Less than a decade ago, most dealers wouldn’t want to handle their own digital marketing at all. The medium was one didn’t appeal to them or their standard skill sets; few if anyone at the dealership was a blogger, a social media expert, or a search engine optimization pro. Today, things have changed.
Through hiring and training, dealers continue to grow more digitally savvy to the point that many have their own digital marketing teams within the dealership that specialize in the online practices that once were solely outsourced. There are people at the dealership that blog. Most are on social media. A few have a good grasp of search engine marketing.
When deciding what to outsource and what to do in-house, dealers should take three things into consideration: expertise, time, and financial investment.
- Expertise: Many at the dealership are the most knowledgeable in the local area when it comes to particular vehicles, service, and the car business in general. This expertise can translate into great segments such as blogging and social media. However, there’s also a level of expertise that lives outside of the realm of automotive. The technical side to blogging isn’t very difficult but a dealership must know that they have someone in-house who understands more than just writing a post. They have to manage and promote it as well.
- Time: Of the three criteria, this is the one that is most overlooked. We’ll show in an example below how this can be an extremely important component in the decision-making process, but for now, it’s important to realize that every moment spent on digital marketing is a moment that could be spent at the dealership selling more cars. There’s always a trade-off.
- Financial Investment: It comes down to ROI. What are the dollars and do they make sense?
Let’s look at a few examples of the decision-making process for certain components of automotive digital marketing. You can use these examples to establish a mindset when vetting out vendors and making advertising decisions.
Outsource or In-House: Depends
Over the years, Google and Bing have improved their search advertising interfaces to the point that anyone can take a quick course and know everything they need to know about pay-per-click. It has brought more dealers into the self-managed PPC realm, but should it? From an expertise perspective, the answer is likely yes. If you have an individual or a team that can maximize the PPC campaigns on their own, then it makes sense to do so. The time factor can be minimal; once the campaigns are created the daily maintenance is small and as long as they stay consistent and are always improving incrementally, it shouldn’t take up a bunch of time in the long term. From a financial perspective, it comes down to the OEMs and co-op dollars. Is it worth spending $1000 or more per month for automotive PPC management? Depending on the budget, the answer is likely no unless you’re spending quite a bit already. Is it worth it if some or all of that money is reimbursed by the OEM? Probably.
Outsource of In-House: In-House
There are so many options for video marketing in the car business. The majority of them are automated, taking pictures of vehicles and stitching them together to make a “video” for each car. This is a terrible practice in general that actually does more harm than good (which is a topic for someone else to cover but we thought we’d mention it here). The expertise level is minimal just as the required expertise is minimal. An iPhone video with a little editing can be much more appealing than anything automated. The time component can be argued, but in a world that is growing more and more appreciative of video, it’s worth the time spent filming and editing. The costs are where the decision becomes crystal clear. There are some very affordable plans but most are not. If you can pay someone a couple thousand dollars a month to work part-time for the dealership making videos, do it. This is an investment that makes sense and should be handled in-house whenever possible.
Outsource or In-House: Outsource
There isn’t a whole lot of expertise that’s required to post to AutoTrader, Craigslist, or any of the other major classified sites. The cost factor is usually embodied in the decision itself. In other words, most of the companies that handle posting on behalf of dealers don’t charge much for their services but being present on some of these sites can be costly whether you’re posting or you’re using an automated or serviced solution. The time factor is where the difference is made as we mentioned above. Posting to Craigslist manually is easy but it takes a good amount of time to make it happen. When companies like LotVantage do the posting at a low cost, they end up saving dealers a ton of time.
This is a sampling but you get the idea.
Make the right decisions by deciding the levels of expertise, time, and cost required to make it happen in-house versus outsourcing. Just because you can do it in-house doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can’t currently do it in-house doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn. Decision-making should follow a very clear process.