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From the Trenches - 2012 Put your money where your mouth is


2012 – the year that makes or breaks you!  This is the year of natural selection… survival of the fittest.


All of us have a pretty basic question to ask ourselves.  Do we invest in the past… or the future?  Is our loyalty to what was… or to what will be?


2011 was to be the year of digital, and in many ways it was.  My company dropped newspaper advertising.  There was absolutely NO impact.  Life and sales went on.  Yes it was truly the year of digital, in that nearly everyone understood that traditional advertising was either dead, or on its deathbed.


So if 2011 was the digital year, where are we now in 2012, a year later?  I say we’re in disarray.  Many who dropped traditional advertising did so because it was the “thing to do”.  They heard the noise.  It came from so many reputable sources, so they did it.  But they didn’t know why….


I’m going to tell you why, and you may not like it.  But it’s too late for you if you don’t.


2012 will be a great year for the economy.  Cars will sell like hotcakes (do hotcakes really sell?).  Will customers be buying them from you?


  1. Campaigns are dead.  Forget about it!  People no longer believe in a free cruise in the Caribbean or a free Camaro. No-one ever wins and if they do, insurance covers it.  Customers call it fraud… lies…. Shut up and leave me alone.
  2. Potential customers want to know who you are.  Do their friends recommend you? Do past customers recommend you? Are you HUMAN?  Or are you just a money-making machine cranking out the same old stories about how great you are?
  3. All technologies will merge and become interactive.  Do you have an iPad, a PC, a smart-phone, or any kind of tablet?  Doesn’t matter.  They will be forever connected to each other and the “cloud” (storage is on the Internet, not on your physical device).
  4. Customers can shop you while they’re standing right in front of you.  Be prepared to say why you’re charging more than the other dealer, on the spot.
  5. Price will lose all meaning other than, “this is what we paid for it”.  When all prices are transparent, what do you have to offer?  What is your value proposition?
  6. Dealers will look for profit centers when profit is disappearing on new cars.  Profit centers are still there but declining.  Market pricing is cutting into profits on used cars.  Our government itself is cutting into this with Consumer Protection laws on financing.  They are also declaring “Right to Service” laws (see Massachusetts) that will provide robust competition to dealers for service.  Get tight!


So what is a “progressive” dealer to do?  I ask the question this way because, anyone who is not progressive won’t be a dealer for long.


First, understand that you have had a decade or longer to grasp this.  The Internet revolution didn’t start and end at any given point.  Where have you been?


If you have truly understood the Internet revolution, you are probably poised for the next step.  If not, you are fighting losing battles against not only the present, but the future.  You will be squashed, no matter how many battles you win. You will become a sweet but poignant memory.


So!  Back to 2012. 


  • Expect complete interactivity between businesses and their customers.  Immediate gratification on all counts and all methods of discovery.
  • Expect customers to want to be your friend if they are to do business with you.  This hearkens back to the old days… a repeated theme in my analysis.
  • Word-of-mouth is king and queen.  If you can’t win this, you can’t win.
  • Word-of-Mouth can’t be faked by companies offering “review strategies”.  You MUST earn it.  Customers will know the difference even if vendors and experts don’t.
  • Respect your customers.  Again, respect your customers. Don’t try to coerce them into doing things, such as in-house reviews, that they don’t feel comfortable with.
  • Entertain and be friends with your customers on Social sites.  Don’t try to sell there; take a      break.  Be HUMAN.
  • Ask your best customers to recommend you.
  • Find the profit places where you can make money and use the new car sales to drive business to that profit center.


Most of all, BE CREATIVE.  Your adversaries are not stupid people.  Respect them and their efforts to create wealth for themselves.  That IS the American way.  If they come up with a value proposition that appeals to the consumer, YOU must come up with a better one.


I really love this job and this industry.  But I am tied to nothing and no past glories.  Enjoy the great memories and create new ones.


Written by Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 931

Tags: Car, Internet, Media, Reviews, Social, True, digital, marketing, reputation, sales


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Comment by Steve Davern on January 9, 2012 at 6:19am

Nice piece Tom. in my 10 years, I've never felt better going into a new year but it's no time to get comfortable either. A wild ride awaits!

Comment by Ray McGowan on January 9, 2012 at 6:01am

It's amazing to read each post here on Digital and realize how much the automobile dealership hasn't grasped the "long term" effects of caring for the customer.  Yes, most certainly technology is playing a key part in the future of our business, but just how many dealers really understand the "wow" effect and process controls that ensure customer satisfaction.  Many dealers talk the talk, but never walk the walk.  I recently witnessed a large dealer group where the customer received "lip service" in every transaction.  The dealer could really care less what transpired with the customer, just the numbers.  When you weigh out the long term effects of negative word-of-mouth, the numbers are staggering.

Yes Tom, last year was most certainly the year of digital and it's only going to weigh in on a consumers purchasing decision.  It will have a long term effect on business and those that are grasping it with both hands and relating to the positive customer experience will be the winners.  I close with a question for every dealer on ADM:  "Why is it that everyone that visits Disney World want to go back time after time?  (What are they doing that we're not?)

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 9, 2012 at 5:27am

Thank you Jae!  It's interesting that the more technology we get, the more it becomes about people again.  This is still a people business, even more so than ever.  Technology has just facilitated talking with more people instead of at them.

Comment by Jim Radogna on January 8, 2012 at 8:12pm
You're funny Jae :-)
Comment by Jae Chang on January 8, 2012 at 7:52pm

Nicely state Tom,

It's not what your are selling or how you are doing it. It's Why your are and customers need to understand that. Heard that from Sinek. It is about turning things inside out.

oh, btw...stay out of the way from JR's brain never fails.

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 8, 2012 at 5:40pm

Hehehe, Jim, thank you so much! You know I always appreciate your input.  You have Klout with me! ;-)

Comment by Jim Radogna on January 8, 2012 at 5:35pm

Oops! Don't know where that brain fart came from...I meant YOU NEVER DISAPPOINT!

I wish I had possessed your vision and ability to think outside the box back in my dealership days. Keep the great content are truly inspiring my friend!

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 8, 2012 at 5:14pm

BTW Neil, thank you for the excellent link.  I like it so much, I will repeat it...

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 8, 2012 at 5:10pm

Thanks Jim... I think!  Just kidding, I know what you meant. :-)

Neil, I'm not sure what you mean about chastised.  I write about this and don't feel anyone does so.  I do get those who disagree with me, but that doesn't bother me.  Aiiiya (as my Chinese wife would say), what a challenge!

As far as companies that have disappeared, you are absolutely right.  And in fact, I wonder about the candlestick makers who probably hated Thomas Edison.  Don't ya think?

Time marches on and sometimes we have to scramble to keep up with it, but only because we aren't always in synch with progress.  I hope that is the lesson here.  Thank you for commenting.

Comment by Neil Licht on January 8, 2012 at 4:49pm

I ahve been saying that online reviews and reputation management is now critical but I got seriously chastized for doing so from writers in this blog and the linkedin group. 

Change is never easy but think, how many companies have disappeared in your lifetime because they did not see and proactively manage change. Kodak( now in ch11), Blockbuster, Polaroid, many others.

Here's a link to what Huffington Post has to say about online presence and reputation management- NOT ME. What Nielson Surveys has to say, NOT ME,

I have offered a free online reputation checkup but Nobody accepted it. Don't you at least want to know where you stand so you can try to plan and refocus how you create customers in our online connected world?

Neil Licht, VP Reputation911.

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