7 Ways to Improve Franchise Dealer Marketing

The latest new car sales reports aren’t looking good.

Projections are down across the board, and American-made brands are feeling the biggest crunch. It’s hard to say when the slowdown will cease, but franchise dealers need to be prepared for long, cold sales winter.

What do winning dealerships do in a downturn? They sell smarter.

Marketing and advertising is a notorious budget killer. Which marketing dollars are working? Which are wasted? When sales are slow, marketing is the best place to find efficiencies.

Thanks to new tools that provide higher quality marketing data, franchise dealers can optimize their marketing budget with confidence. If done right, dealers won’t just save money, but increase their sales as well.

Let’s look at 7 ways dealers can use marketing data to improve sales and profits:

1. Drill Down Deeper – ZIP Code-Level Marketing

A highly targeted, ZIP code-level approach to working within your Primary Market Area (PMA) is critical to being able to move the models that matter to your customers throughout the target area.

Think about it this way: you have a PMA assigned by your OEM that is a 6-mile radius from the store. If you are running ad campaigns for a 10-mile radius instead, you are wasting ad dollars. Customers further away will pass three other dealers before coming to see you. Don’t water down your brand — stick to your PMA. Aim for a high impression share of at least 85%.

But that’s just step one. Step two is to drill down deeper.

Don’t blanket your PMA with the same ads. Target ads based on ZIP codes that are buying specific models. Don’t show ads for a Ford Escape to a ZIP code that is buying heavy on F150’s. Again, these are wasted ad dollars.

2. Social Media & Retargeting

If your dealership is not utilizing Facebook or Instagram, now is the time to start.

On average, 1 out of every 5 minutes spent on our phones is on Facebook. Think about that for a minute (or five). That is a stunning amount of engagement that dealerships need to cash in on.

Contrary to popular belief, social media marketing is actually getting more efficient. Facebook ad effectiveness is up 3000% Year-over-Year. Plus, social media ads and retargeting are cheaper than display channels. Add social media to your marketing mix.

3. Better Use of PPC Ads

Ask most dealers how their Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns are performing and they’ll give you a blank stare. The truth is that most PPC campaigns are a complete waste of money. Marketing vendors hide the inefficiencies in “campaign-level metrics” that don’t actually show you how ads are performing.

Dealers should demand to see not just campaign analytics, but analytics for individual keywords. Dig deep and shine a spotlight on the data that your PPC spend is providing.

One more thing: remember the ZIP code-level marketing I mentioned earlier? It applies here as well. Google will prioritize your ads when you target the ZIP codes immediately around you.

4. Know Your KPI’s

As a dealer trying to stay ahead of the local competition, it’s also important to decide exactly what metrics you need to focus on and demand this from your digital marketing vendors.

For franchise dealers, one common “KPI” is Vehicle Display Page (VDP) views. But here’s the thing: VDP views don’t influence the buying decision as much as you think. When buying new, every dealership’s VDPs look the same. Customers are looking for factors that make you different, like your service promise and financing options.

Getting a firm grip on the KPIs that matter is critical.

5. The Most Important KPI: High-Value Users

High-value users need to be treated differently than the casual shopper. These are the people that, according to Experian, are ready to buy a new car within the next 30 days. How do you identify them?

There are three metrics that we can use to identify High-Value Users:

  • Time on site (should be around 3:30 or higher)
  • Number of return visits (if they keep coming back, they are close to buying)
  • Number of pages viewed (shoot for 6+ page views across all sections)

If a user has spent more than 3:30 on your site and has viewed more than 6 pages across multiple visits, they should be tagged as a high-value user and immediately moved to the top of your opportunity pile.

6. Custom Landing Pages for Core Make/Models

Don’t just drive customers to your VDPs (as we mentioned above, they don’t matter much). Instead, create a unique landing page with a specific call-to-action (CTA) for each core make and model. Your landing page should include financing options, trim levels, beautiful photos, and inspiring copy. Make it easy to fall in love with that car and tell customers what their next step is to buy it.

Custom landing pages take more time to produce, but they are well worth it. Custom landing pages have the highest conversion rates of any page on dealership websites.

7. Dominate your PMA for Maximum Gross

Dealers who sell a new car to a customer who drives over 20 miles to make their purchase will lose an average of 49% of their total gross per unit. Local customers = more profit.

Franchise dealers who rely on gross profit need to control their PMA. It’s that simple. It’s the only way to make money on the front and back end of the deal. If your store is controlling the ZIP code-level marketing awareness rather than pushing further out and wasting time and ad spend, sales and gross will naturally increase.

Another way to dominate your PMA is to focus on increasing your level of community involvement through local charities and civic outreach. Local customers will be more likely to come to your store for everything including sales, service, and parts if they feel you’re strongly connected to the things that matter to them in their community.



7 Ways to Improve Franchise Dealer Marketing

Schedule Test Drive

We get it, change is hard. But when you think about getting rid of multiple systems and replacing them with better data and better tools, maybe it’s worth a look. Let us give you a free demonstration of VINCUE and show you what your world could look like. 


Created by dealers, for dealers, VINCUE is based on data and built for the modern automotive industry. 

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.