“If digital were that easy, everyone would be doing it” said no automotive OEM executive, ever. But somehow, over the past few years, it seems as though they did. Meaning, for the most part, they don’t do anything digitally and yet…they expect their franchises to through some very forceful measures.
The dealers don’t win. The consumers don’t win. The car companies win. Concessions. That’s all. And not the kind that sell more cars. No, car sales are not up due to websites, erosion of gross or 84 month leases. Car sales are up because of demand, available loans and because, yes, the cars (all of them) are being made better today than ever. Oh, and of course, because your website company says their marketing rocks and they deliver the most low-funnel consumers to your doorstep (yeah, those reports make us puke, too).
Homogenization has never been greater at a time when nearly every smart person in marketing (automotive and non) says to create differentiation in every aspect of your business. Yet your OEM digital representative, who was in sales operations three years ago and brand communications a year ago, comes in and says that you have to/should use website provider A or B (that doesn’t have a fully responsive mobile platform, let alone one site), CRM vendor C2, search marketing partner D5B and consulting company WTF (who’s consultant was born the same year your rep graduated Northwood and worked at a Verizon store last).
If you’re smart and digitally savvy, you’ll run as fast as you can the other way. Why? Because selfishly, every digital know-it-all can do a better job? No. Because, unless you have a well under-performing store that you can plug any brainless automotive digital veteran into, buy more leads and sell more cars, they’re after your data, customers, results and ideas through managed programs. Yes it’s absolutely essential to have every retailer represented well digitally, however if a dealer wants to think that digital is a fad and not put resources into the top consideration generator, let them do so. It’s natural selection in business folks, let ’em sink.
Being made to look like every dealership with the same banners, offers, landing pages, newsletters, paid marketing and social media is a slow, miserable existence. An import dealer shared today that during his recent brand marketing meeting, an OEM digital overlord told him that he should have the ability to turn off all of the factory marketing if he had his own. Unfortunately, his website company (OEM-endorsed) didn’t allow him to and the third-party, in-the-way-of-your-results consulting firm didn’t have an answer on if he could or not. (the OEM guy did take notes and will report back!)
Another dealer chatted with us about not having proper used car data on their OEM-endorsed websites for their group. You think that the car company loses any sleep over used car anything, let alone mis-equipped listings potentially losing thousands of dollars?
It’s time to take your marketing over if you want to. Yes, it’ll take time, money, measurement (you don’t understand now), resources, patience and a die-hard willingness to learn, changing your dealership culture. And it has to start with the dealer and general management. Not for a dashboard or an award, not for a magazine cover shot or being called up at a conference. And quit talking about visits or sessions, that’s so 2008. Nothing cooler than telling your dealer “we had 1,000 people on the lot and in showroom, sat down with 28 and sold 4!”. By the way that’s what your website says.
All of this is because if something doesn’t sell or service a car, or get someone back to your dealership, it’s not worth buying or using. And nobody, not one person, after working with hundreds of dealers, on OEM programs, at 20 Groups, conferences and webinars, producing second-to-none content, social and SEO, can convince us that standardizing marketing and solutions across thousands of retail points across North America can do anything other than paint the industry with a bland brush.
You don’t deserve that and your customers don’t deserve that. Will Rogers once said “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. Unfortunately these OEM digital programs have created a Crab Mentality by literally not letting those that choose to get ahead. Good intentions, poor execution.
You can do much better. We hope. (310) 377-6481 or info at imacsweb.com
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
Of course, this is all true. For many years. And tremendously sad. Thanks for a great article Gary.
Gary, you are on the money. The agenda of the OEM and the dealer are not aligned. OEMs do not care about the individual success of any dealership, they just want to promote the vehicles not the retailer. The OEM also only pays lip service to improve CSI. Sales are the primary motivator for the OEMs. Dealers need to create more engagement marketing and create a level of transparency in their process. Most dealers do not have the desire to improve their process, so they support companies like TrueCar to bring bodies to the store. Those dealers will win the race to the bottom.