Industry Events

REVEAL THE POWER of 1st Party Leads – Webinar

Myself and Alex (along with Jennifer Suzuki and David Kain) will be part of the 1st Party Leads webinar hosted by

Be sure to check back here for the full recording and posting of the webinar.

Until then, be sure to check out the ALL NEW DealerRefresh Dealer Technology Forum for best practices with dealer technology.

DealerRefresh has been around for almost 5 YEARS and there is a ton of information on here. Choose a category on the left or use the search feature in the top right to find HUNDREDS of articles about Internet Marketing and Best Practices.

**Below are transcripts from the from Jeff and Alexs’ presentations**

Jeff Kershner – The Changing Digital Landscape… As you know, progressive dealerships are spending more money on digital media.  Judging from your experience, how can they best be distributing those ad dollars?

So.. if a dealer is going to spend more money with online marketing, where do I think they should spend it?

That’s a big question and the answer could range from spending money on websites that convert better to classifieds sites, like and But since this session is about 1st Party Leads I’ll stick to the core subject and talk about 7 areas of online marketing that have HAD and STILL HAVE a direct impact on your dealers 1st Party Leads.

Many of these areas are the same ones we’ve been talking about for years, BUT I still see dealers making the same mistakes or still opting out of transitioning their budget into these powerful areas of online marketing.

ALRIGHT..I have a ton of information here so I’ll get started and hope I don’t get cut off.

1. SEO/Search Engine Optimization

Dealers continue to really miss the mark with SEO. And I’m not talking about a simple change of your meta tags and stuffing your homepage with keywords, I’m talking about having a true strategy around Natural Search, one that yields excellent residual results.

If you don’t already have an SEO strategy, GET ONE!!
If you already have an SEO sure to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Are you adding content to your dealer website or blog – frequently?
  2. Do you have a strategy for link building
  3. Are you tracking keyword effectiveness?

The ISSUE with natural search with dealers; IS what I like to call the “Shiny Rock Syndrome“.
Can I see it?
Is it shiny?
AND will it sell me more cars this month?

SEO needs to be nurtured, it’s not always immediate but once you get it dialed WILL bring you great residual results which will no doubt equate into increased 1st party leads.

2. SEM/Paid Search

I would eventually say most of the dealers on this call are CURRENTLY or have PLAYED on the Paid Search field. Unfortunately, I would venture to say most are failing or have failed and not even known it. Maybe you’ve brought it in house or have outsourced it to a company that takes a “one size fits all” approach.

I believe Paid Search has a lot of opportunity when done RIGHT and should be apart of your dealers online marketing mix. If you’re doing paid search whether in-house or outsourced..take a moment and revisit your paid search campaign TODAY!

6 common mistakes dealers make with paid search…

  1. Bidding on your own dealers name – be careful with this as it can be a quick waste of your budget (if you are going to do this..there are a few best practices)
  2. Bidding on the competition – from my experiences this is usually a waste of money as well and can offer an irrelevant experience for the customer
  3. Top Spot is not always NUMBER 1 – depending on the keywords phrase, being in the 3-4th position can actually yield better results.
  4. Don’t ignore the Longtail – general keywords can have you blowing though your budget fast but dialing in on longtail specific keyword phrases can no doubt produce more 1st party leads.
  5. Don’t ignore your analytics – the numbers never lie. Just because the reports are showing you a high CTR, doesn’t mean these are converting keywords.
  6. Local vs National Campaigns (ONE of the MOST IMPORTANT) –PLEASE DOUBLE CHECK THIS and do it today because I see this happening all the time. Be sure your running a geo-targeted/local paid search campaign and NOT a national campaign. I just logged into my Gmail account this morning and again took notice to a paid search ad for a BMW dealer in CA, I’m in Maryland. That’s a WASTE!!

Find a company that’s very transparent with their reporting and are willing to build a relationship with you while helping you optimize your paid search efforts.


It amazes me that many dealers still do not have email marketing dialed in. Email is a strong marketing tool for 1st party leads but it goes a lot deeper then just hitting the send button.

If you’re building email templates in your CRM tool, batching customers together and BLASTING out emails..your doing ALL WRONG!!

What are your your customers doing after they open your email?
Are they even getting your emails?
Are your emails permission based – opted in/opted out?
What do your emails look like on mobile devices?
Are your email campaigns timely and relevant to that customer?

