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Old Dogs New Tricks

They say you can't teach old dogs new tricks, but I'm the exception to this rule. I hope you are as well…

I’m an old school car dog (woof). I saw this coming a few years back and made the necessary adjustments. Before I start telling you how great digital marketing is let me start by saying I don’t think traditional advertising is dead. I just believe that it’s fragile as a standalone marketing tool. When I sell mailers to dealers I always include a digital budget. Relying on just mail to move numbers is like having a Buick point without GMC or Chevy. (Sorry Dave) Here’s what I do know from experience…

Digital advertising has genuinely changed the auto dealer’s view of how he markets to his PMA and beyond. Take Cookies, cross-device identification, IFDAs, attribution and numerous other innovations. Dealers can track who sees their ads, on which devices, and determine whether those investments resulted in the delivery of a vehicle.

Try tracking anything like that on TV, newspaper or even mail. Oh, sure you can add a call tracking number but come on are you sure TV is working for you? Really? The answer is NO you can’t measure it like you can with a digital video. Also, TV marketing it’s too expensive even to try to track the same way. You will spend more money on trying to find out the impact of a peculiar ad than you would the freaking ad itself. Please don’t email me and say, "Tom, I have an excellent tracking we had 120 calls last month and sold 20 cars". Oh really? For how much money?

Well let’s see production on a tight TV spot with decent talent, NOT Tom Park, he’s a pitch pro, and you can’t afford anyone like him. Let’s say local talent and a magnificent production with some graphic editing. $3,500.00 for 30 seconds. Oh COX will do it for you for free?

Not free. Stop and think about that for a second. FREE is a firm word. You get a keychain for FREE maybe some FREE advice, but you’re not getting production for FREE you’re paying for it somewhere. So you spent $3,500 for production now let’s do some buys. Okay so you’re going to get aggressive you say with your TV purchase, so you buy $10,000 worth of airtime to run your high impact message that will bring in the buyers.

Now, you have $13,500 invested in TV, actually cable, not the mainstream. For $10,000 you’re on ESPN at 10:00 PM maybe some CNN in the early morning or maybe you fit in channel 33 at 2 AM with a 28:30 infomercial. Whatever, so tell me how many cars have you delivered off this $13,500 investment?

I’m not going to argue with you here, okay. You’re spending $50,000.00 per month on TV who cares. The point is if you took $13,500 per month and spent it on the right digital advertising campaign you would be able to track every single penny, every sale, every delivery and not to mention the mentions on social media and the post sales ripple effect goes on and on ad infinitum.

But wait! You’re spending $13,500 per month on Autotrader. Stop, I said digital advertising campaign. Autotrader is not a digital advertising campaign. I have learned a thing or two over the years about digital marketing in the car business. Number one, I understand the value of targeting consumers with a message vs. blasting a blanket of mail across various zip codes hoping someone will take their time and open it. Or blasting a TV spot that cost me $25,000 a month not knowing its actual results.

I want to target my prospects that are “In-Market” right now with the right message at precisely the right time. With digital marketing, I know what they’re going to buy before they know what they are going to buy. How do I know this? It’s called internet magic; actually, it’s called Online Behavioral Advertising or OBA. We’ll come back to OBA in a minute…

Recognizing Trends

I first saw this digital trend with my platform back in 2007 when we launched the first ever auto posting software called Inventory Blaster. And again in 2008 when we launched my True Invoice platform. Yes, long before there was a TrueCar there was a True Invoice ( I just couldn’t sell dealers on transparency back then.

In 2008 the car business as I knew it came to an abrupt halt and I was diversifying as fast as I could from Super Sales. I own Moving IRON ( and at one time had several teams that traveled across the nation producing some of the biggest staffed sales events in the country. To this day I still hold the record at Trophy Nissan in Dallas TX for selling over 200 units in four days. (Trophy) There’s even a movie about it called The Goods “Live Hard - Sell Hard” Google it! Just know I have been around the block a few times in the car business when it comes to conventional or digital advertising.

Over 5 trillion display ads served annually online will make anyone pay attention. I would love to know how many were from car dealers but I assume it’s a very high number. In a hyper-accelerated diffusion of information, how does your dealership stand out? How does your brand differ from other brands?

I have a Client that is managing partner of one of the largest Ford stores in the nation in Houston TX. How is he staying ahead of the other 14 Ford stores that are within 45 minutes radius of him? He’s number one digitally in the market as well as conventionally. He’s what I call a super selling machine. He’s mixing old school car business philosophy with new age technology, and I’m proud to say we were there with him the majority of the time over 16 years.

