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The Truth About Your Data almost always begins with contracts.
I know that dealers are often unaware of the full content and ramifications of vendor and services contracts, and that's why the vendor's sales people make a visit and explain the service delivered by the contract. To sell you on the value. And the dealer applies his or her trust of the vendor, weighs the value of the vendor's service, and when he or she buys then makes that decision believing the description matches the service.
The problem can come for the dealer when, in the contract, as I put it, "The Large Print Giveth and The Fine Print Taketh Away". And that can happen with your data, where it goes, and to what purposes it is put.
For example, your vehicle inventory can be syndicated to whatever additional partner websites you allowed in your contracts with any vendor handling your inventory information--and you often don't know who those sites are! Or how they represent you. Or that this is even happening. Why? Well, contractually worded, that list of "extra" sites can simply be left to the discretion of the first inventory-using vendor with whom you contracted (though you may be able to find out what it is if you ask them--that is, if you KNOW to ask). And this inventory syndication can happen (but does not always, be sure to check) under contracts from your website provider, your inventory management company, your merchandising and advertising company, your CRM company, and perhaps even your OEM. Anyone can ask for this contractually. And sometimes they syndicate to someone else who further syndicates the inventory!!
Specifically, a lot of discussion is happening about CarGurus.com as one of the sites to which some vendors syndicate. Or further syndicate. And some folks think CarGurus.com is good for dealers to get leads from folks who don't necessarily like dealers, since those folks buy cars, too. And some seem to think CarGurus.com is a dealer-bashing website that deserves no support by dealers no matter what leads it generates.
And, as a dealer, I'm sure you'd agree that is your decision to make. If this or ANY service by any vendor is right for dealers, the vendor's salespeople should be able to convince dealers, right? Except, it appears that too often the syndication is done by what the contract allows rather than what you might decide if you were asked. Well, why do vendors syndicate? To help you with more online exposure of your inventory, the vendors can say, which sounds like a good thing, right? And it certainly can be. However, as well, capitalism is great, so understand that some of the vendors are also re-tasking your inventory in manners to boost their OWN profits (lead generation, trade-off partnerships, relationships, etc. can come into play).
If this syndication can help everyone, including the dealers, is any or all of this bad? That's up to you. Now that you know about it, you can learn more by investigating and then decide for yourself what is good or bad, and what you do and don't want done with your data. Which is my very point to begin with, that vendors who want to use your data for their business profit should "man up" (or "woman up", as the case may be) and simply explain to you how it benefits you. And let you decide.
I'm not bashing anyone or any vendor. I'm just saying that you have every right to review your contracts and ask these questions. And a responsibility to do so. I know that, when I worked at a dealer, that's what I did, so I know it can be done.
Contracts that include access to, and use of, your data: Inform yourself about them. And take action as you see fit.
And that's The Truth About Your Data: YOU are in control. Just step up and make it so!
by Keith Shetterly
Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved
Opinions and viewpoints expressed on this blog are my own.