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Beware of Techniques that are too Proprietary to be Shared

There's something that can be said about transparency. It's hard as an automotive vendor to be completely transparent. I know because for the first few years that I worked in the industry there were many things in the world of SEO and social media marketing in particular that could not be shared with our clients. It wasn't that they were bad or anything, but we had fears that our techniques would be copied by competitors.

I've learned three things in the last couple of years that helped to change my mind:

  1. If a competitor really wants to steal something, they will regardless of how much you try to cover it up
  2. Just because others know how I create strategies or techniques doesn't mean that competitors will be willing to take it to the right level
  3. Dealers deserve to know exactly what is happening in their marketing when it comes to search and social (and just about everything else) regardless of the risks associated with trade secrets being leaked

The transition to complete transparency can be seen on this and other sites as we've embraced education as a driving force in our marketing. The company culture at KPA demands being a true partner with our clients. Partners share their secrets.

This post isn't intended as a plug for us, though. It's a warning about a trend in the industry away from transparency that has me worried. If I'm worried, you should be as well. The reason it worries me is because the tools and players that encompass search and social marketing in the automotive industry - namely Google, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, Twitter, etc - are gaining the ability to see through nearly any attempt to manipulate them. Penguin. Yelp "call outs". Facebook bannings. There was a time when risks were low for those willing to use greyhat techniques.

Those days are behind us.

Ask questions. Lots of them. When you're considering any service whether it's reputation management, search engine optimization, social media marketing, mobile advertising, or anything that uses an outside company's platform to broadcast your message (which accounts for just about everything in digital marketing), be absolutely certain that you are completely aware of their techniques and strategies.

Too many vendors are hiding behind the wall of "proprietary technology and/or techniques" and dealers are being hurt as a result. There is no technique in our industry that is so spectacular that a vendor is unable to divulge it. If it's a secret, it's probably dangerous.

Embrace transparency and make sure your partners do the same. There's too much at stake in this ultra-competitive market to roll the dice on something so hot that it can't be revealed.

I look to my good friend Ralph Paglia as the beacon on this one. He has never developed a strategy that he wouldn't readily share with his competitors over a beer. Why? Because he's always been confident that his strategies and techniques could not be used against him. He knows that if he does what he does, others can follow but never surpass. That's confidence. Don't let your vendors hide behind the curtain of proprietary. The curtain is likely just a smokescreen covering up something you don't want to be involved with at your dealership.

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