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So I was thinking about writing a post about a huge new enhancement to our software today but then decided not to... I decided I didn't want my competitors to know at this point.

I'm sure they will find out later, but for now I think I'd rather not give my competitors an idea of something to enhance in their own software... If I don't tell them, they may never find out...

What do you guys think? Are you concerned about what you share sometimes?

Matt Watson
VinSolutions

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Knowing human nature, it is expected that your competitor wouldn't share some bits of information with you. However, knowing human nature, most people you share information with won't take action to compete with most of what you share. I wouldn't worry too much about sharing. That's kinda what this site is all about.

Just don't break any non-disclosure agreements you might have.
Matt I agree with Doug. Less than 1% would even try to act.

"Tell it all brother tell it all" - L. Grizzard
Yeah!!! Beware of those NDA's you signed without reading the fine print... I have been disemboweled by a certain Mountainview, CA based technology partner for unknowingly violating an NDA I signed while visiting their campus... My offense? I took photos of their invitation-only conference and posted them on ADM... For any ADM members who were smart enough to download them while they were online for 3 weeks... You are in possession of CONTRABAND! LOL because of the sheer ridiculousness of inviting guests to your facility, allowing them to take photos with a big shiny digital camera and then trying to get the person who engineered the corporate partnership (after your own people failed), fired for publishing them on an industry UGC site... That he started!!! I mean, really, what could they possibly have imagined I would do with the images when they smiled and waived for the camera??? .
At times I suggest my competition to my dealers . If I truly believe the product or service is in their(my dealer) best interest and they will benifit . I do my best to embrase my competitors and do not fear the sharing of information . I try to actually help them . Why ? Because it may help my dealer client . It's not really about me ...it's about helping my dealers succeed anyway they can in this challenging time .....sometimes it means sharing infomation that does not benifit me but them .

I hope my boss does not read this post ... :)

Best ,

Tim Elliott
When you're a leader, at whatever level (like cutting edge technology), your competition will watch, analyze and try to copy your best ideas. I'm sure that as soon as you launch new technology, your competitors start trying to figure out how to implement what they like about it themselves. You have researched a number of advances by asking for "want lists" and that proactive quest to lead is what I like most about you and your company. If your advancement is so easy to implement that it will be copied quickly, it will be done only a couple days slower by hiding it today. If, like many of your advances, your competition will spend months trying to re-create and integrate it at some lower level, you could announce things whenever you want and it won't matter.
Matt, you guys at VinSolutions have obviously done a great job with your product offerings so I wouldn't worry too much. Like Jeff said, your competitors will want to offer the same cutting edge technology and will do so if they can. The easier it is to implement, the faster they will do so. If you guys have months or longer in development, your competitors will have to spend a similar amount of time to develope as well. I think about the same thing when discussing TheDealerDashboard.com. The owner of our company has expressed the same concerns but at the end of the day, if someone wants to offer a similar feature or product, they will. They may even make it better and we all learn. Either way, I LOVE TECHNOLOGY!
Having used VinSolutions CRM/ILM/Inventory every single day for two years before I started working for VS, I saw and continue to see changes almost every single week that goes by. New features, better system, faster, improved, fixed, etc, etc, etc.

Matt, I personally think that many of these advances, upgrades, added features are not talked about enough because they may seem like "smaller" changes but when compared with the competition - they must be bigger then thought because I don't see those same features in their systems. Or certain vendors say, oh, yeah we have/do that. And then you find out the real truth.

As far as big enhancements, to the point of others, I don't think these other companies can do it and if they can, it will take them a long time to finish it....and even if and when, will it be the same quality? I'm not sure but I have heard with many of the systems out there, that there is little changes because they don't have people working on the system after it launches, they only have people maintaining the system which is why for the most part, what you see with a system a year ago or two years ago or more, is what you see today. Nothing has changed. Is it budget? Is it how do we do it? Or is it simply not wanting to be the best and stay the best out there?
Matt,
Give them a little and they will hang around waiting to know more. That is good marketing!!
T
Matt,

Great Forum post! This is an issue that I am sure anybody who works with, for, or is a supplier to dealers has thought about at some point... I have personally taken "heat" from my co-workers for writing about products or programs. But, that "heat" began to fade as ADM became more and more popular. Within the last 6 months, I have seen various suppliers, including my own employer (thank you, ADP for keeping me employed), use ADM as a research tool to guage demand or validate a need... Witness some of my recent "questions" in the ADM Forum regarding willingness to consider a solution concept... In my opinion, the visitors and members of ADM represent a good portion of the "Early Adopters" at the front of the innovation bell curve for Automotive Digital Marketers. This presents opportunities within the context of an online interactive community... And, presents challenges to any supplier that would not be present in a focus group or, say, a software user group.

In my travels I get to meet with a wide range of people throughout the automotive industry, and many of them say something to me about ADM and people, ideas or solutions they have read about on the site... This poses a challenge to suppliers, especially when you pay attention enough to learn that there are OVER 16,000 Unique Visitors to ADM, but only 2,100 members! Who are these mysterious "Lurkers" who don't join, but visit the site? What do they read and where does that information disseminate? This should be considered, and I can attest to the AMAZING velocity with which information posted here can move throughout the industry... If I post ANYTHING critical of a certain website supplier based in Seattle, here on ADM, the puppet strings are pulled from within the beast's "nest" and I am contacted by my boss with something like a "why can't you just leave those guys alone?" message, after he receives a call or email from a certain car company that employs people who have those referenced puppet strings stretching all the way to West to Seattle... (Let's see if this fairly opaque reference gets noticed). Which brings me to my next point...