Targeted and Segmented email campaigns can be a huge WIN for your dealer! Take some of your budget and get your email marketing dialed in and you’ll start seeing results!


Americans watched a record 14.3 billion videos online during the month December of 2008. eMarketer estimates that spending on online video advertising will grow to $4.6 billion in 2013

There are SO MANY avenues for video and figuring out where it belongs in your dealers online marketing landscape can be a challenge. Either Way, you need to figure it out. Video can be engaging, great for banding, increases time on your dealer website while increasing your chances of conversion – more 1st Party Leads.

Of course video can also be used across other video distribution channels like YouTube, MetaCafe, Truveo, Vimeo, just to name a few. It’s an effective avenue to not only drive traffic to your dealer website but also helping to brand your dealership while having a positive impact on your paid and natural search efforts as well.


Display advertising is something dealers are going to start hearing more about. Many of the larger players in this medium (like the manufactures) are cutting back on their advertising budgets, in return loosening up the availability of inventory within the ad networks. This is allowing dealers the opportunity to play in this field.

There can be a win here for dealers BUT before jumping into display advertising, be sure to educate yourself so you have an understanding what you’re getting into.

Know the lingo and the different ways of purchasing ad display:

CPM – Cost per thousand impressions
CPC – Cost Per Click
CPA – Cost per Action

You will also want to understand BT – Behavioral Targeting and Site Retargeting.


According to a recent Yahoo/Cobalt study 21% of car shoppers changed their dealership selection based on an dealer review.

Dealers, WE need to be aware of these new waive of websites that allow consumers to rate and comment on their experience they had at your dealership. Not only do you need to be aware of these sites but it’s also a great avenue to produce MORE 1st Party Leads.

Remember that “evidence manual” with customer testimonial letters you were supposed to have at your desk for your customers to read? The problem with that was…only the customers that ever read it were the lucky ones you go back to your desk!

Why NOT take your evidence manual online for EVERYONE to read??

Leverage and be proactive with the consumer rating sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local, DealerRater, end even Edmunds is now allowing consumers to “rate” their experience.

Word of mouth has been one of the strongest forms of advertising since the beginning of time. Get your customers to share their experiences they’ve had at your dealership (don’t be afraid of a bad review).
Many of these sites ranks very well in the Search Engines have can drive traffic to your dealer website.

The great part; doing this takes little to NONE of your online marketing budget. It’s just a just a matter changing your philosophy, be willing to become more transparent and adding to your follow-up process.
Not only is this a great source for 1st Party SALES LEADS but also a great way to increase 1st party SERVICE LEADS!


You spend thousands and thousands a month in getting customers into our virtual showroom but once they convert and allow you the opportunity to earn their business..

  • Are you following up in time?
  • Are your sales people trained on how to answer the customer with the right relevant message?
  • Are your sales people trained on how to transition the customer to the phone quickly?
  • And once they have them on the phone, are they trained on how to handle the objections and ask for the appointment?

Don’t make the transition from your dealer website to the showroom a huge Meatball Sundae. We have 2 of TOP consultant/trainers on the phone here today, and I’m sure they would attest that there is NO excuse for not allocating some of your budget to training

In closing…

7 areas of your dealers online marketing mix to generate more 1st Party Leads

Alex Snyder – Traffic is Important, but so is Conversion
…Your website at continues to be a force in your market. You see huge traffic, but what have you done with your website to maximize conversion and what additions have you made that you feel has made it so effective?

Slide 1

And for my first attempt at butt kissing, I have to acknowledge simply being on a website. goes out of their way to mesh the fancy stuff we car dealers want to see on our websites with great optimization and simple conversion points. Outside of just having a website, and various home-grown efforts, we have made Checkered the place where customers find all specials from Checkered Flag through traditional media. We don’t do price-an-item ads on television, we barely advertise in the newspaper, and we occasionally do some special events on the radio – but – everything is designed to push a customer back to Checkered Our owners and executive management would not feel comfortable spending the traditional media money in this way if they weren’t convinced we couldn’t convert customers on the website.

Slide 2

The first thing we try to do is make information accurate.  We slip in this area from time to time.  We just switched inventory aggregators from HomeNet to iMagicLab and had quite a few “irritations” online; which is natural for this kind of change.  For example:  we had Toyota Camry’s showing manual transmissions instead of automatics and during that period our email leads dropped, but our phone calls and instant chats spiked because customers wanted to know if the information on our site was right.  However, the phone calls and instant chat increases didn’t make up for the loss of email leads, so accurate information is key.

