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: 2122

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


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Comment by Jason Manning on June 17, 2012 at 2:31pm

I don't know if lazy is the word.  I will say what I have always said, and that is...we are still in the people business.  Dealers know that.  Sometimes vendors believe they have a new system to save a dealer.  Yet the dealer can still survive with good people and longstanding relationships.  If a vendor misses an opportunity with a dealer, they just don't have a relationship.  The dealership is the front line.  It is where all directions come from.  Dealers know what they need.  Many vendors are not listening though.  That takes people skills...not another product.

A People Business...  Nothing has changed there.

Jason Manning

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 15, 2012 at 7:06pm

Yago, I wasn't implying that Jeff or Kathy were saying dealers were lazy, merely that those posts inspired me to write mine. 

Perhaps you didn't understand my article. My assertion is that it is absolutely lazy of vendors to put the success of their products on the backs of dealers, then without any understanding of what it takes to operate a dealership or any business that rely's on retaining only 3% of gross annual sales for success, proclaim those same dealers to be lazy or somehow intellectually backward for not realizing the importance of blogging, content writing, social media, etc and failing to invest in in-house personnel in order to have those items covered.

Quite frankly it is offensive. Sorry Yago, I call it like I see it and that is L A Z Y.

Comment by Yago De Artaza Paramo on June 15, 2012 at 2:19pm

I don't know that KC or Jeff were implaying that dealers are lazy but to the fact that most dealers operate under the premise of paying their employees by a percentage of the revenue that they create therefore making blogging, a very indirect sales tool at best, a very low priority in their daily routine.


I also wouldn't call vendors lazy because we do one thing and not the other. If there is one thing I've learned in the car biz is that there is a different angle for the same product at almost every store that I go and that every dealr likes to implement things based on their understanding, available personnel, etc.


Comment by Timothy Martell on June 15, 2012 at 8:11am

Great feedback AJ and thanks for the shameless plug! lol

Comment by Aj Maida on June 14, 2012 at 5:51am

Phew...I need a cup of coffee after that!

Comment by Aj Maida on June 14, 2012 at 5:50am

Tim, Outstanding post and wonderful responses. Also hits on one of my pet peeves that you’ve heard me speak (OK rant) about. I have been talking for years about how we (dealership personnel) all seem to hate our solutions (vendors). The DMS sucks, CRM doesn't follow the workflow, Email opt out doesn't integrate with the DMS etcetera, etcetera. While some solutions are better then others (Shameless plug time: Take a look at the Wikimotive products) THEY ALL WORK. If they didn't they wouldn't be out there.  The problem is we the users don't know what they do and you the vendors don't do a good job of telling and teaching us. If as a vendor you do not EVER want someone to cancel your product, invest in a training staff and have them INSIDE of your client stores once every month or two (first 3 weeks of the month only or Keith and Tim will hurt you). Hell we can't figure out how our Smartphone’s work! Teach me and my staff EVERYTHING your solution does and it will become just that a solution. It will produce results and become the most used product in our store and therefore the most successful. How will your up-sell and referral business be then? Hell you’ll recoup part of your investment by not having to get a booth at the trade shows. Keith talks about a "digital audit" and the money it saves. We all have products that duplicate others. Why, cause we were never told everything that your product can do. Did we ask? Probably not, but I expect you to tell me. Same as I expect our salespeople to explain the entire Nav system to a buyer. Help me help myself, and yes that will take some hand holding. We talk about our DP's being cheap. It’s because we are spending money on duplication. I know I am and I have cut stuff out, but still I am missing stuff and paying twice. If you are only showing me 1/2 of what your product can do then odds are the lazy people in the dealership are only using 25% of it. How long before we exercise our 90 day opt out? I believe Tim is right it is a form of laziness, but what it is also is just dumb. Your solution is great. SHOW ME HOW TO BE GREAT USING IT!!!!!!!

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 1:41pm

Thanks Manny! Your support is greatly appreciated!

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 1:40pm

Keith, I can't tell you how many things have been thrown across the dealership because the GSM got a call from a vendor selling something in the middle of working a deal last day of the month!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 13, 2012 at 11:49am

True story:  Back when I'm eCommerce Director.  It's the last Saturday of the month.  The website vendor got blacklisted and so the emails they sent from the website forms wouldn't come through. I spent three hours getting that all figured out, including talking to one guy who was on a golf course and said "Yeah, I just got that alert."  I wanted to drag him behind his cart for 18 holes worth of sand traps!!

Monday morning, last day of the month.  Website forms STILL not coming through as the vendor works with the international Internet orgs to clear the blacklist (took until Thursday).  At 10am or so the same vendor's inside sales folks called me to upsell me on SEM.  I told them never, ever to call me back.

Then comes a knock on my door from a vendor that wanted our inventory merchandising work. He's been asking for years, and he's never been in the car business.

If I hadn't known he had kids, he wouldn't be here today!  Sorry Vince.  :)

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 13, 2012 at 11:34am

Wow, great feedback. Thanks so much for all the support. I've written some popular posts on ADM before, but the response to this has been overwhelming. My phone has been ringing off the hook today with heart felt sentiment and support. 

Keith, Steve, Mark - all great points! 

Mark, great mention about the notorious vendor "drop by" on month end. NEVER EVER DO THIS! IN FACT, DON'T EVEN CALL ON THE LAST DAY OF THE MONTH!!!!

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