Shifting ad spend to save money and achieve more sales

Ten years ago – or even five years ago, for that matter – when someone asked you how you were advertising your dealership, what would your answer have been? It’s likely that you were running ads in your local newspaper, on the radio, maybe you had a commercial on TV – if you were really wanting to make an investment, you may have run an ad on a billboard over a major highway in your area.

Fast forward to today. You still see these advertising strategies in place, but the smartest boat dealers who want to save money and actually see a better return on investment have shifted their focus to digital advertising.

Consider a local commercial for your dealership. The average 30-second spot costs around $850*. While you may be facing the potential of reaching a very large audience, there are quite a few hurdles that may be in your way:

  • Lack of personalization. Because you don’t know the exact demographics or interests of the people watching your commercial, you are unable to create a targeted message. Your best option is to create a general promotion for your dealership that you hope will appeal to anyone – but in reality, a lot of people who aren’t in the market to buy a boat will see your commercial and think nothing of it.
  • Lack of customization. Commercials are expensive and timely to produce, so it may not be in your best interest to create a new one every time you have a big sale or dealership event coming up. The inability to do so creates a lot of missed opportunity – naturally, you’d be more likely to bring customers in for one of those reasons.
  • Hard to track results. Which customers came into your dealership as a direct result of seeing your commercial on TV? It’s pretty hard to say, and impossible to know unless the customer tells you himself. There’s no tangible way to see exactly what kind of traffic the commercial drove to your dealership.
  • The most obvious hurdle – people generally don’t like commercials! Viewers can easily change the channel or even fast-forward through commercials. Even those who are “watching” (AKA their TV is on) are likely to be scrolling through their phone, talking to their TV-viewing partner or doing something elsewhere in the house.

Why not shift those funds (or at least a portion of them) to digital advertising and see how the leads compare? With strategies like search engine and social media ads, you can target specific demographics, or even individuals who have expressed interest in a specific hobby (“wakeboarding”) or who have a specific job title (“fisherman”). With the same amount of ad spend you would have put toward a commercial or newspaper ad, you now have reassurance that your advertising effort is being placed in front of people who are likely to have real interest in your products.

From a financial standpoint, trying your hand at digital marketing is a no-brainer, as it can be dramatically less expensive than traditional advertising strategies. On top of that, you’re able to personally track results and adjust your budget accordingly, ad by ad. Immediately turn off or edit ads that aren’t performing well, or up your budget on successful ad campaigns to maximize your investment.

You’ll likely find that your investment is much better utilized in those digital marketing channels – especially because there’s a good chance your investment will be smaller, while bringing you solid results and data that you can actually track.

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the digital marketing bandwagon, be encouraged to step out of your comfort zone and experiment a little. At lower costs and a nearly guaranteed greater ROI, you really can’t lose.

Lauren McLean is the public relations manager for Dealer Spike, a company that provides innovative websites as well as a suite of powerful online advertising solutions that help marine dealers help increase sales and service profitability. For more information, visit or call 800-288-5917.

* Statistic courtesy of the American Association of Advertising Agencies

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