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Digital marketing: Q&A



Nick King, Auto Trader market research director

Personalisation vs privacy. Will people accept constant penetration of in-depth selling messages/offers?

This depends on the relevancy of the message.  If it is relevant, I would think it would be acceptable. What is important is not to send too many, clearly. Quality over quantity.

For dealer groups with only one brand (e.g. Vauxhall), where does the balance lie between building the brand around the dealer and building the brand around the product?

Building a brand is important for all businesses.  Your brand/company name will be important to your customers as it could and should instil trust. If I trust you, I will return to buy again. Creating a trusted brand can start with building a personality your customers will relate to. Social media can help you to do this – by engaging with your customer base.

The manufacturer builds its own brand and the dealer/retailer and can expand on their heritage/service offering.

How much should a business invest in online, is there a ratio in regards to spend per consumer, how can you measure if your spend is effective in comparison to the industry averages?

Online is one part of your advertising mix. And there are of course many areas in online to invest in – classified media, SEO, SEM/PPC, website design, display advertising.

We know that the circulation of magazines has massively declined now and a good suggestion would be to spend your offline budget, online.

With price per click (PPC) advertising – it’s very much like a tap.  Turn it on and leads show flow – but you only pay when people click on the ad.  Turn it off and leads from that source stop.  Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process to grow leads naturally and not a dark art, as some would have you believe. SEO  can help you grow natural search enquiries and there are many ways of helping this to grow too.  For example. Google uses algorithms to track how popular/relevant a site is. The more popular/relevant, the higher the ranking on the page.  One of the elements to build popularity/relevancy is the number of the other sites that link to you.  So a simple fix could be to ask all of your suppliers to link to you.

Social media mentions also have an impact on your relevancy score, as does brand names searches. Anything you can do to increase your visibility of your brand name will help.

Comparing this with other industries is not really advisable, as your digital spend should give you quantifiable results. As you spend more, your leads should grow. This question deserves a more thorough answer, though – there is data across industry spend available from the Internet Advertising Bureau


James Intriligator, Professor of innovation and consumer psychology, Bangor University


Should you “ask” for likes/shares?

People are unlikely to like or share a page for a love of the brand itself. The primary motivations for doing so are for the benefit of friends, but also to add to their online profile in an effort to construct their desired self. We are therefore unlikely to share and like content that we are not exposed to, so by asking for a like or a share you are generating that exposure.

However, it cannot be a simple request to “like my page”. There must be a perceived benefit for the audience to like or share.

This can be achieved through competitions i.e. “like for a chance to win” and referring to the gains if they like/share or what they may be missing out on if they fail to like/share (this method is actually more effective than expressing the gain).

It is not damaging to a brand to ask for likes in the ways mentioned above and by putting such requests out, it is generating awareness of the brand’s presence on social media.

A word of caution, however – there is a slow shift for social media users to view organisations as being increasingly intrusive on social media. Therefore a softer approach is likely to be seen in a more positive light than is a barrage of requests.


With reference to the VW Darth Vader ad, what are your thoughts on the “big” Christmas adverts, e.g. John Lewis, who don’t clearly refer to their brand until the end?

With big Christmas ads such as John Lewis, there isn’t a real need to refer to the brand until the end. This is because the main purpose of the ads is to really create a “buzz” around them as we often see with Coca-Cola and John Lewis.

The emotion these adverts generate is, of course, inextricably linked to the, generally, positive emotions people feel during Christmas time and these adverts serve to reinforce these emotions while linking the brand to them and so, as we see with ads such as the John Lewis adverts, they become part of the zeitgeist around Christmas and generate a good deal of hype when they are first seen. The VW advert does succeed in drawing viewers in, but the issue is that there is no real tie to anything, compared with the John Lewis adverts that do have a tie to the festive season in which they are aired. Therefore, it is often the case that the advert itself is widely remembered, but at the expense of the exposure to the brand which is forgotten due to the fleeting nature it is presented at the end of such adverts.


Regarding “distractor devaluation”, does this mean do not re-target by display advertising? Or does it still have relevance and context?

