Establishing ROI Benchmarks for Motorcycle and Powersports Marketing Budgets (Part 1)

As a dealership owner who is spending money to market their business, you must work towards establishing robust ROI benchmarks for your marketing budget. Most dealerships have very little or no accurate ROI reporting and opt for the “just see what sticks” concept, which is a black hole for funding. You will be fleeced just as fast as you write the checks. Sure, some of it might work, but which works best? Even if you don’t have a way of measuring your ROI now, start working towards what makes sense for your dealership and then hold your vendors accountable.

The terms and concepts below are imperfect, but they are starting points to help understand how to improve budget accountability. There are always grey areas, but I always work to minimize those as best as possible through solid reporting.

Market Spend Per Sale

The most basic and high-level number you want to establish is how much to spend per unit sold on marketing. Typically I look at this on a monthly and yearly basis. Seasonality will change the monthly numbers, but after a few years of data, you should know what to expect and plan accordingly. It’s a straightforward calculation – Marketing Budget/Units Sold. The marketing budget includes all the ad spending, the website infrastructure (hosting, pictures, video, etc.), my salary, and the minions. It’s a great example of the grey area, as I also maintain all the IT, phone systems, and CRM systems – so this number gets fudged where I am currently.

Cost Per Lead

I look at one of the most important numbers and one you must establish. It will tie back to everything, and it’s only by knowing this that you can quickly tell how any marketing campaign is performing in real dollars. Time is at a premium every day, but if I don’t monitor my campaigns every few days or weeks, things will quickly spiral out of control. That might seem extreme, but many forces are at play, and a change in anything from your competitor’s keyword ads to regional inventory demands can alter your lead costs. We budget daily spending, and if my lead costs shoot up, my budget gets blown early, and I can miss out on leads. This is looked at on a per-campaign or source basis.


Conversions are one of those terms that mean different things to different people. Internally I look at it in different ways. There are two primary calculations.

Total Traffic / Leads

Whether it’s eBay, Cycletrader, or your website, the conversion percentage tells you a lot about how effectively you are marketing to the target audience, your inventory is priced, your message is working, and more. Tracking this over time allows you to benchmark performance. Vendors and agencies will brag about how many visits they can get you or how many “clicks” It matters, but only if you get real actionable leads. If my conversion rate doubles, I will take half as much traffic, which means my message is more potent and reaches the right people to boost the results for the following number below.

Leads per Sale

This number is so significant and affects much more than marketing. It tells me how effective my marketing is in reaching the right audience. It tells me how effective the automated processes are in my CRM. It tells me how effective the sales process is. How effective my salesperson is. On the marketing side, if all my leads are high-income, high-credit-score individuals who want to buy within 48 hours, then I am a genius. The reality is that my lead group is a mix, and that mix varies by source. The mass leads I get from manufacturer events convert at about a .001% rate – they are not good because anyone will fill out a form to get a t-shirt. Facebook Marketplace leads are better, but there is still a lot of trash. My Cycle Trader or website leads are much better, and they have to be so that, as a whole, we carry the day.

 Leads Per Day

LPD isn’t an ROI number, and it is a performance number. It is critical, and I look at it every morning before leaving home for work. I look at the previous day’s numbers for each store and the sources for the coming leads. I list this number because it’s a vital part of the daily routine and cannot be ignored. Suppose there is something wrong with any of the elements of your marketing campaign (which equals dollars on the ground). In that case, this is a quick way to know if your morning needs to include digging deeper into your lead generation mechanism.

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