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As our industry moves (very slowly) toward digital dominance, more companies are chosen each year to assist with certain initiatives driven by the OEMs. As the market fills with mostly fledgling, so-called expert vendors in the major categories (website, SEO, SEM, mobile, reputation management, social media), RFPs and projects are drawn out and the partners are selected. Then, almost like clockwork, the inevitable takes place. The proverbial crap hits the fan and the vendor can't deliver.
If you've paid attention and done a little digging over the past few years, you've watched as the industry has filled with providers that, for the most part, weren't doing what they are now providing for more than a year or two (and sometimes simply weren't even in the space the day before they launched). Many companies have re-branded as digital agencies, marketers, training, search and the like with little more than a presentation deck. And then they walk into the manufacturers headquarters (sometimes on the coattails of a relative or someone they have "pictures" of) for their pitch. Viola, preferred vendor!
Even though relationships dominate despite near incompetence or irrelevance, sometimes it's just that the company/companies that can actually do the work are viewed as too small (staff, revenue, etc.), or they are brought in to pitch simply to hit the right amount of stand up presentations for purchasing. But the litmus test doesn't change: call the vendor, ask a non life-and-death question and see if the first person that's not a receptionist or secretary can answer. If you're talking with a tech support person and they have to ask a manager or someone else, call your OEM rep and give them an earful. Maybe, just maybe, if this happens a few hundred (read: thousand) times, maybe they'll get the message that their preferred provider(s) simply can't do the work.
In working with nearly every brand dealership and nearly all OEMs, their ad agencies and digital vendors over the past twelve plus years, it's scary to witness the process, implementation and support that exists. And the cycle continues due to the incestuous ways in which the programs are executed. The manufacturers want you to believe that real assessments are carried out and that they've done their due diligence. Fact is, that's a pipe dream. Endorsements aren't really want they sound like. And for those people that paid any attention to elections over the past months as well as years, vendor selection is more like how Super Pacs operate or how Wall Street controls their puppets: Follow the money, lunches, perks and relationships and you'll find a substandard product or service get the rubber stamp.
And the pisser is that they keep buying from them, warts and all. Because, among other things, the mentality is still non-digital in marketing. And the people who head the eCommerce and digital divisions are no better at their genre than your local newspaper rep.
So follow the vendor recommendations that are mandatory and voluntary but always keep an ear to the ground and give real feedback to your factory rep (even though the majority of them have no idea what an AdWord extension, heat map or pixel tracking is) and at ad meetings and 20 Groups. Because the majority of what they or you are buying is well under what you deserve, and usually what works.
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
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