Online marketing dos and don’ts

Lucas Deal

April 4, 2013

How do you get your name out there? It’s the fundamental question of marketing, and it’s not an easy one to answer.

There are a multitude of marketing options available in 2013. Some function on a mass scale, reaching out to as many people as possible, while others are targeted and speak directly to a small niche of prospective customers.

Online marketing does both. A fledging industry not long ago, online marketing has quickly become one of the most popular ways to promote a business. It allows businesses to track and analyze success and customer trends instantaneously, while reaching customers directly and indirectly from a variety of different angles.

But deciding how to market your business online is not an easy task. Justin Seibert, president of Direct Online Marketing, recommends dealers sync their online marketing goals with their overall business goals, and build “strategies and tactics created specifically with them in mind.”

Seibert says online marketing has definite advantages when handled correctly. A poor online approach can be a waste of time and money.

“A proper online marketing strategy has been proven to increase business for dealers across the world for many years,” he says. “Plus, online marketing is completely measurable. With proper analytic Web reporting, dealers can identify exactly what is working and what is not.”

Avoiding the online world can be a risk as well.

“By not using email and retargeting effectively, dealers can leave money on the table even from loyal customers,” Seibert says.

Three online marketing strategies he recommends for dealers are monitoring review sites for online reputation management, pay per click (PPC) search engine advertising and video marketing.

Review sites for reputation management: Seibert says “if a dealership does nothing else, it should concentrate on its local and review site presence. That means making sure it shows up in local search results, and having great ratings on sites like Google+ Local and Yelp,” which he says powers Apple product maps.

Seibert says negative reviews — legitimate or otherwise — greatly hinder a dealer’s business. Strong reviews, however, can generate business from customers researching potential business partners.

PPC search engine advertising: Seibert leans toward PPC marketing over search engine optimization (SEO) marketing because “so many dealers I’ve spoken with have issues with their websites that make SEO efforts much more difficult.”

He says PPC allows dealers to choose specific keywords for their business, set a geographic range to reach customers and, as the name says, only pay when ads are clicked. “It’s extremely fast and easy to measure results,” Seibert says.

Video marketing:  Seibert says posting videos of trucks on your lot with a spec’ list is a good way to promote your inventory. “The video can be uploaded to YouTube or any other video sharing site and then embedded onto the truck listing page,” he says.

And recording video doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production. Seibert says a quick 5-10 minute video taken when a truck is placed in your lot will do the trick.

Seibert also says there are some online marketing strategies dealers should avoid, most of which fall in the social media spectrum. Twitter marketing, renting or buying email lists and new social media properties are among the options that he says aren’t really worth the time for truck dealers.

Twitter marketing/advertising: Seibert says it’s a good idea to have a Twitter account in case a customer searches the networking site for your business, but he says focusing a lot of your marketing efforts there can be futile.

“It’s difficult to create enough good content and truly interact with the targeted demographic — many of whom are not using Twitter — to make real Twitter efforts worthwhile,” he says.

Renting or buying email lists: Seibert says email marketing is most effective when you use your own list. Advertising in an industry publication’s email newsletter or being mentioned in an industry-wide news email also works better than buying a list of addresses.

“Buying or renting lists is a waste of money and can make it difficult for you to send out other business emails afterward, depending on how you use the rented list,” he says.

New social media properties: There are new social media sites popping up every day. Says Seibert: “Don’t chase the latest social media networks. It’s better to let someone else figure out the model and then you can copy those efforts once you know they work.”

For example, he currently recommends heavy-duty dealers avoid Google+ and Pinterest, but says the latter is a good idea for a light-duty automotive dealer.

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