Your Journey Begins Here.

Welcome to the first installment of our eye-opening series designed to revolutionize your dealership’s digital marketing efforts. Today, we’re covering a topic that’s crucial yet often misunderstood: your dealership’s paid media plan.


You’ve invested heavily in your dealership’s paid media campaigns. You’ve chosen your platforms, set aside a budget, and you’re ready to watch the leads pour in. But the reality is a mere trickle of what you expected. Sound familiar? This scenario, unfortunately, is far more common than you might think, and it’s often due to subtle yet critical oversights in your paid media strategy.

We’re going to shed light on these oversights. We’re not just talking theories here; we will provide real-life examples of how these issues may be manifesting in your dealership right now. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of where your paid media strategy might be going wrong and how to steer it back on course. 

Inadequate Setup for Paid Media: Aligning Goals with Market Realities

A critical, yet often overlooked aspect of a dealership’s paid media strategy is the alignment of campaign objectives with both business goals and the prevailing macroeconomic conditions. In today’s market, where high financing rates and rising MSRPs are the norm, it’s crucial to recognize how these factors influence customer behavior and sales. For instance, not everyone is in a position or has the desire to finance a $40,000+ F-150 at a 9% interest rate. This shift in consumer sentiment, current status of your inventory and purchasing power must be reflected in your paid media strategy. If the MSRPs on your lot price out a good percentage of your local market, you are wasting your marketing dollars on people who aren’t your potential customers. 

Another common pitfall is the lack of diverse and engaging creative assets in media plans. Many dealerships and agencies fall into the trap of using generic, cookie-cutter campaigns. These often rely on uninspiring assets that fail to connect with customers on a personal level. While this approach can work, it misses the invaluable introduction of your brand to a broader audience and the ability to help sell that brand new EV easier.  

Remember, most car buyers do not repurchase from the same dealership, or even the same car manufacturer. Nurturing a positive relationship with your customer and brand from lead generation to after care sales is vital for continued growth. Especially when external factors like part and inventory shortages are completely out of your control. 

Actionable Tip 1: Leverage your sales data

Deeply analyze your previous sales data to inform your paid media focus. Look at spend, conversions, and impressions by area, considering local market dynamics. This analysis can unearth enlightening trends and optimize your ad spend. – for example, customers on the outskirts of your Designated Market Area (DMA) might prefer other markets, indicating a need to redirect your ad spend. Conversely, there may be closer areas that offer much better Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) rates. This data-driven approach ensures your paid media dollars are focused where they can yield the best returns.

Actionable Tip 2:
Invest in a Content Strategy

We are now in an era of social media where organic channel reach is a great compass of efficient paid returns. Develop a system for generating unique and engaging content within your dealership. This approach fosters a personal connection with potential customers and nurtures brand loyalty. The assets created here can also be repurposed for paid ads channels, adding another dimension to your marketing strategy. 

Actionable Tip 3: Optimize Your Campaign Targeting with Alternative Data Sources

In an era where traditional data signals are becoming limited due to privacy and platform changes, it’s crucial to think creatively about campaign targeting. While the general trend in media campaigns is to adopt a broader and more generic approach, there’s significant value in seeking demographic, geographic and psychographic elements to refine your targeting. 

The Impact of Poor Performing Websites on Dealerships

Your dealership’s website is more than just an online presence; it’s the digital equivalent of your showroom. A slow-loading website or cumbersome conversion form is akin to having a disorganized, unwelcoming physical showroom. Most users abandon a website that doesn’t load within 3 seconds, and the challenges often extend beyond site speed. But the challenges often run deeper than just site speed.

Actionable Tip 4: Website Speed Optimization

Audit your website’s loading speed and implement necessary optimizations, such as image compression, tag management, caching strategies, and streamlined code.

Actionable Tip 5: Leverage User Behavior Insights:

Utilize heat mapping and analytics tools to gain a deeper understanding of user behavior on your site. Use these insights to make data-driven improvements to your site’s UI/UX.

Actionable Tip 6: Keep Your Online Imagery Fresh

It’s easy to let things like website photos slide and simply “check the box”, but here’s the deal: using those old, grainy photos or the same stock car cut and lifestyle images everyone else has? It’s not doing you any favors. 

Think about it – would you showcase a $70,000 EV using an outdated personal digital camera? Probably not. Your online showroom is just like your real one. Those high-ticket rides deserve top-notch photos that show off just how awesome they are. 

The Critical Role of Ad Ops in Dealership Marketing

Ad Ops is much more than just a buzzword. Investments in ad platforms like Google Ads, TikTok Ads, or Meta Ads are common, but meticulous management of pixels and tags is often overlooked. This gap can lead to wasted marketing budgets and stagnant inventory.

Inadequate Pixel & Tag Management

One frequent issue we see when onboarding clients is the improper setup of conversion tracking tags. For instance, a dealership might have a Google Ads tag that tracks page views, but it fails to capture key actions like form submissions or Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) interactions. 

This gap in tracking can occur due to technical or strategic oversights. For example, if form submissions are placed within iframes (often the case with some automotive website providers), the conversion pixels may not fire correctly, as the iframe is an entirely separate webpage. This results in a significant loss of valuable data, forcing ad platforms to rely more on modeling and inference rather than actual, real-world performance.

