Opinions & Advice

Stop Chasing Shiny Objects

Stop Chasing Shiny Objects – and Start Selling Cars!

At Digital Dealer 13 (held in October 2012 in Las Vegas), I delivered a presentation titled Stop Chasing Shiny Objects (and Start Selling Cars)! It was well-received, and it helped the 100 or so in attendance understand that the loudest voices in automotive digital – those screaming for dealers to dump thousands of dollars and multiple manhours every month into Pinterest, Foursquare and Twitter – had no idea that these activities/sources did relatively little to drive sold units.

Moreover, those overzealous marketers told dealers that if they didn’t focus on these shiny objects, well then, they were just dinosaurs who were about to go extinct. (Some in automotive digital at the time were even screaming for dealers to pay attention to oddities like Klout, Tagged, Tactilize and LoveIt!) Of course, the dealers who did listen wasted a lot of money and a lot of time, only to eventually discover that these channels were relatively worthless.

They would’ve been better served spending that money on bus bench advertising and their time on virtually anything else.

That Was Then, This Is Now

While most every dealer has moved beyond the allure of the next big internet sensation, many are still chasing shiny objects. They’re looking for that magic bean that’s going to grow their sales, their grosses and their CSI with no work on their part. They’re falling for marketers promising to share their “secrets” to dominating the marketplace… for a few thousand (or more) a month, of course.

The claims I’ve seen lately by some of the uber-prolific marketers in automotive are disturbing. Not in their hubris, but because so many dealers are actually falling for these magic bean pitches.

There are no “secrets” to profitably selling cars or growing market share. There never have been.

Stop Chasing Shiny Objects

No, really, stop it. Stop it now!

The secrets, if you will, to growing market share and enjoying better grosses all require work. They require simple activities like holding salespeople and managers accountable. The secrets are about running a good business and focusing on the basics. They’re not about (and never have been about) which website you use or which transparent digital marketer you partner with.

(The keyword in the sentence above is “transparent.” If your digital marketing partners can’t demonstrate in plain language how they’re actually helping you sell cars, then you should be looking for someone new to partner with.)

No More Vendor Visits!

Vendors are a distraction, and unless they’re training your team on how to get the most out of their product, you should have a policy against in-store vendor visits. Most digital marketing vendors who employ a field salesforce do so to boost your monthly spend. (They have to pay for all those account managers somehow, right?)

The best strategy for your digital marketing is to find a transparent partner (or ten) and then spend your time closing more of the prospects they send you. There are clear goals in digital marketing that are easy to understand; and, once you internalize these goals, you’re better equipped to properly manage these partners.

For example, your website has just two goals: attract and convert visitors. There are no other goals to consider! This means, if you have a great website that’s truly designed to increase your search visibility and it’s also driving conversions (leads, calls, chats, store visits, sales); and you’ve employed your share of good parasites (trade forms, credit apps, instant retargeting), then it’s time to focus your efforts somewhere else.

The goal of your PPC and display and Facebook advertising might be a mix of branding and sales, but only the sales portion needs measuring. If your current providers cannot or will not explain how their offerings are doing this in a plain language that anyone can understand, then they’re not transparent, and it’s time to find a new one. If they are able to demonstrate this, then move on and quit wasting time chasing shiny objects.

Spotting Snake Oil

I’m not advocating dealers stop evaluating new services. To the contrary; I think dealers with great internet sales and other in-store processes should always be on the lookout for new digital offerings. That said, there are a few red flags you should keep in mind when you do this.

These red flags should tell you instantly that you’re dealing with someone selling snake oil. For example, beware any vendor who:

  • Makes huge verbal promises they’re not willing to guarantee in writing;
  • Presents an overly-complicated product or service that cannot be explained in plain language;
  • Wants only a long-term contract or high set-up fees;
  • Cannot show you complete visibility in their reporting;
  • Doesn’t have a few reliable dealer references to share; or
  • Only wants to focus on some industry award they were presented as proof their product works.

You have every reason to be skeptical, so assume the worst when dealing with anyone new. The good ones will bubble to the top.

In the Meantime… Stop Trying to Fix What’s Working

If your current digital marketing providers are transparent and delivering as promised, stop fiddling with this! Stop wracking your brain trying to gain a competitive advantage by constantly switching from great providers to the snake oil sellers!

The top dealers today – those growing market share and enjoying better than average grosses – spend very little time worrying about the parts of their business that are performing as designed. They’re not looking to change website providers every week or beating up their transparent digital partners driving measurable results. No… they’re working on boring processes, phone skills and shortening their road-to-the-sale.

Plus, if your sales team turnover is above 25% per year, then why in the world are you wasting even a second looking at shiny objects? As I wrote last year, if you can solve your dealership turnover issues, everything else is a cakewalk… and it is!

The Good Providers

Your best providers of leads and digital marketing services don’t employ huge call centers or massive field sales teams. They can’t, because the honest margins they earn won’t support these structures. These providers need you, the dealer, to have good processes in place that close the opportunities they send you.

If your current providers are bringing you the Ups they promised (in the form of leads, calls, chats, texts, and store visits), then do your part and support them by focusing on selling these prospects. I promise you’ll be more successful in both the short and long term.

Good selling!

Steve is the author of Assumptive Selling: The Complete Guide to Selling More Vehicles for More Money to Today’s Connected Customers;" as well ...