One precision dealer in Michigan is leveraging Facebook advertising to increase visibility and improve hardware sales.

While many dealers are trying to figure out what economic value — if any — can be derived from using social media as a sales tool, at least one has been able to turn a modest online ad campaign into a profitable venture.

This past spring, Mike Houghtaling, founder of P&C Ag Solutions, in Saginaw, Mich., began developing a series of Facebook ads, which appear in user’s news feeds. His goal was to help drive traffic to the precision dealership’s website, Facebook page and eBay site for used precision equipment.

“We’ve always had a website that was very lightly visited and we also started a Facebook page, but didn’t see much activity,” Houghtaling says. “We run a very active eBay site and I wanted to see that grow, so I wanted to figure out a way to drive more people to our sites.”

The dealership created 3 different Facebook ads designed to direct users to each of P&C’s online resources. Two of the key attractions to the advertising option, says Houghtaling, are that it’s relatively inexpensive and targeted.

“I like that we can focus razor sharp on who we want to see our ads,” he says. “With one of the ads, we target just people who live in Michigan, but we could get even more specific if we want.”

Houghtaling also uses key words, such as brand names that his dealership carries or industry terms, to determine which Facebook feeds the ads will appear in. For example, users who list “Trimble” or “precision” among their interests in Facebook profiles are candidates to see a P&C ad.

The number of users who meet Hougtaling’s key word criteria for an ad he runs globally is about 38 million, and he admits that only a fraction of those are relevant leads.

But for the price he pays for the overall ad campaign — about $5 per day — it’s been a worthwhile investment. The way that Facebook ad pricing works is based on an auction system where ads compete for impressions based on bid and performance. Houghtaling can pay per click and set a maximum cost.

One of the dealership’s biggest successes so far has been selling several used Ag Leader Intellislope systems after Houghtaling created a Facebook ad specifically for the products to drive people to their eBay page.

“We spent $36 on the ad and got 65 clicks to the website listing, and ended up selling all six 6 of the units we had in about one week,” he says. “These were $3,500 units so the ad ended up being really effective and we’ve had success doing the same targeted ads with some used equipment.”

P&C is also seeing a dramatic increase in website and Facebook page traffic as well, as a result of the ad campaign. Houghtaling says it’s been beneficial because, as a single-store dealership, they struggled in the past with developing an online presence.

Traffic on the website has increased from about 30 unique visitors per month to more than 800 and Facebook “likes” have grown from about 30 to more than 600.

“We were getting about 10-15 new ‘friends’ every week,” Houghtaling says. “Whether these are people who are going to do business with us or not, I don’t know, but we’re sharing our vision and mission with people in our community and our state, so that can’t be bad.”