Digital First Media is rolling out a program to help auto dealers post and manage craigslist ads via a platform created by Tapclicks.
How does the system work? We logged on to try it out.
The unique spin seems counter-intuitive; why should local media support craigslist, the very company that crushed print classifieds what seems like a couple of generations ago?
Sellers at DFM say the partnership is easy to sell, and deepens relationship with auto dealers and makes it easier to sell other digital services and core media.
The automotive platform, TapClassifieds, is also esigned to provide cutting edge analytics, and will integrate with TapAnalytics by early August, company sources said.
Digital First Media first tested the automotive at the Bay Area News Group early this year; Digital First Ventures is a partner in the TapClicks, so when DFM's partnership with Cars.com came to an end, launching the venture there first made sense. A second partner for the platform is a large agency representing broadcast sites.
So far more than 150 auto dealers have signed up for the service, with a month-over-month retention rate of 98%, said sources at BANG.
So what's in it for the media partner?
First, of course, there is the revenue share from managing craigslist ads. The business model, a charge per car, retails at about $15, including the craigslist $5 charge per listing.
Taplicks keeps the revenue share on the remaining $10 private, but suffice to say the media can earn almost as much from auto ads on craigslist as craigslist does.
Craigslist still holds a significant share of cars sold in each market, and auto dealers know they need to be where private car marketers are. A typical automotive dealer may place and track 50 to 200 cars on craigslist per month. And once auto dealers are grounded in an on-going, digital program, sellers can add larger marketing programs to the buy.
The requirement to pay $5 for posts on craigslist has been good for dealers, eliminating the worst of the spammers, competitors flagging competitors, and craigslist's own policy of "ghosting," or removing posts according to some secret algorithm.
But craigslist still drives dealers nuts.
The platform forbids automated posting, so efficient posting of large numbers of vehicles manually is tricky, and illegal posters can gain an advantage.
TapClicks claims to have the only "in compliance" service, so while there are competitors, part of their pitch is that car dealers using marketing firms with illegal posting strategies could be "shut down."
Without some kind of service, posting has to be done daily; cars that are sold need to be taken down in two days, plus there are images, changes in pricing, and so on, to be reckoned with.
Finally, without a dashboard, dealers don't know where the leads are coming from.
TapClassified takes over the management of craigslist ads; first it receives nightly updates on the cars via RSS feed from the dealer - including new cars, images, price changes and cars that were sold. If a dealer doesn't have a feed, they can use one provided by TapClassifieds. Somewhere in the dealership, there is always a spread sheet, even in Excel, tracking all changes in inventory.
Then, TapClassifieds posts the ads on craigslist, making sure the categories are correctly searchable, while conforming to craigslist rules.
Links from the correctly posted and updated ads go to a dealer-branded landing page for each car. Included are trackable QR codes, phone numbers with recorded calls, chat, text, email, share tools, credit applications and directions:
All interactions are tracked in a customer-facing central dashboard, both per car, and rolled up so that the dealer can see overall results and make comparisons between cars:
Dealer sites benefit from enhanced SEO from multiple links from landing pages.
And the road map includes dealer branded used-car sites that roll-up into a national used car portal, powered by all the landing pages.
Rick Schiller, a 13 year veteran of automotive sales and one of the first to start selling the platform at Digital First Media's Bay Area News Group, is now an evangelist for the platform.
"Dealers love and hate craigslist." says Schiller.
"They love that they sell cars using the platform, but they also hate it because its extremely difficult to navigate."
Now the lead trainer for the platform, Schiller says he shows dealers how to optimize pricing by watching the dashboard to see which cars have more or less activity.
"We help the dealer increase the speed of sale and improve the margins," he said.
"By drawing the dealers attention to the cars getting the most traffic we suggest increasing the price. This helps the dealer make pricing decisions based on activity/interest instead of marketing tools...Dealers love the extra help".
Schiller is on-staff to help train in other markets as well.
“Every dealer is different; but if (sales reps) go through the talk-track correctly in about 20 to 40 minutes, they will answer all of the questions and touch on one of a dealer's key hot button issues - and they will take action."
“We had dealers paying a lot less, (for a competing product) cancel the product and go with us.”
Schiller claims that the cost per lead is 90% lower than cars.com or Autotrader.
While only a small piece of the "share of dealer" pie, the service provides a opening for adding other digital services that can drive traffic to landing pages.
On the road map is full integration with TapAnalytics, the company's core product. This will allow the integration of analytics with results from other media buys and digital services, providing a significant competitive advantage in the field.
The background of the founders and their ability to keep up with technological competition will also be key.
In this case, the team looks solid. CEO and co-founder Babak Hedayati, a serial entrepreneur with 25 years in technology marketing including, SVP of business development at Cypress, has zero to sixty technology businesses ($1 billion plus) under his belt; Jeff Herr, COO, ran digital agencies at CNP and Lee in addition to software companies, and Stephanie Roberts, formerly head of interactive at Bay Area News Group, has now moved in as VP of Sales.
Ultimately this is a partnership opportunity that has a great future helping secure a high ROI franchise.
Find more automotive strategies on the Automotive channel of LocalMediaInsider.com.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.