Consumer online shopping expectations have increased fivefold over the past decade. When researching a product or service consumers anticipate correct and complete results, immediately. Automotive consumers are no different. Traditional advertising logic would have us disseminate our product out to the obvious traditional media sources like magazine, newspaper, and established online media portals. While these easily accessible mediums have been the backbone of traditional automotive marketing for years, they represent the line between traditional advertising and exceptional marketing.

Exceptional Marketing is the life of the party. It’s the person who’s out in front of the crowd drawing attention and getting everyone’s phone number. Get in front of consumers first, and exceed their already elevated expectations – or stand in the crowd and become one of the herd. The difference is exponential. As a major retailer in consumer goods, dealers are in a vastly competitive online marketplace that is changing every day. Strong execution and exceptional best practices have become the difference between the focal point of the market and sitting in the corner at the party.

Five to Ten years ago our focus was to manipulate the system and generate as many top listings as possible for short tail keyword phrases like “Used Cars” or “Car Loan”. With the playing field we call Google more level today than ever, the focus has shifted away from organic optimization and towards consumer behavior. While proper organic optimization is still a crucial building block in the foundation of an online marketing strategy, all it does is get you to the party – and that’s not the point.

Knowledge is Power – But not in the traditional sense. In this practice, we try to provide consumers with more information than our competitors, influencing their click through behavior. When marketing your inventory online, highlight the special impact features that feed consumer wants. Feature these items in the title and description of your online listings to separate your vehicle from the field. Include payment terms and incentives which answer the questions before they’re asked. The key isn’t to rank in the top 5 for every short tail search anymore. Today, we need to compete on a much more granular level, optimizing our listings for consumers – not just the search engines.

In addition to organic and listing optimization, paid search optimization has been a key component in exceptional marketing campaigns today. Using many of the same techniques as yesterday’s search engine optimization specialists, traditional advertisers have taken the path of the masses, rather than the elite. It only takes the right “click” to sell a product, not the most clicks. The traditional path finds advertisers spending significant budget driving “traffic” rather than sales. The key to exceptional search engine marketing lies in generating the right clicks, at the right price. Focus in on consumers towards the end of the sales funnel rather than the top of the “New Car” or “Used Car” stage for quality clicks at a low price.

As a marketing strategist and branding advocate, I will never discount the value of quality long-term branding strategies. Strong branding efforts will always pay dividends in the long-term future of your business. However, the amount of information available to consumers online has changed the impact of the dealership “brand”. Many of today’s consumers are shopping based upon price, perceived value, and stranger’s reviews. It takes more than your traditional branding campaign to break through the clutter in today’s market. An exceptional online marketing campaign does just that, impacting consumer behavior via relevant retail focused inventory merchandising.