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Paul Rushing

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Traditions in the automotive industry are slowing down dealer progress, in relationship to online marketing, at an alarming rate.  Well known industry publications, the NADA, some vendors and consultants do not realize how fast changes come about in relationship to online initiatives.

In the April 2009 edition
Digital Dealer published an article to encourage dealers to use Facebook as part of their online marketing portfolio.  While there was some valid points at the tail end of the article it was probably missed by 95% of the people who saw it, because the author’s opening line was:

  "I will start with a confession. I didn’t open up a Facebook account until I started working on this article"

Later in the article the author bandied about the success a dealer group attributes to the use of Facebook and ruined it with this:

"If the comments are negative, the salesperson has the ability to take that specific customer off the site and the negative comments disappear. Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy with the factory CSI results?"

That article should have never been published because it may lead a dealer down the wrong path. Using the strategy in the last quote will quickly ruin a dealer’s online reputation faster than the unhappy consumer can type in, and let all their friends on Facebook know that the dealer did not work to correct the problem and deleted their comments.

The NADA really should be concentrating on making sure things discussed in their workshops are relevant.  It would be impossible for anyone who really understands online marketing to pre plan a presentation SEVEN months in the future, however consultants speaking at their annual gala are forced to do so.

It has been publicly stated by consultants presenting on “Social Networking” at the 2010 NADA conference that they had to forward their presentations to them by the end of April 2009 for a conference scheduled for January 2010. Information that was applicable last month may not even be a factor next month much less over half a year away.

The examples above are not far reaching it is the how the automotive "institutions" have conducted themselves for years and are very limiting factors for dealers and their personnel. 

Who is to blame for this being acceptable?

First it starts with the dealers for not realizing that the industry as a whole is still stuck in last century in "Online Best Practices".  What worked 5 years ago relative to today is old news in a traditional sense but online that is compounded and strategies play out in weeks and months.  Core competencies such as selling, customer follow up and internal process are enhanced by the use of technology and those topics have places in print and conferences. 

Topics such as pay per click, search engine optimization, social networking and search engine reputation management are fluid and ever changing and what is applicable today can't be forecast seven months into the future or for that matter meet print deadlines.

The second set of irresponsible parties lies with the institutions, mostly for not policing themselves.  They try to create "stuff" to sell subscriptions and conference tickets and only look inside of the industry to bring relevant information.  To be innovative you have to get outside of your comfort zone and our industry has to look outside of itself.  Just because somebody is a good public speaker or writer does not mean what they bring to the table is close to being accurate.

I heard that at this year’s NADA convention that a presenter, who spoke about technology, was bragging to others because the conference staff had to run a 130' cable to their laptop for an Internet connection to use in their presentation and did it in a relatively short time period.  This was in a building that has WiFi and don’t forget that almost everyone who uses a laptop for portable computing has an alternative Internet connection for the rare points in time WiFi is not available.

If the NADA or the attendees did not see how this lack of understanding real world technology enabled internet access works how could anything coming from the presentation be taken as anything more than a farce to get an audience?  The second question to ask about that particular comedy is why in the world did NADA invite them back to conduct another workshop on an Internet related topic?

What can dealers do?

The industry's iconic institutions have yet to bring forward anything to help with the current state of the business.  With two of the big three in or close to bankruptcy they should be using their clout and expertise to help dealers survive this tumultuous period.  The dealers should be leaning on them in that regards.

Automotive print and conferences about online marketing are far from cutting edge.  The greatest source of information in the fields of search engine marketing, social networking and conversion optimization are outside of the industry.  Prepackaged presentations that do not change from one conference to the next or articles that are fluff to sell tickets, advertising and sponsorships and provide little if any value to the attendees or reader.

Stop attending these workshops, in their current form, and supporting bad content containing bad advice.

What can the “Establishment” do?

Stick to what they know. Don’t create content or provide a platform for “experts” to further diminish their brands, both the “expert’s” and the organization’s, just for the sake of trying to capitalize on current trends. Make sure what you deliver is both relevant and actionable.

Change your format in regards to online marketing advice and bring in thought leaders from outside of automotive. This will require some to change their way of doing business. You have to pay to get thought leaders that will inspire your attendees and readers. Use moderated round table style discussions versus podium pitches in regards to fluid topics like Internet marketing as it applies to our industry.

Facilitate problem solving not creating them like the article referenced above could do..

Paul Rushing
SEGA Systems, LLC
"Without Traffic Everything Fails"

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