You’re Marketing Backwards: How To Maximize ROI In Reverse

I recently had a chance to take the stage at NADA 2020 to share some new insights with attendees. The feedback I got was so positive, I felt it was important to share that same message with those of you who were unable to attend my session, or those who did attend and simply want to revisit the material. Either way, this blog’s for you!

Joe Chura presents at NADA 2020

What if I told you that we’ve all been marketing backwards all these years? Most dealers are hyper-focused on customer acquisition with the mindset that the more traffic you can get, the better. While that may sound good on paper, the reality is driving traffic without first considering the destination will lead to poor — if not catastrophic — results.

Since I love analogies, let me put it to you like this. Imagine you inherited a restaurant from your retiring uncle. You have fond memories of this restaurant from all the time you spent there as a kid. If you close your eyes and concentrate hard enough, you can practically taste your uncle’s amazing food. Needless to say you can’t wait to fulfill your life’s dream of being a restaurateur.

However when you arrive that first day to sign some paperwork and pick up the keys to the restaurant, you discover things aren’t exactly as you pictured them in your mind. It looks like the place hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, if not months. The waitstaff is lazy and uncaring. And to top it off,  you’re pretty sure you saw a mutant cockroach scurry into a vent when you turned the lights on in a storage closet. Seriously?!?!

So. Knowing these are the current conditions of your new business, what would you do first?

  1. Drive traffic to your restaurant by allocating $20,000 on a digital marketing campaign inviting local diners to come in for a bite?
  2. Deep clean the restaurant from top to bottom, hire a new staff and contract the best exterminator in the biz.

I think it’s safe to assume that you’d pick option 2. Why? Well because it just makes simple business sense, right?

The irony is that as dealers we make the wrong decision month in and month out. We throw our budget in the advertising machine to “drive traffic”, we direct that traffic to somewhere on our website, and then we think about the results of what that traffic did after the fact.

Look, I’m not trying to be harsh here. But if you have a traffic first mentality, you’re the restaurant owner who chose option 1 despite all the evidence staring him or her in the face that was a terrible idea.

Are you picking up where I’m going with this?



It takes significant dollars to double your traffic, but it doesn’t take significan dollars to double your conversion rate.

Here’s an example using simple numbers. Let’s say you’re spending $500 / month to earn 1,000 web visitors which nets you a 1% conversion rate or 10 conversions.

If you wanted to “double” your conversions, logic would say you’d simply pay 2x more to double your traffic, right? In other words you’d spend $1,000 to get 2,000 visitors and with a 1% conversion rate that would net you 20 total conversions.

So you did it, right? Well yeah. But you had to double your budget to do it.

What if, instead of doubling your budget, you just focused on making sure your website was better equipped to convert the traffic you were already paying for?

Conversion Rate Optimization

You don’t have to pay for twice the traffic to double your conversions.

Think about it like this. If you could double your conversion rate from 1% to 2% with the same amount of traffic, you’d get the same result — 20 conversions — for a lot less money.

So how do you do it? Well if you want to maximize your ROI, you need to start with your website experience first.



The philosophy I’m talking about here is something I call Destination. Measurement. Advertising — or DMA for short. And when I say Destination, I’m referring not just to your website, but to the overall customer experience. When that traffic arrives on your website, where do you want them to go? What do you want to happen when they get there? What is the intended outcome?

It’s important that you think about those questions because the ideal customer experience has evolved and become more demanding of car dealers in 2020. Simply having a fast and mobile friendly website isn’t enough anymore, that’s the expectation.

79% of shoppers will leave and never return to buy as a result of frustrating website performance.1



Above and beyond fast and mobile friendly, your website really needs to be positioned to instantly answer a shopper’s most important questions at any hour of the day (or night).

It shouldn’t shock you to learn that lead form submissions are down across the industry. Why? Because filling out a form and the waiting for a response doesn’t meet a modern consumer’s demands of instant and easy.

For example, a Get E-Price CTA that doesn’t give a shopper an actual price is wasted real estate.  The fact of the matter is 75% of consumers won’t walk into your store until they know what that vehicle is going to cost them based on their credit, down payment, and trade-in. A modern digital retailing solution like Online Shopper: Electric™ can provide all the information a shopper needs to make a personal, educated decision with no friction, and most importantly — no waiting.

With VDP Automated Messaging, you can program CTAs like Evaluate My Trade to launch experiences that take place within our advanced messaging platform, Conversations™ that are designed to provide real and instant value for the shopper all while capturing a lead for your team as well.

So those are just a couple of ways you can optimize your destination website experiences for your shoppers and increase your conversions.

But if you’re not measuring correctly, you’ll have no idea what’s working or and what’s not. So let’s talk about measurement.



More important than anything – as a basic measurement fundamental — you must define what your baselines are. What are your average metrics right now? You need to know those baselines to understand the impact of any of your marketing efforts.

Remember, measurement is not just about looking at numbers after the fact. It’s also about giving yourself and your team a target to hit because If you never set goals, you can’t score. Period.

