Automotive, Car Dealerships, Budgeting

Dealerships: Improve ROI by Figuring Out Your Digital Marketing Budget

by Dave Apps August 8, 2017

Automotive Dealers have dramatically increased their spending in the digital space, however they still struggle with understanding what each digital entity is and does. Below are buckets of how we would recommend categorizing a digital marketing budget.

By understanding each category and applying the numbers you can then begin to apply other key metrics like web traffic, leads and solds in order to keep making your marketing more efficient and effective. We will review this more in detail at a later date.


Are you accounting for the total cost of your website? This includes costs such as hosting, feeds, maintenance, live chat staff, plug-ins like a finance or a trade-in app, and production charges.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be summed into website expenditures, but it's a traffic generator and a tool of its own kind. What are you paying for SEO and content marketing to make your site visible organically over your competitors?

Search Engine Marketing

There are many different forms of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), but the most common these days are display ads and text ads. Display ads come in form of banners, side-bar blocks, rich media, and more. Text ads come in the form of sponsored listings displayed on top of organic results in search engines and correlate to specific keywords identified in your campaign. They all have one thing in common, you pay every time someone clicks on them. What are you spending in this category and do you know your ROI?

Third Party Listings

A website that you pay to list each individual new or used vehicle on. Examples include: Autotrader, Cars.com, Carfax, Carguru, Edmunds, Craigslist, TrueCar

Manufacturer Leads

Leads that are generated either organically (not paid) or those that are purchased directly from the manufacturer. Examples include: Kia.com, Kia Digital Third Party, Chrysler Digital, Jeep.com and event leads.

Digital Merchandising

Are you paying someone to take photos of your vehicles and write descriptions? Most dealerships charge this to sales, but we consider it a marketing cost. Photos and unique descriptions of each vehicle are a valuable marketing tool, as research indicates product listings with no images receive far less traffic than those with images.

Social Media

Did you know that 75% of car buyers say internet research including social media was the most helpful medium when selecting a dealership? What are you paying someone to manage your social media accounts like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc?

Reputation Management

Review services such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook were found to be even more helpful to consumers than social media sites when selecting a dealership to buy a new car from. Everyone has a bad day and everyone can get poor reviews, it's what you do in response to a bad review that makes the difference. Are you paying for someone to manage your online reviews and reputation?

83% of service customers say online review sites substantially helped them in their dealership selection process.

By categorizing your digital budgets you can look at each category as a whole and make better decisions about what to test, what to keep and what to increase or decrease. Plus then you can get down to each source that makes up a category and use it to negotiate your rates.

Let us do the heavy lifting for you. Call us for a consultation at 708-403-9200 or email us at here.

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Dave Apps

Dave has been located in Chicago his entire life and has grown up in the car business. From mechanic to general manager, he moved on to start Apps Communications over 20 years ago as the expert on all things Internet for car dealers. Since then, Apps Communications has grown to service businesses large and small in nearly every industry of the private sector.


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