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Feedback: So What Exactly Does IM@CS Do?

This post is a long time in coming, even though not our typical cup of tea. Why? Because we want clients and the industry to understand more (and in some cases, even something) and talk about us. Tooting our own horn is a turnoff, and publishing papers, studies and books with mostly repeated content is deplorable. However, after nine years of “what does IM@CS do?”, it’s likely (beyond) time to make it a little more known…

Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services (a.k.a. IM@CS) was founded in September 2007, when the amount of non-vendor companies/consultants dedicated to digital in the Automotive Industry could be counted on two hands. In other words, if you don’t count website developers, ad agencies and the like, you could hire less than 10 entities to truly grow your digital results independently.

Some of our firsts that lead the industry:

  • Website maintenance (developed into SEO Services) started December 2007 and micro-sites in 2009
  • Social Media services started in December 2007 (we launched the first Audi and second Porsche dealership on Twitter, for example, and many of the first-10 on Facebook dealership accounts)
  • Vendor coordination/accountability yielding fastest-in-class response times (with Gary’s background at eVox, Edmunds and izmoCars, nearly all OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors were on a direct, one-to-one relationship with IM@CS before other digital consultants knew them)
  • First OEM-direct relationship (Toyota/Lexus) secured in January 2008, educating hundreds of Lexus dealerships around the country (replaced incumbent and scored highest dealership satisfaction from the summits over a five-year period)
  • Mystery shopping of dealers in 2007 (started in 2004 while at eVox), then introduced lead scoring (rather than mystery shopping for clients) in 2011 and rolled out to OEM programs
  • First 20 Group presentations in 2009 (Porsche US Pre-Owned Forum and Volkswagen Canada digital) yielded transformational changes for dealerships
  • Advocating, coaching and maintaining online reputaiton management since 2008

Not easily known unless you followed IM@CS in the early days, our work resulted in many industry-leading benchmarks as well as brought other consultants and vendors to the forefront and awareness over the past nine-plus years. Gary May has been a sought-after speaker since opening the J.D. Power & Associates Internet Roundtable at Red Rock Casino Resort in 2008. In addition, Gary has spoken at the first six years of DrivingSales Executive Summits as well as dozens of other conferences, 20 Groups and private vendor events. Eric Trytko and the content team have driven industry-exclusive vehicle editorial and content direct from auto show launches since 2010, something that no other dealer provider has done (most repurpose OEM and publisher releases and articles or use spun -software based- content, a search-engine flag).

IM@CS has created over 350 blog posts and has contributed to top Automotive forums.

Our team (currently a staff of nine) touches all parts of your digital presence:

  • Website maintenance
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media content management and marketing (organic and paid)
  • Reputation Management (tracking and maintenance)
  • Creative assets (banners/graphics, landing pages, email marketing)

We carefully vet all dealer digital processes through hands-on assessment, highlight low-hanging fruit as well as build long-term strategies, weigh competitors plus develop strategies around acquisition and conquest, bring unrivaled education to executive and management-level staff and build unmatched results for salespeople.

Some of our competitive advantages and benefits to business leaders:

  • Out-of-the-box solutions (no cookie-cutter/duplicated approaches including content and lead management/CRM/templates)
    • what works in your store, not others
  • Commission-free vendor recommendations (giving up 5-and 6-figure revenue per year in kick-backs)
  • Best-practice approaches influenced by both automotive industry leaders as well as out-of-the-industry strategy and results
  • Six day per week support 6a-6p PT and beyond
    • Most requests receive 24-hour turnaround

We have been a trusted, non-contracted (month-to-month services since day one) partner for dealerships with an average duration of over two years and we have been hired back or advised by 25% of our clients. Our partnerships with stores develop long-lasting results while keeping executive management up-to-date with all digital aspects. Our R.O.I. is unmatched in over 90% of clients.

When you and your business are ready to stop splitting hairs with me-too vendors and are ready to grow your sales, marketing efficiencies and knowledge in order to build sustainable results, contact us for a review call or an assessment meeting. Yes, it can be this simple to stop receiving only slight benefits while paying vendors for their lifestyles. And understand why, in most cases, your co-op OEM-run programs will never serve you to profit and actually only serve your vendors and manufacturers with piles of data about you and your operations.

 

Here’s to your success in 2017!

