Can This One Site Single-Handedly Justify Social Media Marketing?

Internet managers have it tough. When you work in such a new and constantly-evolving field, half of your job is spent justifying your job.


Dealers would rather see results, and results generally show up as numbers. Numbers can be measured, managed, tweaked, and obsessively tinkered with. And if you’ve ever spent an entire lunch hour shuffling around your fantasy football roster, you already know what I’m talking about. (Hint: If your lineup includes nothing but N.Y. Jets, the bank will waive the standard 48-hour hold period and allow you to instantly start cashing your victory cheques.)


Show a dealer how your Next Biggest Thing Ever affects the bottom line, and they don’t need much more convincing.


That’s where the URL-shortening service comes in. If you aren’t currently tracking the engagement with your posts, it’s time to sign up for a free account. offers a variety of services that will help the Internet manager streamline and track their social media engagement. But for this post, we’ll focus on the most important three.


1. URL Shortener: Rather than have a 3-line link clogging up your Facebook posts, or using all 140 characters of your Tweet on your link extension, you can shorten it with Do you like it when friends neurotically ramble on after telling a story? I didn’t think so. A shortened link is like a confident, punchy quote; it’s much more likely to attract clicks while providing you with more space to write a description.


For example, the URL for our last blog post in its unabridged format is:

Which can be shortened to:


2. URL Tracking: The tool’s bread and butter is its ability to track clicks on the link; you can see daily engagement, geographic area, and much more. If you’re sharing your content all at once on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and your personal modeling blog, when you look at your analytics reports, how are you going to know what traffic came from where? If you’re in a hurry and need to drop one or two sharing sites, which ones should they be? With, now you know. It will also give you a better idea of when users engage with your posts the most, giving you the chance to schedule your posts for the strategically optimal times. If nothing else, this gives you a bit more confidence behind your suggestions at the next marketing meeting.



3. URL Engagement: Now you may know which sites are giving your posts the most attention, but ever wonder who on Facebook or Twitter is engaging with and sharing your posts? That’s right, has you covered here, too. It provides you not only with the clicks to your shared link, but shows you anybody else who shared the link, as well. Now you can see which users are driving the most engagement to your content. If it turns out that there are a handful of people who are responsible for 90% of your social media shares, well now you know who to target and take more seriously. If all of your clicks come from your Internet manager’s mother, now you know that, too. allows for a fast and free approach to tracking social media campaigns. So when your General Manager asks for results, you’ll have one of those graphs with a steadily increasing trend line to queue up on the projector. Just make sure to include big dollar signs in the margins.

Dealership Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are a great way to reward customers for their continued support, learn more about their buying and shopping patterns, as well as create innovative marketing channels to drive even more business.  A quick look at some of the biggest loyalty programs out there today can quickly show you the power these programs have in retaining customers as well as driving new customers to adopt your product or service.  This works exceedingly well for transactional purchases, where buyers are constantly buying products that are somewhat necessary to their day to day.  Airmiles rewards for Gas purchases or groceries, or Aeroplan rewards at Rona or other locations, but what about Car Dealers?  On the surface, parts and service seems like a natural fit, but what about vehicle purchases, where the average customer is only buying a vehicle every 3-5 years on average?  How can you create a loyalty program that gives you the first crack at keeping them buying cars from you, as well as generating new customer business because of the value of that loyalty program?  Let me show you.

At Strathcom, we designed a loyalty program that is specific to Car Dealerships.  It is easy to manage, focuses on both the short and long term rewards for customers, and most importantly, helps dealers drive new business by leveraging their current customers and their social networks (Family, Friends, Co-Workers, and so on).

The loyalty card program we built is designed around rewarding customers who send you business.  Each customer is provided a unique “referral code” which is easily shared to friends via email, facebook, twitter and more.  Each time someone comes in and buys a car or truck with that code, the owner of the code (your current customer) is awarded a dollar amount on that card.  In addition, the person buying the vehicle is given a dollar amount off that car or truck purchase.  Everyone wins.

