Infographic: 6 Roadblocks to the Automotive Consumer Lead Experience

Today, Cobalt published it’s new 2011 Automotive eShopper Experience Study. Here is an infographic of the study’s highlights. Like us on Facebook to view the entire trend brief.


Google Announces Cobalt/ADP AdWords Premier SMB Partner Status

Cobalt One of Elite Automotive Marketing Vendors Selected for Google Distinction

Today, Google announced that Cobalt has been selected as a Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner. Cobalt is one of the few automotive marketing providers to receive this distinction.

“We are excited to launch the Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner program with hand-picked, highly qualified companies like Cobalt/ADP,” said Ben Wood, Head of Google’s Americas channel sales partnership in a press announcement, “Automotive dealers will not only benefit from Cobalt’s in-depth training, but from their years of relationship in the local market.”

The Google partnership is the latest testament to Cobalt’s sophisticated digital advertising capabilities. Cobalt’s unique automotive paid search program is driven by a Bid Optimization System (BOS) which drives the very best monthly performance for an individual dealer or across a network of dealerships. It is the only system on the market, in any vertical, that manages budgets on pre and post-click performance across multiple channels (i.e. Paid Search and Display).

“We are honored that Google has again recognized the value created by Cobalt’s innovative and unique digital advertising platform,” said Max Steckler, Vice President of Advertising Solutions. “This recognition is further evidence that Cobalt Digital Advertising Solutions are industry-leading in their ability to provide a seamless, integrated experience for consumers throughout their buying journey resulting in qualified buyers to dealers and their manufacturer partners.”

“We are proud to be recognized for our  full spectrum online advertising program,” said Charles Tilton, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Advertising. “Our integrated solution enables us to optimize across channels, deliver dynamic content based on consumer behavior, and gives us access to media that would otherwise be unavailable to the average dealership.”

To learn more about the benefits of Cobalt’s unique digital advertising integration capabilities, watch this video from Google’s “Think Voices” Series, featuring Max Steckler, VP of Display Advertising:

Learn more  about Cobalt’s Premier SMB Partner Status here:

Dealer Raves: How Cobalt’s Digital Ad Package Made Suntrup Auto Group Number One

   In the October issue of Digital Dealer Magazine, Liz Kelly, E-Commerce Director of Suntrup Automotive Group and a ten-year Cobalt customer, took time to sing Cobalt’s praises. Here are some highlights:

That’s just a peek at this awesome dealer testimonial. To find out why Kelly loves her ADP digital tools, and how her ProCare Advocate David Van Fleet provides invaluable expertise, check out the full story.

Fast Lane: Digital Dealer 2011 Booth

ADP Digital Marketing/Cobalt wins a 2011 Pinnacle Award

On Friday, ADP Digital Marketing/Cobalt won a 2011 Pinnacle Award at the Automotive Website Awards (AWA) hosted by PCG Marketing at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The Pinnacle Award is the highest recognition possible, according to PCG President Brian Pasch. Pasch stated, “Pinnacle Platform winners deliver outstanding digital marketing platforms for car dealers and show an unprecedented attention to detail in live production.”

Pasch elaborated on the dramatic enhancements to ADP Digital Marketing/Cobalt’s digital solution in the printed awards book, saying, “The biggest surprise of this year is the improvements delivered by the new ADP|Cobalt website platform. The design and engineering team at ADP|Cobalt made a strong investment in their website platform that we recognize and reward with their inclusion in the search marketing award list.
The ADP|Cobalt digital marketing platform is rapidly expanding and includes products and services that cover social media, reputation management and enhanced analytics…The dramatic changes in site architecture that have been completed this year are impressive.”

Greg Meyer, Vice President of Technology for ADP/Cobalt responded to the win, saying “I would like to thank our dealer partners who have provided input and review of our new solutions, their insight has been instrumental. This recognition is a significant milestone on the merger of The Cobalt Group and ADP Digital Marketing and a reflection of what is to come as we continue to gain momentum with our ground breaking digital marketing solutions.”

Read the full announcement from PCG Marketing here.