Misunderstanding the Misunderstood (A Post-NADA Perspective)

Too often, we mix messages. We misconstrue. We miscount. And most often, decisions based off those actions lead to more of the same. There is a lot of “data” out there: actionable, validated, accurate data, and damaging, paralyzing, inaccurate “data”.

 

Last year IM@CS was fortunate to be involved with a Mercedes-Benz project around lead management and one of the talking points (not from us or our partners) showed the average customer in 2013 submitted a lead to 1.3 dealers. Not only has this been invalidated by at least a half-dozen companies, in speaking with the dealers themselves, the empirical data disputed that. The data. “Data” brought in by (maybe) well-intentioned parties however far from accurate, very far for allowing a proper action plan and light years from having the dealers make sense of it.

 

Too often, the OEMs, and admittedly dealers, are lit up by flashy bids, mesmerizing proposals and the all-too-famous “we also have contracts with Competitor A and Competitor B” line or the notorious “we built the space/were first to launch this” verbal flatulence.

 

Another case in point: Last year General Motors rolled out an initiative for BDC build-out for it’s nearly 4,000 franchises. Good intentions, a little late on the “action bandwagon” (we spoke with GM about his in 2008 and 2009) aimed at mitigating the massive amount of lost sales due to lackluster lead response and follow up (read: all OEMs fall in to this bracket and have subsequently gone at solutions the wrong way). Enter two vendors for those dealers. Yes, two. Two vendors for build out and support of thousands of dealers’ BDCs. Then, the co-op curse, leading most dealers, due to “cost”, to not hire companies that can scale better, are more experienced (in real life, not on paper).

 

It’s time to stop misunderstanding the misunderstood! Who are the misunderstood? The agile, more up-to-date, active, often smaller guys and gals who prove themselves daily, weekly and monthly.  The misunderstood are the companies with great services, not great advertising and magazine cover shots. The misunderstood are the ones who deliver faithfully without contracts or gouging (why would a dealer ever sign a contract for services that must be measured?).

 

There is a prominent Internet/Marketing Director from the Midwest who, a couple months ago, posted on their Facebook page that their group was firing their existing trainer, and looking for a more progressive company that didn’t have an OEM contract. Why? Why? Why? Simply put, the services provided, as do most of the OEMs and the companies they endorse, couldn’t deliver for today’s market regardless of that company’s data!

 

The misunderstood are so titled due to the lack of willingness of dealers to get way from comfortable and, simply put, sell and service more cars. Its not your word tracks, it’s not your phone call scoring. It’s not your trainer that has to repeat him/herself each and every month and bring in nearly-duplicate reports. IF you don’t understand how something works, stops paying for someone to do it. Understand it.. Even if you find a partner to leverage, you’d better understand it.

 

The industry, by and large, still can’t respond to a lead effectively, completely and with a reason to buy in under a day.  We’re starting the 21st year of the Automotive Internet. You don’t need to know ode, you absolutely must understand why having a responsive website is a must. You don’t need to know how Facebook changes their algorithms, you absolutely must understand targeting das and dark posts. You don’t need to how Google leverages directories and local citations to leverage local search, you absolutely must understand how and where to update your information, links and phone numbers.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Want R.O.I. on Anything? Start Using Anything! (Or Settle For B.S.)

One of the first questions that is asked of us when engaging a dealership is “what is the R.O.I. of (fill in the blank)?” Well our friends, from leads to software, to websites and PPC, the question that is being asked is wrong.  If you ask what is the R.O.I. of a product, let me ask you what is the R.O.I. of air?

Well, it’s noting if you don’t use it.

Over the past seven years, we have proven over and over a multiple R.O.I. on all digital aspects compared to before we arrived. And remember, that is usually with no or little vendor changes. Why is this? Because there is no return of investment without education, understanding and utilization.

Dealerships usually buy due to fear or loss, standardization or acceptance of a product, or a unique opportunity (first-in-market). Rarely are those opportunities truly vetted out. While we are not saying to stop before purchasing a product or service that has market penetration because there is a compelling otherwise to do so, we are advocating full assessment prior to signing.

Take lead providers, for example. While most have taken a (B.S.) marketing position and away from you buying leads, most dealers have more “opportunities” in their ILM/CRM than they know how to handle. Buying more leads? Usually you drop your R.O.I.

