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Brian Pasch

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ADF 1.0 Revision Needed I'm working on a white paper on proposed changes to  the ADF Specification and I was getting angry about my research so I decided to vent. The ADF  (Auto-Lead Data Format) specification is an XML file that automotive website providers, CRM vendors and lead providers use to send consumer lead data to each other.  When you fill out a form on a car dealer's website or a third party automotive website, the leads eventually hit your CRM system in the ADF format. The specification was created to make it easy for various automotive websites to pass leads to each other.  The ADF 1.0 specification was last modified in the year 2000.  As you know, much has changed since 2000 in regards to lead management and reporting.

Integrated Web and CRM Vendors Have An Edge

Dealers who have an integrated, single vendor solution for their website platform and CRM tool may be able to leverage their platform much faster to create effective Internet Sales lead source report in 2010. Those vendors who currently offer an integrated website platform and CRM tool would be wise to demonstrate an end to end monthly sales report by "off-site referring URL source".  A very simple summary could start like this:
Referring Source Leads Sales Conversion
Press Releases 20 4 20.0%
Blog Sources 30 4 13.3%
Facebook 40 6 15.0%
Twitter 20 1 5.0%
DealerRater 60 10 16.7%
Yelp 20 5 25.0%
Microsites 100 20 20.0%
Total for Month 290 50 17.2%
Dealers who have a third party CRM software package that uses only the ADF or STAR specification are most likely operating in the dark.
If dealers want to get true accountability for their offline SEO and social media efforts they need to stir up a storm in 2010 with their CRM vendors.

Is The CRM Software Community Asleep?

Dealers are asking questions like:
  • How can I track if Facebook is generating car sales?
  • Will Twitter increase my car sales?
  • Do Press Release generate car sales?
  • Will a NING community really generate car sales?
  • How many leads a month can my microsites generate?
You get the idea.  If vendors are pitching that dealers must engage in social media, press releases, blogs and Automotive SEO, they deserve to have the ability to track those sources to a final sale.  It would be great to link the referring websites to an eventual sale but there is a problem.  The referring website,  often referred to as the referring URL, is currently not being sent to CRM systems that use ADF data sources. A consumer reading a post on a Dealer's Facebook Fan Page may click on a live hyperlink pointing to their  website.  This visit would have a referring URL of www.facebook.com plus some text.  This is great data to have if they fill out a lead form. adf-diagram1

Website Vendors Have The Ability To Capture Valuable Data

Website vendors have the ability to capture the referring URL when a consumer hits a dealer website.  They can store this data in a session variable as long as the customer is on the website.  If the customer completes a form, the website vendor has the ability to save the referring URL to know where they came from with the lead data.  This means that you can know if a lead was generated by a press release, Facebook, a Twitter post, a microsite or a blog post. The problem is that when the lead is sent to a third party CRM software tool using the ADF specification, that referring URL data is dropped. Why?  Because the 10 year old specification never thought to include a field for the referring URL.   So, your CRM tool tracks the lead as coming from your website but you don't know HOW the lead got to your site.  This is bad for tracking the ROI of your Internet Marketing investments. Once again, some vendors already have this capability since they control the website and CRM data communications and can use their own file formats.  I would like these vendors to develop executive level reporting by general off-site source, as shown above, which makes it easy to see trends and ROI.  Having a 50 page report by referring URL is silly; a roll-up is needed.  Don't show me a detailed list of referring URL's; executives won't read that.

Have CRM Vendors Taken The Easy Road?

CRM software vendors have known for years that dealers need referring URL data for complete online advertising accountability.  Dealers also need sub-source data like WHERE on their website the lead came from: finance page, trade-in page, car model page, without creating dozens of one off forms. To date, the CRM software community has not revised and approved an ADF 2.0 specification. Valuable consumer search data is being thrown away every day and I don't see anyone telling the dealers about this problem.

Manual Reports Eventually Stop Being Created

Some website vendors do store referring URL data on submitted forms in their database.  The process of matching these sales leads to the CRM database sales is a manual or semi-automated process.  Since it is tedious to create a true lead source report manually, its just not done on a regular basis. If anyone else mad about this? Do dealers really want to have end to end cost analysis for their off-site social media, SEO and blogging efforts?  I believe that if they understood that they could have this type of reporting, they would want it. So I'm starting the idea that there should be an ADF 2.0 specification committee and why not start it here on DrivingSales.com? If the CRM vendors and website vendors don't gather together in 2010 and update the ADF specification, tell them you will fire them and go with the first increase-arrow1CRM vendor that approaches their website provider to create a custom data exchange layer that has a rich data-set.  Either the specification gets updated for everyone's benefit for a few companies will have a strategic edge.  Let's see how that plays out. Dealers will demand that they have end to end ROI reporting.

Internet Marketing Spending in 2010

A major shift is underway in regards to online spending. Car dealers are increasing their online marketing budgets.  This fact alone should create a strong reason for car dealers to demand that valuable tracking data be included in a revised ADF specification.
If dealers care about the ROI of their Internet spend, then updating the ADF specification could not be a more timely priority.
Looking forward to a great year in 2010! Brian Brian Pasch, CEO Pasch Consulting Group www.dealer-seo.com 732-450-8200 http://twitter.com/automotiveseo http://facebook.com/paschconsulting.com

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