Author Archives: Gary May

NADA Might Have Been A Game Changer…If You’re Already In The Game

Well, the 2024 Las Vegas NADA Show is in the books. Yet most in the business still don’t have the book or know how to read it. Let’s face it, dealers still hear about how great they are doing yet finally realize they’ve been had. Here are the hard facts:

1. Few dealers have a vested interest in first party data and it’s even worse from maintenance, execution and/or measurement aspects. Many still don’t have their DMARC set up (and some are still not a secure email severs!). Whether you have a CDP, a CRM or marketing software claiming to be a CDP, if executing on CRM/DMS data were a thing, the OEMs wouldn’t be taking this segment (and all the customer data) over in the next year to three.

2. AI/ML is confusing as heck (mostly since everything at NADA was being sold as, with or part of AI). Especially considering most platforms beings sold as AI are not far from simple logic, chat bots and barely enabled rule-based response automation. Whether or not you view Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning (which is a requirement to properly enable AI) as part of your tech stack or not, get back to properly housing and executing on your core business and communication. AI is there to able growth, not become your dealership’s contact enablement because your people can’t do their job and are using 1985 training/word track and ‘closing’ techniques from the pervasive training companies.

3. Get real about your marketing before you find your dealership in a lawsuit come mid-2024. The FTC has to regulate marketing since a large percentage of dealers deploy deceptive marketing, period. Many of the large advertising houses (and digital marketing companies) are happy to get you in hot water if that’s what you are directing them to do.

2024 is the 30th year of the Automotive Internet (read that again, 30th!) and yet, most are still getting their digital marketing training wheels balanced. There are a few companies that have guided dealers (not simply re-sold solutions or outsourced their ‘core’ business) for a long time. Don’t make 2024 the year you fall further behind because your digital marketing choices are driven by (lowest) cost decisions, OEM stamped vendors or 20 Group lemmings that can’t measure themselves out of a wet, broken paper bag. Leading takes effort, partnership, resources and accountability.

Make this year a year of sustainable growth for your dealership or group with IM@CS!

Leadership Driven Results

Discover the Path to Success: Join Jake McCracken at the Driving Sales Executive Summit

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? Do you want to attract and retain exceptional talent that drives your organization’s growth and success? Look no further – Jake’s upcoming workshop at the Driving Sales Executive Summit is designed to unlock the secrets of effective leadership and talent management, ensuring your teams thrive and excel in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Unlocking Success: A Leadership Driven Approach to Attracting and Retaining Exceptional Talent

At this highly anticipated workshop, we’re excited to delve into the core principles of leadership that empower managers at all levels to elevate their teams and maximize their potential. Our expert speakers will guide you through invaluable insights and strategies that are crucial for creating a cohesive, high-performing workforce.

Highlights of the Workshop:

Inspiring Excellence: Transforming Your Employees into the Best Versions of Themselves

Discover the art of inspiring and motivating your employees to unleash their full potential. Jake will share proven techniques to foster a culture of continuous improvement, helping your team members excel both individually and collectively. Learn how to tap into their strengths, provide effective feedback, and create an environment that encourages personal and professional growth.

Mastering the Onboarding Process: Nurturing New Hires for Success

Whether you’re welcoming seasoned professionals or fresh talent, the onboarding process sets the tone for their entire journey within your organization. Gain invaluable insights into crafting an onboarding experience that ensures new hires hit the ground running. From creating tailored training programs to fostering a sense of belonging, this workshop will equip you with the tools to maximize the potential of every new team member.

Igniting Employee Engagement: Fueling Operational Excellence and Synergy

Employee engagement isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a powerful driver of operational success and team synergy. Explore the profound impact of engaged employees on your organization’s bottom line and discover strategies to boost engagement levels. Jake will delve into creating a work environment that promotes collaboration, open communication, and a shared sense of purpose, resulting in improved performance and enhanced outcomes.

Join Us at the Driving Sales Executive Summit

Don’t miss this exclusive opportunity to elevate your leadership skills and transform your approach to talent management. This workshop promises to deliver actionable insights that you can immediately implement within your organization, driving results and propelling your teams toward unprecedented success.

