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Automotive Attribution for Sales and Service Departments

Dealerships that want to sell more cars and increase their service repair orders must know where to attribute their marketing wins. This knowledge allows them to choose better marketing strategies in the future. 

Marketing attribution is the measurement of customer interaction based on a particular marketing campaign. If a service department has multiple marketing companies working for it, how can it validate which company brought which customer?

automotive attribution
Car repairing


Measuring Attribution In Car Sales

The sales departments cover a gamut of marketing avenues. They utilize radio, television, and in some markets, ads are still in newsprint for car sales. Many dealers also market with direct mail, email, and e-blasts for online shoppers.

Dealerships can find it difficult with this variety to have precise attribution in the sales department. The sales department is a variable operation making it a challenge to forecast. The only data you can go by is past sales history.

When they sell a vehicle, they cannot always know if the customer came in because they heard a radio ad, saw an ad on TV, or saw a sign when driving down the highway. None of that kind of stuff is documentable in the paper trail of that sales process.

The most effective way to attribute marketing in the sales department is to send a direct mail offer and then require the return of that piece to get the offered discount.

Attribution for the sales department is difficult to monitor at every level. Very few dealers have a reporting metric for the sales departments marketing initiatives.


Measuring Attribution In Car Service

Service departments also advertise on multiple platforms. They use, for example, Facebook ads, email, and mail. In most cases, service managers know who got their offer.

They have repair orders to track every transaction and monitor customer interactions with the dealership service visits.

In service, a specific ad targets a defined audience that requires customer response. The customer brings in or refers to the offer allowing the service department to drill it down to an offer campaign. You can also monitor which offer produces the most returns or responses.


Differentiating attributions

Many marketing companies do both sales and service marketing. They can tell the dealer they spent $5,000 a month for the past three months in service. So in total for a quarter they spent $15,000 in marketing. They had 200 customers come in, they spent an average of $300 per RO, so the dealer generated $60,000. That’s a good return on investment!

Sales and service marketing are viewed differently by dealers. Often, the same store that thinks $5,000 is a lot of money for the service department will budget 20 times more for the sales department. That’s all your combined marketing services.

But being able to determine where the sales marketing dollars succeeded is a challenge. Most general managers do know the difference. Sales marketing is like throwing a plate of spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks.

If the dealership does not understand that difference when you’re marketing both sales and service for them, they could doubt the results.


Measuring attribution

TVI starts measuring marketing results immediately. Once the data feed is on from the DMS, we start collecting, measuring, and reporting the data. Each month we show dealers what happened in the previous month.

We then look at a quarterly snapshot to get into the more relevant data. We follow this at six months, where we can observe if the trend is holding steady.


Comparing Data Reports

Datasets that marketing companies measure may not line up precisely to the datasets the dealer sees. The dealer may be combining records or data while their marketing partners like TVI get raw data from the DMS. It’s crucial for somebody who relies on attribution to know how the dealer measures this.

Go to TVI MarketPro3 to explore more automotive marketing trends and ideas.

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