March 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Driving a straight line to a better return through online marketing

Since switching its Internet marketing from third-party lead services to a system that lets it manage its own search engine marketing, Coastal Hyundai has increased Internet-generated sales while cutting its cost per lead to about $6 from $20.

What’s the fastest way to get a return on investment from online marketing? Drive straight to customers, says Wade Wahy, Internet sales manager for Coastal Hyundai, a Florida-based car dealership.

Since switching its Internet marketing from third-party lead services to a system that lets it manage its own search engine marketing campaigns, Coastal Hyundai has increased Internet-generated sales while cutting its cost per lead to about $6 from $20, Wahy says.

The dealership, on the Atlantic Coast in Melbourne, began to deploy search engine marketing tools from Dealer.com in late 2005, replacing its former reliance on third-party automobile web sites to which it had paid $20 or more per lead, Wahy says.

In the past, when online car shoppers would click on a Coastal Hyundai image or text box on a third-party site, that site would attempt to capture a shopper’s personal contact information and sell it to the dealer, who would then e-mail or call the prospect. “We were paying $20-$25 for these Internet leads,” Wahy says. “But they didn’t even bring the shoppers directly to our web site.”

Coastal Hyundai is now attracting shoppers to its web site with Dealer.com’s Dominator search marketing service, which includes data uploads to search engine indexes, automatic bidding on keywords, and search engine optimization services for making web pages appear higher in natural search rankings. It also tracks keyword performance and shows which search engine visitors used to arrive at CoastalHyundai.com.

As new customers arrive at CoastalHyundai.com, Wahy uses Deal.com’s Sales360° system to automatically generate pop-up coupons valued at $100 to $250 toward a car purchase. To qualify for a coupon, visitors enter their e-mail and/or phone number. “The coupons work well, they generate customer contacts,” Wahy says. He also uses the system to generate personalized e-mails, set up customer accounts and track ongoing communications with customers.

“While paying less per Internet lead, my number of cars sold via Internet leads has gone up,” Wahy says.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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