2018 Outdoor Power Digital Marketing Benchmarking Results

By Chris Damico


What do outdoor power equipment dealers like you need to know to survive today’s digital world? How do you compare against your competition when it comes to digital marketing? I’m glad you asked.

This past fall, ARI Network Services teamed up with Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) magazine to gain a better understanding of how outdoor power equipment dealers are taking advantage of both digital and more traditional marketing channels.

We surveyed OPE’s readers, and while we anticipated some of the results, others surprised us. The following contains results of the survey, as well as some insights and advice based on more than 30 years’ experience as a technology provider serving the OPE industry. You, like many of your OPE peers, may be missing out on opportunities to capture in-store shoppers who start their buying journey online. So, how do your digital marketing efforts stack up against other OPE dealers?

Forty OPE dealers from a wide range of dealerships took our survey. This sampling included dealerships with an annual revenue of less than $100,000 all the way up to dealerships with annual revenues of more than $4 million. This sample size has given us a good indication of the state of digital marketing among dealers, and has allowed us to extrapolate some conclusions about the future market for which OPE dealers should be prepared.

Here’s what stood out the most: OPE dealers value their website above any other form of digital marketing, with a “beautifully designed website,” “mobile-friendly website” and “search engine optimization” as three of the top four most important focuses for their online marketing. With only 2.5% of respondents focused on e-mail marketing, and 7.5% of respondents focused on digital advertising, OPE dealers lag behind the current digital marketing trends for these channels that deliver greater value in generating website traffic and leads.

Here’s an overview of the responses we received:

  • Nearly half of respondents have between $0 and $1 million in annual revenue (45 percent)
  • Nearly 1/3 of respondents spend less than $500 a month on all marketing (32.5 percent)
  • Nearly half of respondents spend less than $500 a month on digital marketing (45 percent)
  • The majority of respondents believe less than 25 percent of their revenue is attributable to digital marketing activities (55 percent)
  • The majority of respondents don’t have dedicated marketing staff (60 percent)

Does that sound familiar? Let’s analyze the results a bit further.


Marketing budgets

Most outdoor power dealerships with revenue less than $1 million spend less than

$1,000 a month on marketing (72% spend less than $500 month and 16% spend between $500 and $1,000 month). With dealerships that earn between $1 million and $3 million in revenue, we begin to see a shift in spending more than $1,000 a month; and at revenue over $3 million a year, we see 66% of businesses spend more than $1,000 a month on digital marketing.

Is $1,000 a month a magic marketing budget? Of course not. Depending on the relative size of your business and your business goals, your budgetary needs for marketing could vary widely. However, with more than 87% of customers starting their shopping research online, it is critical for outdoor power equipment dealers to invest in connecting with those shoppers.

Not sure where to start? Use the guide below to begin developing a comprehensive marketing strategy.


But does digital deliver results?

The answer our survey respondents gave to the question above was a resounding “NO!” 55% of respondents believe that less than 25% of revenue is attributable to digital marketing activities. However, we also learned that 30% of those surveyed aren’t measuring any marketing KPIs.

After looking at the results of the survey and comparing them to our current OPE dealers who subscribe to one or more digital marketing services, there’s a big possibility that dealers aren’t connecting the dots between their digital presence and door swings at their brick-and-mortar locations. Remember, 87% of shoppers start their research online before they ever visit a store. Whether they’re typing their product category into Google, exploring the dealer locator of a manufacturer’s site, or reading online reviews, the content about your store that exists online is, without doubt, informing their shopping decisions.

Anything you do to impact your presence across those online destinations is a form of digital marketing. If you still believe digital doesn’t deliver, I encourage you to dig deeper into your own data!

On the whole, OPE dealers aren’t taking advantage of these critical performance analytics to inform their business decisions. As you’re likely working within an already tight marketing budget, it is absolutely critical to measure your performance to drive digital marketing ROI.


Focus on driving conversions

Whether you’re measuring a conversion as a completed lead form on the landing page linked from your e-mail campaign, an inbound call from a paid search ad, or an e-commerce sale from your website, you need to know if your investments are actually getting shoppers to take the next step in their buying journey.

We know that conversions – specifically leads and sales – are important to you. We asked our survey participants to rank the following digital marketing initiatives in order of importance to their dealership:

  • Beautifully designed website
  • Mobile-friendly responsive website
  • Generating online leads
  • E-mail marketing
  • Digital advertising
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • E-commerce capabilities
  • Website and BMS integration


We were happy to see that the dealers believe having a mobile-friendly responsive

website is the most important digital marketing initiative. Multiple consumer surveys have reported that a majority of users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site.

We were surprised to see social media finish in second place. Organic (unpaid) social media is the least valuable digital marketing initiative to dealers. Social sites like Facebook offer places for reviews and social proof, but should not rank in the top half of marketing initiatives. Why? Less than 5% of your audience will ever see an organic social post.

Another surprising result was seeing how low both generating online leads and e-mail marketing ranked. Considering 32.5% of dealers hope to increase profits by finding new customers in their markets, we were surprised to see how many dealers dismissed the importance of generating online leads. After all, online leads can become new customers.

Could this be because many dealers still aren’t, or don’t know how to, connect the dots to measure the performance of their lead-generation efforts?

E-mail marketing is by far the most cost-effective way for dealers to market. Dealers who collect e-mail address, connect with their audience through segmentation, and take advantage of automation have seen ROIs up to 760%.

There is a clear connection that shows why dealers believe that less important marketing initiatives are more important than they really are, while the more important aspects aren’t being utilized. It also explains why dealers don’t believe digital marketing efforts positively impact their business’s revenue. The underlying factor that connects these two issues is the lack of a dedicated marketing staff – 60% of our survey respondents said they do not have a dedicated marketing staff. Marketing – specifically digital marketing – continues to evolve at breakneck speed. You absolutely need someone on your team who can keep up with the trends and ensure your business can be found everywhere today’s digital shoppers are looking.

This doesn’t have to mean a full-time hire. Digital marketing service providers can be a cost-effective extension of your store’s team.


Get strategic

Invest in digital marketing to increase your outdoor power equipment leads and sales. Here’s a list of the basic digital marketing musts:

  • Strategy
  • Web design and development
  • Traffic and behavior monitoring
  • Local SEO
  • Link building
  • Industry connections
  • Third-party sales channels
  • Online directory listings
  • Reviews and reputation monitoring
  • Digital advertising
  • Conversion optimization
  • E-mail marketing


So what do all of these things mean? In short, the good news is that with a budget of $1,000 a month, you absolutely can at least get started with these digital marketing musts. Learn more about generating outdoor power equipment leads with our 12-step playbook (https://arinet.com/resources/blog-posts/generate-online-leads-12-step-playbook-2).


Final findings

Based on this survey, we see a lot of room for digital marketing growth for outdoor power equipment dealers who can start to leverage best practices like some of those we’ve walked through in our guide.

But watch out! While the industry on the whole is still in its digital infancy, we believe our findings show that OPE dealers continue to pick up the pace on their digital marketing efforts. The online world continues to change, and we believe if dealers don’t change with it, they may get left behind.

Along the way, stay connected with us and our friends at Outdoor Power Equipmentmagazine to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the OPE industry and in the evolving world of digital marketing.


Chris Damico serves as marketing manager at ARI Network Services. He’s helped hundreds of dealers across the country with their digital marketing, including the content and search engine optimization (SEO) of their websites, social media presence, and advertising and e-mail marketing campaigns. He’s dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 23,500 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”


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