Also, return on investment is calculated improperly. Is it closer to income and expense or profit and loss? Yes. Until you are properly educated, coached and assessed regularly, there is no R.O.I. because the assumptions are in the wrong place. Show me a dealer closing 10% of their leads, add another provider and, after six months, you will have a dealer with a higher cost structure closing 10% of their leads. Insanity.

Spoiler alert: do the math, work it and get results. For every new website, software, marketing tool and process, you must back it up with hard-core training (no matter how much that word sucks) and sustainment. That is how our average client that buys in fully to our processes and business rules doubles results in less than a year.

Recently we have heard about more catastrophic website or software installs than ever before. What’s the R.O.I. on a vendor search, pitches, proposal and negotiations, set-up fees, months frustratingly lost followed a switch back to the previous or another new provider?

Stop talking about R.O.I. until you spend more on your personnel, education, accountability, scoring, bonuses (not get-it-done spiffs, by the way) and intra-staff support. That’s when you get return.

Until then, you can continue to buy based off of “your competitor is using this and they’ll eat your lunch” or “only 5 more cars sold with our biz-bang-boom and you’re in profit!” or any other snake oil sales job you fall for.

Oh…and one more thing to consider. Results occur top-down with an true ownership, understanding perspective. Not bottom-up make this work garbage. So take that pill and swallow it…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Consulting Conundrum: “You can do whatever you want, as long as…”

Yes, this is opinion. However don't take it as fable.

It’s the consistent vicious circle in consulting: do it all as long as it’s what is wanted at that moment, backed up by someone else, doesn’t bite back at the factory stance, mostly makes sense and when you can grab the proper attention. And don’t blink because all of that can change with one call or a visit from a nice set of pearly whites with a tan and a low-slung top.

In a dramatically fluid world, all of that is a constant.

Meeting with a dealer the other day, their factory (only) site has issues, their SEO/SEM isn’t close to completely transparent in work, reporting or results, their new CRM isn’t installed properly or completely and their sales team can’t seem to do their job. And the store is doing, what most would consider, fine.

In less than five hours, a solution to every hole that was shot in their operation was provided, a path to resolution (in some cases multiple) was drawn out and improvement benchmarks were communicated. All without spending a dollar more in vendors, leads, software or services. And everything was documented.

Very few of us in the consulting world face this; because most aren’t consultants. Most of them are resellers, reps, paid advocates, commission reapers, factory program overseers, old-school trainers with a new world attack and/or recently departed vendor/dealership staff. Consulting, ladies and gentlemen, is a craft rather than a hobby. True consultants create understanding, buy-in, advocacy and results, in that order. And they listen, a lot.

If your costs just went up north of $10,000 per month and you’ll see your consultant one day per month, you should check the other hand of the person you just signed a contract (warning sign) with and see if their fingers are crossed.

As the industry shifted slowly over the past ten plus years, it created a natural recommendation engine that exists more powerful than ever. Don’t believe me? Contact your OEM, ask for a solution or provider for a problem you have in any category, especially digital, and then ask about results for any one or a group of dealerships. And get that preferably in a report with before and after metrics, costs, process changes and net improvement.

Oh, and you might want to hold on to your four-leaf clover.

In a world where businesses still make decisions by how many “covers” or “articles” someone was been on/in or how many times they’ve heard of a potential partner during a golf outing or 20 Group, industry metrics are moving slower than the speed of solutions. Hellloooo, it should be the other way around.

There are no overnight solutions, silver bullets or cash cows, at least legal and/or ethical. Use tried and true sensibilities: ask for more recommendations than someone offers. Look at more live solutions than you are given, dig deeper before you spend deeper. Oh, and if it sounds too good………

Car dealers, do yourself a huge favor. Get a second opinion on everything as if you’d just received a heartbreaking medical prognosis. In both cases your life depends on it.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Natural Unselection (It Takes Time…)

Yes, it is getting more and more difficult for business owners to make decisions today that will positively impact their business, especially in the arena of digital marketing. You might say “bull hooey” and protest that it has become easier. And you’d be half fright…

Nothing is more frustrating to a business owner that not understanding something that should otherwise be “easy” to do so. That’s where misguided trust and blind recommendations become so darn appealing. Attend a 20 Group and you just might be amazed as to how eloquent an otherwise inept presenter can be.

We live in a world of regurgitated content, many times so prolific that anyone can claim it to be theirs. Car dealers and executive management, typically, know what has been and possibly what is happening now.  They’re still overwhelmingly blind to what is going to happen, even though it’s in front of their eyes. And smartphones.

