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10 Key Takeaways from the ‘Data Doesn’t Lie’ Panel Discussion (DSES 2017)


In October 2017 I had the honor of co-moderating a panel discussion at the DrivingSales Executive Summit. Together with fellow attribution front runner, Steve White, Founder & CEO of Clarivoy, and our dealer experts, Shaun Kniffin, Marketing & Technology Director of Germain Automotive Group and Ben Robertaccio, Marketing Director of the quickly-rising Morrie’s Automotive Group, we were fortunate to have a jam-packed room on the last day of the conference. I guess the panel title (or the speaker lineup) evoked some attention.

Following is a list I compiled of the top ten takeaways from the discussion, and at the end of the post is the original Facebook Live recording by DealerRefresh.


1. Sales Attribution vs. Traffic Attribution.
As an industry, we need to shift away from traffic attribution models and zero-in on sales attribution. Traffic attribution only gives you one slice of the pie. It looks at the traffic that comes to your website and builds marketing strategies based on that alone. Roughly 75% of people that buy cars from you visit your website – so what are you doing to account for the other 25%? Traffic attribution doesn’t tie a sale to that site traffic, where sales attribution directly ties a car sold to the path that led to the sale. Furthermore, we have to factor in the reality that 71% of online users remain anonymous.

2. Too Many KPIs to Track.
Shaun Kniffin shared the story of a recent initiative at his dealer group to define the most important KPIs that exist within all the profit centers of a dealership.

“Together we identified 127 KPIs as the key ones to follow. In digital marketing alone, we identified 27 critical KPIs. Our GMs all agree that between 4-16 of those 27 digital KPIs should be looked at on a daily basis.”

But how many of them actually do it? Dealers are reported to death. Dealers are inundated with data and it’s often impossible to know where to start without enlisting the right help.

3. In a Perfect World, EVERYONE’S Data Would Reside in the CRM.
Everyone’s data should reside in your CRM. If you know the behavioral traits specific to the customers in your CRM, your salespeople can simply look at their screen and immediately see every digital destination that customer has passed through. That’s what your salespeople need in order to have more meaningful, efficient conversations with their customers.

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Case Study: Tell Lost Sales to “Get Lost” with Traffic Conversion Analysis (TCA)
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4. Google Analytics is A Great Tool…IF It’s Set Up Correctly.
Google Analytics has the potential to be a phenomenal tool, but it can also be complicated, involved and difficult to derive any real actionable insights from. How many GMs go into their GA dashboard every day? Not many. So how can we expect our managers to actually obtain any real value or insights from of GA alone?

Ben Robertaccio advises dealers to have their key goals and conversions set up properly in order to measure what’s actually happening – and that includes SRPs, VDPs, leads, chats, calls, texts, map views, etc. The best reports out there take GA data and feed in multiple other data sources to deliver a clear path towards correcting the flaws in your business.

5. There Needs To Be a Consolidation of Analytics Tools in The Market Space.
Because of the intertype competition amongst tiers and players within the automotive vertical, we need to get to the point where dealers can know (or at least have a solid benchmark) of how many cars each vendor will help them sell per month.

Kniffin reminds us of the ugly truth that, “This industry has more snake oil than any other industry,” and he’s right! Additionally, there aren’t any real standards or benchmarks to let dealers know how they are doing at any given point because of the fact that every dealer and every market is so different. We need to push for more open data sharing, partnerships, and standardization amongst vendors and at all industry levels.

6. 3rd Party Listing Sites Like Cars.Com & Autotrader Are NOT Lead Generators.
Leads aren’t everything. Clarivoy Founder & CEO, Steve White says, “Don’t ignore the cumulative effect of the journey that took place to produce that lead.” People don’t just go to Cars.com and submit their information – it’s not that simple. Autotrader, Cars.com, CarGurus and all those sites are not lead sources. Their responsibility is to expose your inventory on a grand scale.

7. Using Last Click Attribution Is A Lot Like…
Steve White, made the analogy of comparing attribution to a hangover. “It’s a lot like blaming a hangover on that last beer you had. But in reality, it wasn’t just that last beer, it was the cumulative effect of the 10 other drinks you had before that. So that’s what you have to think about from an attribution perspective. There is a cumulative effect to all of your different marketing touchpoints.” Making really big decisions based on last click is just not the smart thing to do.

8. Dealers Suffer From A.D.D.
Which of course stands for, “Another Damn Dashboard.” Every vendor has their own dashboard. The last possible thing today’s dealers want is another report or system to log into. These dashboards have become nothing more than complex conundrums of numbers and statistics that lack meaning and more than anything, lack the ability to execute.

Kniffin says when it comes to their vendors, “I just want to know if you’re involved in the sale. I just want to know are you part of my math, are you part of my chemistry? Are you going to help me attribute more sales? As marketers all we want to know is how can we make these numbers better? How are you who manages my paid search going to make your numbers better and help us optimize our spend?”

9. Hold Your Vendors To A Higher Standard.
Robertaccio emphasizes, “We all need to hold our vendors and our partners to a higher standard to make sure they are feeding into our analytics appropriately and ensuring the data they provide us with is pure and valid. In a utopian world, all our vendors would work together openly and all agree on how to measure things.”

10. Don’t Rely On Your Customers (or Your CRM) to Help With Attribution.
If dealers were to ask their customers what their click path consisted of before coming in for a test drive, most people wouldn’t have a clue. The digital journey that takes place leading up to a sale is just that – it’s a journey. It’s something that happens organically, over time, across devices, both at home and on the go.

Kniffin adds, “Single source attribution in CRM – THAT’S frustrating! We’ve challenged every one of the CRM companies out there, and it’s a crowded space, but the truth is, single source attribution does not help us develop a strong marketing strategy, period. And how much of that is really subjective data?”

Robertaccio shares Kniffin’s frustration and follows it up with a good point, “Pretty regularly I don’t remember what I had for dinner the night before so how am I going to remember what traffic source influenced my purchase?”

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This is a slightly abridged version of the original article published on the AutoHook blog.