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Gary May

Gary May President

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(Note: As a practice, IM@CS has not written in the first person. We try to not call people out or make examples of them directly. This is a slight departure from the past two years of blog writing for dealers. We hope you enjoy it or are at least compelled to comment on this aspect as well)

After talking with Internet sales staff and leaving messages for management over the past months, I visited a prominent LA-area import dealer recently to see about getting a few minutes with the manager responsible for their web and eCommerce presence. After finally having the courtesy to recognize that someone was trying to talk with him (understanding two things very well: one you're busy and two you likely have a lot of people calling on you and trying to sell you), he gave me 45 seconds.

In that time, he was able to share that the "departments are going through changes so it's not the right time and we'll be able to put our eCommerce and Internet efforts on the schedule next Spring". Not only is this one of the best qualifiers, it is also a great indicator of how removed from reality most dealers really are. This is not a judgement, we'll leave that to the customers, staff and factory. But as a litmus test, that's just bad. Flat out bad.

Let's say you ignore every automotive publication. Let's say you never attend a "digital" event in the industry. Let's assume you're not in a 20 group. Just for kicks, let's say you never talk with your staff. Considering it's 2010, if you have spent any time on the Internet, bought an airplane ticket, hotel room, checked a sports score or weather conditions, how can you allow yourself to be ignorant of what ALL consumers do?

By next Spring, your competition will be significantly ahead of you. And maybe by my or another consultant or vendor's doing. Maybe even intentionally. When you send that kind of signal out, it's hard not to either try to convince you (unless the manager was intentionally being dismissive) or leave the store and run to the next closest store. I say this because it's being done. Every day.

While I can't speak for others that may walk into the store I'm referring to, I can guarantee you that if I take the time to engage you, your website, templates, social media (if it exists), phone skills and other aspects of your operation has been assessed. Don't even think for a second that mine is a traditional "pitch", again understanding that everyone that walks in with a briefcase is likely trying to get money from you in exchange for services.

Just know that sometime, really soon, your traffic will go somewhere else.. And with what your using for website and more, it won't even cause a drop of sweat to fall.

With all the best intentions,


Gary May
IM@CS

Eric Miltsch
@Gary - Wonderful approach that only a very few can pull off - which you do obviously well. Great lesson here: stay in touch with what's going on around you...customer activity, technology, industry trends, etc...change is always going to happen and it's only going to continue the rapid pace. If I had brushed off my initial conversations with you and simply left it at, "I'll circle back in the Spring" - I know nothing would have happened - things will always come up, there will always be something to distract. Your extra push was all that I needed to move our initiatives in the right direction.
Kristen Judd
Unfortunately there are some dealers who don't "get it" (I would submit that there are some vendors out there who don't "get it" either, but I digress). But there are plenty of progressive dealers who do. Do you really want to drag someone kicking and screaming the whole way or would you rather work with a dealership who understands the value and shares your vision? Personally, we'd rather partner with dealerships with whom we have complementary visions about integrated, multi-channel marketing strategies and help them make the high level vision and, equally important, the data actionable. We're not for everyone and we know it. But we don't want to be either.
Gary May
Absolutely @Kristen, great point. What was meant to be called out is simply the mentality. Nobody will ever be successful dragging a client to anywhere. And no retailer will ever be successful doing what is written about here. It's not the sale I'm talking about. It's the smell of death. Fortunately I learned about retail nearly 20 years ago and acquired the mentality of "if you expect to turn on the open sign and open the till while watching product and services leave the front door, you might as well flip the sign to closed". I've maintained that perspective since. In talking with an OEM area rep about a week ago, I asked why, with floor traffic down as much as it is this month, do dealers not take over their own brand and marketing.He said they didn't know how because the flow from the faucet was too good for too long. It sounds too much luck a sales pitch but it can't be avoided. If you are in retail and you don't shift now or have already started to do so, it is only a matter of time before you're asking a broker how much the facility or land will go for. It's that simple. Tone-Loc put it well back in 1998 "I know I'm makin records but I'm not here to sell ya" (sorry, had to do that). The point is to stop refusing meetings. Open your mind if you want to operate a dealership or close your doors. Take the meetings you can as an operator or management so you don't have to run to your next 20 group to find out what you should have learned a year or two ago, let alone 6 months. Considering that IM@CS is in regular communication with nearly every OEMs at least once a quarter and dealerships all over the US and Canada monthly, the "some dealers don't get it" is still around 70%. At least our conversations and endemic data shows that. Don't get me wrong, the ones that want to delay until next Spring are great because we (and you) don't waste your precious time. We'll improve the next dealer. It's time for a reality check in the form of how long dealers can wait. Don't fear the factory shutting you down, losing your flooring, or adjusting for the turnover you're experiencing. Get what you need working and the rest will fall into place. Gain some perspective, especially the investment that needs to be made in your online existence. Quit looking at $2,000-$4,000 a month for a real website with real content and real conversion as a cost because you can "get one for $700". Dealers can't buy results anymore even though there is still a belief that $50,000 a month in newspaper, radio and cable delivered results. Bull%*&t. You buy what you need and then the results are supposed to happen AT your store. So please raise your hand if you're going to wait so we can place your next newspaper ad for you: your obituary.
Kristen Judd
Don't bother posting the obituary in the newspaper @Gary, you and I both know nobody's reading the paper anymore. Post it online. ; )
Jim Elliott
2010 is the Tipping Point year for the Dealer Digital Divide. The leading edge dealers will not just be progressive and "with it", they will actually leave other dealers behind. The ones left behind in vehicle sales will survive on fixed ops for awhile...then the diminishing UIOs will get to them there.

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