Single Model Monogamy is the Real Money-Maker

Inside the Mind of an Automotive Digital Marketing Analyst

After 7 years of working for Cobalt in a variety of roles, I am comfortable saying that I have fielded virtually every dealer request one can think of.   They all seem to have a couple of the same desirable outcomes in mind.  “How can I separate my dealership website from the competition?’ and “How can I  create more opportunities to sell cars” and “How can I fill my service bays?” One of the more common requests that I receive is for custom content and Flash design.  It appears, to me at least, that the need to be more spectacular than the competition drives dealerships to ask for flashier, shinier, and louder pieces of website content.

The Controversy Behind Custom Content and Flash Design

The use of custom graphical content and Flash design on a dealership website comes with a couple different schools of thought.  One on hand, there is a belief that custom graphics and Flash are the most modern and cutting-edge way of displaying content on a website.  On the other hand, the graphics and assets can be difficult to load and might not be compatible with everyone’s means of accessing the web.  iPhones, iPads, other mobile devices, internet connection speeds, etc. can all be variables and inhibitors to a user’s ability to load and interact with a website.  While use of this content is not necessarily right or wrong, it’s important to analyze the impact that specific types of content will have on website visitors and their browsing behaviors.

Sage Advice: Look to the Leaders in the Market

One of the best ways to get ideas on optimal content for your website is by checking out what major players in business and internet marketing do.  Take Apple for example. features one of the most simplistic website designs you can find.  A streamlined main navigation bar at the top; a giant featured product which drives customers to a specific area of the website; and typically two small featured products.  Apple is a company that has a much broader product line than a car dealership, yet they choose to blast visitors with their primary product and assume the consumer is savvy enough to use the main navigation bar to find anything else they might be looking for.

Amazon is another good example, but different from Apple as they feature a lot more navigation items on their home page.  Amazon is a reseller of a very broad variety of goods and services.  As such, they have molded a home page design that offers consumers a variety of ways to get to the information they are looking for as quickly as possible.  However, just like Apple they dedicate a very large portion of their home page to a very simple image of the Kindle.  Why the Kindle?  Amazon re-sells thousands of products, but their flagship product is the Kindle.  Of course it’s their featured item on the website, and it has been for a few years now.  Amazon makes money off the sale of the Kindle and even more money off every book purchased on the Kindle.  It’s a guaranteed repeat customer and brilliant home page design.  Why would you not feature your biggest money maker prominently on the home page of your website?

Are Bells and Whistles Your Dealer Website Bread and Butter?

When posed with that question of Flash content I have always asked the same question, “What’s your goal of adding this content to your website?”  Do you need an animated asset on your home page that offers 6 different calls to action?  Or is it reasonable to assume that internet consumers are savvy enough to use the main navigation to find what they are looking for, and instead dedicate a very large section of home page to a model you need to move.  Think about the make-up of your inventory and the model that your dealership relies on as its bread and butter.  Is there any reason it should not be featured the same way Amazon features it’s Kindle?

Yes, custom graphics and Flash content can be dynamic and can give a website a modern look and feel, but at what potential cost to the productivity of your site? If 60% to 70% of your vehicle sales are one specific model, is there any reason not to feature that vehicle, provide text information about that vehicle, and route customers to more information about it as quickly as possible? Try it for a month and then review your website metrics to see how it affects your visitors’ behavior.  You’ll find your specific model searches are up and you saved money by not having that Flash model asset created.

Ian Favre is a Sr. Marketing Analyst at ADP Digital Marketing with 7 years experience working directly with automotive dealers in the Cobalt Services Organization.  Ian was one of the first 3 Advocates working with customers when Procare Dealer Services launched at Cobalt in 2007 and spent time as an Advocate Team Lead, assisting Advocacy with website optimization fundamentals and execution.  When not helping dealers make the most of their internet marketing opportunities, Ian enjoys writing about golf on his website

Diary of an Internet Sales Director, Chapter 1


Volker Jaeckel, ADP Digital Marketing Ambassador

After almost a couple of  years of working with a leading Internet marketing vendor and working the speaking circuit Volker Jaeckel (aka “@VJnator”) returns to the dealership world as an Internet Sales Director.  Here is my story of rejoining the store and the steps I took that made my website the best performing in my group and achieved “#1 CPO Dealer in the state” status six months in a row.  Let me share how I believe a new Internet Manager can quickly make their store a success as well. (Stay tuned for my  upcoming workshop “Internet Marketing Cliff Notes -short, sweet and successful.”)


Chapter I – It hurts to crawl on my knees again. Luckily it is only temporary.