Another thing you’ll notice on the current version of Checkered is content that is worded for a search engine and quite meaningless to a consumer.  I’ve done my best to bury this stuff in places people don’t look, but use our example as a way to not do it in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, having that content there is good stuff, but you have to play a fine balancing act between what is SEO content and what is for a consumer. Finding that middle ground is tough, but crucial.

In today’s marketing, you have to earn a consumer’s trust – just being somewhere isn’t good enough anymore, and accurate information helps them to save time and helps earn that trust.

Slide 3

The second thing we do is show that we are transparent – we try to show our personality and character online.  We accomplish this through the blog and videos. We have a host for our online videos named Christine who is also in our television ads.  And she also writes the blog articles with me. She’s a real person who really works for the dealership, and has a personality customers like.
We also have her on our after-hours voicemail and we have customers leaving voicemails saying – is this the Christine I saw on TV? But the key is that she actually works in the dealership and bumps into customers all the time, so it is all a true story!  If you know Seth Godin, you know he’d be so proud! …and if you’re wondering who Christine is, you’ll just have to visit our website.

Slide 4

Another thing we try to deliver on is giving a consumer options to get where they want to be quickly. There are some navigation routes on our site that are a little difficult for the first time visitor, but by watching the reports in the back-end I can tell the customers are getting where they want to go and coming back for additional visits – they’re much more comfortable on the second and third visit.  I also interview customers who used our website to see what they liked and didn’t like. We will be doing some new things with the navigation on the next version of Checkered and I’m hoping we are heading in the right direction…we are definitely taking a departure from the usual dealership website.

When it comes to flow and working around a site, we try to put logical buttons in certain places. So if a consumer is looking at a page designed around a video called “What happens in the finance office” we have buttons on that page for getting approved now or to watch a video about leasing vs. buying or another one explaining the processing fee.

By the way, for my second shameless suck up, I need to thank Dean Evans for some of these video ideas – this is how you get a cool website from by the way.  Well….that and a big check!

On our About Us page we have a button linking them to an employment application.  Little things like that help someone move deeper into the site and also increases their time on the site. And we all know the longer someone spends on a site the more trust they have, and the more trust they have the more likely they are to submit an email lead, pick up the phone, or drive right into the dealership.

By the way, a good indicator of whether a page is effective or not is through the bounce rate – which you should have in any analytics report. If the bounce rate is high, then the page isn’t engaging enough.  Ask your site host what a good rate is and how they measure it – everyone seems to measure this differently.

Slide 5

All of these elements are the forerunners for the conversion. A conversion being a phone call, form submission (aka an email lead), live chat, or in terms – everyone skips the call or lead and just goes straight to the dealership.  Obvious things we do are the instant chat, dressing up the finance application, and putting our phone numbers right in your face…..but not in a screaming fashion.  At the end of the day a conversion only happens if you’ve earned the trust!

Slide 6

The not so obvious, is offering people special perks for using our online service scheduling. The idea behind this is to get people accustomed to coming back to our website after they purchased a vehicle, and it helps keep the load off our service BDC so we don’t have to staff it with a million people.  If they’re coming back to the site, we can do a much better job of consistently delivering an ad message over relying on service writers to do it when the car is leaving.  This way our service writers can concentrate on upselling RO’s and we get to serve an ad message to a customer when they’re more apt to receive it – which is before they drop the car off. Anytime I can get the technology to do it instead of the people, I’m all over the technology!

By helping the service department we are able to keep the same customers coming back to Checkered over and over again…thus increasing our 1st Party leads even more.

Slide 7

Look at this slide. It says you have to work hard and, you do!  Nothing is easy or everyone would do it.  There is no such thing as a Silver Bullet, and if you signed up for this webinar thinking that was what you were going to get, I’m truly sorry…but I’d be happy to sell you a mirror because you’re going to need it to see where it all starts.

And as an even bigger downer, I have to tell you that everything I’ve said here is nothing new. You already knew it all!

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Great stuff you guys, thanks for sharing it!
Thanks so much for participating guys! We've gotten amazing feedback from both of your segments! - Mike D.
Good usable information. Thx guys!