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I talk to dealers every day, even (sadly) when I'm on vacation. The general consensus is that the market is down and it's time to cut costs. Thankfully, cutting costs doesn't necessarily mean cutting corners.
Despite how bad it is out there in the automotive industry, the online marketing aspect of the industry is getting a well-deserved spotlight shone on it. Dealers are being forced to take their tremendous television, radio, and newspaper budgets and cut them while still getting the same (or better) bang for the buck.
Economy is where Internet marketing shines. As we develop new technologies to streamline our efforts, automotive vendors are able to offer more exposure for less money then they ever have before. Between websites, microsites, landing pages, search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, and automotive social media, it is easy for a dealer to have a complete presence attacking the market exactly where their customers are waiting for them: online.
In other words, it's time to get aggressive. We have 2 dealers in particular who have slashed their traditional marketing budgets (one went all the way to $0 offline) and sunk everything into Internet marketing. The results have been profoundly better than even we expected.
Three years ago, dealers were spending just under 10% of their marketing budgets online. Last year, it was 20%. This year and into next year, we expect more dealers to "see the light" and invest 30%, 40, 50%, or more of their marketing budgets in the one area where EVERYONE does their automotive research. So few people even get the newspaper anymore. Tivo and general "tuning out" have made television advertising a dinosaur. Radio stations are changed from the steering wheel when commercials come on (unless they're listening to XM radio, in which case they aren't getting your message anyway). Direct mail - prices are rising, results are dropping.
The Internet. I can't say any more than what you already know. When I was running multiple Internet departments, I knew back then that the Internet was the way of the future. Now that I'm working on this side of the table, I can see it all happening right before my eyes.
The automotive industry is far from dead. People are going to buy cars. They have to. Being where the people are looking (and being there aggressively) is the key to surviving and flourishing for years to come.
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Read more about automotive internet marketing on this blog.