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Jared Hamilton
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VJ VJ eCommerce Director

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Why you should ”piggyback” on your OEM

This is the 3rd chapter of my "Diaries of an eCommerce Director", and the strategies and processes I am mentioning here are real life-time examples I did and implemented into my dealerships I had worked for.

I have visited hundreds and hundreds of dealerships over the past few years. Some of them were nice looking, some of them were elegant and others were just “awkward”. For example: Why would you as Start with using all the resources your OEM is providing youa GM or Owner love an idea during an upcoming Thanksgiving and Black Friday campaign and have your head lurking out of a turkey’s rear end – you want to be funny, alright, but do you think this idea brings you more customers during the holidays and want to buy a car from you because the idea is cute?

During my career I worked with several website providers and roughly 14 OEMs, and I discovered that website success relies on you - the eCommerce Director or Internet Manager and the support teams of the vendors working together. As so often in life, relationship is everything, and with a frequent exchange of ideas, suggestions and plans of these two parties, life should be getting easier when thinking about an ad campaign or message on your websites.

When you have an OEM endorsed website provider, I would invest in the endorsed solution first. Many shoppers are looking for that brand of car, not you, so make that “door” to the dealership as appealing and competitive as possible. It will help you as an Internet Manager to focus on the main duties of your job – processes, response time, coaching your crew, selling cars and reporting.

Always stay current. Be advertising the OEM's campaigns the same day that they launch them

The other duties of creating specials, developing more content pages, graphic work are important as well, but let’s be clear here – how many of you are educated SEO specialists, graphic artists and writers – wouldn’t you rather leave it to a specialist? The good OEM programs even help you pay for these people to make your life easier. Some OEM endorsed providers will do a lot of the work of running their campaigns on your site for you. The advantage to a dealer is as clear as chicken broth, as we say in Germany. No delays to display your specials, the right numbers, the right models, the right small print. Campaigns like “Autobahn Event” or “Mr. Opportunity” are implemented right from the get-go compliant.

Be honest here, how often did you find yourself surfing hours for the right images on Google, only to create yourself an event on your website mirroring the national OEM campaign and then suddenly receiving an email of the OEM compliance department, stating that your “Civic special does show the wrong trim line and pricing”, and you need to take it down to get not flagged!

If your site is Do I hear “cookie-cutter” and “plainness” remarks? Remember what I wrote a few lines prior – you are responsible for success of your department and I expect from you to be pro-active to make your website stand out. If your site is “cookie cutter” it is because you didn’t invest to make it better. One of my sites was an OEM Cobalt site but I found out I had over 1700 design variations I could choose from.

You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you just work with your vendor.

Here are some ideas which helped me early on in my career to achieve my goal in having the best website in the city:

  • Discuss with your website provider’s service person your creative ideas, and what restrictions the OEM. They look at other dealer’s sites – have them give you a tour of what they think is working well.


  • Decide what keywords you want to add in the SEO of your website. Think about negative SEO keywords and competitor’s make and models to implement in your content.


  • Make sure that each of the photos you want to have shown on specials, About Us and Direction pages are tagged with phrases, which are named after your models, dealership name and location. This will be easier to get picked up by our friends – the search engines.


  • Develop with your service person additional pages of the models you are selling. Each model page needs to be created individual with some outbound links and cross links on some particular key phrases. Example: Model XYZ come with scheduled free maintenance for….” – scheduled free maintenance should be linked to your service page (service special, schedule service online or similar).


  • DO NOT JUST COPY OEM content from the OEM website and say you have created a search engine relevant page inside your website. It actually will do nothing for you in regards to SEO. Written creative needs to be at least 70% unique in its content to be considered “worthwhile” for Google. So use the content of your OEM and just spice it up with your own words and messages, and do not forget to name your location in these model pages.


  • Consider the OEM and website provider ad-packages, which will give you an entire array of digital online marketing tools. Retargeting, Mobile websites, designated phone numbers will bring you more traffic in form of phone calls. No doubt – no “yeah, but” – I am sticking to my statement, because I have had seen too often dealerships failing and to generate valuable leads, only to save a few bucks. It works, and it had worked always for me.

Last but not least – Let me reflect on the purpose of using an OEM endorsed website provider.

It is all about getting more sales by being consistent with the “personality” of the brand and leveraging the shoppers they are creating for you with their advertising.