To start, gather your KPIs to set your baseline measurements. For example, you may want to just focus on the metrics that most impact the overall health of your business:

  • Traffic by Channel (Direct, Paid, Organic)
  • Conversion Rate
  • Lead Count

Regardless of which KPIs you set as baseline health metrics, it’s important to understand that numbers don’t always tell the whole story without context. Setting a baseline for Bounce Rate for example might sound like a good idea, and you may see really positive or negative numbers, but without context they won’t have real meaning.

Let me explain. True story. A dealer friend recently texted me to say that he’s not happy with me because he’s seen his bounce rate go way up, and his conversion rate go way down. So I hop into his Google Analytics, and yup, it’s plain to see that he’s correct.

Bounce Rate Up and Conversion Rate Down in Google Analytics

If Bounce Rate is up and Conversion Rate is down, what else can we look at for context?

But I also notice that his web traffic is way up. Where is it coming from?

I dig in and discover that a recent SEO blog we wrote for him is the #1 organic result for “How Long Do Toyota Camrys last?”. That piece of content is getting a ton of traffic — 59% of which is from out of state. Well of course these visitors are bouncing, they’re not going to contact a dealer 1,000 miles away!

So let’s look at these same analytics again with new eyes. Bounce rate up, conversion rate down, traffic up… what really matters?

Bounce rate up, conversion rate down, traffic up, leads up?!?! What really matters here?

Well, your leads are up I tell him. Even though your conversion rate is down, the total number of conversions is up.

In the end I tell my friend none of this matters. The bottomline is there are more customers contacting your dealership and the “negative” metrics are because of a positive development — your website’s SEO is ranking on a national level. #fistbump

When it comes to measurement sometimes context is everything and you just need to do a little digging to understand the why.



Ok so we’ve set up our destinations, defined our goals and set our baselines — NOW we’re ready to advertise, so let’s spend…


Before you start shoveling your budget into the ol’ advertising machine, I need to share a few more secrets with you. Just because you’ve optimized your destination and are prepared to measure your marketing activities — you can’t just willy nilly start spending loads of cash without direction or discretion.

There are two psychological concepts I want to touch on here that you can incorporate in your digital advertising. One is based on the predictably irrational mind and the other has to do with loss aversion. You can use both to help you drive the outcomes you want.

Capitalizing on the predictably irrational mind is actually easier than you think. Essentially if you give some a choice between two options, most people will gravitate toward the cheaper option. And that’s not what we want to do.

We want to add a third option, a decoy if you will, that’s just close enough to the highest price option that make most people think that the highest priced option is the most appealing.

Think about what you can do with this, with your inventory, ads, and landing pages. If you just put these two options, the base Civic vs. the top-line Civic — your brain highlights the cheaper option. Looks like a good deal. What could be so different about the Touring for another 4 grand? But introduce a decoy option, and it totally changes your view. For just an extra $20 bucks I can get the top-of-the-line Civic with all the best tech features? Sold!

Predictably Irrational

Use a decoy price to drive people to take the action that you really want.

You’re probably more familiar with the second psychological concept you can use in your advertising, known as loss aversion.

In behavioral economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains (i.e. it’s better to not lose $10 than to win $10).

So how can you use this in advertising? Well, you can position your offers to be less focused on the joy of driving a new car, and more focused on how much it would suck to miss out on these savings.

Look at this display set below. These are actual ads that we A/B tested for a client using loss aversion principals. Same design, same vehicle, but different copy.

Loss Aversion Display Advertising

Can you guess which one of the display ads outperformed the rest?

Can you guess which ad garnered the most interaction? Yup, it was the “Don’t Miss Out” ad that was just oozing with loss aversion.

We tested this at scale as well with paid search ads. Four identical offers with the same exact keyword targeting.

Loss Aversion Paid Search Ads

Clearly the most people are responding to the add with loss aversion messaging.

Again, it was the text ad with the “Don’t Miss Out” headline that drew the most clicks showing how loss aversion messaging performs better than basic marketing copy. Make sense? Of course it does!

So there you go, that’s DMA. Focus on the customer experience first (online and in store), define what success means and how to get it, and then position advertising to drive the specific outcome you want.

The End!

If after reading this recap of my NADA 2020 Workshop you want to know more about how Dealer Inspire can help you focus on your destination, define what success means for your dealership, and drive the outcomes that you want then drop us a line!

Let’s Connect!



Joe Chura
Joe began his career on the Ford assembly line at age 20, reading his college textbooks seconds at a time in between building cars. Over the next decade Joe gained experience at many different levels in the automotive industry, including running Ford’s regional sales team and a stint as General Manager of two dealerships, where he increased internet sales by 300%. Combining his passion for computer programming and innovation, Joe co-founded Launch Digital Marketing (LDM) and Dealer Inspire (DI) to bring new retail technology and better online experiences to both car dealers and shoppers.

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