Not Thinking with Google is Illogical

We now have some industry “experts” saying not only are digital agencies unethical and cheating their clients…but that you shouldn’t even listen to Google because they are out to get you too. I read an article where somebody actually compared Google to Marlboro. Yes, a company that produces products that kill people, ruins lives and lied about it is being compared to Google. Really?

Let me give dealers some sound advice. Don’t listen to this garbage. First, of course Google wants advertisers to spend more on their platform. What company doesn’t? Do you think the writer and promoters of this negative narrative don’t want the same thing for their own services?

If you ever worked at a car dealership, you know Google is delivering a serious amount of quality traffic. There isn’t an inbound call source that comes anywhere close to them. Dealers aren’t stupid. They have great intuition and instincts about what works and what doesn’t and Google is a major part of most dealerships strategy…because it delivers an ROI. Nothing comes close to Google for delivering transactions. I am not talking about digital traffic, conversions, VDP views, etc.… I am talking about delivering actual paying customers who buy or service with the dealer. That’s how dealerships make money. But most of these digital experts have never worked at a dealership, so maybe they don’t get it. Please, keep providing us your invaluable advice on how to do something you have never done.

Let me give dealerships some facts and sound advice from someone who has been in their shoes.

Google has recently assembled a world class team that serves the automotive industry. Judge them for yourselves. They are free to use and OEM’s would be wise to include them in their process for selecting approved digital agencies. Google performs business reviews and provides best practices to the companies that deliver 2/3 of all digital revenue in the automotive vertical. They conduct these reviews quarterly. I have been through dozens of them and 90% of them are focused on delivering the dealers a better ROI on their platform. In Google’s mind, the rest takes care of itself and they relentlessly push this message. They are maniacal about delivering consumers who use their platform to a great, fast, mobile friendly experience. Ideally, a “click to call” for consumers to directly engage with employees at the dealership. Google has free tools that 99% of dealers don’t know about. Just search “test my ads with Google” or “test my site with Google”. These tools are FREE from Google to the dealership, including Google AdWords, which Google mandates their certified partners provide access to the dealership. Many agencies, not all, make granting that access an act of congress, just to give dealers free data they should review from their own AdWords account. Ask yourself, why?

The same article that compared Google to the Marlboro Man goes on to make more perplexing statements including “Google, like Philip Morris, has enjoyed a decade long increase in revenue.” That just means consumers enjoy their product, it doesn’t mean people are going to get Cancer from using Google. They also said that “Google generates over 90% of its revenue from advertising- mainly Paid” which is like saying that “Phillip Morris generates over 90% of its revenue from tobacco, mainly paid.” Of course they did, that is their product.

What’s next? Comparing Facebook to a weapons dealer? Google didn’t turn itself into the largest media company in the world, consumers did.

The experts telling you not to “Think With Google”, don’t listen to Google’s team, don’t use their free tools, and … want to sell you something. FREE doesn’t work for them. They want to audit you, scare you, and then advise you to shift your digital budget to somebody who pays them re-seller fees. Dealers are not stupid, most get it, but I am getting tired of reading this scare tactic nonsense with no counter opinion. My point is…before you start listening to people who are going to advise you on how to get a great return on your growing investment in Google, you might want to also listen to Google’s free advice. It’s their bat, their ball, their glove and their scoring system. You better learn to play with them, not in spite of them. The one thing Google can’t tell you is how many consumers actually purchased or serviced a vehicle. But, plenty of great digital agencies can because they actually care about helping their clients. I get that I am old school, but not so naive to not learn how to play their game. AND WIN.

I like FREE, it gives dealerships more money for marketing.

Dealers and Vendors Don’t Speak the Same Language…

Dealerships make money when a consumer purchases a car or services their vehicle. Why don’t digital agencies measure ROI using actual transactions? If you owned a dealership, wouldn’t you ask a simple question, “How much money did I receive in return for the money I spent in digital advertising?”. Online consumers who take action (like calling) and end up transacting with the dealership is what’s most important. Today’s technology allows us to better identify “online” shoppers. Plus, any vendor can download transactional data (or find someone who can) to store a dealerships sales and service transactions. Just cross-reference the shoppers with the buyers, it’s a simple concept.