Get ready to lead with vision, inspire excellence, and foster a culture of growth that drives sustainable success. We look forward to seeing you there!

What You Missed In Fort Lauderdale (Besides Perfect Weather and A Beach)

Once a year, top operators in the country converge upon Fort Lauderdale or New York for the Presidents Club hosted by DrivingSales. It’s essentially a Super 20 Group with ideas flowing from the (mostly) main sessions and (a few) breakouts/workshops. Owners, General Managers and operation types were greeted with a firehose of insights and forecasting from Cox’s Economist Charles Chesbrough, hitting on the most important topics including the disruptive factors circling the industry.

A one-day event needs to add significant direction and thought in order to affect executives to change immediately after and DSPC always delivers, since the first year in New York with Seth Godin. While the hot topics were expectedly inflation, vehicle supply, fixed operations and human capital. Digital crept in more than ever before (as it’s not a ‘digital conference’ as DSES is in the fall) with two fantastic ‘Beast Mode’ presentations by William Camastro (Gold Coast Cadillac) and Gray Scott (Cardinale Auto Group).

As all dealerships are digital operations these days, it’s imperative for operators to make the appropriate investments. While many digital essentials are usually missed by senior executives, this Presidents Club seemed to grab and shake more of the attendees. Proper investment in staff, recruiting and maintaining best practices also topped the ‘high impact’ list with everyone there and especially for the Dealer Advisory Board as most of our industry continues to grapple with their most important asset: their people.

This year’s Most Valuable Insight winner was Jasen Rice of Lotpop, who will present a keynote in October at the DrivingSales Executive Summit in Las Vegas. It was also announced that DSES will be partnering with Women In Automotive at The Bellagio -based event to focus on advancing Women in the industry including Mentorship that is a significant focus for WIA’s forward-thinking plans.

The closing panel of Jared Hamilton, Dean Evans and Terry Laughridge (Cars) left the room charged, informed and a bit perplexed regarding the near- and mid-range impacts of disruption, advertising realities and franchise opportunities. The hard-hitting keynote panel addressed some of the in-our-faces aspects of what is changing automotive retail.

2022 still has a lot to bear and leveraging opportunities is more critical than ever, DrivingSales Presidents Club was definitely spot on!


Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results

Don’t Look Now, You Changed In The Past Year!!

“Change”, the dreaded four-letter word of Automotive retail. Dealers, GMs, GSMs, Managers and (mostly) salespeople despise it, yet if nothing changed more than the entire business in the past one and a half to two years, everything did. So, congratufrickinlations, you learned how to change. Now, with all of the profit and other positive aspects of business, bury your collective heads again and ignore the fact that you made a significant set of changes – even though, while in reality, most dealers changed a little and some really changed a lot – and stop making more important changes today! STOP!!

To those still reading, it’s time to make more changes. Being as how we are likely in this vehicle/parts/microchip constraint era for 2-4+ more years, it’s still the best time to overturn every stone, every expense, every vendor, every product, every profit center, and find more opportunities. More gross. More net. More more!

Are you buying enough cars? Are you keeping your clients glued to your messaging, service offers, purchase opportunities and more? Are you analyzing your data? Are you making educated decisions? Or are you still using used car marketing cheese and lousy photography for your inventory? Are you still letting salespeople and BDRs contact less than 50% of your prospects, excusing their poor performance and allowing them to claim “the leads suck” or “we don’t have inventory”?!?!

Can we stay committed to effective, valuable change and accountability, or are we destined to repeat average in an age of upside? The average of all dealership Internet lead closing rate in 2000 was 8-11%. The average closing rate of all dealership Internet leads averages 9-12% in 2022. But we have AI!!! And we have  new tech!! And we have, and we have, and we have…lack of change.

The moral of the story is to embrace change. Embrace? Heck…make love to it!!!! Stop accepting “what we’ve always done” as your motto and start grabbing opportunity by the balls! Stop settling and start changing!

Your results depend on your willingness to change…


This post was inspired by visits to Ohio dealers this week. Thank you!


Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

The Best Time To Make The Hard Changes

Welcome to 2021 Version 2.0: 2022. More constraints, more shortage, more jockeying for position on Wall Street. Cut to the chase: it’s going to be quite a while before anything of ‘volume’ takes place in the industry aside from wagers. No crystal ball exists, however most of the OEM talking points and releases over the last year plus have proven dead wrong. And for fun, while that has been going on, our client guidance since October 2020 (vehicle acquisition marketing since October 2020, vehicle and part shortages and associated marketing since April 2021 as two examples) has been dead on.

So, what to do with record profits per customer, and ultimately, lower overhead? Make the Hard Changes! You’ve been considering flipping DMS or CRM providers, however you’ll wait until things actually get busier again? No McFly!!! It’s time to get real and how and when (OK, and why) to make those changes.

DMS is one of the most difficult changes to go through, so why not make that vendor swap in 2022? And remember, investigate ALL vendors because it’s such an important choice. There are offerings that are dealer-centric (rather than vendor-centric) that have years of experience and there are those that are new to the space without a proven track record. Do research, do research, do research. Not 20 Group chats, real research and investigate who the big operators in the entire industry use. You might be surprised and find partners you’ve never heard of! Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to change DMS providers, especially if you have a 10+ store group. It’s a bigger pain in the ass to have integrations that don’t work and reporting that isn’t what you want or technology and equipment that came out before the first car phone did.

Got the CRM switch itch? Make it happen! Again, do REAL research and realize the change and onboarding to comfort zone takes months, maybe upwards of a year. And there has NEVER been a better time to make the change! Concerned about “paying a lot” for software? Remember what you’ve been telling your customers for years: “You get what you pay for”, so stop screaming about saving $1,000 or $3,000 a month when you make that on one car’s back end profit alone today and get real about what MOVES your organization.

One thing that’s common across the majority of store and groups we speak with every week: those who have made the changes over the past year (or are doing them now) are happy with the moves, less those who made changes on recommendations and buzz…not reality.

It’s the best time in the history of the automotive industry to make meaningful change. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it requires the best of your human capital. Yes, it’s time to stop talking about it and start doing it.


Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Stop, Drop and Do Nothing! (Or You Can Simply Roll With It)

You’re on fire! What do you do? For those of us who grew up as Baby Boomers and Gen X, you were taught in school how to stop, drop and roll. Right? Now, the battle cry is seemingly stand there and wait to see if you get burned. Profits are high enough (again)  to allow dealers to freeze, just as we did around 2005-2010 with the impending digital explosion.

What’s taken place in 2021, for the most part, is a conundrum of monumental proportion. And we thought 2020 had taken the cake! Record profits, record PVR, record low availability, record high wholesale values and more records breaking records. Pretty soon w’ll be staring at near-zero inventory on many lots and everyone screaming about incentives when new inventory finally makes it to dealerships.

Sure, do cut TV and radio along with paid search for models you won’r have and don’t have and skip some of the direct mail, unless it’s screaming “We Want Your Car!” (like everyone else is, by the way). Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Then wait longer and “save on expenses”, then scream when your website value/position/SEO drops along with your traffic, when stock does arrive you’ll expect everything to “be back to normal”.

How many times has it been said that when things are challenging, that’s when you double down? That’s truth. It doesn’t mean that we’re advising you spend incorrectly, however for dealerships not to take advantage of this time to improve variable and fixed operations (notice: operations, not expenses per se). Want to improve your service operations while inventory is tight and you’ve been making record profit per unit? Do that now, not in 3-6 months. Need to properly coaching and train your staff? Do it now, not when the phones are ringing off the hook.

Dealers do this to themselves over and over, not looking at history. Invest now in your digital operations (that means analytics, SEO, improvements in local citations and reputation management, overhaul your social media and more). Look at how to have more when the inventory does arrive and you start selling units for loses again because the consumer makes you (yeah, that’s another lie).

Or be one of the smart ones and stop, drop and roll yourself to a better business and stop looking for shiny objects and silver bullets. After thirteen plus years doing this, we’ve seen thousands of dealers get it wrong.  And a ew get it right…


Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Don’t Blink. Don’t Think. Yet Don’t Wait…

Lessons come frequently, if you pay attention. Lessons are disguised as many different things. Were you paying attention? And to what? What you have control of or what someone else told you? Last year taught us plenty, and it taught us nothing at all. Your point of view will determine which side you’re on (if not both).