However, the chasm that exists does so simply because the dots aren’t connecting. In other words, they “get” that they need to market in a new channel, or completely store prospective and customer data in CRM, or spend time understanding new reports. While there is no excuse, none whatsoever including “time”, to not do any or all of that, there is at least bandwidth to consider.

As much as it easy to blame the OEM for (many) programs of epically disastrous proportion, it is up to the dealer to make sure their house is in order.

The struggle that has presented itself over the past 3-4 years, and it’s gaining momentum by the way, isn’t whether to do more, invest more, hire more or attend more, it is truly around letting go of operations to those that they have in power and get immersed the way they did when they started selling, or working in the service drive, or washing cars for their owner-parent while memorizing the specifications to 95% of the cars each year. More than ever you must have a desire to consume, learn, test and challenge yourself. And, ahem, everyone around you.

Recently, especially if you get caught up in rumor, there has been more and more reports of OEM digital, education and training programs being under scrutiny. Enter in shock and awe. Well, at least for everyone but those unfortunate few of us who called into question the very under-budgeted, under-staffed, under-educated, under-facilitated, under-read, under-thought-through contracts. While the programs disserve the OEMs, dealers (at least progressive and knowledgeable ones) are pretty much disgusted. And no, the programs are not responsible for selling more than a negligible increase in amount of cars. Period.

Now here’s the conundrum….we can’t throw another conference at them. We can’t throw another “digital marketing”, or “social media”, or  “digital consulting”, or “new age training“ company at them either (you can here the shotguns loading now). And you’ll not be able to convince them that the person visiting them with zero hands-on experience in anything he/she is talking about will make a difference. Unfortunately they might have to let that person visit to make the factory happy. Ugh.

Dealers and OEMs should be able to (stop everything they’re doing and) reevaluate the broken CSI, allocation and reward programs that current exist. Then, as one example, build new models that actually reward dealers who perform exceptionally for their sales and service customers, not exclusive to volume, according to only those customers (versus third party companies), transparent, benchmarked scoring (imaging that!) and overall investment (including but not limited to the facility).

Yes, customers expect more. And that’s not going to stop, ever. And yes, more cars are selling; same with large new-technology televisions, tablets and dinner reservations. When the “easy” sales stop again, fewer dealers will be ready for reality. At least the reality they’re living on and sold by people who shouldn’t be selling them…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What Tough Times Have Taught Us About Digital

Money. Lots of it! Tons and tons and tons of it! So much that for the first time, we're witnessing dealers that have been hands-on since 2008 starting to slip away a little from the stores and enjoy "away" time again. And that's great. Until, at least, you think about the last seven years again.

If "Digital" has taught us anything, it has demonstrated that small can become bigger faster, the big ones often look like Swiss cheese and that up and down markets don't care about much besides presence. After the last fourteen years around the Automotive Web and six and a half in dealerships, what is striking is that digital has shown ambivalence and opportunity at undeniable levels.

And most still ignore the power and upside. Making money can make us stupid.

Even with sales up 3% so far in 2014 and last year's finish around 8% over 2012 (our average client was up over 30% last year and tracking again), there still is a strong desire not to change anything. And most of what we see is still what could be categorized as "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-trust-me-it-works" stuff.

When a tough market hits again, and it undoubtedly will, will we collectively be in a better place or will we still be grasping at straws and dumping expenses to match traffic and revenue? As shared by Jared Hamilton at last year's DrivingSales Executive Summit, we still aren't tapping into service marketing and penetration opportunities right now via digital channels (really any to speak of) while aftermarket still dominates search and revenue save for dealers really paying attention to categories such as tires, Quick Lube and equity mining. Digital covers all of those if CRM and marketing integration is done properly.

Tough times, and the subsequent good times, have taught us that when push comes to shove, no answer and direction is as good as solid ones. Because nearly everyone that was able to hold out between 2007 and 2009 is making money. Yes, the smarter ones are making more, however most are nearly printing money today.

Digital is still the "back marker" in a nearly-completely digital world. And the statistics for the entire market simply don't matter when it comes to your market. So what has digital taught you?

