Private Dealers Have Every Reason to Be Skeptical

I was speaking with an industry consultant (who also happens to be a former director for one of the big, publicly-traded MegaDealer groups) the other day, and he relayed two dealer stories that would be hilarious, if not for the fact that they happened to private dealers like me.


In the first instance, the dealer principal abruptly cancelled all of their digital marketing, because he felt “they should take a break for a while.” There was no warning; and the internet team was caught completely off guard. It seems that the dealer didn’t feel comfortable about where his money was being spent, so he just cancelled everything he didn’t understand. He didn’t seek advice from others—he just cancelled everything.


If this was 2002, I might be able to grasp it; but it’s 2012, and for any dealer to simply discontinue all of their digital marketing seems like business suicide.


This dealer was skeptical of the claims and was unsure of his vendors’ methods. Private dealers like me and this guy, of course, have every reason to be skeptical. For as long as there have been car dealers, there have been unscrupulous vendors out to make a quick buck at their expense. And despite the strides dealers have made via state and national associations (and even their own 20 groups) to educate themselves, the world of digital marketing is changing too fast for private dealers (with limited staff) to keep up. In other words: most of us just lack the expertise around digital marketing, so we occasionally get taken.


As the consultant further explained: the MegaDealer groups have all the advantages when it comes to subject matter expertise; because they are all big enough to spread the cost of these experts across scores of rooftops. “When you lack a team of experts advising you, often your skepticism is the only thing standing between you and a $3,000 invoice for practically nothing,” he added.


Without skepticism, there is only gullibility…


The second private dealer story he relayed concerned a single-point franchise that was paying $3,000 a month for search engine optimization (SEO) services from his website provider. (SEO, mind you, is critical for dealers who want to reach the maximum number of in-market prospects; all while truly leveraging their websites’ potential as a lead generator.) Unfortunately for this single-point, the website company never lifted a finger to improve his search visibility.


Without getting too technical, everything about this dealer’s website that could or should lead to an improved ranking on Google was identical to other dealers using the same website provider, but choosing to skip the SEO services. The difference for this dealer was that he was spending an extra $3,000 each and every month for absolutely nothing. Of course, the dealer didn’t know anything about SEO, so he had no idea what he was supposed to receive for his three grand.


The worst thing about this dealer’s lack of SEO knowledge was that he could not say enough nice things about his website company at his last 20 group meeting. Yes, you read that correctly, the dealer who was being ripped off had bragged to his fellow 20 group members about what a great job his website company was doing for him—though he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. His gullibility likely led to some of his 20 group brethren inviting this SEO fox into their henhouses.


While too much skepticism (and no digital marketing expertise) led the first dealer to make a big mistake with his advertising budget; it’s easy to make the argument that the second dealer’s lack of skepticism (and no digital marketing experience) led him to make an even bigger mistake. Regardless of one’s level of skepticism, after hearing the second dealer’s story, it’s easy to understand why so many dealers are skeptical of anything new today.


I especially understand their skepticism when the new product or service is expected to change the way business is done or even revolutionize our industry. These types of offerings take us out of our comfort zones, and our natural “skepticism radar” kicks in. Sometimes that’s a good thing (and we keep from wasting money with an unscrupulous vendor); and sometimes it’s a bad thing (and we fail to capitalize on great opportunities). The trick is to know which one is in front of you.


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