On top of the referral mechanism, there is a Service and Parts component.  The customers card number is stored in the DMS and points are automatically awarded every night to the customer at a rate you set.  By integrating this directly into the DMS, it removes most of the labor from the staff at the store, and ensures that points are awarded properly, every time.  The only time staff use the card management tool is to award referrals and to redeem dollars from a customers card.

To show you some statistics from a dealer group we have running the program:

Car Dealer Loyalty Program Stats

This screenshot is taken directly from their Loyalty Program Management Page (With permission).  As you can quickly see, with over 80,000 card holders and 3400 issued in the last 30 days alone the program is starting to get some serious user uptake.  In this case, the program has been running just about 2 years, and it now generates this dealer group OVER 13 vehicle sales EVERY DAY OF THE MONTH just from referrals.  Since January 1, it has added 2500 vehicle sales to the dealers totals.

This program at this group is not yet directly marketed, it is strictly through the Sales and F&I teams and then the customers excitement at earning alot of potential rewards.  Think of the possibilities at your dealership or dealer group?  Imagine the marketing opportunities in contacting every customer who has $100 on their card to sell them a $400 flush package?  The possibilities are literally endless.

I mentioned how excited some users get about people using their referral code?  This dealer group sees about 3 or 4 posts PER WEEK on the internet from card members asking (in some cases paying) other people to use their referral code:

Viral aspects of a Dealership Loyalty Program

If you want more information or would like to speak to someone directly about how a customized dealership loyalty program could help your store drive more sales today, please drop me a line directly ben(@) and I would be happy to help you starting selling more cars asap.



Customer Newsletters for Car Dealers

Ever wonder what kind of actionable data comes out of sending a newsletter to your database of car shoppers?  Lots.  If you apply the same logic that we have talked about with website analytics, you can learn a ton of valuable information about your customers and what is currently of interest, and create actionable contact lists directly from the data you collect.

Most good newsletter offerings allow you to tag the different links in your newsletters to analyze who is coming from your newsletter to your website (Better yet, tag the links with Google Analytics tags, more on this another time).  A good newsletter service should also allow you to track who opened the newsletter and clicked on what link.  This creates an instant list of customers who have shown interest in a certain product/service/feature that you highlighted in your newsletter.

So, you know exactly who clicked on exactly what in your newsletter.  What next?  Send them a very targeted newsletter specific to what they clicked on.  If they clicked on a service special, follow up with a service discount newsletter only to the people who clicked on it.  New model coming out, send them a deal/test drive offer, exclusive something or other, you get the idea.  Yes it is more work, but it is alot less than creating an ad for the paper, or planning a mailer campaign, and again, it is targeted, not Faith Based.  It is very similar to retargeting using Google.  (In Fact, if you really want to kill it, and Strathcom can gladly help you with this, you could put google retargeting audience codes on the landing pages from your newsletters so that not only do the customers get a specific second newsletter regarding what interests them, they get to see an ad for the same discount all over the internet…)

Its a cost effective way to learn alot about what interests your customers and a great way to drive targeted advertising to an already captive audience.

Google Retargeting for Car Dealers

We get alot of questions about Google retargeting and how our dealers can best leverage it.  This post is a quick primer on how Google Retargeting works, and how it can benefit your car dealership.

How Google Retargeting Works

Google retargeting uses a some custom code on your website to collect visitors in to audiences.  Audiences can be defined in almost any way you can setup your dealer website.  You could have the audience collection script only on New Vehicles if you wanted to retarget new buyers, or used vehicles, parts and services visitors, basically any area/page of your website can have it’s own audience collection.  You can even collect multiple audiences on the same site (Different audiences for New and for Used Cars).

These audiences are persistent, as it works by dropping a cookie on their computer, so Google can remember they belong to your selected audience.

After your audience size reaches a reasonable size, you develop display ads (Graphic ads or Flash ads) specific to the type of audience you collected.  If you setup retargeting to collect used car customers, then you want to show them used car ads.

Now that you have an audience and an ad, as your customer browses around the internet, anytime they are served a google display ad (These are everywhere on the internet, Kijiji, TSN, The Edmonton Sun, you name it, it is probably run by Google Display), they see the ad you created for that audience.

Google retargeting is really just persistent advertising for your customers who have been to your site.  You can control how long they see your ads, how often they see them, and the content of them.  It is a pretty powerful tool for direct advertising to customers who have shown an interest in your product.

