Open Letter To Automotive Marketing Companies

shutterstock_163800221As the auto industry enters its busiest time of the year, and as dealers ignore vendor phone calls, it is a great time for me to refine my business goals for the upcoming year. I believe 2015 will be a very exciting year as automotive marketing companies continue to consolidate and core technology improves to serve the multi-screen shopper.

In 2014 I have been primarily focused on expanding our business to International markets and the further enhancement of the ROI-BOT Executive Dashboard software. Through numerous discussions with dealers, OEMS, and industry leaders, I thought I would share a few insights and recommendations to the automotive vendor community.

Our formal 300+ page report will be published and available on January 22, 2015 at the 2015 Automotive Website Awards. The AWA Research Guide is the only book of its kind to dive into the various marketing technology available for dealers; websites, CRM, merchandising, social media, video marketing, inventory syndication,  call recording, and mobile apps. This year research includes companies in Canada, UK, and the EU. The

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2015 Dealer Wish List

Companies that can address these concerns with dealers will be well positioned for growth in 2015:

1. Powerful Multi-Screen Websites: Presenting compelling content on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices is a core requirement for auto dealers in 2015. In 2014 we saw a number of website providers come to market with responsive/adaptive solutions. In Q1 of 2015 the rest of the automotive website must deliver technology that works to serve a mobile shopper. Get ready for some new product announcements at NADA

2. Integration That Is Meaningful: Vendors that are selling enterprise software contracts are wasting their time if their individual software products have no “valuable” integration. It is common for dealers to swap out website providers, CRM platforms, and desking tools without any measurable loss in sales and/or productivity.

It is time for software vendors, selling a suite of products, to deliver on their promise that using their core products will create significant efficiencies, improve the customer experience, and maximize the ROI of their labor force.

It Is Time to Put Up or Shut Up

3. Less Reports: Dealers are flooded with marketing reports and vendor data. The average auto dealer receives 25+ marketing reports every month. Vendors must eliminate the fluff in their reports and highlight the actionable data their product or service provides. Dealers need assistance from their vendor partners to know what to look at in their reports. Dealers want you to define the reasonable ranges for their report metrics. Don’t assume that the dealers understand your reports!

4. Define The Key Performance Indicators: Dealers want their marketing to be simplified and the current month-end reporting system is broken. It is one of the core reasons for the growth of ROI-BOT; as the industry’s first robust, independent data dashboard for auto dealers.

Vendors must make inspecting the ROI  of the product/service easy for their customers. Vendors who rethink their reporting systems and performance communication strategies will be rewarded with higher retention rates. Dealers are getting very impatient with vendors sending them reports that have no clear actionable data.

Vendors, please clarify which metrics define success for your customer and review those metrics with your dealers every month. Period.

5. Improve Customer Service: Dealers want to feel special. They hate being treated like a number. As OEMs restrict the number of choices dealers have for marketing co-op funds, there is a risk that vendors will lose the ability to provide excellent customer service. As the influence of Shift Digital grows, and OEMs allow Shift Digital to pick vendors and technology, there is a cost associated with this middle-man model.

The fees that Shift Digital extract from vendors, for managing the OEM channel, comes directly out of the vendors gross margins. One of the first areas that could get cut is customer service. Dealers are looking for better customer service in 2015 not less. Vendors must be careful how they negotiate the vigorish because winning an OEM contract is great but making little money from the agreement will not be a sustainable arrangement.

 Planning For 2015

As your company puts the final touches on your 2015 marketing and product strategy, keep in mind that dealers want their online marketing to be easier. It’s a hassle right now. Can you provide a concierge service that makes them feel special? Can you be their coach that explains their online marketing investments and KPIs? Can you review the store’s results in a meaningful way?

Sending a rookie in their store isn’t the answer either!

With OEM deals putting pressure on product prices, and OEM middle men taking 10-40% of gross product sales, your strategy for 2015 must differentiate your company. Dealers, just like you and I, like a personalized touch. So how can your company succeed in 2015?

Find a way to make your customers feel unique. Show them how to succeed using your product/service. You will need to be creative. The answer is NOT sending them a new set of reports via email.

I look forward to seeing my industry friends at the 2015 NADA Convention and at the 2015 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference. Until then, have a happy and healthy New Year!

2 Responses to “Open Letter To Automotive Marketing Companies”

  1. Alan Krutsch

    Well said Brian. We particularly value vendors who will help us define the KPIs for our success. I’m less concerned about the metrics in their case studies and more focused on whether they will take the time to learn our business and understand what winning metrics look like to us. Having an API so we can pull their metrics into a common dashboard is becoming a must. Consolidating large reports, each with a different layout and methodology is time consuming and inefficient. Running a multi-vendor, multi-store marketing program without an integrated dashboard is unwieldy, to say the least. Even vendors that have nice backend tools and great dashboards fall short because they exist in a vacuum, separate from the rest of the marketing mix. Full disclosure: we use ROI-BOT. Regardless of what platform a dealer chooses (Tableau, Domo, ROI-BOT,etc), having vendors willing to provide APIs is a big plus.

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