Don't forget to always crawl first when evaluating a new situation.

This is it….I am back into the dealership world. I missed you, the world of shiny showrooms, the smell of rubber and the so-distinctive new car smell. And yes, I missed the challenge of helping a store achieve its full potential as a 21stcentury dealership embracing the Internet.


Tip #1: View your site through your customer’s eyes


Where do I start? Personnel? Process? Lead Providers? – No, I decided that shouldn’t be priority #1.  What is most important is getting an idea of how your dealership appears to your prospects. I needed to first put on my “consumer-glasses” to understand what they are seeing, and then I can determine the path forward that will get the consumer to buy at my store. What did I do? Let’s crawl and see.All of us in the dealership should know by now that at least 90% of all car shopping starts somewhere and somehow online. Shoppers “Google or Bing around” search phrases related to the model desired and the city they live in. This initial search generally leads to reviewing 3rd parties like Edmunds or AOL.Autos for test results and independent car experts’ advice. After that, they most likely end up on the OEM’s manufacturer website, lured by whatever seasonal offers or events are taking place right now. From the OEM website, the customer drills down to find which dealership is closest to their zip code.So, taking this roadmap of typical automotive buying behavior, my first action should be clear: “CHECK YOUR DEALER WEBSITE(s)”. The things I will be looking for are pretty straightforward.Does my website has the same advertising messaging my OEM is portraying on their site? For me as an eCom Director it is mandatory to have events like “Autobahn for all” or “Sign then drive” event on all my dealership websites. I am not speaking just about having the graphics but also written content of these national campaigns on my site(s).


Tip #2: Make sure shoppers responding to OEM advertising and programs find them on your site.


Adding OEM promotional content assures that local prospects looking for those campaign deals will find familiar territory and verbiage on my site. They know immediately that “VJ Motors” is participating in these well-known manufacturer deals seen on TV, Radio, Off- and Online. As a dealer, doing this will guarantee me a fraction of the millions and millions of dollars spent by my OEM. I get my piece of the huge advertising campaign pie – and everybody knows….I love pie.


Here was my first plan of action:

  • Determine my OEM’s current ad campaign (In this case the “Going Going Gone Event”)

  • Update all new car specials shown in the website with the particular “Going Going Gone” phrase

  • Main URL page showed as first slider Going Going Gone event participation, linked to the New Car Special page

  • SEO Content was modified and “Going Going Gone Event” as well “Autobahn for All” slogans were weaved in on homepage, New Car inventory page, New Car Special page and various model pages.

Because we all know that SEO results do not show up overnight, the written content placed on the described pages is here for the long run and should be not taken down when the OEM campaign stops – most likely you will see the same named event taking place again a few months down the road and in the meantime your content pages hopefully left some impactful results in the SERP.


Tip #3: Leverage all your content in social media and see SEO results soar


Post promotional content in your social media, such as a photo montage on your blog captioned “VJ Motors in Motorville enjoys the hundreds of customers stopping by customers during the VW Going Going Gone event.” The reason for doing this is that search engines love news updates through social media streams. By optimizing these channels with your dealership name and the event name in the post, you are supporting your organic SEO piece by piece. Try it – it has worked for me!


Tip #4: “But I have no time to do any of this”


As a busy dealer, aligning with OEM’s may sound like a lot of work and too much of a hassle. I felt this way too.There are two main ways I’ve found to alleviate the hassle issue: Choose an endorsed website provider and work with their professional account strategist.If your dealership has an endorsed website provider with OEM-coordinated advertising campaigns, the work you need to perform on your end will be a little bit less, thanks to perfectly timed and “ready-to-go” websites and landing pages at the start of the national campaigns.Another thing that helped me was that I could speak to my account advocate at the website provider to assist me in my efforts to tweak my messaging to my taste. So, if you’ve signed up for this type of service – use it, bring up your ideas, and let them do the main frame work. That way you can focus on the other things you need to do, making a dealership or dealer group successful – as I will show you in my next chapter.

Volker Jaeckel works as a speaker, coach and educator in digital marketing. “VJ” is a frequent speaker at industry events like Digital Dealer Conference and NADA; he is also a fixture at NCM 20 Groups and OEM seminars. When he’s not dazzling others with his digital marketing know-how, VJ enjoys vintage Mercedes Benz cars and spending time with his wife and five kids.

The Cobalt Group