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New Trends in Ad Spends: Make the Most of Your Money

I sold cars for almost 10 years. Needless to say, I’ve been through many trends and have noticed shifts in buyer behavior. I remember those winter lulls spent eating bologna and cheese sandwiches, the quiet before tax day, the jump in spring sales and hot selling through the summer. Even during a recession, our dealership learned to minimize spending and sell our way through to brighter days … although it wasn’t easy on any of us.

I recently spoke at a twenty group and was reminded of my dealing days. I was encouraged by the optimistic readiness of the dealers to find creative ways to steer their businesses through these difficult times. It brought to mind my dealership’s simple, yet effective, strategy to make it through hard times; we made the absolute most of every dollar going out and every lead coming in because opportunities were few and far between.

I’ll bet that even in these slower times, more leads come through your Web site than through your front door. I’ll also wager that there are, in most cases, far more people visiting or “driving by” your Web site than there are people driving by your lot. So, logic tells us to put our money where the masses are, and that’s still online. The great thing is, online advertising is still far cheaper than just about any traditional advertising medium. Five grand in geo-targeted, vehicle-specific search engine marketing will go a lot further than five grand for any print ad, and the effectiveness can last for weeks or months, not just the week that print ad runs or that TV spot airs.

Not that I’m trying to sell you on how great the Internet can be as a marketing tool; I think we all realize its scope. My point is that when times tighten up, managing your marketing dollars is crucial. Get as many ups per dollar as you can; then make the absolute most of every up. The fact is that since 2004, the number of buyers that used newspaper classifieds to locate a used car has declined to under 30 percent. And, of that scant 30 percent of buyers, less than 5 percent said the newspaper led to their purchase.

Conversely, during that same period, the number of used car buyers who used the Internet to locate a used vehicle steadily rose to 71 percent. Of that 71 percent who shopped the Internet for a used vehicle, almost 30 percent said it led to their purchase. How’s that for a closing percentage? So to put it into perspective, 30 percent of the dollars I spend in print is sparking interest, but only 5 percent of those dollars are producing sales. My Internet dollar is generating three times the traffic and closing six times the business!

The overall point is that in these types of selling environments, it’s not a matter of throwing more money at the situation or pulling all ad dollars off the table. It’s a matter a sprinkling a few dollars where they are going to count the most, and that’s online. Find a company that can manage your online spending. You’ll enjoy the benefits, and not just now. This same strategy will be even more effective when this market turns around.

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