Welcome to the Age of Dealer Control

Welcome to the Age of Dealer Control

The days of third-party leads and Google are over. Dealerships around the country have poured their advertising budgets into these abysses for too long. For the first 90 years of the car business, things pretty much stayed the same. All you had to do was put up a big sign and place ads in the newspaper and customers showed up, ready to buy cars.

The days of third-party leads and Google are over. Dealerships around the country have poured their advertising budgets into these abysses for too long. For the first 90 years of the car business, things pretty much stayed the same. All you had to do was put up a big sign and place ads in the newspaper and customers showed up, ready to buy cars. A few new options arose through the years. Radio, television and direct mail came around and spread the same type of messaging in new ways. Then came the paradigm-changing all-mighty Internet.

Some dealers were early adopters while others dragged their feet. Dealers were buying and building Websites that had one major thing in common: None were customer friendly or easy to use. This left the door wide open for third-party lead providers to produce better shopping sites and drive the traffic through themselves rather than direct to dealers. Customers who used to drive a couple miles to the dealership to look at vehicles were now shopping on third-party lead provider sites and submitting their inquiries there.

This shift produced incredible profits for the lead providers at the expense of the dealers. Dealers found themselves buying back their own customers from companies on the coasts that had no relationship with these people. What choice did dealers have? Either pay the ransom to keep their customers or watch another dealer win the opportunity to serve them. With astronomical profits, these lead providers began consolidating and creating a stranglehold on dealers with both leads and software.

Search engines such as Google began to become more impactful than traditional advertising for Websites. Budgets moved from promoting a URL to promoting paid search. With this, an opportunity presented itself for dealers to take back their customer bases. Unfortunately, the third-party lead providers proved to be much more adept at search and strengthened their already tight grip on dealers. Again, dealers were held hostage and forced to overpay for leads rather than risk customer defection. This remained the status quo for years.

Then came social media.

Social media was touted as the second coming of marketing for dealers. Many new and novel ideas promised to revolutionize dealership marketing and lower the cost of customer acquisition. Sadly, this was not the case and dealers wasted tons of money on “feel-good” social media, attempting to get “likes” and more followers; too bad likes can’t pay the bills. Many dealers got a bad taste in their mouth for social and many are still tasting it today. The saying, “once bitten, twice shy” applies to many things and is often advice you should follow. It could not be further from the truth as far as social media marketing goes today.

Facebook users spend more of their time consuming Facebook then all other media combined. If you want to catch fish, you must cast your line where they are swimming. Your customers are on Facebook, so you should be too. But, what bait should you be using to maximize your catch? The answer is simple: Facebook lead generation ads. Lead gen ads show up in a Facebook user’s newsfeed. As they browse photos and posts from their friends and family, an offer for “Special Financing” or “More for Your Trade” appears. Since Facebook already knows each users’ information, a lead is submitted with as little as two clicks and no key strokes.

These leads are delivered to the dealership directly without the usury fees of a third-party lead provider and without being diluted with too much pricing and discount information or shared with other area dealers. Finally, dealers have the ability to take the power back and many dealers across the country are doing just that. Dealers are enjoying the power to control their customers’ shopping and buying experience without interference.

What does this mean to dealers? Simple — the cost of leads and sales is going down and the gross profits are going up. In our industry today, the conversation seems to dwell on compressed margins and shrinking sales. You can make a choice to leave this conversation and control your own destiny. Break free from the third-party lead providers and drive the sales process directly with your customers again. You never needed their help; you just didn’t have a choice. Now you do, so make it and start selling more vehicles on Facebook. Put your third-party lead providers out to pasture and welcome in the age of dealer control.

Jason Girdner

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