Automotive Digital Marketing

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Through The Looking Glass - My Journey From Dealership To Vendor - 1998-2015

The automotive internet world in the late '90s and early 2000s was still in its formative development and there was a feeling of discovery and creativity.  We who worked as Internet Managers at that time often took initial pay cuts to do so and faced the uncertainty of a position that had an average span of three months... dealer expectations were often unrealistic and cynical about the internet.  Yet we had a vision that this road led to the future and success.


The upside to the position was a sense of freedom and control.  Since there were few if any best practices, we were free to experiment, often on our own.  It was truly a results oriented position. 


For those of us who successfully navigated the coming years, the sense of control was in some ways illusory and was simply that our visions were aligned with and welcoming to the reality of change.  Best practices were created, eventually became irrelevant, and were tossed aside in favor of new best practices. 


That alignment flowed through the years into a more mature internet market that required increasing sophistication and technology. But to those with eyes wide open, the most significant changes were occurring within the automotive and consumer cultures. 


As many dealers were stuck trying to manipulate technological advances into their past and current sales models, consumers were creating new challenges that were demanding new models altogether.  Power was being transferred to the consumer and progressive dealers bringing forth concepts of transparency, authenticity, integrity, and reputation.


Vendors, who were far and few between in the early days thrived and multiplied under these conditions.  Entrepreneurs sprang up with every conceivable innovation, some trying to fit into the false expectations of dealers that were resisting change, some trying to transfer traditional advertising methods into a new digital marketplace, and some with visions of new uses for new technologies. 


With high speed internet becoming mainstream, social media and videos entered the picture almost simultaneously.   The internet was becoming more interactive, allowing the consumer to be a participant rather than an observer.  Mobile brought with it the concept of "always on".  Customer reviews began showing up on the web, forcing dealers to become more cognizant of the real-time, instant impact of individual customer interactions with their stores and employees.  Reputation management and marketing were born.


For me, the visionary alignment continued to flow as I utilized these changes on behalf of the dealership.  This was simply a continuation of the culture changes that had been occurring since the beginning of automotive internet revolution.  But now, most of the innovations and thought leadership seemed to be coming from vendors, consultants and trainers rather than from individual dealers. 


As the digital world grew to be the central part of dealership strategy, my focus at the dealership was more often becoming tied to day to day activities and leadership issues involving dealership politics.  The alignment I felt in the early days was drifting from the confines of dealership life to the ability to communicate and paint with broader strokes within the larger dealer community itself.  Through social media, blogs, and networking communities, I found common cause and personalities at a new company called Dealer Authority that shared the awareness of culture changes occurring at an accelerated rate.  The vendor world beckoned.


For those who yearn for a comfort zone from the past, there is no peace.  Accept change and adapt? Never. We're here to make change happen and to help dealers make that change beneficial to them!


In this journey from dealership to vendor, I find myself venturing into unknown challenges and the excitement I felt at the beginning of my journey into the automotive internet world.  The alignment continues.


Dig Deep and Prosper!



Written by
 Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 248

Tags: SEM, SEO, Video, change, culture, dealership, digital, marketing, strategy, transparency, More…vendors


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Comment by Tom Gorham on August 5, 2015 at 6:08am

Thank you Tyson! 

Comment by Tyson Madliger on August 5, 2015 at 1:27am

We're extremely happy to be part of that alignment. We've always felt that car people would be the heart and soul of our company and having you join the team is already making an impact. Welcome aboard!

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