It's really easy to say that dealers need to be "everywhere". It's an abstract phrase because "everywhere" means different things to different people. However, we do have the ability to make sure that "everywhere" for dealers is really about being in all of the right places online.
Let's start by making a semi-bold statement. Size doesn't matter, at least as a singular concept. In other words, being on the biggest places is not necessarily a good thing while being in small places is not necessarily a bad thing. The only way to understand how size plays into the mix is to look at the cost per shopper. Unfortunately, most websites do not properly quantify or report how often your vehicles are seen, so we're stuck with trying and deciphering the data accordingly.
In a future post, I will go into detail about how to manage, monitor, and hold accountable the various posting venues and services out there. In the meantime, I'm going to discuss it with generalities, but many of you will be able to take action accordingly as a result.
Cost Per Shopper
Most dealers are familiar with CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per thousand impressions). These are important numbers in their own right, but some websites simply don't play with those types of statistics. That doesn't make them bad. For example, AutoTrader has some nice overall statistics showing how often your inventory listings were seen and how often people actually clicked on them. They dismiss the lead-generation numbers simply because fewer people are actually filling out lead forms on 3rd party sites anymore. Their volume is high, but what's the cost per shopper? Is it worth paying thousands of dollars to be on the big boy in the arena? Would spending money on a bunch of smaller sites be more cost effective?
There's not direct answer to the question, at least not a general one. It comes down to a dealer-by-dealer basis. For some dealers, we've seen the numbers pan out very nicely for them with AutoTrader bringing a tremendous ROI. Other times, we've seen numbers that weren't so great. To know whether it's working for you, there needs to be a way for you to analyze the cost for each individual shopper that AutoTrader sends. Form leads, phone calls, and direct visits to the dealership are definitely considered "shoppers". Direct clicks to the dealer's websites are shoppers. Secondary clicks to the website should be considered influenced shoppers, though they did not click directly through from AutoTrader. These are the people that are tracked through analytics that visit your inventory on AutoTrader during one session and then visit your website on the same or a future session without clicking through from AutoTrader itself.
Should pure visitors to the AutoTrader page be considered shoppers? In most cases, yes. They weren't engaged shoppers, but at least they're looking for a vehicle (otherwise, why would they be on AutoTrader) and they looked at yours. How you break down the value of these impressions is up to you, but these types of page views should be seen as much higher value than other types of impressions such as search marketing impressions. Someone can see your ad on Google, but if they didn't click, that impression had very little value to you. There's a little value from a branding perspective, but they were hunting and they didn't click to look at your game, so it's not a ton of value. Page impressions of VDPs on AutoTrader are much more valuable.
Once you assign a value to each individual type of shopper, now you can divide it into the cost for the service. This will give you your cost per shopper.
All the Right Places
That was not an endorsement of AutoTrader. It was simply a description of how to judge them. Using the same methodology, take a look at the other venues to consider. Some of the most common ones to consider are Craigslist and eBay Motors. These and some of the other upper-tier posting venues have a lot of potential value to them, but it comes at a cost. In this case, it's not necessarily the cost to post (which is considerably less than some of the bigger sites out there) but rather the cost of time to make the posts. This is where we recommend LotVantage. For a few hundred dollars per month plus the cost of posting, dealers can put their inventory on some of the most popular automotive sites on the web.
There are those who believe that anything that can be done manually doesn't require paying a service to do it, but in the case of Craigslist and similar sites, the daily grind required to make them effective is totally worth the hundreds of dollars per month it takes to do it simply and easily.
What about the smaller sites? This is where we have to be a little self-serving and discuss LotLinx. Even if we weren't a partner, we would recommend it to dealers. They post your inventory to hundreds of sites across the web. There are plenty of services that do that, but LotLinx is different in that they charge per unique shopper who is sent from these sites to the inventory on your own website. This is huge. It makes it so much easier to quantify the benefits of the system because the fixed cost per visitor keeps everyone it tangible. There's no need to determine values, sift through impression reports, or send back duplicate, overpriced leads from other services. With LotLinx, the cost is flat and it's pretty darn cheap.
Lastly, let's discuss social media. It may surprise people to hear that as a social media company we do not recommend having an inventory tab on your Facebook page. Instead, you should be utilizing targeted ads to drive the right people to the inventory on your website. Just as you would with LotLinx or PPC, social media has the same abilities. There's no need to try to send people to an inventory tab. They are great if you're sending traffic to them, but that alone does not qualify them as a valid social media spend. Instead, you should be sending them to your website.
Taking the wide approach to inventory marketing is easy as long as you aren't wasting money (or time) on the wrong venues. It all comes down to value. Are you getting the most out of your posting?