Actionable Tip 7: Audit your current tag setup

Conduct a thorough review of your current tag management system. Ensure you are tracking events properly and considering what you could potentially add to the mix (i.e. scroll depth, time on page) Ensure that conversion events are not only firing correctly but are also appropriately differentiated. Proper event segmentation is also critical for accurate campaign optimization. For instance, sales and service events should be distinct since they represent different customer intents and conversion paths. I personally use the free Omnibug Chrome Extension to check this:

Actionable Tip 8: Boost event data quality

For dealerships that have basic conversion tracking in place, the next step is to delve deeper into the quality and scope of data captured with each conversion. Familiarize yourself with and implement Meta’s Power Five strategies. These are designed to optimize campaign performance by leveraging Facebook’s advanced ad technologies.

For instance, Facebook recommends enabling advanced matching features in campaigns. This process involves passing hashed customer data to Facebook’s systems, allowing a more accurate match of on-site actions to the profiles of users who interacted with your ads.

(Also note there is an element of data compliance that needs to be factored here. Depending on your market, be sure to stay up-to-date on the legalities in your area)

Similarly, apply these best practices to other platforms you’re using, like TikTok and Google Ads, to ensure a cohesive and data-rich approach across all your advertising channels.

Actionable Tip 9:  Implement Alternative Tracking Solutions: 

Explore alternative tracking solutions that can compensate for the loss of UTM parameters. This might include the use of first-party data, server-side tracking, and more sophisticated attribution models that can help piece together the customer journey in a privacy-compliant manner.

Neglecting A Holistic Marketing Approach

In today’s mobile-first world, overlooking a holistic approach of traditional and digital tactics is like ignoring half your audience. It’s not just about tracking clicks; it’s about understanding the customer across online and offline journeys. 

Questioning the Attribution of Showroom Ups

How often do customers explicitly reference social media posts or other forms of advertising when they walk into your showroom? If your campaigns are not optimized for explicit attribution (like using a unique offer code or a ‘show this screenshot’ call-to-action), attributing sales to specific ads becomes a challenging task. The lack of clear attribution markers means you might be undervaluing or overvaluing certain marketing channels.

Also consider the dynamics within most dealerships. When a sale is attributed to a Facebook campaign, for instance, it could potentially diminish the perceived contribution of your sales team. This can lead to a situation where sales staff might be disincentivized to acknowledge or report when a customer mentions a digital ad as part of their buying journey. The reality is that both the sales team’s efforts and your digital campaigns play pivotal roles in driving sales, but the lack of clear attribution models can muddy the waters.

Actionable Tip 10: Implement Explicit Attribution Mechanisms 

Use unique codes, specific call-to-action prompts, or digital tracking tools that encourage customers to reveal their journey more clearly. This could include incentives for customers who show a social media ad or mention a specific campaign. This solution isn’t perfect, but it’s a good start. 

Actionable Tip 11: Educate and Integrate Your Sales Team 

Foster a culture where digital marketing efforts and showroom sales are viewed as collaborative, not competitive. Educate your sales team on the importance of digital marketing and encourage them to inquire about and report any references to your digital ads without financial consequences. Your talented and experienced staff can also be a vital asset when it comes to content creation as well.

Actionable Tip 12: Adopt a Customer-Centric Approach

Customize your marketing strategies to address the various touchpoints in a customer’s journey. Understand that each potential buyer might require a different combination of digital engagement and in-person persuasion.

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Platform Limitations, Privacy Updates, and UTM Stripping

This builds upon some of the challenges in #3, but it is undoubtedly deserving of its own section. The digital marketing world is currently navigating a sea of changes due to platform limitations, privacy updates, and the widespread stripping of UTM parameters and third party cookies. These challenges have profound implications on how we assess and adapt our marketing strategies.

Impact of Data Delays with Paid Media Campaigns

One of the most significant shifts in recent times is the privacy updates initiated by Apple, which have fundamentally altered how quickly and accurately we can assess campaign data. With a minimum of a three-day lag before you can reliably interpret data from any campaign changes, the old practice of making daily adjustments is now not only based on incomplete data but also goes against platform best practices. Platforms like Facebook and Google have emphasized the importance of allowing campaigns to exit the learning phase before making significant alterations. This new reality requires a shift in how we approach campaign optimization, moving away from rapid, reactionary changes to a more strategic, patient methodology.

The Cookie & UTM Stripping Challenge

Beyond the loss of the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) on Apple devices, there’s an increasing trend of UTM parameters being stripped in mobile browsers and apps for privacy reasons. This results in a higher percentage of your website traffic being categorized as ‘direct’ in analytics platforms like Google Analytics. The stripping of these parameters poses a significant challenge in tracing the effectiveness of specific marketing efforts, as UTMs and cookies are crucial for tracking the source, medium, and campaign specifics of inbound traffic.

Actionable Tip 13: Adapt to the New Data Analysis Timeline: 

Embrace the three-day window as a minimum benchmark for assessing the impact of any campaign changes. Avoid knee-jerk reactions to daily fluctuations and focus on longer-term trends and data integrity.

Actionable Tip 14: Educate Your Team on Platform Best Practices

Ensure that your marketing team is well-versed in the latest platform best practices, particularly regarding the learning phase and data interpretation in the post-IDFA world.

By understanding and adapting to these changes, your dealership can continue to effectively navigate the digital marketing landscape, even as it evolves. It’s about striking a balance between respecting user privacy and still gleaning enough insights to make informed marketing decisions.

Actionable Tip 15: Optimize for the learning phase during media planning

Reaching the recommended 50 conversion events to exit the learning phase on platforms like Meta is challenging due to the high cost of vehicles. Instead, focus on achievable micro-conversions like quote requests, newsletter signups or extended duration VDP views. These smaller, more frequent actions provide valuable data, allowing algorithms to optimize your campaigns effectively, even in a high-value market.


Woooof…. That’s it! We’re done with this one and onto the next…