Best Practices

The Best Leads Your Store Will Get Tomorrow

Damn you 2008!

Real change is happening out there. It’s subtle and it’s taking years to play out so it’s hard to see, but it’s very real and it all traces back to 2008. Let’s go for a walk, turn over some stones and let’s find some ROI out here!

The financial crisis of 2008 caused a once in a generation event that’s now called “The Great Recession”. It impacted every country, every business and everyone on the planet (except for Jerry Thibeau & Brian Pasch ;-).  The Go-go years are gone, we’re in a “new normal”, business is good…but different.  Your instincts tell you your customers are still feeling the effects. Has our customer changed?

What’s going on out there?

Google Trends

We all know damn near everything begins with Google, so let’s ask Google. It just so happens that Google has a free research tool that lets us look at what shoppers are doing, it’s called Google Trends.

Google collects billions of searches, categorizes them and puts them in buckets for us to look at. Take note! Google Trends is proven to be an accurate* tool that people are making money from, so let’s get to digging!

To give you a snapshot of how Google Trends works, here are Google searches for “Kentucky Derby” for the last 10 years.

kentucky derby

Once a year, every year the Kentucky Derby runs and there it is.

Ok, What about Us?

Google Trends has a special bucket just for our industry, it’s called “vehicle shopping”. Here’s what automobile shoppers have been doing in Google over the last decade.

Google Trends Sales Queries (1)


Clearly a downtrend that breaks in 2008 and now vehicle shopping is in this sideways, not growing, business pattern. WTF is going on with vehicle shoppers? Business has rebounded, something has happened, where are they going?

They’re getting their car fixed!

Let’s look at Google Trends search Volume for phrases related to Vehicle Maintenance, from 2004 to date:

Google Trends Service Queries

Clearly an epic shift in automobile owner behavior is going on under our feet. The 08-09 financial crisis looks to be the catalyst.  From this, we could conclude that folks are shoveling cash into their existing cars and stalling off the purchase of a new ride.  Let’s look around for validation!

A little bit of research validates this theory:

Schaumburg, Ill., June 27, 2012 — Experian Automotive today announced that there were 17.3 million more light-duty vehicles seven years and older on the road in the United States than there were three years ago.…e-than-17.aspx

A bit more validation:

Publically traded Auto Parts stores and Auto Service centers are all very busy. Stock prices for these companies reflect this theme, Since 2008:

AAP: Advanced Auto Parts, +150%

GPC: Genuine Auto Parts +75%

AZO: AutoZone +225%

ORLY: O’rilley +300%

MNRO: Monro Muffler +260%

So…before 2008, folks would trade-in a car rather than buy new tires. Post 2008, our customers are far more financially conservative.

The Best Leads Your Store Will Get Tomorrow Are Free

  • Your Service Drive has never been more important for lead gen than RIGHT NOW.
  • Consider campaigning to past svc customers, your ROs are the best business intelligence data you’ll ever see!!

Rev up your service lanes:


  • Cars are getting older and older and…
  • Your Service business has rarely seen had this much demand
  • Service Promotion has never been easier because EVERYONE uses their mobile phone to look for service
  • Service requests by smartphone is +74% in one year Cool [Link] to Google Auto Service infographic
  • Get your digital mobile attack plan in HIGH GEAR
    • Service shoppers are all about a “loss leader”, speed and convince.
    • They want a coupon and a promise to make this as fast and easy as possible.
      • Get creative with your service “Call To Actions” every where on the ‘net (coupons, 24 hour discounts to those that fill out a form)
      • Get your service PPC dialed in and juiced!
      • Get your twitter scanner working over-time [Link]<–call out to Ryan & Eric 😉
      • Get your road signage humming about service specials (consider hiring some spinning sign guys).

Google trends is showing us that Fixed Ops is where the growth is and you can go to the bank with this one. This “strong service” pattern sets up for as far as the eye can see. We’ll see a hiccup in this pattern somewhere about 2020 when the supply of used cars will shrink from the 2008 financial crash.

*There is growing evidence that the data from Google trends is real and very actionable. I am seeing studies where google trends data is being successfully used to anticipate shifting trends and people are profiting from Google Trends in stock markets.

P.S. For the record, you heard it here first in 2010

P.S.S. If you’re an AutoTrader/ hater, come back next week, I’ve got news for you and it’ll be gut check time.


--Self Employed for decades. Co-Founder 3 successful start-ups. Professional Stock Trader. Marketing Dir. at Dealerships in NY for a decade, Recently ...
Eye opening information Joe.  Passing this along.
  • M
    Mike Robbins
  • May 10, 2013
Lots of meat in this article. Thanks Joe!
  • D
  • May 12, 2013
Joe, would you be interested in discussing an Internet automotive startup off-line?  Please contact me at [email protected]  I am journalist covering the auto industry from business perspective.
  • J
  • May 12, 2013
Nice article Joe!
  • R
    Robert VanWie
  • May 12, 2013
Thats hot
  • N
    Nathan Powers
  • May 12, 2013
Robert, you stole my line loo
  • N
    Nathan Powers
  • May 12, 2013
Robert, you stole my line loo
  • N
    Nathan Powers
  • May 12, 2013
  • A
  • May 13, 2013
Your admonition to focus on service campaigns is perfect timing because now that Facebook has mapped their user base with vehicle ownership data (thanks to Polk), we can now created super targeted ad campaigns based on vehicle type, make, and age.  For example, you can create ads to target truck owners with cars 2-3 years old for specific truck services.  Nice!
Joe it is surprising how many dealers forget what "blue sky" really means in day to day marketing. This is gold
  • C
  • May 21, 2013
This article rocks
  • T
  • May 22, 2013
Joe,  I am an AutoTrader hater.
A week since this article :-P