In general, distractor devaluation only happens when someone is trying to do X and is distracted by something having nothing to do with X. e.g. shopping for an airplane ticket for a trip to the USA, and suddenly a car advert appears.

Generally: the more targeted the advert, the more effective it will be and the less likely that the ad will suffer from distractor devaluation. Perhaps the question is about in-store/display advertising (e.g. in the showroom)? In this case, it is less likely that distractor devaluation will happen because the consumer is there in the space with the intention of exploring/buying.  


Would you say competitions really make people want to buy from the brand or do they just attract those after a freebie?

Yes and no. It can generate a positive image of the brand that can attract consumers to it that can in turn result in sales. In this sense then it can be quite potent in creating sales through creating a wider exposure of the brand and bringing in new customers. However, there will of course be those attracted simply by the prospect of a reward and who will not use the brand as an avenue for their purchases.


Andrew Lloyd Gordon, social media expert


For dealer groups with only one brand (such as Vauxhall), where does the balance lie between building the brand around the dealer and building the brand around the product?

I don’t think it’s necessarily an either/or situation. However, I suggest from your business point of view, the focus should primarily be on your dealership and then the brand.  

The challenge is that, to the customer, the Vauxhall brand and your dealership are possibly synonymous.

Therefore, I think social media would be a great way for you to show how you are different as a dealership and how you treat customers, your staff and demonstrate your company culture.


Should dealers invest in paid-for Facebook advertising? Is there a potential problem with being able to access your audience?

I think dealerships investing in Facebook advertising is a great idea. With the ability to be really targeted, Facebook advertising is really cost-effective.

However, like any advertising, you need to write compelling copy and using good quality images. You also need to track your results and drive people via Facebook to a bespoke landing page.

You also need to give somebody in your team ownership of the data and the opportunity to analyse and tweak your advertising performance.


What factors affect the reach of a Facebook post the most – number or speed of likes, shares and comments, promoted post budget, links outside of Facebook, or the content of the post itself?

The only people that really know that are Facebook themselves. They keep their algorithms fairly close to their chests. This is for obvious reasons – they don’t want people “gaming the system”.

 Nevertheless, as you point out, there are a range of factors that will determine the popularity of any content you post to Facebook.

 It’s clear that short posts, photography and web links do really well on Facebook. If you can also create content that encourages sharing (asking questions, for example) then you’re more likely to have that content go further.

As you point out, though, always think about producing quality content first and then let Facebook and its community do the rest.


One notable absentee from your presentation was LinkedIn. In your view what role can this play in the automotive industry?

I did include one screenshot of the Harwoods Group using LinkedIn. Obviously, I only had 25 minutes and we were running late, so I didn’t have time to cover more than a few topics.

However, I think your question is a good one. LinkedIn is a fantastic social network. Compared with many other social networks, it will give you some the best levels of interaction and engagement.

The only challenge I find, is that people on LinkedIn are acting as “professionals”. They’re less likely than some other social platforms to engage openly with brands and sales messages.

Approaching people directly with any sort of sales message is a real no-no on that platform.

I’m sure you wouldn’t do this, but I have seen other companies try this technique and it backfires spectacularly.

 LinkedIn is very much a place for people to discuss business ideas, business issues and to promote their expertise.

 I think, therefore, if you were going to use LinkedIn then you need to provide a space for people to understand your brand and how it helps them.

 LinkedIn groups are easy to set up, but difficult to maintain and to get real interaction. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth trying and you could approach your corporate buyers presumably and offer them a platform to discuss issues in a closed group maybe?

The other opportunity, of course, is LinkedIn advertising.

Its advertising is very targeted and you could have your ads directly against the right target audience within a matter of hours.

You would need to create compelling adverts and also have targeted landing pages for your LinkedIn traffic.

I think this would be another way for you to exploit the power and reach of LinkedIn in your business.


You say social media training is important. How can we train staff better? What skills, tools, etc?

Social media training starts with you as an organisation deciding how you’re going to interact with people online. It comes down first to your “tone of voice” and how you want your staff to behave online.

