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This one isn't going to make me any friends, but I believe it wholeheartedly and feel that it needs to be said...

I was asked a couple days ago by two different prominent people in the industry the following question: Can you outsource your reputation to a vendor? I’m of the opinion that with a proper definition of the term “reputation,” the short answer is, “No.”

What is “Your Reputation?”

Merriam-Webster’s Learners dictionary defines a reputation as “the common opinion that people have about someone or something : the way in which people think of someone or something.” Can a vendor truly affect the way your market thinks of you in the long term? Absolutely Not! What your market thinks of you is earned over time. That is why it is said that a reputation is built not made.

No amount of money invested with a Reputation Management vendor can undo the results of a pattern of poor Customer Experiences at the dealership. There is no distinction between an online and offline reputation, both parts make up the whole. As an example, the negative online results of a “Bait & Switch” or “just get ‘em in” mentality in the store can’t possibly be managed by an outside vendor  because they are powerless to fix the source of the problem.

"Reputation Management Companies" serve the same purpose as a band-aid, they stop the bleeding. Here is the problem, no amount of band-aids can fix Cancer... You need surgery! It is up to management, or in some cases ownership, to scrub in with a scalpel and cut out the sickness! Simply paying a nurse to apply another band-aid every time you get a bad test result isn't going to make you healthy. It may make you feel better. It may even make you feel like you're doing something about the problem, but at the end of the day, somethings can't be "covered up" they can only be cut out.

The 3 P’s

There are 3 P’s you need to consider when it comes to your dealership’s Reputation Management strategy:

  • Your dealership’s reputation is yours to Protect…
    • You Protect your online reputation in the store and in your digital interactions. Management must set standards for customer experience, online and off, and hold the team accountable to those standards. “The common opinion…the way in which people think” about your dealership must be an internal priority worth protecting.
  • Your dealership's reputation is yours to Preserve...
    • You Preserve your reputation with a solid process to request reviews from your happy customers. You also Preserve your reputation by closely monitoring the reviews you receive, responding to negatives, and addressing any opportunities for improvement. Legitimate negative reviews often result from a breakdown in process. An outside vendor can’t affect adherence to your process, only your store management can hold your team accountable to your expected standards of performance.
  • Your dealership's reputation is yours to Promote...
    • Promoting who you are as an organization starts in the dealership, it ALWAYS has! Long before the Internet era, who you are drove what you did and what you did defined who you are! The internet era has magnified, and in some ways accelerated, the importance of who you are as an organization to the consumer. Consumers recognize that they have a choice and they want to work with only the best. They can eliminate you from their search based on the information they find about you online. Your reputation, what others think of you, is an important differentiation between you and your competitors that are also vying for their business. It is worthy of your promotion, both online and off.

Last thought: You can never outsource who you are. Any vendor involvement should be secondary to your own. Some vendors provide valuable tools to help you strategically manage your reputation online, but at the end of the day, it is YOUR reputation to Protect, Preserve and Promote.

Views: 924

Tags: Management, Online, Reputation, Reviews


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Comment by Ryan Leslie on March 18, 2013 at 5:39pm

@Manny, That is a cool video, no doubt about it, but I don't think we're on the same page here.

The point of the post was that you can't ever "cover up" cancerous attitudes and processes that are causing a pattern of negative reviews. If you are seeing a pattern of negative reviews you have to do exploratory surgery and be ready to "cut out" whatever is causing that pattern. If you don't it will spread and you can't outsource enough band-aid applicators. You can't fix an internal problem with an external vendor.

PS. I don't take Cancer lightly. I hope that my use of the analogy in this post isn't offensive to anyone suffering with the disease in their family. With a community this large I'm positive that some of us are affected and I'd hate for any to think I used the analogy flippantly.

Comment by Alexander Lau on March 18, 2013 at 7:47am

BTW, the power of Women Buyers @ This is going to EXPLODE over the next couple of years! Dealerships, whether they like it or not, are going to have to pay closer attention to this demographic. Matter of time before that group has every single dealership in their dB and are held accountable. Good for her!

Comment by Alexander Lau on March 18, 2013 at 7:00am

Lovey post. We've been using SocialDealer for some time and their Reputation Management tools, which are very good, indeed.

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on March 16, 2013 at 7:57pm
Thats Just not Lust lol
Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on March 16, 2013 at 7:56pm
Wise words Ralph. Lust like "gaming" the oem surveys, you can't throw perfume on a pig and bring I to the dance. How a store responds to issues when they happen is even more critical because a great investment has been made to gain this current prospect or customer, and retention is WAAAAYYY more profitable than chasing new biz. Fundamental business processes are still key.

Comment by David Sharp on March 16, 2013 at 7:48am
My dealership group is new to DealerRater but not reputation management. I know this isn't a debate on DealerRater specifically but I appreciate how they assist us in being able to keep up with reviews that don't get posted on, ATC or our dealer websites that we might not otherwise know even existed.

Back to reputation management, true "management" of it has to be personal and from people who are at the dealership. Ultimately it is a way of life, not just something you do when you have a problem and it is the responsibility of EVERYONE in the organization not just one person.

I agree with you Ryan and I like your 3 P's. Well said my friend.
Comment by Ryan Leslie on March 15, 2013 at 9:01pm

@Ralph- Thanks for the kind words. I wasn't sure how this would be received in the community. I am very much looking forward to AutoCon 2013! We agree on much more than we disagree, but where we do disagree we REALLY disagree ;) The great part is that the sparks we'll create can only serve to sharpen the opinions and minds of those in attendance. I hope everyone enters with an open mind and leaves with a plan.

@Laura- I hope the point of my post wasn't lost as I'm pretty sure that we agree here. Reputation is 95% dealer culture, 5% everything else. I've told every dealer I've ever trained or talked to about DealerRater that it isn't a magic button. If you aren't solving internally for poor customer service experiences online and off, you will get overwhelmingly negative reviews. A good friend from a large and successful dealer group told me that beyond the content marketing aspect, the best thing DealerRater did for his store was reinforce the culture he was trying to drive. Every customer became important because every customer was asked to leave feedback by way of a DealerRater review. After collecting over 1,000 reviews, not all of them positive mind you, the culture at the dealership was noticeably different, and that was more important to him than any content marketing tools DealerRater offered him. He was the motivation for this post. A dealer's online reputation starts and ends with the effort that the dealer puts into their customer service culture NOT the money they put into a "Reputation Management Company."

Comment by Laura Whitten on March 15, 2013 at 7:58pm

Why not cure the internal issues of poor customer service by setting standards and hold employees accountable. Only a the dealership it's self can protect it's own interest.  I know number of dealers that lean to for profit companies such as to weed through their reviews and re-post / feed to other sites  but it is ineffective and dealership gives up copy right control by promoting site such as to set the bar and standard in which to live up, when truly the site is nothing more than a graffiti wall controls leaving the dealership exposed to poor reviews without notification to the dealership.  

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 15, 2013 at 5:45pm

Ryan and I may be setting up a debate at AutoCon 2013 where you are sure to see some sparks fly, all for the benefit of the dealers who attend... Despite the fact that Ryan and I disagree on several tactical implementation points for dealers managing their reputation, I have come to respect and admire Ryan's knowledge, understanding and depth of vision in the areas around car dealers protecting their reputation.  On top of all that, I still like the features and content syndication tools that DealerRater provides, the company that Ryan works for... This article is not being too harsh, it is the brutal honesty and lack of BS perspective that we all need to own up to in the car business.

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