Many things in automotive could be easily categorized from what took place in the year that just (slowly) passed by, like ‘data’, however it is essential – if not mandatory – to take a deep look at what resulted in your year.  And, how your business got there…. Quite frankly, it was not one thing that had an effect on whether or not your business made it through well.

Let’s deal with the elephants in the room (yes, they’re still there): digital retailing, marketing co-op funds, operations (fixed and variable),and  inventory. There are some other, smaller elephants playing patty-cake in your facilities however those are the main ones.

Not on the list, the biggest factor in making lemonade out of 2020 was whether your business was able to pivot in a leaner and, dare we say, meaner environment. More than anything, your ability to pivot and have the entire dealership culture thrive was bigger than anything else driving results last year, as well as the foreseeable future. Staff counts got leaner, and so thinking had to change for the smartest operators.

Many had the dreaded inventory/availability item however seemed to make it through (relatively) unscathed depending on how you secured inventory in unconventional ways. Dealers that could open in what resembled mostly ‘typical’ operating hours over the bulk of the year had per-unit profits that resembled years gone by.

The buzz word (read: buzz kill) of the year, especially OEM-mandated programs, was digital retailing. In our experience, same-store sales completed by digital retailing , based on opportunities grew incrementally (at best) and provided some daylight as well as perspective into what is possible going forward. Listening to industry-wide data along with CRM-based results, showed that there was a ‘lift’ from these tools, however not the godsend promised by any stretch of the imagination. That said, the dominant driver of tool utilization shows that what consumers want to do is know how much to expect to pay per month for a truck, sport utility, crossover or car. As OEM bolt tools on their websites (and charge franchises for customer/transactions that predominantly end up as showroom visits), we are now looking at the data play IM@CS has been telling dealers about for nearly a decade.

Many operators experienced lift in used car operations and fixed/service operations, while some even had banner years for their parts operations. No matter what, the theme seems to be making it known that you offer full-service and customer service and customers showed up, called and wanted it shipped or you picked up and dropped off their cars for sales and/or service. Hold on for a moment….2012 called and wants their flexible business ideas back…guess we’ll have to take those “idea trophies” back.

2021 is going to present huge challenges and opportunities, you can determine your own path to success as long as you have dogged determination to not resort back to the 1975-2015 mindset. It’s easy to do when profits remain high and some semblance of inventory remains.

Are you genuinely vested in your marketing (focusing on equity mining in 2021 as a new strategy doesn’t qualify as ‘your marketing’), messaging and operations? Market driven factors aside, do you already see your February and March plans in place and starting to shape your reality?

Be ready for more shifts in local marketing, specifically search engine optimization and citations, paid search and measured conquest opportunities. Other than those, don’t think or blink too much. Because if you don’t drive your business, as in 2020, you’re simply focusing on keeping your hands and feet inside the ride at all times… Don’t wait!


Best Practices, Professional Insight, Powerful Results

It’s Time To Get NEAT or beat in 2020

Since 2007, IM@CS has earned a reputation for allowing dealers to take advantage of trends, opportunities and addressing what’s next. Well, nobody could have seen what has ended up being “what’s next” for 2020. At the same time, we are proud to have enabled hundreds of clients in their digital progressions, with our existing dealership base absolutely set up for the current crisis as they’ve become nimble operators.

While new technology is exciting and, quite frankly, enabling organizations on an increasing basis (if not thrusting them into a do-or-die mindset), automotive is an interesting niche and any one aspect of digital retailing or online sales with home delivery, consumer-first tools and the like will not make you successful. No, you need to understand the tools and their measurement, have the proper culture in today’s businesses environment and make everything about the customer, which we’ve been doing exclusively with our sales coaching and unique CRM skills mentorship for over twelve years.

NEAT (Nimble Engagement And Transaction) is a whole-store approach and mindset from any initial touch to in-store visits and beyond. NEAT focuses your dealership on the most important aspects of attracting, engaging, creating and keeping your customers. If 2020 has proven anything, the arguments around keeping the “traditional road to the sale” are in fact, dead and have been for years. Stop making your prospective clients jump through hoops, you won’t likely get them and you definitely won’t keep them.