Retargeting for Car Dealers

As I mentioned above, you can tailor make your audiences to your departments, which is fairly straightforward, but how can you really drive a customer back to your site to complete a conversion, or better yet, a sale?  A few ideas:

  • Model Specific Audience Collection.  This is alot more involved, but you could tag every <insert your dealer badge here> on your dealer site, new and used and retarget customers with a discount on your on make vehicles.
  • Body Type Specific Audience Collection.  Also fairly involved but extremely powerful.  If your market is bent towards a certain type of vehicle (Alberta = Trucks), you could tag all your New and Used Trucks and serve ads regarding the benefits of buying a new truck from your dealership.
  • Service Customers.  You could tag customers who Submit a service lead, and offer them upsell work between their conversion and their appointment.  Maybe with them having seen 25 flush ads after they already have an appointment, they will be more receptive to the Transmission flush you offer them when they come in.

The possibilites are endless, and like everything, a great retargeting strategy comes down to time, money, and effort.  Don’t get started with retargeting if you are not going to properly manage every part of your campaign or don’t have the resources to handle the different aspects of ad creation, audience collection, and so on.  You will literally be throwing money away.

Online Analytics for Car Dealers – Cost per Acquisition

Most car dealers now measure their marketing fairly well.  There are a ton of tools that make it easy, and most service providers have some kind of chart/graph/wizardry that purports to explain the Cost per Acquisition (CPA) of said service.  Having said that, I have seen some highly questionable measurements come out of this.  I have seen service providers in the online space measure a visit to the contact-us page of a website as an acquisition.  While this is quite likely going to lead to a lead or contact of some point, it is a bit loose in my opinion.  In my last post, I talked about Faith Based Marketing, which is essentially what calling a visit to the Contact-Us page is.

Measuring CPA for Car Dealers (in Canada)

Most of the dealers I talk to measure CPA in some way, shape, or form.  Some simply allocate a marketing budget based on the number of vehicles they expect to move in a given month.  With all the data that is easily available, and the ability to tag virtually every aspect of online traffic, there is no real good reason not to allocate your marketing dollars to the platforms that produce leads (and more importantly, sales).

Automotive marketing is a fairly complex animal.  Below is a list (by no means comprehensive) of the major portions of a dealer website in Canada today, and where the marketing falls into:

  • Your Dealership Website.  Your dealer site is your main online marketing tool.  It is where you drive everyone through your branding, SEO efforts, PPC, and so on.
  • Your Direct Online Marketing Campaigns.  Newsletters, E-Mail Specials, any digital communication direct to your existing or new client base.
  • Your Major Online Auto Portals.  Kijiji, Auto Trader,, CBB, and so forth.  These sites have a broad national reach.
  • Your Local Portals.  The Edmonton Journal Driving Section, Castanet, The Chronicle Herald.  Sites local to your shoppers.

Here is a simple table to get you started: (Click for full size)

I know how simple it seems, but I am willing to bet over 50% of car dealers are not doing this currently.  All this information is readily available with a little legwork (or say, a Premium Website Solution and a Google PPC Campaign) and some monthly updates to a simple spreadsheet.

This is also just the start.  From this, with a proper CRM (or a more serious excel doc and a lot of legwork), you can actually narrow each lead source down to revenue, gross,  and net.  How many marketing dollars could you save if you knew exactly what sources drove THE MOST PROFITABLE leads, not just the most leads.

And, for those who are wondering, this data is actually a scaled down percentage wise from actual car dealers.  What can you take away from that?  Invest in your website, start with PPC, and banners are really awesome for branding, but are only ok for leads (or maybe the dealers need better banners).  From a Syndication perspective, I would try and highlight my inventory on Kijiji (Maybe a new Kijiji Features Package?)

Faith Based Marketing – Why?

My favorite part of the automotive industry has to be marketing.  After spending 2 years running the marketing department for a large auto group, it still amazes me the amount of time and money spent on Faith Based Marketing activities.

