There are many legitimate Automotive marketing experts in the marketplace, and there are just as many snake oil salesmen. Here is one way to differentiate between those who offer real services and those who are looking to make a buck.
There are many categories of snake oil salesmen in this marketplace, including the following:
"Traditional automotive ad agency" turned into "Internet advertising agency". This is the result of sleeping dinosaurs who became so fat with their commissions that they lost sight of the goal. Suddenly they wake up, slap "automotive internet department" or "automotive e-marketing" on their website, patch together a few vendors, and think they can take a $50k ad budget and put it into adwords. Some are so late to the game it is embarrassing and couldn't even name 5 search engines without the help of their outsourced department. Typically, these companies turn into vendor whores and sell whatever ends up on their desk to try to get back the "good old days" where dealers lined their pockets with print budget. They know automotive, but do not know Internet.
They are late to the game, have a few tricks in their bag, and have achieved some level of short or long term success. They are riding off of buzzwords and will sell whatever you want to buy or whatever seems to have a good "pitch" at the time. They may also be a version of the "converted advertising agency" concept outlined above or they were involved in another market and are just getting into automotive in the past few years (or months). They may have some marketing experience but they do not know automotive. Many of these companies will be jumping from one hot topic to the next. You may "feel" like you are cutting edge but results can, and should, be measured carefully. You may find yourself saying things such as "I am an automotive social network enabled dealership" or,
The snake oil salesmen:
These are self proclaimed "automotive seo experts" and the type who manage to get dealers hooked on the allure of national traffic that cannot convert or getting them super-long tail phrases that get no traffic such as "2006 Infiniti with low miles and A/C in Bumbletown". Some dealers are just addicted to #1 positions, despite the reality that they may not be good words. These are the true criminals in automotive advertising industry that gives legitimate marketers a bad name. Never mind the leads their service brings, and phone calls that can come of it. A good snake oil salesman will sell the dealer on the sizzle, promising that the steak will come. Six months later, they dealer may (or may not) come off of their high but by then they are many thousands of dollars invested.
A good tracking system including CRM, and call tracking, will help stop the snakes from getting more of your budget.
One recent example is an automotive waste management study we performed on a dealer in the Northeast. He had purchased some microsites, SEO, and some electronic press releases (automotive ePR) among other related services from this provider. Months and months of time and money were invested, and the dealer stated over and over that the investment was one of the best they had made.
However, Rome was burning while Nero was fiddling.
The dealer was not tracking the phone calls, nor were they tracking the actual sales from this "automotive search expert". Sure leads were coming in, but in the past 3 months, they sold a single car. In one week, they received one phone call off of this investment. Now that we have the data, we can help the dealer to see better, but a good snake oil salesman will always say that results are - just around the corner.
Creating legitimate content, focused on driving legitimate traffic on the proper keywords, to the right dealer at the right time is the right move. However, there is too much smoke and mirror activity in search engine optimization that the room can quickly turn into a funhouse with sleight of hand and shell games taking precedence over real logic.
In all, it is not easy for a dealer, and there are many choices, but choose a company that offers full disclosure. Above all, answer every statement that make with "well, how many sales became of that, and who can I call to verify". Quickly, they will load up their huge luggage full of tricks and send their telemarketing company off to set more appointments to find the next sucker.