If you wouldn't show it at NADA or Digital Dealer... If you wouldn't include it in a presentation to a NCM or NADA 20 Group.... If you wouldn't include it in a proposal to obtain business... And, you wouldn't talk about it to an Automotive News reporter, then you should consider how, or whether or not you would publish it on ADM!

Now, with that said there are many ways to share information without giving up a competitive advantage to other suppliers. Such as sending ADM members a message, which is private and remains unpublished on ADM. Asking ADM members to contact you about a wonderful new widget you invented which is going to save all of us from certain business failure (leave me out, I hate those messages)... Or, by describing whatever "it" is in fairly vague terms that communicates just enough to trigger interest from dealers and managers, without giving up any proprietary details to your competitors.

And, then there is another completely different way to look at the question Matt poses... Which is how I see things. No matter how brilliant you BELIEVE you or your company's mad scientists are, chances are whatever you are trying to bring to market has either already been conceived, tried, built and either succeeded or failed in the market place already! If I could get $100 for every mysterious awesome automotive world changing "next big thing" that I have been suckered into spending time and energy on witnessing presentations, reading white papers, and travelling to various Skunk Works type locations in North America... That turned out to be a variation or different approach to something already tried, i could retire! So, to Matt, who i have a ton of respect for, that very "Miracle Cure" you hesitate to describe on ADM is probably either already being delivered by some other supplier that YOU DO NOT KNOW ABOUT and may never know about because you won't let anyone outside your inner circle know about it!

Here's the philosophy i personally believe in, and I may be wrong, but philosophies can be like religion, don't try to convert me without considering my beliefs first... When I describe new solutions or something we are considering at ADP on ADM, it has been my experience that the first thing that happens is every entrepreneur, start-up or existing digital marketing supplier on or watching ADM who has anything remotely similar available, will chime in and describe what they have, or have been doing or are willing to do... Now, does learning about competitors you never knew existed have business value? I say yes...

Or, I get emails and phone calls from dealers, car companies and others who do not currently do business with ADM who are interested in meeting with me in person, or getting additional information... Does that have business value? I say yes...

Or, sometimes i get information from our intended customers that we have not considered, or have overlooked because our own internal research has been primarily with existing customers, and they are biased when communicating with their current supplier, Us... Does that have business value? Only if you prefer NOT to live under a rock!

If you keep an idea, technique or solution that you eventually intend to sell to dealers a secret long enough, rest assured, you are in for some unpleasant surprises... sometimes it is the yawns from your intended customers as they mumble "so what"" or "...more snake oil for sale". When any business concept or solution idea, technique, feature or attribute sees the light of day and gets exposed to some fresh air and new perspectives... All involved gain in some way.
".....chances are whatever you are trying to bring to market has either already been conceived, tried, built and either succeeded or failed in the market place already!"

WOW! I believe I know why you said it, I am just surprised that you Ralph of all people would make that comment. It goes against what you have done for the car biz and what people are doing and sharing here on ADM.

That said, I do understand......the next best thing, nothing better than this, no else....I completely understand where you are coming from but come on. Your overall post actually discourages people from pushing beyond what they/we know and believe as what the car business is or should be.

But I understand the other part......post, post and post, share, share and share.
Chris, I want to thank you for actually understanding my comment... However, you have pointed out a serious flaw in what I wrote versus what I intended to communicate. I should have done a better job of framing my comments within the perspective of two rampant problems that I see too many automotive professionals suffering from:
1. It's-Not-My-Ideaitis; no known vaccine, usually requires intervention and deprogramming
2. God's Gift To The Car Business Syndrome; Easily cured by experience and acquiring a minimum of 10 years experience at implementing solutions in more than a dozen unaffiliated dealerships.

I have personally never suffered from #1, but was seriously afflicted with #2 for many years... Through intensive therapy that included working on development of Reynolds Contact Management and installing BDC's in over 500 dealerships, I was cured of #2 with a full recovery and no remission certified by my outpatient therapy at Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix.

Now, anyone who knows me will pick up on the tongue-in-cheek humor in the above, but I am also being somewhat serious. Where we are today as an industry is far below ideal, optimized, best-in-class or anything else that describes a pinnacle in technology and business processes that to imply "nothing better than this" is irresponsible of me... I apologize for not communicating more effectively!

All automotive marketing professionals need to understand that as an industry we MUST innovate... We need to conceive new and updated strategies based on changes in the marketplace... We have no choice but to try new approaches to execution and different tactics applied to strategies we know are right, but have not yet shown an ROI... The time has come when most of us are starting to realize that the way we have done business in the past is no longer good enough to reap the rewards, such as an above average income and better quality of life, that attracted most of us to the car business.

Innovation, trying new strategies, changing our approach and the willingness to experiment, measure, analyze and make adjustments are what the auto industry needs in order to drive any significant degree of success that we can look forward to in the car business.

Keeping secrets, getting patents, forcing people to sign NDA's, deleting blog posts, hiring hit men to take out former employees, gag orders, suppression of information and trying to monopolize anything that works is a recipe for disaster in the car business at this time... Collaboration, partnerships, strategic alliances, cooperative distribution channels, component approaches to solution development, and all other advanced business practices that allow the sharing of financial burdens and utilization of "Mastermind Teams" with people employed by different companies... Yes, even companies that compete with each other... Is what we need to move forward, get past these dark days of double-digit sales declines and become the industry that people aspire to.

My boss is calling me to dinner... Gotta go!
Agreed! Just new and better ways to use existing tools.

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