Best Practices

I think I feel …and the Rule of Equal Incompetence

Let me introduce you to the rule of equal incompetence.  It applies to many of us.  When a market of competitors all hire the same people and adopt the same practices you end up with equivalency.  When business decisions are not based in fact, you create incompetence.  Thus, the rule of equal incompetence.

If you’ve ever worked in a dealership, located in a competitive market, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Over the years I heard a lot of “we should do this because I feel it is the best way to do it” and “I think we should ____.”  I rarely heard “I looked at the numbers and even though I don’t personally feel it is something I would use, the numbers don’t lie so we are going to do this.”  There are quite a few operators and General Managers who have made careers off of “feelings”.  They did this through a mix of talent, luck, short memories and the rule of equal incompetence.  I can’t say that my own career hasn’t had a few of these elements mixed in.  I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say guilty as charged.

Lately, I have heard “I think” and “I feel” more times than I care to think about.  I’m taking a stand.  No more decisions by gut.  Give me stats and A/B tests.

With so many numbers at our finger tips there is only one reason to ignore the facts:  you don’t understand them.

Ignoring the numbers helps to fuel the rule of equal incompetency.  It keeps you in the dark and it keeps you guessing.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like guessing my way through the dark.  So if you’re still gut-guessing I have to ask why?

  • What do you not know about your website analytics?
  • What do you not understand in the trends your financial reports show you?
  • Do you not see that CRM activity breeds more sales?
  • Can you pinpoint which reports to focus on that show whether your people are working smarter?

These are things you should be asking yourself.  If you are finding areas inside your DMS, CRM, PPC, SEO, Marketing, or Website reports that don’t make sense find someone to clarify these things for you (usually your vendor).  Make sure you’re not the equal incompetent.

I also suggest getting another opinion on what’s important from the DealerRefresh community.  Sign-up and ask any question you want on the DealerRefresh forums.  They say 1,000 heads are better than 1.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
Oh my goodness Alex!
You said exactly what my occasional exasperated rantings are trying to get out, and so eloquently.
I am so big on constantly checking my work. I need to know what is working, what is not, and I love any tool that allows me to measure any of this. I prefer extreme accuracy, but even if it is something that can measure a change that occurs in relation to a launched initiative it can be helpful. I have a really hard time with web providers who throw a website up there and just let it go without checking on whether it is working, what is working, what is not, etc. Unfortunately this scenario is painfully common. Just because you build a site and love it, doesn't mean your customers will. SO, you HAVE to check on it.

I work in social media & marketing and it is painful to me when people are stuck in their old ways. Their business has flat lined and they don't want to try anything new because they don't like it or get it. Change is hard. Trying new things is hard. But don't be the toddler at the dinner table who refuses to try a new dish. I mean come on, if you never tried chocolate because it is brown and gooey, you'd have never experienced one of the best foods of all time! Then where would you be?

Thank you for a thought provoking post that will stay relevant for a long time... Like you, I will also admit to being "guilty as charged" more often than I would like. However, I also want to point something out that I believe is the corollary to the Rule of Equal Incompetence, and closely related to "Paralysis by Analysis". A few years ago I "felt" or "believed" that Click-to-Play display advertising that I built for the dealership I worked at should HAVE TO BE a better performer than the plain old fashioned display ads we were running at the time. I built numerous CTP Video ads, which were fun, entertaining and made use of some great clips that our OEM supplied us with, along with custom video we had shot for making TV commercials... The campaigns kept falling short of expectations, and I put tons of work into making them produce results because I BELIEVED THAT THEY SHOULD WORK. Nothing... Nada.... None of the consumers the ads were targeted at would click on the "Triangle Lense" to play the videos within the ads that they appeared inside of. Then, about 2 years goes by and I am supervising a team of Digital Advertising analysts at ADP Dealer Services. I am trying to encourage them to innovate and be creative... One of the DA Analysts comes to me one day and suggests that we start doing Click-To-Play Video advertising on websites. Ironically enough, he wanted to start with a big Chevy dealership that competes with my old dealership that I had worked at when I tried making CTP video. At first I was going to whip out all my old data... The exhaustive reports, charts and A-B Analysis comparisons which all PROVED THAT CTP VIDEO ADVERTISING DID NOT WORK FOR CAR DEALERS, or so I "Believed" based on the data I had. Data I knew was valid and which I had tried so hard to make the outcome different...

Anyways, I elected not to do that I noticed how excited this analyst was and I let my desire to encourage innovation and creativity amongst the team outweigh my commitment to data empowered, logic based decision making. I encouraged his enthusiasm, gave him several parameters to stay within and let him set up the call with the dealer to introduce his idea. During the call, it was everything I could do to restrain myself from not speaking out and citing the data that was sitting there on my hard drive like a skeleton in the closet.

The dealer approved the campaign, which was for GM Certified Used Vehicles and featured a video clip showing independent reviews from industry experts as to the value of the GM CUV Warranty and financing. Even though I knew CTP Video Ads for Chevy Dealers would not work based on the months of data, numerous campaigns and A-B testing results I had collected trying to prove otherwise!

Imagine the shock I experienced when the CTP Video advertising campaign that my employee constructed worked better than any other display advertising we had done up to that point for any dealer, of any brand! I kept checking the reports and going over the numbers to verify accuracy, but could not find where the measurements were wrong. I now had to sets of data from Google Adwords showing the opposite results for the same brand of dealership, in the same market.

I was very pleased at the excitement and the increased advertising budget the dealer invested showed he appreciated the results as well... But to this day I am perplexed by the difference in results.

What I learned from this experience is that one of the variables in measuring and managing decision making, especially in marketing and advertising, is timing... No matter how much data we collect during a specific time period, when we go back to duplicate those results during a different time period (6 months, a year, 2 years in the future) it is NOT UNUSUAL to get different results.

The other thing I learned... When you are a responsible professional and are measuring and comparing data, but in your gut you know something exists, or you "Believe it should work", and you have a lot of experience to back up that instinct... Do not ignore those "feelings" or "beliefs". Sometimes you do "gotta believe" in something that the data does not clearly reflect and take another approach, a different message, or different placements... Or, maybe a different dealership at a different time.

Of course, we need to measure, compare and analyze... But, we should also use sound business judgment and our management instincts to provide enhancements to the decisions based on data. So, I do not disagree with you, Alex, but I do know that many of us who are committed to digital marketing and a scientific approach to decision making have discovered that not all data is duplicated when the same set of variable are applied at a different time, in the future. And, that is where experience and wisdom should be used to enhance the decision matrix.
Well put Alex, why guess when you don't have to? Hope we can catch up at DD9 in Vegas.

My new email is [email protected] let me know if I can help.

  • A
    Alex Snyder
  • July 14, 2010

Yes, you are right about timing. Timing and perception make the world go round.

There is a problem that I'm much more exposed to these days where a lot of dealers are hiring people who came from their competitor's stores. The plateau of best practices and fresh ideas has a very short elevation. This was the inspiration for my article.

I have to give it to you Ralph - you are the master of making things all about you.

Larry - thanks! Talk to you soon.
  • M
    Mark Bailey
  • August 13, 2010
Alex, you will never change.... Love you man. Call me sometime.