What is Faith Based Marketing you say?  Generally, traditional media is what I consider faith based marketing.  Take a look at this chart:

In 2010, Online Advertising surpassed print advertising for the first time in history.  Print had a pretty good run.  340 years or so since the first newspaper ad ran.  Anwyays, back to my point.  Dealers spend alot of money in newspaper.  Even today, as print readership declines, here in Edmonton, if you open the Edmonton Sun, I would say fully 40% of THE ENTIRE PAPER is car dealer advertising.  It is insane.  The only real way to track print is to have trackable phone numbers (which are a must, not just in print), or specific website addresses to distinguish what print medium your customer came from (if you advertise in multiple papers).  So, 40% of 130 pages is roughly 52 pages of vehicle ads, all with the lowest price possible, amounting to $65,000 EVERY DAY spend on a shrinking set of people reading a newspaper.  And that is just Edmonton.  That is a ton of bottom line dollars going towards hoping that the phone rings.

Or, for other markets, maybe TV is your drug of choice.  The metric used to buy TV advertising is the BBM score.  A small handful of people have a box in their home that records what is being watched and by who (if they remember to punch it in).  Millions of dollars spent showing your Market Priced inventory, and all you get is a small measurement of these people with the boxes multiplied over the entire population.  Sounds like a fishy way to measure that kind of cash.

Take almost any form of auto dealer advertising and think about it in those terms.  Maybe the Giant Gorilla isn’t so bad 😉


There is one form of advertising, that you can measure almost 100% of every view, action, and conversion, even right through to sale.  Online Advertising!  With a well managed Pay Per Click or Display campaign you know exactly what buyers are looking for by analyzing their keywords, you know similar terms by looking at their matched queries (A Matched Query is when your Ad appears on a search term you haven’t explicitly defined), and you can track EVERY INTERACTION THEY HAVE WITH YOUR WEBSITE.  Every single one.  With a good adwords campaign, I can tell you:

  • What a Customer Searched For, and What Ad they clicked on.  I can also tell you what Ads they didn’t click on
  • What a Customer did when they got to my website, and more importantly, what they didn’t do
  • What a group of customers is interested in, allowing me to make inventory changes and website improvements

The real value for alot of the campaigns we build is not only in delivering clicks and customers (which is how most people manage PPC campaigns), but in finding out what is not working.  That is almost the most valuable take away from online advertising.  It tells me what Ads I don’t need to run again, what keywords aren’t driving value, and what parts of my website are customers not interested in.

Data Driven marketing is clearly here to stay, but does your dealership have a strategy to integrate it into your marketing habits?  $3,000 a month goes a long way online, but buys you a couple of full page ads in the paper.  Just some food for thought.

Dealer Website Traffic – Calculating Goal Values

A common question we get about dealer website performance is calculating a value for form leads on a dealer’s website.  Google Analytics has some great features built in to handle this for you.  Goal Values under the Conversions menu helps measure performance for a specific goal on the website, and in the case of every dealer we talk to, it always comes back to Leads.

Goal Values are a monetary measure of what a lead is worth to you.  You put in a value to define what each lead is worth based on the revenue (or gross) of the transaction associated with that goal.  In the case of Car Dealers, we usually base this off of the Front and Back gross of the vehicle sold from that lead on average.

Let’s say a GM Dealer in Saskatoon averages $1500 Front and $1500 Back on all his cars sold.  The Average Value of a goal is $3000.  You could use this number to say that every lead is worth $3000, but that would imply you close every lead from your website (and if you have a 100% closing rate online, I would love to chat with you).  Taking it one step further, if you know your closing ratio online, you divide that number into $3000.  So if you close 15% of your online leads (NADA industry average from 2010), your Goal Value would be $3000*.15, which equals $450.

Using $450 as a Goal Value for this dealership is a good benchmark to determine what leads from your website are worth to you in real dollars.  So every time a lead goes unanswered, you are throwing away $450.  Tell your sales team that and you will see an immediate increase in lead responses.

Thinking further along these lines, if you can increase your online closing rate from 15% to 25%, your goal value is that much higher ($3000*.25 = $750 per lead).

Our dealer Training program, TOAST, speaks to how you can increase your online closing ratio just by being dilligent in your online efforts.  Drop us a line to see how we can help you drive more sales.