The Industry's Leading Source For F&I, Sales And Technology

On the Point

Stop Flushing Those Ad Dollars

‘Da Man’ delivers a marketing plan that produces Google and social media leads and reduces your dependency on underperforming lead providers.

February 10, 2017

To be frank and borderline crude here, most of you dealers are pissing your money away. You are totally ineffective and inept with your advertising dollars.

I’m told that automotive advertisers spent more than $4 billion on paid search in 2016. Most of that went to Google. From everything I’ve been able to glean, I am going to estimate that another $3 billion was spent on so-called lead providers. That’s $7 billion in pursuit of the Holy Grail, aka the first page of Google search results.

Well, I can tell you from experience that most of you flushed that money down the toilet.

In the early 1920s, John Wanamaker created and operated one of the first department stores in the United States. He invented the price tag, among other accomplishments, and coined the saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Lucky for us, we now have the ability to measure to the decimal point the actual effectiveness of your advertising spend. Personally, I hate analytics, but I am smart enough to know what I don’t know, so I keep trusted analytical experts close and rely on what they tell me.

First of all, if your Google advertising is not on the first page, you are invisible. Unfortunately, first-page positioning can change daily and the first five slots are paid ads. That means that even if you do get on the first page, people will have to scroll down to the bottom half of their computer screens to even find your ad. If they’re on smartphones — and you know most of them are — it might as well not be there at all.

The first rule of Alpha Dawg advertising is to never trust statistics, surveys and research vendors generate to prove they get results. The second rule is to hire smart. You need a great SEO/SEM company and a full-service advertising agency.

And by “full service,” I mean traditional advertising as well as internet marketing. And the agency you hire better be social media savvy and understand pre-roll advertising on YouTube and the concept of retargeting pixilation. It must also be a certified Google partner. And no matter whom you partner with, you must remain the owner of your Google AdWords account, your online business address, and all your passwords.

I work with dealers who have had good and bad results from working with lead providers. Some are cost-effective and deliver tangible and measurable ROI, while others operate outdated models that produce diminishing returns for outrageous prices.

Many dealers have canceled their accounts with underperforming lead providers, only to have their representatives reach out to renegotiate their deals. Why would they offer the same leads for half the price? Probably because they can’t justify the lack of results, although they’ll definitely try.

They’ll send one of their top managers to try to save the account. And he or she will baffle you with bullcrap, telling you the service may not have delivered the customer, but it did “influence” them and deserves “attribution” for all the business your people and website actually generated.

Believe it or not, Facebook still represents the best pay-per-click vehicle for ROI and cost-effectiveness. Dealers I am working with have had such great success with Facebook, I have begun to advise other dealers I know to shift a lot of their AdWords budget to Facebook ads.

In conjunction with “retargeting,” Facebook ads are outproducing most other online sources for far less money. Whether you have an in-house expert or an agency, have them pay attention to “Dynamic Product Ads.” This is a type of campaign that allows dealers to run display ads on specific inventory, redirecting the consumer to a specific vehicle description page on your website.

The landscape is changing fast. Don’t just buy what you’ve always bought just because you always bought it before. The biggest mistake you can make today is not to ignore the new vendor with the new best thing. If you’re busy, have a manager check them out. Do not summarily hang up on the sales reps. You might be missing your salvation that your competitor buys.

And if they can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are producing sales, fire them and don’t look back. Now zip up and get back out there!

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Contact him at


  1. 1. Ronnie L Esparza [ February 16, 2017 @ 07:02PM ]

    I wish more auto dealers and salesmen and women would understand and open their eyes to the digital world of advertising.

    Great Story!!

  2. 2. Mike [ March 07, 2017 @ 01:32PM ]

    Great read!! After 23yrs in F&I, I have now spent last couple years in the mortgage industry..but still consider myself as a car guy (obviously still reading articles from auto industry).

    Your article fits so well in the mortgage industry as well, as we use lead companies so heavily. What shocks me is that on a corp level no one pays attention to lead quality and just keeps paying for leads month after month, especially when the lead companies are recycling leads. I find it so upsetting to get the same lead (disconnected phone) that I got last month!!

Comment On This Story

Email: (Email will not be displayed.)  
Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that comments may be moderated.

Author Bio

Jim Ziegler

President & CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim 'Da Man' Ziegler joined the magazine in 2011 to deliver his On-the-Point message about the car business to dealer principals and store managers. He'll offer strategy advice on everything from sales and F&I to marketing in the digital age. Catch him every month at

» More