Automotive Digital Marketing

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Recently, I read a post on DealerRefresh entitled: "Dealership Employees Blogging in the Land of Unicorns and Rainbows." An odd title that touches on a very important reality -- or at least a perception that has become accepted as reality: Car dealers are lazy.

After 20 years in automotive retail I have jumped ship. I am now in the full time vendor world as the founder of Wikimotive and I've come to realize that we've got it all wrong. Maybe... just maybe we, the vendors, are the lazy ones.

Car dealers have operated for over a hundred years with really very little change. My father started in this business before there was micro film to look up parts. And while computers have made the job easier, we still need people to look up the part and order the right one. People still buy cars from people they like.

TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, e-mail, the internet, blogging, SEO, social media, ORM, ZMOT, CRM, DMS systems have all helped to make some things easier, but the car business hasn't changed. NOT ONE BIT! Many have predicted these massive fundamental shifts, but really nothing has shifted. Nothing has changed -- not for the car dealer. 

The only thing that has really changed is us -- Vendors; we who serve the car dealers. We have new jobs, new suits, new offices, new products, new predictions, new ideas, new hugely important understandings of the way of the world and if the dealers don't listen to us RIGHT NOW they might not be around in 5 years....


That is a load of crap. A lame attempt to elevate our own importance in the dealer's eyes. Let me tell you, I see dealer's with some of the worst reputations and dealer reviews still sell the most cars and have the highest fixed-ops absorption in their market. I see sales managers who need help to reboot their computers sell hundreds and thousands of cars every month without the help of AutoTrader and SEO and blogging. I've watched some of the most anti-social sales people lead the board and some of the finest dealer's I've ever known lose their franchises.

I know... I paint a pretty dismal picture of reality for vendors so why did I get in the vendor space? Because when we get it right; when we truly offer value and return on investment, there is no better place to be then the guy who serves the dealer. OK and you can really make a lot of money as a vendor... SEE FULL DISCLOSURE!

Dealership personnel don't need to learn automotive SEO. They don't need to learn how to blog and they certainly don't need to understand the social media flow chart. Decision makers need to understand the value of those components, just like they needed to understand the value of being in the newspaper or on TV or Radio or whatever. 

Dealers need to know how to understand and recognize success when we deliver it and recognize snake oil when we don't.

For too long the vendor space has provided tools that the dealership has to pick up and use to make work. I say we're the lazy ones! Why build a blog for a dealership if they're the ones who have to fill it with content? Why build a website for a dealership and not do the research and homework to find out who the staff are?

Have we become too comfortable playing armchair quarterback? Do we just love telling dealers they suck?

Why do we only half ass everything we offer? Or maybe thats the wrong question... Why not? Why NOT send a rep to the dealership to meet all of the personnel and take their picture and talk to them and find out what they do and who they are? Why not build a blog and offer a service to provide content writing to the dealer if having it done correctly is as important as we say? Why not provide engaging content to dealer's social media channels if we're going to say that they are vital to the growth and future marketing of the company? Why not do it all? We love to identify that dealers do it wrong. So that must mean we know how to do it right...right!?

The newspapers didn't ask all the dealers who advertise to each come up with an article for the newspaper did they? TV stations don't want them to submit a great idea about a new sitcom, right? The print houses don't ask the sales people to pitch in and stuff mailers in mailboxes! So why do we ask our clients to do these ridiculous things!?

Simple - WE'RE THE LAZY ONES! Or maybe, we're scared. We're scared that the costs would be too high and we'd have to ask them for more money... Is that it? I couldn't figure out the reason why not. So, that is the model I decided to build my new company on. No more short cuts. No more half way. No more pat's on the behind and an, "ok dealer, now get in there and make my product look great!"

Maybe it's time we took a look in the mirror and reevaluated... Who's lazy?

Views: 2025

Tags: and, automotive, dealership, products, seo, services


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Comment by AndrewBarter on June 13, 2012 at 9:24am

Well Said Nancy!

Comment by Nancy Simmons on June 13, 2012 at 9:17am

Hey Tim! Thought provoking piece if nothing else.... I, like you, jumped the fence a couple of years ago after 33 years in the retail arena to the vendor side. I would rather use the term "lack of commitment" vs. laziness. Let's look at two big ticket items as far as software goes in the dealership: the DMS system and the CRM. We all know that the % of utilization is very low on both pieces, some of the unused portion may be considered fluff while most is comprised of dynamic tools which can produce effective results. Why is this so? Well the Vendor will point the finger at the dealership...It is there for them to use, they just don't use it...laziness? lack of commitment? or fear of adapting to something new, straying from the same old, same old? From a dealer's standpoint, I say commitment on the part of the vendor to properly train. Various company support different training methods...train off site, train at the dealership, web-based training, CD's... but whatever it may be, the lack of commitment to follow through, in my eyes, creates the problem. Reinforcement through follow up to ensure all team members have the knowledge, know where to go for resources, all questions answered, and understand the implementation and how to integrate with their core processes. Let's stop pointing the fingers abd agree to mutual terms of creating solutions through collaboration. We can then improve personal growth, dealership profitability, and betterment of the auto industry as a whole by working together rather than pointing the finger!

