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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Bryan Armstrong

Bryan Armstrong e-Commerce Director

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Innovation and what it could be...

Last month I was honored to be named one of the 5 finalists at Driving Sales Executive Summit in the most innovative Dealer competition. Many of you may know that the idea I presented was for a new review platform called the Power Pen now being marketed by Punchline Advertising. I was honored to be named the 3rd place winner, but I feel that the focus was placed on the product rather than the concept I was trying to convey.

Finding a small local company that was providing a similar service to the medical profession and working with them to, in essence, create a new market segment product that better fit our needs was the true innovation idea. The product is secondary. We as Dealers have neither the time nor the funds to create every solution we may need and so we rely on existing companies to achieve the results. The Power Pen is an amazing new tool that allows Dealers to gather verified reviews from customers in the store and have them posted to an independent site which ultimately takes up more key controllable real estate in the search results for a Dealers name.

While this is great in and of itself, what is truly amazing is the way it came about. As a Dealer Manager I struggle to find the best vendor products that will enable me to secure key results. This goal is often times contrary to those Vendors internal revenue-generating structure. For example, while DealerRater, AutoTrader, Cars.com are all  good Vendors, I’m unhappy that unless I sign for the top most package I will still have my Competitors encroaching on my SERP’s by means of banner ads and other potential brand leaks.

Rather than be put between a rock and a hard place, what if we all continued to look outside the Automotive vertical for solutions, contact those companies and share with them the insights needed to achieve a viable product that is within our own control? To take it a step further, we then share the information and results and collectively benefit from one another’s efforts. The end result is that we could control our own digital foot print to a greater degree and become even more independent.

Quit being a digital share cropper, leasing your own land and giving your hard-earned profits to the very people you’ve paid to enhance your impact, then turn around and monetize your name and hard fought results. It’s a slower process initially but at the end of the day, you can be the master of your own domain rather than being reliant on a 3rd party and subject to their whims of change. 

Dennis Galbraith
What a great topic Bryan! I have seen cases where dealers were paying more than $4.00 per VDP and others where they were paying less than $1.00 for the same service. At $4.00, you are strictly working for the man and buying him lunch for the privilege of it. At $1.00 or less, you are getting an outstanding value and attracting shoppers you otherwise would not have had. That variation between dealers would make it difficult enough to form a dealer revolution. Worse yet. there are very few dealerships with any idea what they are paying on a cost per VDP or cost per contact basis, even though the data is available to anyone buying the product. The fact is that vendors like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com are fairly transparent, and in most cases deliver a good value. In most cases, what matters to each store is the value they receive, not the average. If dealers don't use the information and know what it means, then they are at the mercy of vendors when it comes time for rate hikes. I'm not sure where the revolution will ultimately end. More reliance on dealer sites means more reliance on those providers as well as search providers, like Google and Bing. Too much dependence on listings alone is clearly not good. What I do know is this: 1) You are right for stirring this pot. 2) Vendors are more innovative when their customers know how to hold them accountable for value. 3) The best first steps are information and education. 4) Dealers can help one another. Dealer A does not lose when dealer B knows how to hold vendors accountable. That vendor will then come to dealer A selling on value, not just the highest price the uninformed market will bear. That doesn't mean sharing identifiable data, but understanding meaningful aggregates. Some of the upsell products on the market today are selling at rates that better represent emotion than logic. It's not as bad as the famous run ups in price involving tulips, ostriches, worms, and other products that have taken wild rollercoaster rides, but it is bad. I say bring on a new wave of innovation by letting the information flow and the logic prevail. I'd love to hear thoughts from you and other dealers. Are you ready for a revolution that includes the distribution of clean data with benchmarks and the education programs to turn data into action items? I'd also love to hear from vendors, are you ready to compete in a market where dealers are at least as informed about your products as consumers are about theirs?
Jim Kristoff
Good blog Bryan! Makes you pause and think.......what else is out there??
Bryan Armstrong
Dennis, Thank you for your well-written and thought out reply. I believe that a good Vendor can be your absolute best partner and I do realize that these relationships are symbiotic in their best form. I believe the revolution you mention is upon us. I receive many calls and e-mails from other Dealers that query me on specific Vendors reliability, functionality and yes, pricing. There are some great Vendors in our world, some who take to much for granted and others that will be out of business soon. Embrace the transparency or get left behind...Dealer and Vendor alike.
Jim Bell
I thought that your product was very intriguing while watching the presentations. To be honest, I don't even remember who won. I did remember the whole pen thing and how different it was. I have said it before and Dennis hit it on the head. Dealers can help each other. That is the whole reason I am on this message board and the others just reading and learning from others to see what is and not working.

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