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Dealerships and franchises face unique search marketing challenges

When it comes to implementing paid search campaigns, good management and coordination is everything. But for companies with a large number of local franchises or dealerships, organizing and optimizing PPC can be even more complex.

For example, Performics, an agency which specializes in paid and natural search, was recently selected to manage and centralize search marketing campaigns for Southeast Toyota, which distributes vehicles, parts and accessories to 173 Toyota dealerships in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.

“It’s complicated because an auto manufacturer may have a high diversity of keyword clusters and landing pages,” says Craig Greenfield, VP of search and performance media at Performics. “When you start getting into localization — driving business into a specific retail location – it gets more complicated because the regional advertiser wants to bid on a Toyota Camry, for example, and create demand for all dealers in the region but then individual dealers also want to bid on relevant terms.”

The challenge, he says, for automobile dealerships is that consumers often search with brand keywords, so it may not yet be clear what they’re looking for when “Toyota” is put into the search engine. In a way, dealerships can end up competing with each other for keyword bids, cannibalizing leads and bidding up paid search costs.

Performics said it had been thinking about this issue for about 3-4 years and had already worked with automotive manufacturers that sell through multiple tiers of distribution. With Performics’ technology, the agency now aligns the Southeast Toyota regional campaigns with the national campaign and then allows all dealers to participate in a coordinated and prioritized search process so they don’t artificially inflate bids on their CPC’s by competing with each other.

“With our algorithms, core trafficking applications and best practices we have around managing these kinds of complex programs, we provide a common platform as well as support and coordination,” he explains.

According to Max Kalehoff, VP of marketing at Clickable, a pay-per-click management solution provider, franchise business of all kinds run into these kinds of complex issues.

“The core issue you’re dealing with in terms of franchises is local advertising – not just in terms of having a coordinated effort but, even more important, having the ability to scale,” he explains. “For a nationwide franchise the key challenge is in managing many, many high volumes of very small campaigns which are very specifically geotargeted and have slight nuances from business to business.”

Typically, for local online advertisers, there is massive amounts of churn on the part of resellers, he points out. So, Clickable offers a “white label” platform which can power the ad business of thousands of local small businesses in a very geo-targeted way. This enables the centralized company to offer a local marketing package to franchisees, who can decide whether to make an advertising investment or not.

Finally, a service provider called WebVisible works similarly with franchises, with a dedicated program called FranchiseVisible that provides hundreds of different franchise organizations with a consistent branded approach to their online presences.

“Through eight years of accumulated data on virtually every existing franchise concept across thousands of vertical markets, we have learned what works best for keyword selection and advertising copy,” says Terry Wall, director of Enterprise Sales at WebVisible.

This is a growing issue for local franchise business, he adds, who more than ever need to find the right way to gain online needs. “A study by Nielsen Online and WebVisible shows that search is the number one choice of consumers when looking for a local product or service, yet half of small businesses spent less than 10% on Internet advertising, and only nine percent are very satisfied with their results,” he says.

Fine tuning of geo-targeting to avoid cross-over is the best solution, adds Wall. Another is for franchisees in close proximity to one another to share campaigns “A campaign can run pointing searchers to a single URL landing page that has multiple franchise locations,” he says. “By the number of map prints, coupon downloads, phone calls or e-mails, the franchisees can determine which owner/operator received which percentage of the visitor action and pay from their monthly budget accordingly.”

Performics’ Greenfield agrees that hypertargeting is becoming more and more essential and so local search strategies and expertise are becoming more important. “It’s about managing thousands of campaigns with very small budgets for small business advertisers, but the technology is no different than if a large national brand is trying to drive year-over-year same-store sales. Instead of a large national budget it’s divvied up into all these local retail locations.”

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