The short answer is — Because you want to be in business tomorrow and the next day.
To make that happen in this economy you absolutely need to get the maximum from every marketing dollar you spend – and the only way to do that is to measure and improve your results relentlessly.
The long answer is a bit more complicated.
If your business to be more successful, your marketing investments have to generate customers at a profitable rate. You have to be smarter than ever about spending your marketing dollars and the only way to do that is by constantly measuring and comparing results. Do that and you will quickly discover that nothing comes close to the Internet for creating measurable returns.
In my opinion, your marketing budget should start with the Internet and include other media only when you have maximized the returns there. TV, radio, newspapers, and everything else should follow your Internet marketing efforts because the Internet is where you get the greatest measurable bang for your marketing buck.
So Far, So Good
If you’re like most automotive retailers, you’ve already made an investment in online marketing and seen the results at work. You’ve probably explored the world of search engines, keywords, online digital advertising, and all the rest. You may even be using competitive keywords to siphon off some of your competitor’s prospects.
In short, you’ve picked the low-hanging fruit of ultra-high converting traffic and been happy with the impact on your bottom line.
If you’re just a bit more aggressive than average, you may have thrown your net wider using specific model searches, and keywords associated with competitive brands and models. You also are likely to have moved beyond simple core search tactics to the use of “Long Tail” search phrases with four or five keywords to reach very specific groups of prospects.
That universe is smaller, but the conversion rates are still very rewarding.
In normal times you might be tempted to sit back and rest on your laurels. But these are not normal times, not by a long shot. And, online marketing success is a moving target. Yesterday’s web strategies aren’t going to work in tomorrow’s web environment. Yet another reason to revisit your efforts frequently
The Next Big Thing
The next big thing in online marketing is going to be the linkage of behavioral analysis with both traditional keyword-based search technologies, and a new breed of targeted digital display advertising. Here’s an example of how this rapidly emerging combination of technologies works.
Assume an online shopper enters the search term “new car lease” in Google and does not receive any satisfactory results. The shopper then enters “new car lease special” as a second search term. At this point, Google understands from the cumulative behaviors that the shopper is interested in automobiles and leasing.
If the shopper then enters a different search, say “new BMW San Diego”, Google’s behavioral analysis can add non-BMW-specific items to the search result. Those items might well include information on “leasing” and “specials” for the brand(s) your dealership(s) offers in the San Diego market area.
The technology can also be used to present digital display advertising that is targeted both geographically and behaviorally. So the shopper may not only find your information in the Google results, but also see a digital display ad covering your lease specials in the San Diego market – even if you’re not a BMW dealer.
It doesn’t make much sense for a local dealer to buy a Yahoo banner ad that anyone in the world can see. But, it makes a lot of sense to run a targeted digital ad at prospects who have identified themselves both geographically and behaviorally as part of your local market.
Behavior-based technologies get even more interesting when they are linked with emerging search and display networks like Yahoo Ad Ready. It won’t be long until you are able to choose both a geographic area and behaviorally-targeted digital display ads across multiple platforms on the Internet. Google certainly isn’t the only game in town anymore.
The good news in this emerging technology is that your online marketing results are likely to improve in the future because your marketing message will be more precisely targeted to what individual online shoppers are looking for. Bear in mind, however, that this is very sophisticated stuff from both a technology and a marketing point of view.
Bottom line, you probably can’t do it yourself anymore. You will almost certainly need experienced professional help to manage a behaviorally-based online marketing program.
You’ve Already Done the Easy Part
If you’re like most automotive retailers, you’ve probably depended on your IT specialist to manage your online marketing efforts. That has made sense until now because most of what’s been done has focused primarily on the technology part of the equation – web programming, database management, search engine optimization (SEO), etc.
That isn’t going to go away, but it’s going to be a lot less important than clear, effective communication in the future. Online success has become more complicated than opening a Google account and bidding on a few keywords. The ability to behaviorally identify what an online shopper is really looking for changes the focus of online marketing from the technology to the message.
Would you ask your IT specialist to create your print and broadcast advertising?
I didn’t think so.
Your TV, radio, and print advertising are all done by professionals. Why should your online marketing efforts be any different?
At the end of the day, it’s all advertising, the technology just helps you make better decisions about where and how to invest your money. If the Internet is the place you get the most for your marketing dollars, isn’t it the place where you should be using your best marketing talent?
Sorry, but you’ve already done the easy part. When you’re picking the low-hanging fruit of ultra-high converting traffic you can probably get by letting a technically competent person manage your online marketing. Those days are just about over.
How to Win the New Game
What you need now is not a technician who also does marketing; you need a marketing professional who understands technology. And because the marketing opportunities are changing so quickly in response to the technology, you need someone who is paying full-time attention to both.
You also need to revisit your online efforts to focus them on generating the most productive possible outcomes – telephone calls from motivated buyers. Emails are from shoppers, usually price shoppers. Phone calls are from buyers, and your sales people already know how to convert them into sales.
To survive in this market, you must relentlessly maximize the return on every dollar you invest in your business. Yesterday, that meant focusing your online efforts on technology, today it means re-focusing them on marketing.
What will it mean tomorrow?
Call me in six months and we’ll talk about the next big thing. Yes, online marketing is changing that fast, and you must revisit your efforts again and again and again.
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