Want to do some new, exciting and will be your biggest ROI? Check out my new company It's simple ... we install a six foot touch screen kiosk in your showroom Watch video: we capture referral videos from your customers as they come out of finance. The referral video is automatically uploaded to your customers facebook and to your custom dashboard. From here you can manually control where the video is promoted or click auto pilot and the system will promote it for you.

nuVuez in Your Showroom

Our system will create an facebook ad and promote your customers referral to their friends and their friends friends etc .

I can’t give away trade secrets of the nuVuez technology behind our referral campaigns. But I can, however, tell you we do NOT use tracking mechanisms without consumer consent, this is viewed negatively within the industry; however, tracking of consumer behavior online or on mobile devices are essential to digital advertising, which is the financial backbone of the internet. You can produce great digital ad campaigns morally, ethically and still be very effective, Cyber FORCE will show you how.

So about the branding

Want to turn a car dealer off? Talk to them about branding their dealership name. As soon as you mention branding, they are showing you the door. Most car dealers have an old school mindset of “Results Now.” That’s probably been the biggest challenge for me in the digital world, convincing a car dealer to be patience. Of course, the reason they don’t have any patience is that they don’t understand. When I pitch them, they will say “Hold on let me let you talk to my internet guy.” But if the web guy doesn’t sell his boss on the nuVuez product then you’re back at square one in 30 days. No results - Out!

Branding is important it’s difficult if not impossible to track. So you have to brand with a purpose. Whatever you are selling must hold depth and weight and must have a trackable ROI. At it feels like I am spending more money, time and energy on tracking results for dealers to feel good about their ROI than I am in new and innovative ways to sell cars. But I get it, I’m a car guy in the digital marketing worldI’m not a geek in the car business. The automotive industry has turned me into a "geek." And I'm okay with that because let's face it, the geeks won.

Bottom-line, I know how important it is to measure the results and not just a post report that is read at the end of the month while comparing the doc to the statement. I am talking about a LIVE dashboard so Mr. Dealer can see what his investment is doing by the hour, day, and week, yesterday compared to last month compared to tomorrow. In the car business dealers live and die by reports, there are reports in everything; there are reports on reports to show us the latest report we should be reading so that dealers are on top of their A game when we have a save a deal meeting. Don’t even get me started on "save a deal" reports. You get the idea; we are just "report happy."

Even when you can get answers after just clicks and impressions and see real results like showroom visits and phone ups, how do you know these are driving a tangible ROI? How do you know this one lead turned into a car deal? That’s the TOP priority with Tracking the ROI is as important as getting the in-market consumer to react to a particular ad.

Keeping Your Ego Out of It

Here's a helpful hint or suggestion; Being able to link metrics such as clicks, visits, and calls and drill down the metrics to the actual conversion of the car deal. You can look for more meaningful metrics and dealer reports through technology like lead conversion advanced technology, tracking insights like what ad marketing sources are driving prospects and leads and then measure your ROI for new deliveries you close from this digital marketing strategy. My point here is whatever your investment might be, or any company, make sure you can track your results and most importantly be honest with yourself don’t BS yourself into thinking something is doing great when it’s not. Just keep your ego out of it, and you will be okay. Sometimes you may be wrong and that's okay because if you're not wrong sometimes you're not trying new things. I love hearing a dealer tell me no I'm not interested it tells me they are closed minded. You know what happens when you think you know it all?

When did this negative attitude towards digital marketing develop? From companies that have over promised and under delivered. When I was running a store, I was guilty of the same thing. At that time we just weren't paying enough attention to digital as we are now. A company would come along and say they could do this or that online and increase our SEO which will bring in more customers because let’s face it the internet is here to stay. We said okay, signed off and after about six months and $15,000.00 invested we had no real results. You would think we would kill it there, but then the geek would tell us we don’t understand how the internet works in a nice way. Knowing this was probably true we signed up for another six months. Don’t get me started on companies like Autotrader etc. I cannot tell you how many times I had to call and try to renegotiate an ironclad 25-page contract. there is no long term contact. We charge a very reasonable monthly service fee with package options.

The Secret Formula

Today, I make it a point to show the dealer the features and benefits of I build value and talk about the frequency with referral video ads on different channels. Channels on the internet, not the TV. You, as a car dealer, need to know a thing or two about trends in digital marketing. Here’s the secret formula to great digital advertising in the automotive industry; Create digital display ads with high-quality images, audio and video to help communicate your message then you’re going to mix online behavioral, contextual targeting and tracking with high impact on high-frequency digital channels that include social media. Next, make sure all this is has trackable results, and after you do all this perfectly and leads are flowing like a river, have your professional salesman call the prospect and set an appointment to sell them a vehicle. Easy enough right? Well if you find you’re not doing that great or maybe you want a little help. Give me a call. I know a thing or two about a thing or two!

Tom Stokes, CEO

Founder of


Tom Stokes enjoys a good cigar as he blogs...

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