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geotargeting2In the past, targeting a specific area with your shop’s marketing message was somewhat limited: direct mail, newspaper ads, and radio or TV commercials were among the most popular methods. But even with classic target marketing, a tire dealer never really knew how many eyes or ears actually received the message, and often the cost was high compared to the actual return on investment.

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Introducing yet another great opportunity of the digital age: geo-targeting.

Simply stated, digital geo-targeting helps you fish where the fish are swimming – or target your digital marketing, including paid search and display ads, specific to the location of prospects you hope to reach.

You determine an area where your target audience lives, works or visits, explains Margaret Klemmer, chief business development officer for Autoshop Solutions, “then (digital) ads, sponsored videos or sponsored posts are displayed to those people who are online and located in the targeted area.”

Geo-location technology allows you to identify the real-world location of a computer or mobile device when it’s connected to the Internet. Advanced digital ad servers use this information for geo-targeting, delivering specific content to an individual based on his or her location when online. These systems have the ability to look at a user’s IP address to figure out his or her location – meaning a laptop or mobile device has a location tracking ID attached to it, explains Kelly Mick, Tire Pros northeast regional marketing manager.

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“The ad server maintains a large database that has every IP address already mapped to its country, state and postal code,” says Mick. “When an active user is engaged with a platform, like Pandora or Google AdWords, the ad server reads the IP address from the device in use, looks through its database and finds matching ZIP code data, and then picks an ad that matches that criteria.”

Depending on which medium is employed, dealers can geo-target their ads based on ZIP codes, a particular radius surrounding their store, or – in the case of mobile devices – geo-fencing, which uses cell towers to create the “zone,” adds Ron Heider, president of Heider Marketing & Advertising.

“When dealers implement a geo-targeting strategy, it proves to be effective as they are only paying for ads that run in a geographic region that reaches potential customers in the immediate trading area of their store,” he adds. “TV and radio ads are great, but you’re paying to reach everyone in the market. Most people will travel less than seven miles to buy a set of tires, even less for service.”

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Geo-targeting offers a great opportunity for any business, provided the right strategy is employed.

Understanding the Options

Platforms available that make use of geo-targeting for marketing are diverse. Most popular for paid or sponsored content delivered with location-based accuracy include search engines like Google and/or Bing, social media platforms like Facebook, and Twitter, or larger platforms like Pandora, YouTube or The Weather Channel. These are good place to start for those new to the concept.

“Geo-targeting often produces the highest ROI because there is (little) waste; you are only reaching people in the local area close to your shop,” Klemmer says. “When using a platform like Google AdWords, you are able to select specific keywords and make sure the people who are seeing your ads are not only in your local market, but they also are looking for information about tires, auto repair and service.

“Social media platforms work the same way: dealers can create a targeted geographic area and then serve ads to users who not only are in that trading region, but also fit additional criteria,” Heider says. “Ads could be targeted to truck lovers, 4×4 enthusiasts, NASCAR fans and so on. Social media allows dealers to be very personal and hyper targeted.”

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He adds that one of the most underused platforms is video and advises dealers to create an online video program.

“One of the simplest ways to enter this channel is by using your YouTube channel,” suggests Heider. “Dealers could deliver video ads to consumers who are searching for tires, auto repair information and reviews. These video ads would only run in your predetermined target area and can offer multiple calls to action driving them to your website.”    

For targeting smartphone users, Heider says that geo-fencing can be very effective.

“Simply put, you create a ‘fence’ around the area you want your ads to appear,” he explains. “When consumers enter that fence and search for your products or services, your ad gets delivered. This strategy is so precise that dealers could create a fence around competitors and deliver specific ads to consumers while they are in those stores.”

For example, if you know your prospect is currently within 20 feet of a specific car dealership, you can target them with a special maintenance package, promoting the value of extending the life of their vehicle. Get creative and you can develop campaigns around events in your area – like races, concerts and festivals – with messaging that ties into those activities for added relevant details to drive interest.

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Building a Strategy

Whether geo-targeting can be a DIY effort or a task best left to the experts depends on the platform and scope of the campaign you’d like to try.

“For the more ‘traditional’ digital media platforms (AdWords, YouTube and Facebook, for example), dealers would need to create their campaign from the account setting page and add in any additional desired criteria,” Heider says. “I’d recommend limiting ads to a radius of no more than 7-10 miles surrounding each store. Whether it’s a banner ad, pay-per-click ad, video ad or retargeted ad, this can all be controlled from the dealer’s account page.”

Your marketing plan should include scheduled updates, boosted posts and monitoring activity, he says, adding, “Unlike radio or TV ads that run once you place the order, digital campaigns like these are a little more ‘hands-on’ and require more attention.”

Choosing relevant location settings and using relevant messages that engage potential buyers (current specials, what sets the dealership apart from others, etc.) are important to successful geo-targeting campaigns, notes Klemmer.

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“Be specific with location settings and messages – and keywords if using a platform like Google AdWords or Bing Ads,” she says. “The marketing message with an effective call to action is as important as geo-targeting the right consumer. You need effective creative and a powerful, actionable marketing message to make your geo-targeting actually work.”

Mick agrees, and adds that digital geo-targeting is not a “set it and forget it” strategy, explaining, “It is best practice to pull in additional consumer data from social media and craft ads likely to resonate with the recipients. It is also important to leverage factors like seasonal data to build more personalized creative. Digital advertising combined with geo-targeting used in a marketing strategy will perform best when it integrates multiple programs to create a cross-channel experience, building top-of-mind awareness while delivering relevant messaging.”

She went on to say, “It is important to know who the target consumer is and their buying behavior before crafting a message to put in front of them.”

This is where audience details, measurement and trend tracking come into play.

“The Tire Pros marketing team relies on several in-house research marketing tools which measure shopping patterns, purchase triggers, advertising recall, and lifestyle trends of adults both locally and nationally,” Mick says, referring to the actions performed by Tire Pros’ marketing managers in working with dealers and approved geo-targeting vendors.

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While starting out with geo-targeting can be easy based on your approach (using features already built into Facebook or Bing, for instance), Heider says geo-fencing can be much more complex. He recommends working with experienced professionals to get started.

“Dealers will need to enlist a reliable mobile ad network for the distribution/deployment of ads. The mobile ad network would help determine the area to be targeted and then create the ‘fence,’” he says. “Dealers need to make sure the ads are properly coded and tagged so they can be tracked on their website (using Google Analytics or other Web monitoring software). 

“A good ad network will also provide a ‘tracking portal,’ which will allow dealers to see impressions and clicks in real time,” Heider adds. “Dealers will want to compare the ad network’s performance with their own analytics to make sure they match. I’d recommend monitoring performance at least weekly to see how the ads are performing and make adjustments as needed. If an ad isn’t generating any response within a 10-day to 2-week period, change it.”

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Regardless of the platform chosen and whether you opt for a knowledgeable DIY approach or consult a marketing expert, one thing is certain: with geo-targeting, you are in complete control.

“Geo-targeting takes the enormity of the Internet and localizes it,” Klemmer says. “It puts the business in control of reaching customers online that live or work in a specified local radius. Every local business, regardless of size, can utilize geo-targeting to help reach their customers.” T

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