Best PracticesDealership Marketing

5 Ways to Improve Dealer Digital Marketing

There’s an old Chinese proverb that reads “Give a man a fish and you feed him a for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is true of dealers who are looking to dominate their primary market area, however – I’ll reword it slightly…

Do the marketing for a dealership and they’ll sell cars for a day; Teach a dealership how to market and they’ll sell cars forever. I firmly believe this to be the honest truth.

Dealers who largely outsource their marketing whether it be traditional, digital, or a combination of both will forever be at the performance mercy of the agency. There isn’t a single agency or vendor out there that can be 100% effective 100% of the time. There are too many staff, technology AND time limitations.

How can a dealership become proficient when they outsource all of their marketing? What incentive does an agency or vendor have to perform the best possible job, performed at the most efficient level?

Your hired agency or vendor doesn’t feel the excitement of a barn burner month nor the disappointment of a failed month. That’s a feeling shared only by you and your peers at the dealership. And maybe that is a good thing – at least I think it is.

The purpose of this blog is not to shit on vendors and agencies. No. Instead it is to preach the tried and true benefits of what is possible when a dealership decides to get off the bench and into the game.

This is a call to arms for all of you dealers out there who are not taking an active role in the success of your dealership. Dealers – [Tweet “we need to stop looking to outsource our marketing and begin devising long term strategies to successfully in-source it”]. Let me describe what I believe will be a familiar scenario (especially, for you Nissan folk out there).

It’s the 15th day of the month.
Sales have been slow, but steady.
Your Nissan rep sends you an early morning email which you read right after the sales meeting concludes.
The subject line is as follows: Just Announced! $500 dollar last week of the month only rebates on New 15′ Altima and Sentra models.
What is your next move?

If you’re like some, you start calling your marketing people to let them know that they need edit or build a new Adwords campaign, update the website banners that compliment the need to send email campaign. For most dealers – I doubt this is one call. Very few agencies offer a 360 degree approach to digital marketing. If they do, it’s not likely they are strong across all channels.  And if you’re on the other side of the fence, you most likely call your BDC manager and ask him or her to update the home page slideshow.

Neither of these approaches are going to get the urgent results you are seeking. This is why education NOW is mission critical to your dealerships’ future success.

Here are 5 ways to get proficient at dealer digital marketing on the cheap and quick:

Find Partners

1. Find Partners, Not Solutions or Providers

You need to work with agencies and vendors that educate you, not just give you fish. You need to learn to fish for yourself. They should be working with you – not for you. You need to understand what they are doing. Why they are doing it. And, most importantly what is it doing for you.

Find an Expert to Become an Expert

2. Find a Mentor(s)!

I can not preach enough the benefits of knowing and befriending a subject matter authority in progressing your understanding and eventual expertise in regards to digital marketing. In fact I am going to use this opportunity to thank a few of the many great resources that have helped me on my career/ professional journey.

Thank you Justin Brun, Brian Pasch, Glenn Pasch, Renee Stuart and, of course, Jeff Kershner… I guess he’s ok too…

Get Educated

3. Get Edu-MUH-Cated

There are many great non-automotive specific online resources out there. Like:,, and even reddit can supply a wealth of great info about HTML, CSS, JS, and even Adwords. Or you could use the already great resource you’re using, like right here – DEALERREFRESH.

A lot of great take aways can be found in the leagues of content produced by subject matter experts. Brian Pasch’s company PCG offers online training for dealers on topics and technologies in high demand.

Build a Team, Literally

4. Build an Internal Team

There is so much good that can come from building and managing a team of professional marketers. For one, you can open up the eyes of a recent college grad or even high school intern to the very misunderstood, lucrative, and fun business of car dealerships. But this doesn’t mean you should simply put up help wanted posters on school bulletin board. Take them time to interview, screen, hire, and most importantly train and mentor anyone you intend to rely on for your digital or even traditional marketing efforts of the future.


5. Test and Scrutinize Everything

Dealers need to be taught to QA (quality assure) everything they do. Whether it’s an Adwords ad, email campaign, even website graphics. Just because “it’s done, doesn’t mean it’s done right”!

Have a second set of eyes look over everything – you could even post an email campaign idea on the dealerrefresh forum – this is a great way to improve your efforts and learn from the trials of other dealers around the country. Use tools like Adword’s Ad preview and diagnosis to see how your SEM ads look in context with other dealers’ ads and to confirm you show for the terms you’re most focused on.

However you start, and those five items were listed in no real order, get in gear. You need to come off of the bench and get into the game. Stop being reliant and become resourceful. Start in-sourcing. Ask questions. And, always QA.

Dan Mondello is a true “Car Guy” – his first word (as a baby) was “Vehicle” and while in college Dan worked part time as a Corvette Restorat...