Share what you can about your experiences, good and bad, that steers what you do and don't do in digital today…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What’s Not Coming In 2014: The Anti-Prediction

2013 brought us so much change that we thought it would be best to provide you with a non-prediction, non-forecast, non-reflective perspective…just to throw you off (and get a few more reads). Cut to the chase right now? Naw…let's tease you a bit:

So we still live in a world hell-bent on immediate gratification. The perfect report. Flawless analytics. Immediate results. Impeccable product. Amazing customer service. And all for less than last year. Or last week…and our clients' clients want that, too.

Our challenges remain the same as they were over 13 years ago when the Auto Industry beckoned to me, selling cars to customers "over the Internet". Customers want a seamless, enjoyable experience that allows them to receive value, benefit and satisfaction. From consideration to contact to confirmation to courting to contract. We seem to fail at the essential points: reaching then, setting appointments and storing/sorting data.

Better websites and SEO and SEM and social media and reputation management, better products and marketing and incentives all show the glaring deficiencies we have as an industry when it still takes about 24 hours to get back to a "lead", make actual contact less than 40% of the time and sell under 10% (really under 8%) of them…

So our prediction is nothing will change; nothing more than a tick on the needle of progress. Oh sure, more dealers will do a "better job", their OEM and vendor suits will tell them so. Yes, for the most part the pie will shift its slices however it won't grow like it should.

More consolidation of vendors will happen. Manufacturers will continue roll out and/or mandate mediocre programs while not selling more cars or knowing how to actually measure a thing. Some of 2013's stars will fade while others will receive the spotlight. "Of course, that's the cyclical ways of commerce" you say…we say bull hooey.

2014 is the 20th year of the Automotive Internet, however over half of the market is still waking up to their year one. This is not meant to piss on anyone's parade, however it is a wake up call to the still-asleep-at-the-wheel. Those clinging to their manipulated audits while flying the flappy arm blow up man or building-sized animal, swearing that 3,000 people came in with their direct mail piece…

You can buy the new adaptive thingy. Roll out the chat-to-dance app. Boost your presence with the social-speed transmission. Serve mobile burritos to your clients. Then wrap it all up with some pay-per-view ultimate fighting service sauce. Or not change a thing and sell and maintain just about what you did in 2013. Why go through a business existence like this?

We need real education and investment. Not "training" and "cost". Curiosity killed the cat. And fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance. So what will you do to support success before the next snake oil rep comes in with the "must have" toy or NADA party pass if you sign up?

2014 will not change a thing. Your customers will, if you allow them. Your OEM will not change a thing. Your service manager will, if you allow them. Your inventory will not change a thing. Your new actions will, if you allow them.

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Note: we've been quiet for a long, long time here on our blog. The "experiment" is done and we'll be more active again. So if you'd like to see a subject covered, let us know here, on Twitter, Facebook or by contacting us directly (310) 377-6481 or info at imacsweb.com.

A lot is in store for IM@CS in 2014 and we'd love to have you along for the ride. Not making it to NADA? Set up an assessment meeting with Gary, JD or Evelyn (for our Canadian friends), we are honoring 2013 pricing until January 15…

Thank you for reading (and participating on) our blog as we start year six of doing so for the Automotive Industry's superstars: the dealers.

Peeling Back The Social Onion: Are You Just A Puppet?

2013 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for automotive retail (again). Results are in for March and the first quarter showing that, with exception to some brands, you're making money. However are you making enough money to make bad mistakes for your business? Look at your social media, chances are you're doing just that.

There's just no excuse for not participating in one of the essential areas for grown, increase in traffic, creation of leads and retention of clients. And by participate, what's meant is not completely being hands-off. Outsourcing your content (SEO, SEM, social, etc.) is critical for the majority of dealers but you must stay involved: review, analyze, modify, challenge and hold accountable. Never, ever let your vendors run wild on your content. Thousands of dealerships are, regardless if they pay for services.

Dealers will write checks to vendors from $300 to $4,000+ a month for social media content services for six months, not realizing that their pages look identical to hundreds of other dealers. Remember the following tips related to all of your content:

    1. The majority of Facebook pages are not crawled by Google, Bing, or other search engines. The fact that your Lexus dealership has the same posts and a hundred other ones won't bother Google, just the people you're trying to engage. And if you have most social vendors and a large "Like" count, you've likely bought fans or acquired them through giveaways. On average, less than 2% engage on dealership Facebook pages because they're not authentic, don't represent their neighborhood/area or extend their brand. It's useless if it doesn't look, sound and feel like you. "Caption This" didn't work, doesn't work and won't work.

