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Jared Hamilton
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Gary May

Gary May President

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It Begs Being Said Again: Understand What You're Getting Into

So, what's your newest carrot? What new shiny object has you mesmerized? Which vendor's widget has you seeing extra dollar signs? What in the heck are you thinking?!?! Two things are working against you: automotive industry digital/online marketing conferences and the deluge of pitches as the "health" of the automotive industry continues its slow creep upwards.

So how do you separate the good stuff from the garbage? How do you know who's selling vaporware and who's selling the goods? The first part is understanding. Simply put, if your house is in enough order to be genuinely looking at next-step solutions, congratulations and happy hunting. You are in the position of actually (keeping in mind these are the basics or minimums):

  • Tackling your leads
    • no more than 2 hours to respond to new leads (not an auto-responder)
    • at least 30% email response rate (if you can't, don't buy anything at all)
    • utilization of rich media
  • Building your brand
    • updating your website at least once a month (not specials)
    • posting real content to social media, press releases, etc (not inventory)
    • hosting events at or being involved around your dealership
    • customization of content from your database/CRM
    • reputation management is fully integrated
  • Evaluating and improving process
    • regular personnel- and data-driven reviews of performance
    • in-house and hired training/improvement process
    • stop-gap/fail-safe measures to ensure process failures are caught

Simply put, dealers in this position are prime to head into "gotta have the next thing" land when it comes to the vendor demos at Digital Dealer, DrivingSales Executive Summit, NADA and more. Moreover, if you can't do all or nearly all of the above, stop before you spend another penny and get real. Spending good money after bad (money or process) is a guarantee for failure, even though most will blame the vendors (and we've been there).

And because you can outsource a bunch of the things that need to be done well, don't think that stroking a check and having it handled is a license to do so. Again, if you can't answer your leads, generate ups, retain your customers and have your client base as part of your marketing, no amount of dollars will ever have you called successful. There is more and more evidence of this but dealers continue to act like it's 1983: spend, spend, spend, spend, spend.

By the same token, if you have a good process but things aren't continuing to build, look at your vendors, evaluate them without bias and excuse those that need to be. If you've not seen your CRM trainer for 9 months and the increased digital integration package for your templates hasn't been delivered, stop writing a check for $2,500-$10,000 a month. Don't know what's happened to the request for website updates from six weeks ago, why your 301 redirect hasn't been handled from four months ago and have a 10% increase in your page and link counts from a year ago? Fire your website company.

No, don't think about the last two items, just do it. Don't get re-sold by your reps. FIRE THEM! You just lost months of productive, profitable business! It's not OK to see a sheet of excuses. It is OK to get an apology letter from the CEO and let him buy you drinks at the next event when your store is on their competitor's product.

If you want to get moving forward, know what you're getting into. So many dealers we talk with today just don't understand or have been sold a set of receivables that won't make it into that company's deliverables. Your house must, must, must, must, must be in order. Band-Aids are a way for your competition to see the dam about to break. Don't advertise your weaknesses anymore.

And don't compromise by settling for being #4 in the region when you were #7 last year. Three others (and your out-of-brand competitors) are eating your lunch and you think a mondo-widget-erator will do it? Lead estimators and lead heard a lot about those in the past three years. Why did they, for the most part, go away? Because they cover up glaring deficiencies instead of remove them.

How did you learn when you were a kid...? Stop, drop, roll. Stop, look, listen. Don't get the wrong message by just stopping and sitting there. But don't grab the new toy because you can. We know better because we've been there. right?

Know what you're getting into...

"The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side"
-James Baldwin

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

You can view more IM@CS posts here on or on our blog

Dave Erickson
As usual Gary, you delivered another very motivating and real piece. I really like the message of ambition. I also like your point about our seemingly limitless ability at dealerships to tolerate incompetency and not try new things.
Gary Sanders
Good Post Gary. In addition before taking on anything new is do we have someone to manage it? "Set it and forget it" should not be a vendors selling tool.
Stacy Mueller
Another well-thought out post, Gary. It's much better to be proactive than reactive. As Lee Iacocca once said to his company officials at Chrysler: "You either lead, follow or get out of the way."

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