Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Do You Like Your Vendor’s Personal Touch? You’d Better… You’re Paying for It!

Do You Like Your Vendor’s Personal Touch? You’d Better… You’re Paying for It!

People often marvel at the sheer majesty and splendor of a Las Vegas casino. The Chihuly glass in the lobby of Bellagio is a great example. At any given time, there will be dozens of people snapping photos of this expensive masterpiece.

And, why shouldn’t they take pictures? They paid for it.

We often hear that Las Vegas wasn’t built by winners; and it’s true. If the Bellagio wasn’t raking it in on the casino floor, there’d be no lobby artwork to marvel at. Heck, there’d be no lobby.

Vendors with a “Personal Touch”

A dealer’s marketing vendors are no different. From slick advertising pieces to hip offices to palatial NADA booths and even something as innocuous as a personal touch, some digital marketing vendors will spend lavishly in efforts to impress their dealer-clients.

And, unfortunately for the dealers, this seems to be working. Lately, I’ve noticed more snake oil sellers employing the personal touch to attain and retain dealer-clients. For some reason, dealers think having a vendor rep chewing up the internet manager’s day a couple of times month is driving additional profit for the dealership.

It’s not, of course. The personal touch offered by digital marketing vendors in 2018 serves just two purposes:

  1. Keep dealers focused on relationships instead of results; and
  2. Sell dealers even more digital marketing goodness.

In my opinion, neither of these expressly serves the dealers’ interests. In fact, it seems the more time a digital marketing rep spends with your manager, the less effective their solution.

If your internet manager is getting the personal touch from one of your digital marketing vendors, you’d better like it… because, you’re paying for it.

Some Vendors Need to be in Your Dealership

Not all vendor visits with your team are attempts to mask an ineffective offering. Some products, by their very nature, require in-store account management. Most often, these are applications that drive some new process. (Installing vAuto, NextUp or a new CRM come to mind.)

These products, because of their complexity or because they are truly breaking new ground, require multiple in-dealership visits – the personal touch, if you will – to ensure adoption.

An effective digital marketing service doesn’t need to send a rep into your store on a regular basis, because they’ve discovered every dealer-client has these things called telephones, computers and webcams that can facilitate any face-to-face meeting in a way that doesn’t add thousands in unnecessary account management overhead.

Overhead, by the way, that the dealer is paying for.

There Are No Free Lunches

I showed a dealer where their provider of “Service X” was charging them administrative fees that were basically double what the contract stipulated; where this vendor was wasting the dealer’s budget in other areas; plus, how the vendor was masking the results and delivering basically no ROI.

To the dealer’s credit, they fired the vendor and hired a replacement vendor that provided full transparency at half the cost. The replacement vendor quickly delivered stellar, verifiable results every month.

Well, for a few months anyway.

The internet manager canceled the replacement vendor (despite the results), because the original vendor made multiple store visits (that will continue with the new agreement) and built a relationship (that includes lots of free lunches).

Relationships or Results?

Yes, sometimes you must choose. You cannot enjoy both in-store visits (i.e. free lunches) and cost-effective results when the product or service can and should be easily tracked and measured in your CRM and/or Google Analytics.

If your internet manager absolutely must meet with the vendor face-to-face, tell him or her to use the phone, the computer and that webcam you’ve already paid for, and to keep digital marketing vendor reps out of the store.

Sometimes It’s Innocent and Sometimes It’s…

A dealer group marketing manager told me recently that after getting rid of a “crooked SEM vendor,” they saved about a million dollars a year in ad spend while increasing valid sales leads more than 30%. In his words, “Digital is a very crooked business for the ill-informed.”

He’s right; though if you’re an ill-informed owner or GM, how do you ensure your manager is watching out for your best interests and not lining her pockets with kickbacks or filing his belly with “free” lunches?

First, stop the in-person meetings.

It’s 2018, and there is nothing a digital marketing vendor can provide at a 2-hour lunch that benefits the dealership and cannot be provided via phone and/or webinar. For example, a full PPC review with a reputable vendor should take no more than 20 minutes each month; and can, of course, be conducted via a webex.

And, that’s only if you feel you need the review.

Properly tracking and measuring your digital marketing effectiveness is the second thing your internet manager should do – after you’ve stopped the in-person meetings. Asking your internet manager to prove the effectiveness of any one vendor to you and the leadership team is the final step. He or she should be able to demonstrate any digital marketing vendor’s impact on your bottom line through transparent vendor reporting, your CRM and a (properly maintained) web analytics account.

The Fine Line

Vendors who seem to only show up once a year to present a price increase – as was the joke about Autotrader reps a little over a decade ago – are of no use to dealers. So too are those who have a standing, twice-a-month lunch date with your internet manager.

The fine line here is that any in-person meeting with a vendor is being paid for by the client. That’s how economics works when you have buyers and sellers… and the sellers want to make a profit.

So, unless you like paying for the personal touch your vendors are providing, try this: the next time a marketing rep walks into your store, ask them to explain why their visit couldn’t have been conducted over the phone or via a webinar. You’ll likely confuse them with such a question… since it’s never been asked before.

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 ...