Marketing from the Ground Up

ADP Cobalt

By Joe Tarell

If you are in the car business and control your dealer advertising budget, most likely you believe in marketing. So where do you spend the first dollar and why? For years, we’ve had this debate when building marketing plans.

The concept goes back to my days as a child in a candy store. If candy bars are a nickel, bubble gum is a penny and a Squirrel can be had two for a penny, how do you decide what to buy with the quarter you got for your allowance? If you remember those days (or for you younger folks, the same debate at much higher rates) then you probably got your first dose of Zero-Based Budgeting.

If a car dealership were going to build the budget from the ground up with zero preconceived ideas and no untouchables, the debate could get heated fast. We could start with the sign out front, or the building and land we sit on. After all, isn’t “Drive-by” the favorite entry on our Up Log? The fact is that today, after these bare necessities we should probably look online for the next dollar of expenditure.

Since everyone would agree that you are not in business without a dealer website, we can look at that like the sign out front and leave that out of the debate. So, we have a sign out front and a website online. Where do you go next? My philosophy is that I want to spend money first to catch people that are already looking for me. In the old days this meant the Yellow Pages, but today this means the search engines.

And if we are going to spend money on the search engines, the first dollar goes to SEO, search engine optimization or organic search. It has much more sustaining value than paid search and it forces us to really dial in who we are and how we make money. If you are thinking that this is free, then you must be running a dealership in your spare time while you study search engine optimization during the rest of your day. We should consider this paid advertising and make sure it is done well and done with integrity.

And since I did not grow up during The Depression, we are going to spend some more money real quick to make sure we get this right. If we stick with the concept of being where people are looking for us, then we need to get all the directories and review sites dialed in and optimized. Another one of those things that many think are free, but requires time effort and expertise. Make sure when they find you, you and your store measure up.

For more tips on how to coordinate your marketing channels in a multichannel marketing plan, download the eBook Multichannel Marketing: Coordinating Existing Media for Maximum Exposure.

Joe Tarell, Cobalt Director of Sales, may be reached at



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required field are marked *.