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“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
 
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear – Frank Herbert - Dune
 
 
I’m writing this post at 35,000 feet as I am approaching Sydney, Australia on United Flight 863 from San Francisco. I have been traveling 13 hours of the 15 hours flight, and with land not too far away I started to reflect on the flight because of how I felt earlier in the day.
 
This afternoon, while in San Francisco, I actually had a short period of anxiety about flying which is not normal for me. I couldn’t exactly figure out why. But as I reflected on this discomfort, I started to understand the root of the problem. When I had told friends and colleagues about my trip to Australia, almost all of them had commented on the length of the flight. They acted as if I announced that I was going to run across the country.
 
Many said that they would never travel 15 hours on a plane. Others were convinced that flying coach class would be miserable, but in fact it wasn’t at all. These and other excuses actually have no reality except in the mind of the fearful. So since I have regularly traveled eight hours back and forth from Europe, I never felt that fifteen hours would be a far leap
 
Unaware of the influence of my friends’ negative projections on my trip, I had started to have cautionary reservations about getting on my flight today, but until now I didn’t realize how their feelings affected me in subtle ways. I was beginning to doubt my proven instincts and my vision for a trip with my son Connor in the land down under.
 
But actually, I slept the first 7 hours of the trip, watched some movies and read a book and now with 2 hours left to go I’m laughing at how easy the trip has been. I don’t feel any worse than any flight to Europe
 
Is Fear Holding You Back?
 
I wonder how many people are held back from experiencing new adventures because of fear; internal or external.
 
My flight to Australia brought to mind what is happening in the auto industry. I have participated in numerous executive strategy sessions that discuss digital marketing opportunities and budgeting. Fear or panic is often dealers’ common reaction to the suggestion that they increase digital marketing spending. 
 
The tried and true advertising models of TV, radio and newspaper have created a sense of security for automotive retailers, best compared to traveling domestically. Not many dealers are afraid of a quick trip to Vegas or to place another ad in a local newspaper. It’s something that they understand and have experienced first had.
 
Digital marketing spending is just like traveling to Australia; dealers have heard it is beautiful and a “must” in their travel portfolio but can’t see themselves getting on the plane. It is not uncommon for dealers to react with fear when I suggest that they increase their overall advertising budget dedicated to digital marketing from less than 15% to 30-50% over the upcoming year. Their reaction is normally followed by:
 
“What will I have to cut in order to spend more on digital marketing? My General Managers will freak out if I reduce their traditional advertising budget!”
 
This article is not meant to answer this specific question because it is different for each dealership location but let me ask you a question:
 
Is the reason why the average automotive retailer spends less than 15% of the advertising budget on digital marketing because of the fear or because they have carefully measures the ROI of all digital marketing strategies and have chosen wisely?
 
 
Related to that question, are sub-questions:
1.     Have dealers become too comfortable with what was successful in the past?
2.   Does engaging in discussions about digital marketing strategies make dealer principals feel awkward or even stupid?
3.     Has the lack of historical ROI data and published case studies on digital media strategies prevented dealers from embracing new opportunities or is that just an excuse?
 
I know a few dealer principals that have admitted to feeling awkward about engaging in digital marketing discussions when they don’t understand it themselves. They feel vulnerable. In these cases, my participation in planning meetings is to act as a bridge, creating analogies from traditional advertising to introduce the new paradigms of the digital and social media era.
 
A rising number of dealers are pushing through fear and realizing that to reach new highs for their business they must let go of the past and embrace the future of automotive retail marketing. 
 
In many cases, the advertising team that brought dealers to their initial pinnacle of success will not be the team that brings them to their next mountaintop experience.
 
Since traditional media is difficult to measure true ROI, advertising agencies have had a free pass to continue dealer spending without fear of losing budget share but that is now changing. Dealers are now developing models to hold all methods of advertising to a standard cost/reward model. The agencies that can’t provide a fully integrated menu of traditional and digital marketing services will perish.
 
The Digital Compass
 
 
The automotive industry does need guidance for the constantly changing digital terrain. Dealers need a “Digital Compass” that directs their decisions and helps them “test the waters” for the new advertising opportunities that exist in the digital world.  
 
A “Digital Compass” initiative should hold all methods of marketing to the same standard of excellence and ROI. The dealership of the future will have marketing budgets based on data and not fear of change.
 
Educational forums, social networks, digital conferences and reputable consultants can act as a dealer’s “Digital Compass” in the same way the pilot of US 863 knows how to take me to Sidney.
 
However, dealers have to make the first step and get on the plane so they are not left behind. The transition will never happen until dealers let go of the past. Dealer principals have to put aside their fears and excuses and embrace digital marketing, social media and reputation management with gusto.
 
The digital marketing plane is leaving the airport…will you be on it?

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Bart Wilson
I love this analogy. Imagine if you had never flown before. How scared would you have been then? Fortunately flying wasn't new to you. And I'm sure you weren't alone on the plane. You had a whole plane full of support. They were confident enough that they were willing to take the journey. DrivingSales can be the plane. There are dealers on the site that have "flown to Australia" and are willing to share their successes.

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