Removing the many cumbersome aspects of automotive transactions, people and processes, as well as the mindset that kept those in play is the first step. Your next step? Contact IM@CS to arrange for an assessment meeting and determine your best course of action to enable results.

Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results

One Thing That Separates Us: Consulting 101

Most of the time, due to how we partner with businesses, we hear how different people experience us in the course of our work. One of the biggest differences is that consulting is not reselling or representing. Consulting, quite simply, is the truest form of advising a business for growth.


Most of our competition lives on reselling and representing products and services, many times up to 70% of their revenue exists from ensuring businesses sign up. IM@CS takes no reseller, representation or commission-based fees. You can count how many companies in the automotive space that consider themselves consultants work consulting agencies that shy away from the practice of taking such fees on your hands and feet. The other hundreds of so-called consultants in the space do.


The other side of consulting’s true definition is error mitigation. Nearly anyone can regurgitate Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and a host of well-regarded SEO, SEM and social media entities. Very few can actually look at measurement, validate and fix errors. Most of the time this simply is due to the fact that most consulting companies are not immersed in analytics and unbiased measurement.


How can you validate this yourself? When is the last time that you and your agency, consultant, vendor and/or BDC/sales trainers had a meeting with data that was not proprietory? The meeting actually took place in your Google Analytics, Google Search Console/Webmaster Tools, Google Trends, MOZ, SEMRush, SpyFu, Rank Ranger, GMB Insights, Facebook Insights and the like? Step 1: if you are not using those tools and relying on proprietary reporting, the first thing you can nearly guarantee is some level of data manipulation. Step 2: can anyone else besides said vendor validate the data? If you cannot validate nearly 100% of the data, start asking questions before you cancel so you don’t make the mistake again.


Consulting is not easy, reselling products is. Building businesses with buy-in, accountability (including vendors) and measurement is heavy lifting, coming in for a 3:00 to 4 hour meeting and throwing a report at people telling them that they are not doing the job they need to do is easy.


When you want to get serious about your business, start asking serious questions and making serious commitments. Until then, keep feeding the middle men and resellers of the automotive industry.


Admittedly, an easy buck is an easy buck. So if you find making a buck is easier in 2020 than it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago, don’t change a thing.


Otherwise, contact us or another reputable, proven consultant/consulting company (there’s just a few of us) and start making change happen in your business.

This Year Like Last Year: OEMs, Agencies, Middle Men, Invisible Measurement and the Almighty Dollar

As we boldly run headlong into 2020 with digital more and more prevalent, whether wanted or not, there are some aspects of our business that seem to be getting less clear and one factor driving decisions more than ever. Digital marketing still is without a legal guardian. The babysitter has been receiving the calls and all of the “supervision” hour are spent face-first in mobile devices, kind of like most salespeople at any given moment when customer less.

While the babysitter shouldn’t truly receive all of the blame, those handsomely-rewarded middle-people, even as some of the companies and faces change (with rumors of sone OEMs switching hands of the ill-prepared caretakers of digital marketing programs), are happily rewarding themselves through the data-play environment as the dealers they claim to serve lose control of their customers, websites, tools and CRM data. Yet, when decisions come down to dollars, they claim “my hands are tied”, “we’ve been forced to go with approved vendors” and “my colleagues say their program is working well (cough)” along with a half-dozen similar-sounding reasons (excuses) for not taking ownership of their digital eco-system.

This week we were invited in to an import dealer accountability call with both their (mostly silent on the call) OEM and the marketing company responsible for a large-deployment campaign. The results they are claiming for over 400 dealers in the program simply didn’t happen at this one store. One. Yes, one. “All of the dealers had success with the heavy-up campaign” and “you’re the only dealer out of over 400 asking the performance questions” rang over and over on the hour-plus call. A simple check of only Google Trends both in the dealer’s AOR/DMA (as well as nationally) show that the search lift was (interestingly) roughly the same for organic search that the marketing company is claiming that the campaign delivered (OK, a good percentage of it when pressed harder). Nearly the same year over year lift as shows organically that they’re claiming from paid video campaigns!