Once this is out of the way, you then need to train people on the tools and technologies themselves e.g. how to use Facebook and its analytics package.

The best place for this information is actually on each platform itself. Twitter has learning resources, for example. So does LinkedIn and so do Facebook and YouTube.

There are other areas of training that are sometimes needed.

You may need to teach people how to write compelling blog posts. You may want to send people on a photography course. You may need to go on courses on how to create quality videos and so on.

Where you find these type of training courses is, obviously, online.

But there’s always plenty to be said for learning as you go. If you have a central resource at your group level perhaps, they should also provide a rolling programme of training and resources to anybody within the dealerships who is tasked with managing social media channels.

 Finally, there are a range of organisations that offer training in social media.

 These include the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing,, and many others.


I always struggle with what to tweet or post. Any ideas please?

The simple way to answer this is to ask the question, “what would my potential or existing customers want to read from me?”

This comes down to knowing your customers well. What type of information would they find useful? What type of content would they find valuable? How could you help them save time? How could you help them save money or hassle, perhaps?

Focus first on being useful, informative and entertaining and people will start following you. Once you have a loyal following, you can start to drip in more sales messages (although they should never go to more than 20% of your content).

The other approach is to experiment with your content.

Don’t assume that a certain type of content will or won’t work. Try it out and see what reaction do you get?

Do people engage with that type of content yes or no? If they do, do more of it. If they don’t, do less of it.


Mark King, Benfield Motor Group digital sales and marketing manager


Who actually converts the sale and delivers the sold units?  The support team or showroom sales?

It depends, but the internet sales team can take a deposit from the customer and do so in a lot of cases. All sales are transacted and delivered from branch.


How many Facebook postings a day before you start to annoy?

I don’t know if there’s an accurate answer for this one. I think one or two a day max unless you’re promoting a competition that has a narrow window.


How do you establish which social media channel is the right one for you?

The one or two where your customer base is, so I’d say Twitter and Facebook. Although keep an eye on Instagram.  


Since adding online booking functionality for aftersales, how much of an increase in enquiries have you seen?

It’s really hard to tell as it’s very early stages. I can’t say for sure that those customers that booked online wouldn’t have come to us anyway. However, we have guaranteed that booking and made the entire process simple and transparent with regards to pricing. Early results are very promising, with bookings and booking value exceeding our expectations.


Did your developers create the service booking and tyres widgets on your website? Or are they bought in?

We developed them entirely in house.


Would you ever see yourself offering finance or the ability to online through your website? Or do you still see a valuable role for the physical experience of customers in your dealerships?

We offer finance now, although very subtly. We are working on enhancing this as I type this note. I still see the physical experience as being very important to most, but not all. We typically buy from people so that interaction via my sales team and dealership is very important in my eyes.


Scott Sinclair, Scott Sinclair, Google industry manager


How far away is full integration of smartphones with cars?  What benefits can you see for manufacturers and drivers?

Google and a number of manufacturers recently formed the Open Auto Alliance aimed at delivering better experiences for customers and bring the Android operating system into vehicles. I’m not sure what this will bring us as consumers at this stage, but one thing I am confident about is that there will be lots of innovation. I don’t know if smartphone integration will be the solution – but i can imagine a future where your vehicle knows your preferences and setting because of the data held on your smartphone.

 I think there are many benefits for manufacturers and customers including:

Better experiences for customers: I have friends who recently bought vehicles (12 months old) and already the maps are out of date. You only need to think about the transformation in smartphone operating systems and the advantages they have introduced there.

Pro-active management of the vehicle: It seems entirely possible that you could have sensors all over the car knowing exactly when a tyre, brake pad, or headlight needs to be replaced. With a 4G-enabled car, why couldn’t the car automatically book me into the garage (to have it replaced) at a time that works for me (access to my calendar)?

Customer loyalty: the manufacturers (and dealers) who are equipped to take advantage of changing technology will ultimately earn greater customer loyalty. Having access to the current state, driving style, use of a customers vehicle would enable a dealer to really tailor their recommendations for a customer - surely this is a good thing for dealers and customers?


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