city and for you name, but in other cities as well. Let's say you're outside of a metro area and through proper search marketing you're able to reach into this market and expose your inventory to a wider range of buyers. Your traffic will go up, but because these visitors didn't find you by name and since they're probably further away from your dealership, the rate for these visitors drops in half. You may get 1000 extra visitors at a 5% conversion rate, yielding 50 more leads. You haven't hurt your ranking for searches of your name, so the original 5,000 visitors are still intact. Now, the numbers look like this:
  • Traffic from Search: 6,000
  • Conversion Rate: 9.2%
  • Total Leads: 550

Many would have you believe that the drop from 10% conversion rate to 9.2% conversion rate is a bad thing, but the important number to note is that the total number of leads went up as a result.

Your goal as a dealer is to sell more cars. It's mathematically inefficient to extend your search reach and as a result your conversion rate goes down. However, the number to focus upon for your website is total conversions. How many leads are you getting? How many sales are you generating from these leads? This is the bottom line that truly affects the success of your website and your business.

Conversion rate is a great indicator that can help you make tweaks and adjustments to your current site, but look at your traffic trends when considering conversion rate fluctuations. Improved conversion rate can be good, but if it's associated with a drop in traffic, you should look at your search rankings and the keywords driving traffic to determine if there's an underlying negative that's making the numbers look good. Conversely, if your rate goes down, see if there's a correlating increase in traffic.

Get more leads that convert to more sales. That's the end goal. Don't get lost in the numbers that some are throwing out at you.

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Sean V. Bradley is Training a HIGH LEVEL Automotive Internet Sales / BDC Director on "How to Identify LOST Opportunities" and how to EVOLVE her Employees

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