The Anatomy of an Effective Marketing Budget

Nov. 15, 2018
When setting up a marketing budget, it’s important to set aside funds for testing evolving forms of digital advertising. Here's what one expert says dealerships should be devoting their marketing budgets toward in 2018.

In Meredith Oliver’s eyes, it’s time for auto dealers to quit sitting in idle with regard to marketing their fixed operations.

Instead, it’s time to shift into high gear, increasing digital advertising efforts.  

“Dealerships figured out early on that the Internet sales advisor responding to inquiries coming in through the website was an efficient way to generate sales,” notes Oliver, the president and creative director for Meredith Communications. Now “it’s like we need one of those on the marketing side—an Internet marketing advisor.”

Oliver’s knack for thinking outside the box has made her a sought-after speaker for events like the NADA Show. And, when she speaks to dealership leaders, one thing the expert stresses is devoting roughly two-thirds of a marketing budget to digital advertising. After all, Oliver is well aware of the power of the Internet, social media, and targeted email campaigns, and how they can draw customers to showrooms, service departments, and parts counters.

And she feels dealers often make the mistake of heaping all marketing duties onto one employee’s shoulders. Solid dealership marketing, she says, requires a group effort.

“You have to have a marketing culture at your dealership,” Oliver says, “where the whole team’s working together to create this content that’s been given to the marketing coordinator to push out.”

Oliver, who leads a digital marketing agency that specializes in elements like search engine optimization, explains what areas dealerships should devote their marketing budget toward in 2018.

Leveraging Digital Advertising.

While Oliver remains a believer in TV and radio advertising, she feels it’s tough to beat modern digital marketing in terms of cost effectiveness.  

 “What’s brilliant and beautiful about digital marketing is it can be so targeted and refined,” she explains. “Regardless of target audience, the two traffic juggernauts that have the most to offer you are Google and Facebook. … When times are tight, digital is a perfect fit.”

Oliver suggests using evolving smartphone technology to produce and post video content; she says a quality, attention-grabbing video can be created and posted to social media for little more than $100 nowadays.

“Video of cars, video of employees—not only pre-recorded but livestreaming on Facebook,” she suggests. “The No. 1 type of content that’s consumed right now, and that people engage with, is video content.”

Staffing Appropriately.

With auto sales sluggish throughout much of the industry these days, dealership leaders are often hesitant to invest in marketing staff. They shouldn’t be, in Oliver’s opinion. While she understands that a marketing department is “a cost center,” she also knows it can generate significant revenue.

That’s why she suggests creating an atmosphere in which all employees prioritize building a dealership’s brand.

“A lot of this can be done in-house,” Oliver notes, “if you have one or two employees that are feeding content to organize it, brand it, and then push it out there.”

Treating Sales, Service, and Parts Equally.

Not only does Oliver encourage dealerships to use a diversified approach to marketing—using elements like mail, email, and social media to spread the word of their business—she also stresses the importance of mentioning all elements of fixed operations in marketing. She says most dealerships focus all of their digital marketing spend on sales, overlooking elements like service, parts, or collision repair.

“That’s really where the multi-channel approach needs to be applied,” she says. “On the sales side, they’re generally pretty good about marketing; they do digital aggressively. But on the service end, [by sending] postcards for an oil change we’re missing the whole millennial generation with that approach.

“On parts, service, and collision repair, it really needs to be marketed as aggressively, and with similar tactics, as on the sales side.”  

A Hyperlocal Focus.

Oliver has become an advocate of hyperlocal ad targeting, also known as geofencing. An example of this can be seen when a consumer drives by a pharmacy and immediately receives a notification on his or her mobile device of the business’ ongoing sale on beauty products (assuming that consumer has location services enabled on their smartphone).

“It’s basically pushing out notifications to people in your area that fit certain demographic and income types of parameters,” Oliver explains of geofencing. “When it’s done responsibly, and correctly, it’s a great way to let people in proximity to you know what you have going on.

“I mean, telling people that you have a special on a maintenance package when they’re in the area? Think of the people you might pick up.”

Spending on Testing.

It’s important that dealerships set aside at least a portion of their marketing budget for testing new methods. For example, Oliver notes, a facility with a relatively young customer base might find it valuable to try using new social media platforms like Snapchat.

She feels there’s merit in testing, “whether it’s a new channel, or a new design of an email, or a new email list. You’re constantly testing, reviewing the analytics, and then tweaking.

“If a new channel comes along like Snapchat, if you can match it up to your target audience … then invest accordingly.”

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