Comment by Michael Cirillo on June 13, 2012 at 8:57am

Exactly. No BS here, however - instead of pegging "Laziness" on whole groups (Dealers vs. Vendors) I think everyone should try to understand that there needs to be an increased commitment from both sides of the fence. From the vendor: to actually provide the tools, resources, training and inspiration for the dealers to have a streamlined approach to doing digital business; and for the dealers to actually make use of the tools provided by the vendor and use them as a marketing partner to get the job done with as close to the expected results as possible.

You're right Tim, It's the easy way out for vendors to peg laziness on the dealers - though I've seen the same come from dealers. Since we are all individuals, I think vendors should focus more time on the individual needs of each dealership and creating solutions through their product offering that will be of most benefit to that individual dealerships needs. There must be greater accountability from both parties.

Comment by AndrewBarter on June 13, 2012 at 8:54am


I think you are spot on. I had a consultant that worked for me on a project recently, great resume, lots of recommendations, by all accounts a great guy. I went on a field visit and I was excited to see what he was bringing to the program that I had not thought of. To see how he was adding value for the dealer and the staff.  I was appalled at how little he was doing "just to get by"  His response was "they don't seem to know the difference... they love me"

As I recapped the missed opportunities and possible solutions he laughed and said "Do you think you can get these guys to do any of that?"  he totally missed the point... WE are the guys who set up the high wire AND they are the guys who walk across and have the crowd cheer for THEM.

I think the most important thing to remember as a vendor is that we are are the arms and legs, the hands that implement and install, the eye that monitors and maintains. We are not the voice from above. We must come to serve...

I very much enjoyed reading your post!

Comment by Diane Anderson on June 13, 2012 at 8:36am

My take on the post? Success in any business relationship, no matter what side of the fence you sit on, requires a 100% effort from both parties to realize results, it's a two-way street. As Ralph points out, sometimes you get what you pay for. Likewise; Keith, I am going to have to borrow your "You can't have a 20-car-a-month people on the floor if you have an 8-car-a-month manager"...accountability starts at the top to choose your vendors wisely and each party needs a clear understanding of what is expected from each other to get the results expected. Upper management then needs to hold their staff accountable to use the tools / products available. Likewise, vendor reps need to be held accountable to represent their product and services. Tim...Thanks for taking the time to remind us what's important in this business.

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 8:08am

Thanks Keith!

Steve, no question lazy is abundant in all verticals not just ours. I don't think there is a car dealer in america that doesn't have some laziness going on (especially in the showroom am I right?) 

But they aren't lazy in the way we've been characterizing them of late. Yes, sales people are lazy. Managers have to stay on them. Employee's in every walk of life will tend to take the path of least resistance. 

But I think we've become so accustomed to calling dealers lazy, that we put our job on them as well and then call them lazy when they don't or can't do it!

Thanks for the feedback!

Comment by Steve Davern on June 13, 2012 at 7:43am

Great post- I will share with my team and dealers. 

I would add that "lazy" is everywhere. Before 2008, I would make my weekly stops at car dealerships to change out weekly classified print ads and about 20% of my Used Car Managers were playing cards on their PC and did not want to be bothered. They irritated me because I knew they didn't care as much as some of my other customers. I ignored them and started picking the vehicles out myself. 

Those guys are gone. I have not seen a single card on a PC in a dealership in the longest time.  Same goes for the lazy vendors. Some of my customers would ask me if I've seen other vendors. Sell the product and disappear!

Sales comes with service and there is no virtual replacement for stopping by a dealership as often as possible- weekly or bi-weekly for sure. Changes come hard and fast in a car dealership and you don't know about them unless you are hanging around and building relationships.

As a third party auto network, local search and classified print vendor, I would like to thank lazy vendors for making my job a little easier. It's hard enough out there!

Thanks Timothy!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 13, 2012 at 7:30am

I have been on both sides of that equation now, and Tim is on the money.  Someone recently made a very profound reply to this statement by a vendor:  "You can't have 20-car-a-month people on the floor if you have an 8-car-a-month manager!"  The reply?  Here it is:  "Well, what if the real truth is that you have only '8-car-a-month' tools from your vendors?"

Hmmm.......Thanks Tim!

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 7:16am

Thanks for the feedback, David.

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 7:16am

Ralph, I agree there is certainly some responsibility on the dealer to not "overwork" the deal. But vendors really need to know better. We're trying to sell to people working in the 2nd oldest sales profession in the world. They're going to negotiate! It's our job as the vendor to not let them negotiate the value out of our service.

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