The “Beer Guy” Approach to Digital Marketing


Mar 07 09:33 pm


John Jones thumbnailI’ve always been a beer kind of guy, so I panicked a little last week at dinner when I was asked to pick wine for a table of 12. Red, white, fortified…all I could feel was mortified trying to make the right call!

Believe it or not, looking through that long list of wines reminded me of digital marketing. Sifting through a long list and trying to find the right pairings felt a little like navigating the long list of digital tactics that dealers are compelled to understand in order to connect with online customers.

Fortunately for guys like me, today’s digital world can also be approached with a “beer guy” mentality, where digital thinking is simplified around four key areas—Inventory, Websites, Advertising, and CRM. Focusing on those basics helps make sense of the various tactics and trends that are always floating around our space these days.  Here’s a quick overview of each:


INVENTORY: The foundation of digital success

If fixed ops is the meat and potatoes of your dealership your inventory is the Dom Parignon (OK I’ll stop with the wine analogies now). Here’s what I mean: Look out the window of your dealership. Now take a look at your website, your smart phone next and then your iPad. Are you 100% certain that the vehicles you’re seeing in your lot are accurately reflected on the devices your customers are using every time they find your website? That’s inventory management.

Today, the process can be totally automated. Vehicle merchandizing – incentives, video, car-specific ad campaigns, etc. – can be integrated and delivered to your customers no matter where (or on what device) they’re looking. That synchronization is the foundation of an effective digital presence.

WEBSITES: The center of the online customer experience

Remember that great shopping experience you had on or Zappos? Those are just two of the hundreds of companies that have redefined online shopping, and shaped consumer expectations of a “good online experience.”

Exceed those expectations! If your customers can’t access your inventory quickly and easily they’re gone. No video or incentives? See ya! Look critically at your website to ensure it’s delivering an experience worthy of your showroom. Ask yourself, does your website make YOU want to buy a car from your dealership?

ADVERTISING: The awareness engine

Advertising success begins by answering some fundamental questions: Am I reaching the most customers possible? How much should I be spending in my market? What ad channels should I be investing in?

Experts can guide you toward the right answers for your particular dealership, but the following rules of thumb are useful for just about anyone:

  • Firm up the foundation. Address your inventory management and website before you advertise.  Why drive traffic to a site that won’t convert them to leads?
  • Prioritize paid search. Get your PPC “impression share” up to the 90% range before investing in other ad tactics.
  • Think “retargeting.” After maximizing your paid search budget, turn to retargeting. Remember: Car shoppers can hit dozens of sites before they decide to get in touch. Retargeting ensures you’re in front of them.

CRM: Completing your communication efforts with transparency and process

Effective CRM tools allow you to nurture shopper engagement and loyalty. Step one: answer your customers’ questions. If you converted them with a price quote or trade appraisal, they’re expecting a price or trade figure. They’re also looking to advance the process, so don’t forget to ask for an appointment or a good time to call for further discussion.

CRM reporting should also reflect customer expectations and conversations. Tracking them effectively will help you see gaps in your process. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work. CRM technology has leaped forward in recent years to maximize data and minimize data-entry.


Ultimately, the goal of every digital tactic is to create one consistent dealership “story” that helps online shoppers become website visitors, customers, and loyal fans of your dealership. The Beer Guy approach helps make sure you’re there every step of the way. Cheers!

John Jones is West Coast Territory Director for He has trained thousands of dealers on digital marketing best practices.

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