GrowthCast Episode 8: Digital Marketing Strategy

Our guest today is Nick Brunotte, Director of DHG Dealerships Digital Solutions Group. Nick discusses how companies can optimize both their exposure and profitability by way of digital audits, continuous monitoring and management, and reporting of digital performance.



[00:00:09] JL: Welcome to today's edition of DHG’s GrowthCast. I'm your host, John Locke. At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence, and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser-focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG's GrowthCast provides insights and thought-provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace.

Thanks for joining us as we discuss tomorrow’s need today.

[00:00:42] ANNOUNCER: Views and concepts expressed by today’s panelists are their own and not those of Dickson Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult the advice of your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


[00:00:57] JL: Our guest today is Nick Brunotte. Nick is Director of DHG Dealerships Digital Solutions Group. As director in DHG Charlotte office, Nick helps dealership clients optimize both their exposure and profitability by way of digital audits, continuous monitoring and management, and reporting of digital performance.

Thanks for joining us today, Nick.

[00:01:19] NB: Thanks, John. I’m happy to be here.

[00:01:20] JL: Well, Nick, you have an extensive background in the automotive industry. What attracted you to this new position here at DHG?

[00:01:29] NB: What attracted me most I think, John, is just obviously DHG having its over 3,000 dealer clients currently and knowing the prominence of digital marketing in today's world and all the challenges that come with that. It’s a moving target. We found the need for us to establish service offering for all those dealer clients of ours to help them navigate through that digital marketing landscape.

With that, we offer a broad range of service offerings anywhere from just doing monthly assessments and providing our dealers with this is how we performed this past month to being their chief marketing officers. Our main goal is obviously to help them maintain relevance in the market and also be cost-efficient and cost-effective while doing such.

[00:02:18] JL: It sounds like a real partnership. That's a great service. When you think about all the different elements of a client’s marketing plan, what is it that you actually analyze?

[00:02:28] NB: Well, most importantly, obviously the main goal of a client is to sell or to achieve a profit. If you look at how they are, first of all, selling and how much they’re spending in their advertising to accomplish that. There are a number of things that go into play in a marketing strategy, fundamentally websites. Is it laid out well? Is it consumer-friendly? Does it convert? We look at them. We look at the analytics that come with the website activity, seeing how folks are shopping and interacting with their website. We look at their search effectiveness. We play the role of a shopper online and we see how they show up on Google Search. They always say the best place to hide any gold clubs from your wife is page two on Google Search. Because nobody ever looks there, so we want to make sure that our clients aren’t ending up there right? We look at that very heavily.

In the dealership space, there is a lot of third parties that are involved, third-party vendors. So we look at their effectiveness and expense that comes with that. Social media is a huge one, so we look at the messaging that’s being presented on social media from both an organic and a paid presence. Very important is how they’re merchandising their products online.

Then lastly, over the last few years is their Google My Business to make sure that that’s a free service essentially and to make sure that that's being optimized as well. Every month, we look at probably 15, 20, 25 different elements of their marketing campaigns and try to dial those in as much as we possibly can.

[00:04:09] JL: well, that’s quite a vast array of services that you’re offering. What trends are you seeing currently?

[00:04:18] NB: The trends that we are seeing currently obviously are people are spending more time in front of their screens. Screen time is certainly up. Social media viewing is up as well. Searches are down by 30% currently, but those that are searching for things online are more intentional about that. They’re spending more time doing such. They’re looking at more pages. They’re getting more involved in what they’re searching. Searches in general are down, but those that are searching mean it.

Another thing, digital retailing obviously. In this time when people can’t leave their homes, they need to be able to purchase goods and services or most of the processes of that online. For an example, just last week, my mother-in-law who lives around a nearby lake, want to purchase a kayak from a local purveyor, and they had no way for us to purchase that kayak online, so no kayak was purchased that day.

My daughter is soon to be four this weekend, so we went online to another local bike shop and we’re looking for a bike with training wheels for her. In that store, I was able to complete a transaction online and purchase her, what, a pair of training wheel bicycle, which I’ll pick up today. So being aware that that’s what you need to accomplish. We need to be able to have – Let someone buy your bloody service online, so make those efforts. That is something that we’re seeing a lot of right now. Obviously, digital retailing is kind of a no-brainer.