Now this article isn’t about the one specific example this week of performance overhype and, since the largest traffic segment wasn’t properly tracked by the marketing company (or on the “large” social media platform that the videos were campaigned through – yes you read that properly: no tracking) so all claims can be called into serious question, the near-intentional lack of transparency No, this is about the industry’s saturation of vendors doing the same exact thing(s) to thousands of dealers each month with the OEMs and/or the dealer body buying in. It’s about hundreds of agencies that claim to be digital (even better, digital-first) and mostly reselling products for commissions that may also be handcuffed on real reporting and accountability.

This week we also experienced a website company “not knowing” why (or how) Direct traffic hits from two AWS servers (from OR and VA) representing 5% of monthly users/3-4% of sessions were happening to two different websites both hosted by them (the dealerships do not pay for any third-party data companies or “targeting/conquest solutions”) with vastly different performance issues represented by the two cross-country AWS locations (the VA location providing 0:00 T.O.S, 1 page/visit. and 100% bounce rate visits while the OR location provided 6:00+ T.O.S., 6+ pages/visit (up to near 20 pages) and sub-30% bounce rate however still non-human behavior). The dealerships are in the Midwest.

Add to the above, the even-present chant of “co-op program, co-op program” and “I’ll lose spiff money if we choose a non-approved vendor”. In 2018, we participated in assisting a domestic dealer pocket ~$450,000 with quite a bit of “non-approved vendor” expense (~20% of it in reduction in duplicative or unnecessary expenses). The dealer committed to it, counted on us and a very few other partners for measurement, and attacked all of their marketing, website performance, changed up their sales meetings (sales people had to take over the largest part of each morning’s sales meeting with a new idea or concept related to selling or use of the CRM), pushed a higher level of accountability and drove results, even changing how and what they bought for their used cars and the way they marketed and sold those cars (nearly doubled turns). Not once did the dealer or GSM complain about how their OEM co-op funds may not be available to them for part or even all of their marketing expense. As a matter of fact, they bragged with other dealers to the opposite.

Because it penciled!!!!! Results, especially with time, eclipse programs if you know what you’re doing and are committed to it. Agencies seemingly never want to cut their fee or commissions, even when the dealer’s results diminish over time. Why? Nobody can explain that to us (or anyone else). Aren’t you representing the dealer? Apparently not. Reselling and commissions (including Google Ads fees) have become too lucrative to focus on the dealer more than the agency bottom line. Once-a-month calls on your website and paid search efforts? Why didn’t you notice on the 15th of the month that your Google campaign on a model that you didn’t have in stock was spending 30% of your budget? No eyeballs, no accountability and no results. Keep sending the checks silly…

By and large nothing is going to change in 2020. The buzz at NADA suggested something definitely different, however the past two weeks alone have showed us that it may only be for a few adventurous dealers that have had enough of the “more of the same for me” digital programs. There may be a little more at hand, though. Especially if we face unprecedented, new threats to business (we’ll take “Worldwide Illnesses” for $1,000 Alex!) that may cover everything from supply chain to new car availability and sales to finance, funding and floor plans, to used car availability and pricing. Those who truly have their eyes on the real measurements of their business, all aspects, will weather impending storms.

And to do so, you have to invest time, effort, resources and money, yes some or all of the money that your OEM won’t repay you, however the dividends from doing business right will ALWAYS pay you back more. The R.O.I. from calling bullshit on improper marketing investments is huge. The R.O.I. from a cancelled investment and re-appropriation of those funds to well-run digital marketing that is fully-tracked and generates new sales is huge. Did you cut $15,000+ per month from your budget and sell MORE cars (including a record December) for four plus months? We know two import stores that did n the Midwest and the West Coast.

If you can’t measure it, stop spending it. If you don’t have more prospects, contacts and sales (or at least tracking to sales) from it, stop spending it. Best practices are called that for a reason. And no bad investment has ever been called a best practice. So keep going co-op and digital program. Until someone else completely owns your customers because those babysitters, middlemen and resellers have your data and monthly dates with your OEMs and/or your competitors. We don’t and never will.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results