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Ken Kolodziej

Ken Kolodziej CEO and Co-Founder

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Understanding the Data ‘Deep Dive’ that Drives Dealer Decisions

Data Deep Dive

Check your email. There’s probably a report or two that has hit your inbox since yesterday that was filed away in a “to do” folder of some sort. The digital age has given us access to so much data and so many reports from the vendors that help us advertise our dealerships that it can be a full-time job simply deciphering it all.

It isn’t just the time allotted that causes challenges, either. Much of the data we’re given requires concentrated exploration in order to find those hidden gems that can guide a dealership’s marketing path. We know it’s important, but making sense of it all can be too time-consuming.

The good news is that most dealers are in the same boat. They’re all getting too many reports that are too big, too confusing, or both. As easy as it is to file the reports away for “light reading” over the weekend, it’s important to perform regular deep dives into the data in order to make the most educated decisions about your advertising spend.

Knowing this is the first step towards understanding dealership intelligence. Each report and data set can give you a piece of the puzzle, but it’s when you combine the information within the data that the whole picture can come into view.

Looking at the inside data as well as the outside data will get you started down the path to improving the ROI of you advertising dollars.

The Inside Data

If there’s one piece of data that most dealers explore regularly, it’s their website analytics. At the basic level, it can tell you which sources are sending traffic to your website, something that most dealers are seeing. However, it goes much deeper than that when properly set up. For example, Google Analytics has the ability to let you track conversions from each source so that you can get a better idea of how effective each advertising component truly is.

Now, take that a step further. In the world of websites in general and web pages in particular, more is not always better. Many vendors have promoted the concept over the years that the more pages you have, the better your website will perform, but the data says otherwise. There are pages that work and pages that hurt. A proper analysis of website analytics can help you to understand where people are landing, from where they are leaving, and what path they’re taking as they navigate the website. With that information, you can decide whether a page is having challenges that need to be improved or whether the page should be eliminated altogether.

Even within an individual page, there are actions that can be taken based upon information within properly configured website analytics. For example, one button might be getting five times more clicks than another button on the page. This information by itself can help point you down a path, but you have to take it further. How effective are the pages or forms that the buttons presenting? If the button that’s getting fewer clicks is converting at a much higher rate than the other one, it might make the most sense to eliminate the more-clicked button or to have it going somewhere else.

The inside data available to you is not just about analytics. Your CRM reports, PPC information, and inventory merchandising systems all have data that should also be investigated and acted upon when appropriate. By looking at all of the factors influencing your prospective buyers, you can discern not just which advertising venues are working but also how you can improve the way they complement each other.

The Outside Data

For a long time, the best form of outside data came from the manufacturers. This was, in many cases, hard to use because it would tell dealers where they missed in the past without giving them an idea of how to proceed in the future.

Today, there are numerous reports pertaining to buyer intent, web surfing histories, competitive pricing strategies, and demographics that give us more than the ability to see what happened before. It can guide dealers to act based upon a predictive data model.

There are the obvious sources such as Polk, Dataium, and Experian that give us tidbits of information that we can use. The OEM data is getting better. Even insider 3rd-parties like Cars.com can illuminate the path going forward. The biggest challenge that dealers face in turning this data into a plan of attack is that the reports can be challenging to combine without the right software.

Despite the challenge, it must be done.

The old method of blanketing a market with a message doesn’t work. Different advertising types work well in some zip codes but not in others. Mailers, newspaper ads, email campaigns, PPC – the list of ways to reach people could go on and on and it’s impractical to try to hit everyone with all of them. Dealers need to know what works where in order to better target each individual advertising spend.

What Dealers Can Do

Data is our passion and we help many of them find the right data to guide their marketing decisions, but whether you utilize us or not, you must take advantage of the information at your fingertips. It starts with simplifying the data.

Here are some things that you can do to improve your understanding of the data in order to make the right choices:

  • Ask your providers to focus their reports on the information that can drive action. All too often, vendors will position reports in a way that proves their effectiveness rather than seeking improvement. While it’s nice to hear about what’s working, what you really want to know is what’s not working and how it can be fixed.
  • Get an outside opinion on just about everything. Your SEO provider, for example, will send you all of their victories, but where are you missing? What keywords are you ranked poorly on that should be a point of focus? There are reports you can order (often for free) and grading tools that can help you to see the areas of opportunity in organic search.
  • Look at your reports together rather than one at a time. Individually, reports can point in different directions. When you look at multiple reports in a single sitting, you’re more likely to see the trends that can point your advertising in the right direction.
  • Experiment one change at a time. One of the biggest mistakes we see dealers make is to perform wholesale changes on advertising venues, websites, and marketing models. If a page isn’t working, it might need to be scrapped. Then again, it might be as simple as making a button larger or changing the position of a contact form.
  • Ask for best practices. We live in a world with an diverse range of opinions. Whether you’re using a consultant, an advertising agency, or a handful of vendors, ask them what they’re seeing that’s working at other dealerships. We often assume that they’ll volunteer this information freely, but sometimes it takes some prodding to get the “secret sauce” out of them.

It’s both exciting and intimidating when one realizes how much data is available to them. Doing the deep dive and making sense of all of the data is the key turning that intimidation in the excitement that comes with knowing that your advertising decisions are driven by the right information.

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