    2. Add to the above a little annoying Facebook detail that dealers (and many businesses) continue to ignore: if you have a profile ("friend") page, you are not only in violation of Facebook Terms of Use (TOU) rules and can lose your page, you can't get all of the analytics, advertising and other functionality that come with a business page.

    3. Google doesn't like duplicate content. You've heard it at least 10-20 times but you don't know what it means. Simply put, if you have the 78th blog to post a redundant article on the Chevy Volt from the auto show you're not an authoritative site and Google won't drive traffic to your blog from searches. That is unless you can get a lot (A LOT) of people to your post, to talk about and share your post as well as re-post. Good luck.

    4. Twitter is an amazing tool, that most dealers' vendors simply automate posts from Facebook, YouTube and their blog. It's a shame. With Twitter you can actually listen. Yes, listen. Google doesn't show you real-time results for posts and discussions about your brand or franchise. Twitter does. And you can reply to them, unlike on Facebook. It's amazing what will happen in Twitter, over time, if you simply use it, ask questions and engage.

    5. Google Plus is being underutilized by you right now. Google what? Yeah, Google Plus, which should now be integrated (merged) with your Google Local page (reviews). And oh boy, are there a lot of "experts" giving out the completely wrong information on using Google/Google Plus/YouTube and their other tools (as well as all things social) and your vendors are just responding with "thank you" or "we'll get back with you" on your positive and negative reviews. One thing that happens with G+ consistently? Content indexing quicker than any other platform. Well, Google owns it…and you're not posting on it.

Typically a quick (10-15 minute) review of all your social network assets will reveal nearly no advantage by paying your vendors for 80%+ of dealerships. Better yet, look at your Google Analytics and see if you have actual links to your website(s) from your social media networks. Even if you're not paying for your content services, why even do it if you're not doing it right? And if your social vendor happens to also provide you with "SEO" services, look twice as hard.

Puppets are cute, for puppet shows. Not for business. Stop being a social media puppet or just another case study for your vendor to get an OEM endorsement. It's not a silo. It's not "we have a social presence" or "we do social". Everything that carries your name must be known and understood by you. Quit turning over your business to others because you don't want to invest or because "it doesn't sell cars".

This post likely won't change much but so much improper marketing for data purposes or to perpetuate automation is being done in the digital realm today. Maybe we can change it. Don't be another puppet…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Prescription Without Diagnosis: (Ugly) Side Effects Are Going To Happen

In a world at a breakneck pace and of mediocre marketing, it
is more important than ever to know what you’re doing if you hope to attract,
let alone keep, consumers’ attention. 
Add to that the entire market essentially being mobile and you might not
be prepared at all to address your opportunities appropriately.

 

As things become more convoluted and confusing (add
consolidated at the vendor level) in digital, there are just as many opportunities
as there were five years ago, if not more. Trust us. The greatest areas of
change are (1) more businesses being online, (2) more solutions being provided
by manufacturers and turnkey providers, (3) software and automation becoming
more rampant and (4) the public having more access via mobile at breathtaking
speeds (read: they typically do not consume traditional advertising when
mobile).

 

What hasn’t changed much are the count of progressive
businesses, those willing to try new methods and technologies, applying
consumer feedback to businesses’ modeling and execution (especially customer
service) and the way businesses buy. Research, contrary to much perception,
really isn’t part of what executives and leaders facilitate or understand. When
is the last time you had a non-vendor evaluate your business’ performance, if
ever?

 

One thing that is creating massive side effects in digital
marketing is the silo-type approach to vendorship. At the beginning of the year
one of the Big Six manufacturers forced their franchises to choose between
three vendors in regard to “management” of their online reputation. This
created a real wrinkle for the retailers that (1) didn’t want to use the
companies for any/other services, (2) understood that the vendors, outside of using
existing automated software, struggle with actually properly setting up,
maintaining and responding to the reviews and (3) understood quickly that, many
times, just as many issues are created as are handled. Now consider this: What
are the benchmarks? What processes have been installed? When does the
reputation management process start?

 

Add to that you absolutely, positively will not succeed in
the online reputation management space without complete buy-in at every
franchise plus it must be supported throughout every organization, entirely top
to bottom.