Piggybacking your OEM is just good business - and a good and well rounded customer experience

For example, the OEM wants their customers finding a constant CI (corporate identity) and consistent message – from OEM website over to the franchise website – and so do many shoppers. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to convince shoppers that your store is better than the same franchise down the road. What happens when you don’t do this?

Volkswagen has a blue/white/gray scheme and I witnessed the following scenario. A dealer located in the Southwest thought it would be great to integrate a desert color palette of yellow, umbra, black and gold throughout the pages for their VW franchise. Not only was it hideous but totally denied the affiliation with the franchise. I actually listened to recorded phone calls generated from the website’s 1-800 numbers, where the customers were asking if they have VW Golf’s in their inventory! True story!

Do you think a McDonalds franchisee, who paid money, time and efforts to build his own burger restaurant and the brand in her city suddenly would come up with the idea to get rid of the branded yellow/red M and instead goes for a pink/purple expression?

Stick to the corporate identity and personality your OEM is providing to display and message your brand appropriately. You’ll get more sales.

Thank you Stephen: What I have learned throughout the years is that even so you are carrying the OEM branding throughout your store (like buildings - for example VW and their signage, now required white front entrance pillars instead having the two tones yellow mellow)you still need to work on your content in within the website. I saw that currently visiting a group of Kia Dealers. Everybody tred to allign themselves with the OEM marketing message and the current specials, but one of the dealer "jumped" out the frame and offered (and showed) a distinguish USP "why to choose them and not the 3 other same franchise dealers in town - with a 200k miles warranty instead the 100 manufacturer warranty. This marketing "coup" was throughout the website and as well as the offline ad message to see. This is only one small example - so think about your reputation and how your current customers are talking about you? You are on dealerrater, yelp or use one of the digital solutions providers - make sure that this imprint of good reviews steadily shows on your website, and social networks as well. It is about the concistency you are displaying. My advice would be to set up your own SWOT analysis, study the competition in town, pair at least their strong characteristics but focus and trump their weakness - where they have no stronghold (bad reputation, off-brand loaners, ever changing staff, etc) that is the area you need to be 200% better in - and point it out that you have all these things other can't provide. I hope this helps...thank you again for being a loyal reader of my posts.
Marketing Manager
Problem is, Cobalt OEM sites stink...and while using an OEM aligned website has time saving advantages, Cobalt's terrible UI and functionality is reason enough to depart...and go with some of the more advanced websites out we did for our dealership
Well @Marketing Manager, I am happy for you that your choice worked out well for you. On my end, I had tremendous success with Cobalt on 4 of my OEM endorsed websites, but also had good results with my other vendors like Reynolds as well as The broad argument you phrased in your first sentence does not really give me any insights. I further think that you did the switch a while ago, considering you mention "functionality reason" - all this has changed. You might saw this post from Bryan Armstrong here on DS Great responses and comments from all angles. In my opinion it is not just the "more advanced websites", who are converting but more likely your action as ISM or eCom Dir. you are taking. Believe me...I made out of slow donkeys true thoroughbreds, and luckily I was always able to proof it. The fact is, when you do not have a relationship with your website support person, constantly exchanging your ideas and bouncing off thoughts, you will feel that you just can't do it and search for a way out. This is absolutely legit and I would do the same. Force always your provider to work for and with you on marketing messages, and find out what else they can do and might heard what have worked 1000 miles at dealer ABC. Without Trying we'll never know. Thank you for your comment. Happy Selling!
Bryan Armstrong
Go with what ya got and make the most of it! Remember Good Vendors are Great partners and should share a vested interest in your success. I know very few that fully utilize all the capabilities of their tools, myself included. Yeah, there are a few "sparklies" out there I'd like to have and I chafe under the yolk of OEM mandates, but there are to many out there that I trust even less to run ethical campaigns without restrictive guidelines. I like the point of the post...MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE! If your not getting the results you want, these are some great tips. Your Dealer Advocate may even be aware of something that is working well in another Market. Communication, dedication and work ethic can overcome almost any short-fall. Thanks for the post VJ
Bryan, thank you. And thanks for pointing out the "MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE" - - we are humans and we sometimes just like to blame to often others when we expect different results. I stick with my old slogan "Trust is good - Control is better" and when following this attitude you are one step closer to earn the success and show accountability. Thanks Brian!!

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