“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” Peter Drucker. These are words to live by when dealing with an automotive media budget and marketing plan because evaluation is one of the most important aspects of advertising.
Your media budget includes, among other things, the funds allocated to print, broadcasting, digital, and other forms of advertising for a dealership — known as the marketing plan. Without the marketing plan, many dealerships would be out of business. A dealership with a large chunk of media budget to work with and no marketing plan could see the same fate as dealerships without a marketing plan all together — no business.
The process is simple: determine a marketing plan, evaluate that marketing plan, and make changes where needed, repeat constantly.
The first step in a marketing plan to to set objectives that you can measure your plan by. The only way to measure a plan’s effectiveness is to lay out certain markers you’re hoping to hit, goals along the way that your plan should be working towards. The marketing plan should be carefully developed based on objectives & benchmarks and the objectives should be SMART.
- Specific - clear-cut about what you’re going to achieve; “what is to be done?” and “how will you know it is done?”
- Measurable - ensure you can quantify your objectives and evaluate your achievements; “how will you know it meets expectations?”
- Achievable - do not set objectives which are too high; “can the person do it?”
- Relevant - is this useful and helpful for reaching my goal? “Should it be done?”
- Time-oriented - give yourself a time schedule for achieving your objectives; “when will it be done?”
Once your objectives are set, it’s time to get into the meat of it.
Beyond setting objectives and benchmarks, examining the results of a marketing plan is possibly the most important element. Your dealership could be throwing money away if you’re laying out a media plan and ignoring the outcome. You have to find out what works, what doesn’t work, and what could use improvement. Some campaigns generate results as they are happening, some are not generated until after the campaign is completely done; either way, it’s important to gather those results and learn from them. Great ways to measure results are to look at:
- ROI - Return on investment is important for all business expenses. Check whether the money you put into your marketing plan has resulted in profit. Amount spent v. amount brought in for specific campaigns.
- Sales Numbers - This can be fastest and most basic way to determine if plan worked. Look into last years numbers as well as the past couple months. Take into account rise in prices or expansion of business.
- Customer Response - Customer response should always be welcomed - it immediately tells how your dealership advertising performed. This can be in the form of surveys and reviews both in person and online.
- Salespeople - Salespeople have the most contact with customers when then enter the showroom. They should prompt customers on how/why they’re there, how they heard about the sale/promotion, etc.
- Competitor Response - Not many dealerships may think of this, but one of the best ways to evaluate your marketing plan is to look at your competition. Did you notice a big shift in their advertising as well? Did their deals change to mimic yours? This may not be measurable until the following month or two, but you’ll notice a competitor’s shift if your advertising and promotions are strong.
All of these metrics, and more depending on certain objectives, targets, etc. should be examined at both a macro and micro level in order to decide what was truly effective for your dealership. This should include all areas of advertisement: radio, TV, email, Facebook, YouTube Twitter, Pandora, Hulu, direct mailer, billboards, etc.
- Macro - Take a look at the big picture. Was the whole campaign successful? Did the dealership see improved and/or steady sales?
- Micro - Explore each individual element that was implemented. Did email turn more results than direct mail? Did the Facebook ad drive traffic? Micro evaluation forces you to really think about the role of each activity and what it is contributing to the overall plan.
As I’ve stated, a marketing plan is crucial to your dealership’s survival and success. Without advertisements and a plan to implement them, no one will choose your dealership over competitors. And the only way to get the best marketing plan in town is to evaluate the results of previous plans to find areas of improvement and increased profit opportunities. After all, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”