Search Marketing Influencer Series – Dan Golden (Part 1)

Dan Golden, Be Found Online, digital, marketing, local, auto, automotive, dealer, dealership

Dan Golden is President, Chief Search Artist, and Co-Founder at Be Found Online, a full service performance digital media agency, that optimizes paid advertising across search, display, social, and mobile. Dan is a veteran digital marketer and public speaker. A veritable search geek at heart, Dan happily spends time auditing accounts, testing new tactics, diving into analytics, and making strategic recommendations for his clients.

You’ve been working with a lot of automotive clients lately. How have dealers changed the way they use search? Will that change in 2016?
The mindset among dealer groups of all sizes has shifted dramatically. Many used to keep their “digital” departments completely separated from the rest of the sales organization. That’s no longer the case. They now understand that every lead – and subsequent car sale – is now influenced by digital marketing in some capacity, making it a crucial part of the end-to-end sales process. For them, search is proving to be an effective lead driver. As a result, many dealers are now open to pursuing new marketing avenues aside from the most tried-and-true cost-per-lead tactics.

What’s wrong with paying for qualified leads? Any alternatives?
Local dealers and dealership groups generally dislike buying them. They do it because they essentially ​have to. ​They cannot risk losing potential customers to competing dealers. The result of this is a race to the bottom. Dealers are competing with each other over the ​same ​customers, forcing them to be more and more aggressive with their promotional efforts; the downside of this being already razor thin margins becoming even smaller.

Today’s shoppers do a lot of research online before they ever step foot in a dealership. They know exactly what they are looking for. So, the opportunity here, from a search perspective, is to capture potential active shoppers wherever they’re at in the purchase funnel vs. simply buying “qualified” leads.

How do we do this? We work closely with dealers to embrace what really matters: creating their own leads by developing a Lifetime Value (LTV) roadmap with their customers.

For example, we achieve this by working with them to improve the performance and relevance of their vehicle detail pages (VDPs). Five to ten years ago, very few dealers posted inventory online. Today, inventory listings are everywhere, helping people avoid the frustration of showing up to a dealership ​​only ​to find that their desired vehicle is not in stock. And to make sure potential customers can easily find the right dealership for them, we work with local search and listing services like YP and Google. Additionally, we work with the Lotlinx platform to help local dealers manage their online inventory listings more effectively.

How do you promote lifetime value (LTV) customer relationships?
We are huge believers in developing LTV relationships between our clients and their customers, specifically via search marketing strategies and awareness campaigns (i.e. lookalike targeting). The goal of LTV is to get customers back in the dealerships years later when it’s time to make another purchase. However, as search engine marketing (SEM) has historically proven to be more transactional – with an emphasis on near-term ROI – the challenge (or opportunity) is to change the mindset of dealers, getting them to see “value” as being more than just a single click.

Why is LTV such a challenge? How are you moving the LTV needle?
Auto dealers and manufacturers have not traditionally appreciated the value of search as it relates to how it can significantly influence the consumer path to purchase. SEM specialists, like myself, have essentially trained clients to expect positive and immediate returns from search campaigns (via metrics like site referrals, car configurations, scheduling test drives).

We have to adjust the dialogue. We need to help marketers think about search in terms of brand awareness and LTV. Thankfully, years of consumer search data tell us a lot about how to achieve this. Although search is still a key driver for dealers and manufacturers for short-term ROI, there is a huge opportunity for our industry to illustrate ​and ​demonstrate the value of search at every stage of the path to purchase. That’s precisely how we’ll move the needle.

To be continued in Part 2…​

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