The goal of marketing is to reach the right people with the right message in the right place. And it only takes a cursory glance around any room, restaurant, or workplace to realize exactly where that place is…(That’s to say, in front of a screen, in case you were wondering.) It goes without saying, then, (even if we are just about to say it!) that the very existence of digital advertising should be a big part of any dealership’s marketing plan. And the whole raison d’etre of TRFFK is to provide the ultimate Canadian-first, laser-focused, digital advertising service to our dealers.
Although we have a deep and varied team of experts working on your TRFFK campaigns — from designers to developers to Online Strategy Consultants — when it comes to digital strategy, no one is closer to the nuts and bolts of decision-making, course-changing, and budget allocation than the Digital Strategists themselves. We figured it was time to swing by TRFFK’s buzzing, digital strategy department to check in with Dhiren Raikuvar — Head of Digital Strategy — to learn a little more from an insider’s perspective on what we should all be paying attention to.
Q: We talk about the “nuts and bolts” of digital strategy in our intro here, but how would you explain those in layman’s terms to a non-expert?
A: Strategy, by definition, is “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.” When it comes to digital strategy, it’s simply about implementing ideas deeply rooted in the client’s (or in our case, dealer’s) business objectives or goals. Digital strategy can be implemented by a variety of different approaches, but it all comes back to that initial conversation: What are our business goals and how do we best get to meet them?
Q: How does that apply to what a TRFFK digital strategist does specifically?
A: A Digital Strategist in TRFFK works with the account team at TRADER as well as with our dealers to build auto-specific digital marketing campaigns that follow best practices but also adapt to each dealer’s individual goals and objectives. Equally important to note, our digital strategists are experts in digital marketing but are also well tuned into the specific needs of Canadian automotive dealers, which can be different from a digital strategist. It’s the combination of both specialities that sets them apart. The Strategist sits at the core, from planning to working with Ad Operations, Creative & Technical teams, and ensures a cohesive approach towards bringing growth, while staying focused on the client’s objectives.
Q: We’ve often talked about how TRFFK takes a unique approach to digital strategy. What sets its approach apart from others?
A: At TRFFK we are able to focus on Search, Display and Social Advertising while always considering new channels. Most agencies have a niche specialty, but we have a team that is fluent in all the key channels and can shift nimbly when the online environment demands it. What’s more, having autoTRADER as the organization behind TRFFK gives us the automotive expertise required to truly understand dealer marketing and audience behaviour, as we are immersed in it day-to-day. It also means that thanks to the support of a major company (TRADER) we are able to deploy best-of-breed platforms that smaller agencies can’t always do, such as Google Marketing Platform, Google Analytics 360, and Kenshoo. We are also constantly building and evolving our own proprietary interfaces that better integrate these systems and improve performance for our clients.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about VDPs (Vehicle Display Pages) being the most important metric dealers should be paying attention to. How do you quantify success as far as they go?
A: For any marketing strategy, you need to know who are you marketing to. A prospective car buyer, today, seeks to conduct a thorough research before they walk into a dealership. And they are able to get it very easily by researching online. The insight is, whether if it is a prospect who is still in initial research stage or is already a well-researched person (who is strongly considering purchasing the car of their choice), they are always seeking to get valuable information before they walk into a dealership or even willingly submit a lead! The concept and importance of a VDP is based on that insight.
A VDP gives valuable information to the prospect and significantly increases the chances for any dealership to get the prospect’s attention. And there are several smart ways of targeting and retargeting to a prospect as well (which we can cover in a future article!) However, VDPs are where we direct a lot of traffic from new and used car campaigns. By sending qualified traffic that aligns with what consumers are looking for — and then optimize that – it allows us to deliver the most valuable campaigns. Ultimately, consumers are looking to purchase a vehicle, so the faster you get them to the vehicle they are looking for with the most relevant information, the faster you can convert to a sale for your dealership. We rate success by how much we can lower the cost of a VDP view, while still ensuring it converts to an actual sale — meaning we delivered the right people to the page in the first place. Over time, as we have evolved the TRFFK platform and better met the dealership needs, we have been able to reduce the overall Cost per VDP by less than half. We are even able to loosely correlate VDP views with the sales being met by the dealer on those specific vehicles.
Q: Let’s talk budget. One of the most common questions we hear from our dealers is how they should allocate their budget. Is there an exact science to this?
A: There is a lot of data out there that gives us signals as to where a dealer’s media investment will be best placed across all channels. We take this data and incorporate individual dealer goals and objectives so we can better predict what the optimal media mix is for each dealer. But remember that consumer demands shift quickly either by a make, model, or time of year, so it’s important that budgets don’t remain fixed but adapt to changing consumer needs. Moreover, because TRFFK has access to so much consumer insight through autoTRADER.ca — who have their finger on the pulse in the marketplace and understand seasonality trends — we have the ability to predict, advise, and adapt each dealer’s budget on an ongoing basis. This is anything but a “set it and forget it” process.
Q: We’ve heard rumours of exciting innovations around the corner for TRFFK. Is there anything you can share with our dealers at this point?
A: Video is becoming a predominant method of consuming media online, and it’s more important than ever that digital marketing for dealers continues to shift towards video-based advertising through the likes of YouTube. We are already testing these ads in the market and plan to continue rolling out new features over time. It’s also going to become increasingly important to attribute success to the right marketing channels. We’re talking about ROI metrics that go beyond just your standard campaigns and extend to incorporate areas like an auto marketplace — essentially a comprehensive, all-channel ROI.