What – Your messages online needs to change a little bit. This is a human crisis going on right now, and your messaging needs to reflect that a little bit when – On your websites, on your social media campaigns. Stop shouting 249 payments and start saying, “These are the things that we’re doing to ensure that you're safe when you do choose to buy our product.” That is of incredible relevance. Even having your own dedicated page on your website to how you're handling this and what lengths you're going to comfort your future clients, customers, what have you.

Then another thing is how you – What your strategy is during this time from a digital marketing perspective. I guess that people are still shopping searches. People are shopping 30% less right now, but 70% of people are still in the marketplace. So stay in front of those people until we get out of this, right? So remarketing, staying in front of these folks that are searching for you online. Stay in front of them for the duration.

The old adage is get in front of people seven time. That marketing – You need to touch them seven times before you get interested in your service. That’s obviously changed a little bit. That’s an old adage, but certainly you need to get them – You need to touch client and your customers or your prospects two, three, four times before they even show true interest in what you're doing. So the strategies have changed because we know that we’re going to need to be in front of folks for months.

[00:07:15] JL: Yeah. We need to be thinking differently now, don’t we?

[00:07:17] NB: 100%. Absolutely, yes.

[00:07:19] JL: What are some of the biggest challenges you're seeing in these unique times for the dealers that you’re dealing with?

[00:07:26] NB: Well, there’s a number of challenges, but most relevant to me is the first thing that they look for – Not the first thing but one of the first things they look to cut revenues down is marketing expense. In my opinion, I’m obviously a little biased because this is the world that I live in. But from a business owner’s standpoint, you need to stay in front of folks with your products. You need to present – Keep your product in front of folks and you do that by marketing or digital means.

[00:07:58] JL: Why is that, Nick, that marketing expenses are usually one of the first items to be cut?

[00:08:04] NB: To be honest with you, it’s probably because of ease, right? You can get online and stop Facebook campaign or get on the phone and call your agency and say, “Listen, we got to cut everything by 40%,” and it’s done in a phone call, right? Especially in the digital age, if you get down to this, it’s a very now type industry or concept or technology and you can cut things immediately. If you lay off a staff, which is payroll is usually one of the larger expenses, that could take weeks to accomplish, to slow that process down or those expenses down. One of the reasons it’s cut, first is because of the ability to do it easily.

[00:08:41] JL: How does a dealer manage that tricky equation between customer acquisition costs and an efficient marketing effort?

[00:08:49] NB: Well, obviously, I’m not close to people cutting back their marketing budgets, right? But you need to be smart about where you cut them. The challenge is finding that balance, where to cut, how much to cut, and then what to keep, so you can stay relevant and effective. That’s why looking at all these metrics that we mentioned earlier and studying heavily customer behavior, shopper behavior. That’s the biggest challenge is making relevant changes that are still impactful, so you remain impactful.

[00:09:22] JL: What really makes an effective marketing strategy in this day and age?

[00:09:27] NB: Well, like I said, you need to stay in front of folks in this day and age. You need to be quick. You provide folks with what they’re looking for quickly. People want immediate gratification and they want to be able to search for something. You get a result very quickly, so your strategy needs to be designed around that. Simple things. Make sure your website is quick, because if people are on their phone and it takes too long to load your website and get to a page or whatever, they’re going to leave. They’re going to go somewhere else.

People are shopping intentionally. You're answering the questions that they are searching for online. You need to provide them with the information that they can get, that they want quickly. Today, you need to make sure that you can deliver that or most of that process online.

[00:10:13] JL: Earlier in our podcast, we talked about trends. What are a few traps and maybe outdated mindsets that exist in today's marketplace?

[00:10:23] NB: Today’s marketplace I think is an interesting topic because I think it's a now thing. It’s a four-week thing. It’s not 2000. It’s from march 15th to now, right? Today's marketplace is different than it was six weeks ago. I think one thing that people are doing is they might be eliminating the qualified marketer within their organization and they’re giving those duties to someone within the organization that might be able to operate a computer or create logins for people or what have you. Oftentimes, there's a lot of under qualified folks that are pulling the strings for marketing campaigns, just because they feel like that’s what’s necessary for budget’s sake.

