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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Gary May

Gary May President

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Crunch Time: Are Your Vendors out To Lunch? Or Are You?

It's very telling, especially today, when a supplier doesn't deliver. Over-commit, under-deliver. While there is no such thing as 100% delivery, 100% of the time when there are variables like creative, interpretation, third parties and even technology changing at a breakneck, daily pace. However the fundamentals should never change: communication, expectation, examination and verification.

Being around the automotive online space for over 10 years, it has been common to be around or even directly involved with what you might call "sales coups without production capabilities" or "sell it and then we'll build it". Most of the time letting clients know you're building something as they buy it is completely fine. Selling something as complete or pitching services you provide when you really don't is something else.

Over the past few years, it's been website and SEO services. Lately it's social media and reputation management. Two sayings to remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is; stupid is as stupid does. In all fairness, the impetus is always on the buyer. While that's not completely fair, everything deserves a second look or opinion. For one example, recently we've been in meetings hearing about services for a few hundred dollars a month promising positive reviews on hundreds of sites.

Even without prejudice, it is difficult to understand the reach, impact or importance of a positive dealership review on some obscure website. About florists. Being read eight states away from you. By someone who has no interest in buying a car.

Numbers are great. Especially transparent ones via Google Analytics or something similar. It's also great to have a string following in the social online around your business. Having 40,000 on Twitter and 10,000 fans on Facebook, most of whom never have or never will buy from you, refer people to you or possibly even realize what your business does. That's irrelevant. People moving into your PMA that own a car from your franchise? Great. Likely a potential customer. Someone on your social network that lives 8,459 miles away from you because you're giving away something for free? Worthless.

What's of less value than that? The people and companies that are selling the services because you don't have the time to know and understand better, let alone put resources against it. And the fact that you can do it for $300 less a month than another company that can do it for you? And you call yourself a business person? Please. The other day at an OEM meeting, we heard about dealers paying $2,000 dollars a month for social media services. There are real companies doing a better job for half the price. Dealers paying $8,000 a month for that?!?!?! Let's not even go there.

This is not about the struggles with real ROI in the digital space. Or people not understanding services. It's not even about pushing companies out of the industry that will intentionally pull the wool over dealers' eyes (that would take years anyway). It is about taking charge of what you want to do in your business, having goals, comparing apples to apples and making sense out of the insane amount of pitches car dealers face.

Many times it's your vendors that are out to lunch. Sometimes, it's absolutely you. Question reps and consultants. Question proposals and marketing materials. Question your staff on what to do. Heaven forbid, question your customers and find out what they want and expect first. And stop buying for the sake of it, because someone in your 20 group did or because a golf buddy (that operates their store completely different than you do) told you they found the magic bullet.

Get back to business. It's crunch time...

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