Digital vendors and experts create their own conversion metrics to rate what they define as engaged traffic. It confuses most dealerships because what counts as conversions and engagements are purely a matter of their opinions and they vary greatly. It’s hard to argue that Google and Bing don’t already have most of the key metrics that matter to advertisers and it’s free.

My point is why not rely on the metrics that dealership executives understand and care most about…. which is selling and servicing more cars. That’s the primary reason they advertise in the first place. Most dealers simply want proof on which strategies, digital or otherwise, are genuinely driving their sales and service transactions.

Here are 5 easy and affordable steps that every vendor can do to provide their clients an undeniable return on their digital advertising investment. Below is a simple guide on how to do this.

5 easy steps to establish a return on your investment in digital advertising.

  1. Download all the dealerships sales and service transactions and store those into a secure database and update daily.
  2. When a consumer calls, texts or submits a form from a digital ad, save their information to your database. More shoppers will call from their mobile device before they visit and transact with a dealership. Especially new customers.
  3. Cross-reference the dealerships transactions with identified online shoppers.
  4. Place the cross-referenced transactions, including the actual gross profits from their sales and repair orders on a simple dashboard. This allows the dealership to easily verify the digital transactions and determine an ROI.
  5. Differentiate previous customers versus new customers. That’s a major benefit of downloading transactional data. It’s important the dealership understand how much incremental revenue from new customers was generated from their digital advertising investment.

With today’s technology, these 5 simple steps are easy and costs very little. This method would be so welcomed. Sure, there are a few holes that readers, myself, and the so called “experts” can poke at this. The main one is you won’t “catch” everybody. I say, so what. The ones you can match are undeniable and a leading indicator of what’s working and what isn’t. Most importantly, this attribution method is 100% based on ringing the cash register. While some buyers will be undetectable, this 5-step method will catch the majority of online shoppers and the ROI will be crystal clear.

In 2017, dealerships will require more straight-forward metrics they can digest based on their revenue model. Most importantly, it holds vendors accountable to the standard of attributing a dealerships digital marketing investment against their sales and service transactions. Really, what else matters?

Online Actions + Transactions = Real ROI.

Before lunch, any OEM could find out which digital agencies really deliver. Just pick up the phone.

Good dealers continue to ask “How does my OEM select digital vendors who I am forced to use in exchange for COOP funds?” I love how great dealers think. If this were a real discussion, here is how the conversation would likely go. Imagine if dealers could be involved in the decisions that have such a big impact on their business…like selecting the best digital agencies to help them sell and service more cars.

Dealer: Am I speaking with the person who runs your automotive channel?

Google: Yes, how can we help you?

Dealer: I serve on our OEM Dealer Council and we are trying to select the best automotive digital agencies in the US. Do you keep track of any data that could help us?

Google: Yes, approximately 2/3 of all automotive digital revenue runs through 15 digital agencies. We call them Premier Auto Channel Sales Partners. We review them quarterly, review our best practices, train them on-site and share their key metrics (against their peer set) to steadily improve their performance.

Dealer: Great, how much money does our collective group of dealers spend with you?

Google: A GAZILLION dollars.

Dealer: OK, please send us over your top performers.

Google: Sure, what key metrics are you evaluating?

Dealer: Only the metrics you think will deliver our dealerships the best ROI…with you.

Google: Sounds incredibly logical.

Dealer: Also, we are about to hire a company that is also supposed to provide us with a selection of the leading vendors, best practices, and benchmark our key metrics to make sure we get the best return on our GAZILLION dollars.

Google: Really? We do that for free.

Dealer: I figured. Thank you and goodbye.

Dealer explains to the room: We just selected the top agencies based on their actual performance with Google. These companies can deliver our dealerships with the highest ROI and have a proven track record of doing so over a large portfolio, with Google. Also, I saved us a whole bunch of money that the “middle man” was going to get from us and the best digital agencies. We can now place those millions into digital media instead. Google has considerable automotive resources and already does the things this other “middle man” was going to charge for. Plus, Google has way more data and they play no favorites.

Also, please let the selected agencies know we have the right to exclude them from the OEM Mother-lode Program if they fail to continue to be a top performing company. That will insure they keep working hard for us, after they have been selected.

Dealer: Now, who’s buying lunch?