A lot of folks just don't even have a digital market in-house. They’re just currently not doing it, which is obviously the worst-case scenario. They're putting either the strategy in the wrong people's hands, so they’re really kind of fumbling on the strategy or they’re not implementing a strategy at all. For a long time, people’s strategy was growth, so you’d give to your agency, “These are the things I want to accomplish. We want to grow. We want to sell more. We want to sell more.” They give it to the agency and the agency would run with it and just kind of dealer would say, “Set it. Forget it,” and the agency’s got it.

The mantra now in these times currently is not so much growth. It’s more adapt. So you need to kind of change your ways. You’re trying to kind of maintain. You’re trying to hang on. Maybe you change your goal. You adapt your goal to let’s maintain, so change your strategy to that. I think that's a big one.

I’ve driven 50 miles probably back and forth to FedEx and the grocery store in last month. I am not spending time in my car, which means I’m not listening to the radio, right? Traditional methods or former traditional methods of marketing are maybe a segment of your marketing campaign or your strategy was methods that just currently aren’t working because people aren’t listening or they're not watching in the same manner, right? So adapting your strategy to that, spending it where it matters, like I mentioned before staying in front of your customers for a while, where folks were kind of remarketing a little bit because the conversion rates were low and not as high as other means.

But times have changed. You’ve got to adapt. You got to stay in front of the customers or your clients or your prospects for 60, 90, 120 days now. Remarketing is a strategy that I think that is going to be more commonplace where it needs to be part of a larger portion of your strategy currently. A lot of people are cutting payroll costs and things of that nature and getting rid of marketers. They should probably look to maybe have discussions with agencies because their fees sometimes are 20, 30, sometimes even 40%. Everybody is struggling right now. Everybody needs to continue marketing, maybe have those discussions, and to looking by agency costs. Maybe eliminating them all together and hire a marketer in house. Who knows?

I think there's a lot of challenges. I think you just need to be aware what those are and come up with a thoughtful plan on how to conquer those challenges.

[00:13:33] JL: Well, you’ve given us some great thoughts around how dealerships need to adapt in this current age of COVID-19 and beyond, because we don't know where this is really going to end up anytime soon. If you would provide our listeners a few questions that they might need to be asking themselves right now as they move forward in developing their marketing strategy and really be strategic in getting the highest return on investment.

[00:14:01] NB: When we assess a client's standard effectiveness, we look at obviously financials. How much are you spending? Then we dig deep. We look at who we are spending with, and then look at the analytics. Look at conversion rates. Look at cost per conversion. Then just see where maybe the rubber doesn’t hit the road and juice isn’t worth the squeeze and find out which ones are working for you. Just dig in. It’ll take a little bit of time but it’s worth it, right? Then just make cuts where you need. Maybe you don’t need three third-party used car inventory providers online. You don’t need and carpenters all at once right now. Shed some light where you can.

I think most importantly, you need to look at how do you measure your success. Which vendors are providing you that success? Are those vendors converting? If they're not, then maybe it’s just time to put those on pause or cut bait for now. How often do you assess your performance online? Who's assessing it? Do you understand the metrics that they’re providing you? If not, find somebody that does or ask more questions. Then what are your competitors doing? To be honest with you, I mean, everybody wants to win out there and that’s – It’s important to look at how your competitors are doing out there. So look at them heavily as well. There are tools online or just pretend to be a shopper and see who's beating me right now and what do I need to do differently.

[00:15:25] JL: These are some great tips, Nick, not only just for auto dealership managers and owners but really in any business. You need to be looking at your digital presence and be more strategic and nimble in the way you approach a marketplace.

[00:15:39] NB: Yeah. I mean, this translates to anyone. I mean, everybody is searched. Everybody has Google My Business. Everybody can retarget and get in front of folks. This is not by any stretch dealerships.

[00:15:52] JL: Well, this has been very valuable today, Nic. Thanks for spending time with us and for all you're doing for the many dealership groups across the country.

[00:16:00] NB: Appreciate it. Thank you for the time. It’s an honor.

End of Interview

[00:16:03] JL: You’ve been listening to the DHG GrowthCast with Nick Brunotte, Director of DHG’s Dealerships Digital Solution group. Hopefully, we can all begin to think more strategically about incorporating digital strategies into our businesses.

I’m John Locke, your host, and I look forward to reconnecting with you again soon on an upcoming episode of DHG GrowthCast.

About DHG's GrowthCast

At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG’s Growthcast, provides insights and thought -provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Join us in discussing tomorrow’s needs today.

Disclaimer: The views and concepts expressed by today’s guests are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult with your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


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