At NADA this past March, I was talking with a 12-rooftop dealer and he mentioned a few of his frustrations with digital marketing.
He said he was questioning whether it really worked, so I asked him what he meant.
He explained that in the last four years he had worked with three different digital agencies, each with different pros and cons, but ultimately the same overarching issues. Though each agency promised better results and continual optimization, he continued to see marginal improvements and receive little to no support, despite his growing concerns with the digital campaigns he was paying for.
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I asked him why he felt he wasn’t getting the results he was expecting, and he said he didn’t think his campaigns were adjusted according to what the market was doing.
So, I asked him if he had ever worked with anyone who utilized artificial intelligence (AI) correctly.
He looked confused, so I began to explain a little bit to him about AI and how it works.
How Artificial Intelligence Works with Digital Marketing
AI is what happens when a computer system is able to make decisions that would normally require human intelligence.
It reduces human error, but, more importantly, it allows us to do more, be more specific, and gain better results from processes that would otherwise be more manual and time consuming.
With digital marketing, this means that the optimization that’s so critical to successful marketing campaigns can primarily be done through AI. It allows digital marketers to manage more campaigns and optimize and adjust those campaigns more frequently and in less time.
What it Can Do for Your Campaigns
The dealer I was talking to shook his head. He said he had never heard of this and wanted to test it with one of his stores. He wanted to see if we could increase their digital traffic, leads, and vehicles sold.
The challenge was to drive more relevant traffic to the dealership’s website (which would result in more showroom traffic and qualified leads) despite the saturation of competitors in the region and aggressive competitor pricing.
We launched on April 1st and within 60 days we were already breaking records at the dealership. In fact, in just their second month running their digital marketing, they set a record for most vehicles sold in one month. And, in the months that followed, they consistently exceeded their sales volume for the months prior to launching.
The dealer said he saw a significant and immediate impact and that the quality of online traffic and phone calls were higher than ever before.
Why it’s so Effective
What we noticed as we monitored his campaigns was that by utilizing J&L Marketing’s proprietary AI to make decisions, edits, and updates that would normally require a very manual process, we were able to manage 3X as many campaigns and make 3.5X more optimizing adjustments per campaign.
We were able to optimize our digital marketing campaigns daily – and multiple times per day!
In fact, AI allowed us to make over 400+ changes to his campaigns per day.
This is in direct contrast to digital marketing that doesn’t incorporate AI – where the average number of adjustments are 400 per week.
This level of constant attention and adjustment meant record-breaking results because each campaign was constantly manipulated to respond to consumer engagement and actions and current market forces in order to deliver only the best ads at the best moments to the best consumers.
During the pilot, the dealer mentioned that he was more confident his campaigns were being managed appropriately because he had a digital analyst working with him regularly to oversee and adjust his campaigns each day. This is because, rather than replacing a digital analyst with artificial intelligence, the AI supported our data analysts and allowed them to do more!
As a result, our analysts were able to manage more campaigns at a time while providing better support and more regular communication to our dealer.
How it Reduces Budget Spend
One thing we noticed was that the market changed swiftly and regularly. We had to be able to make adjustments on the fly in order to get the most out of each campaign – which AI allowed us to do!
Through the use of AI, our data analysts controlled more campaigns (which are key to targeting different audiences), made more granular adjustments, and optimized campaigns multiple times per day – which means there were no delays or waiting periods for campaign optimization.
This is what made his campaigns so effective!
Without AI, most agencies can’t offer this because it’s not scalable to their bottom line, but even agencies who utilize outside sources in order to offer AI to their dealers aren’t able to provide this level of immediate adjustment because these outside sources require a multi-day delay – and a hefty fee.
Additionally, AI allowed us to manipulate budget pacing every hour and adjust according to each day’s performance, so that our dealer was able to get the most out of his budget.
It optimized ad spend so that each campaign not only served ads to the best audiences and at the best times, but they also didn’t serve ads with bad information.
This is due mainly to two important features.
First, we checked the dealership’s inventory three times per day, so we didn’t advertise vehicles that had been sold and weren’t actually on the lot.
Secondly, we checked the links in our ads to ensure that no adjustments had been made to the dealership’s website that might affect the ads being served – meaning the target audiences never saw a 404 error. These issues were checked, addressed, and resolved instantly, so that there’s never wasted ad spend and the campaigns capitalized on every available opportunity!
Where it Can Take Digital Marketing
At the end of all of this, the dealer proceeded to enroll every dealership in his dealer group.
Artificial intelligence took their digital marketing from A to Z and broke records within the first month. Stores that had never sold more than 100 vehicles in a month, sold over 100 vehicles every month since starting the digital program and continue to break records.
It delivered quicker, better, and more results – for less.
The questions of whether digital marketing “really worked” arose as a result of reactive adjustments rather than proactive optimization and an inability to monitor, optimize, and adjust according to the fast-changing market we live in.
My friend and I talk often. He loves the direction his dealerships are going and is excited about the results he’s seeing from digital marketing, but his story is not uncommon.
As dealers, we’re all going through a period where we are committed to digital marketing – some more than others, but all of us to some extent.
To those of us who are non-committal and doubt whether it “really works”, you’ve probably dealt with experiences similar to my friend. We’ve all been there! Previous changes haven’t produced results in the past, so hesitation and distrust are common.
But, there are dealers who are getting real results with their digital marketing. And, when there’s a specific strategy that will allow us to achieve the same or even better results (like utilizing AI), then we have to take advantage of opportunities like this to get the results we need to succeed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this... so if you have a question or comment or different opinion, don't be shy! Shoot me an email at email@example.com.
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Scott Joseph is an automotive dealer and CEO of J&L Marketing. With nearly three decades of automotive sales, marketing and leadership experience, he helps automotive clients grow predictable sales with his engineered proven marketing process.