 

From websites to search engine optimization, from mobile
websites to applications, from search engine marketing to text and live chat,
from customer relation management to integrated marketing, you can’t make a
decision without facts, capabilities, assessment, communication and absolutely,
positively a third party opinion.  Why
would a business make a decision today, with the potential to inflict damage on
their multi-million dollar operation(s) and the future of hundreds of people,
based on what another dealer is doing 800-1,800 miles away or what a vendor
says when they’ll ask a second, third or even fourth opinion on a treatment or
drug?

Are you aware of the side affect of taking the wrong or multiple drugs? Yeah,
you’ve heard the advertisements for sinus medication that basically tells you
that you can die from taking their product if you simple breathe or walk after
ingesting it.

 

So here it goes: buying a potential vendor’s product
(especially if you’re dead set on switching after being “disappointed” with
your present one based on doing no more investigation then compared to now) may
cause loss of customers, lower service penetration rates, bleeding inventory,
loss of margin, decreased customer satisfaction, painful penalties from
headquarters, general business seepage, night sweats for the rest of your life,
or death.

 

Go ahead, make decisions without paying attention to the
side effects. It will either require hospitalization (aka another vendor change
and admonishment toward your 20 Group partners), resuscitation (aka realization
that no, they can’t do that, or it’ll be no better) or dizziness (aka having to
actually ask someone who knows better that’s NOT on the hook of vendors).

 

Disclaimer: No doctors were harmed in the making of this
blog post

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Tipping The Scales. Against An 800 Pound Gorilla…

Have you ever tried skiing? Uphill? Are you one for SCUBA diving? In a wading pool? Do you get your kicks running marathons? On a treadmill? How does this grab you: are you a fan of water skiing? On a dry lake bed? It seems that the more you try to distinguish your dealership today, there's someone from the factory telling you that all of the franchises in your brand should be the same. Nice. There's nothing better than showing up to a gunfight with a knife, right?

Know that we understand completely the advantage for the OEM. The level of standards, compliance and requirements shows more (not necessarily better) knowledge and what's happening with endorsed vendors shows that there may be a desire for (less than acceptable) results. "But they're the factory and I don't want problems". Well, Dear John, that train already left the station and you're the one who gets to sell the customers…right? Don't look now but the factory guys, umm, they don't know how to sell cars and neither do their bosses. Shhh, it's a big industry secret!

So how do you win at the "I want to get ahead and they want me to be behind some imaginary digital line that they don't understand" scenario? With more effort, time, cost and resources you can get 'er done! Welp, that's the short, hard to swallow answer. Can it get done? Yes, the same way you eat an elephant.

Look, they're the 800-pound gorilla (or, if you've been to counseling, the "white elephant in the room") and it's usually ugly if you don't take the extra cars they're shoving down your throat. How can the conversation about why the website vendor is failing them or the fact that the social media/reputation management company actually doesn't do what they say they do with any competency go better? It can't…not until there are real conversations at the headquarters. And folks, they've not even started yet. And the people in the digital posts at your OEMs facilities? Yes, they were selling factory replacement parts to you, at best, six months ago. No, everyone with a smartphone, a Facebook account and knows that CMS is content management system doesn't understand digital. Newsflash: SEO is alphabet soup to them.

Our 800-pound gorillas (read: all of them, not just the "big 6") need a major intervention from you right now. If you're reading this, you're in the top 5-10% of progressive dealers in the country. And don't think for a second that by having them out for a heart-to-heart or flying coach back to the OEM HQ for a fireside chat is going to take the covers off your website, CRM and marketing secrets because we still don't have over 17,000 dealers on mobile-optimized websites yet. However it's a step in the right direction and then 90% of your brand brothers won't have to scream that they don't know what their digitalmarketingleadmanagementpaidsearchretargetingonlinereputationconsultinggurus actually do (yes, please hashtag that!).

Did you hear the feedback from NADA? Yuuuuuuuuup! We're sure you did. Are the OEMs the bad guys? Not in the least. However the combination comes from vendors constantly selling (and them buying, BTW), relationships winning over logic and thousands of dealers fighting the "digital machine" for way to long. When a franchise gets over 50% of their traffic from sources they've not looked at in over a year, someone has to get involved. So they're not public enemy #1, they're just one massive speed bump that wrote a blank check to the wrong address.

Tip the scales in your direction, one pound at a time. (No gorillas were harmed in the creation of this post, but some will be offended – and so will many endorsed vendors)

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results