Recently Autotrader announced they were acquiring VinSolutions, an automotive digital marketing company that serves manufacturers and retailers. “We are thrilled to acquire VinSolutions and add it to our best-in-class portfolio of dealer software solutions companies,” states Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com. “VinSolutions will further ramp up our dealer solutions product suite to provide dealers with a simpler, more functional one-stop-shop solution of internet marketing software tools accessible by the dealer through a single sign-on tool.”
Consistent with AutoTrader.com's approach to their previous acquisitions, VinSolutions will be a subsidiary of AutoTrader.com, and the current management team will remain intact, led by Mike Dullea (CEO) and Matt Watson (CTO) from their headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. Mike Dullea, VinSolutions CEO says, “Our team is very excited to join forces with AutoTrader.com because we are both passionate about helping dealers use the internet and innovative technology to grow their business. Together we will strive to constantly improve how we serve our dealers and how we help them attract, serve, and retain their customers.”
VinSolutions software tools will be offered on a flexible a-la-carte basis with no long-term contracts, and dealers' will have the flexibility to work with their other software vendors since AutoTrader promotes open platforms and integration across its software solutions and other dealer software tools.
VinSolutions.com evolved from a small inventory management company to the 33rd fastest growing software company in the United States according to the Inc 500. VinSolutions took off after they released their all-in-one dealership marketing system a few years ago and today they are the market leader and this article will show how they did it.
VinSolutions was founded by entrepreneurs who knew there had to be a better way. Led by Mike Dullea, CEO of VinSolutions.com, the company experienced explosive growth of more than 100 percent a year over the last few years. “Dealers were complaining about working with too many tools that didn’t talk to each other,” says Dullea. The average dealer works with 10-15 different companies to handle all their technology and internet marketing and it is difficult to manage so many tools. “I was spending too much money with 15 different companies that did not integrate,” says Todd Crossley from Gary Crossley Ford, the number one Ford retailer in the Kansas City Market. “Now I have one system that does everything from managing my internet marketing to desking to service in one tool that is easy for my team to use. We are spending less for one system that does more than the 15 it replaced.”
VinSolutions built an “all-in-one” digital marketing system that includes search marketing, online advertising, social media marketing tools, websites, internet lead management, CRM (customer relationship management), sales force automation, sales management and desking, appraisal, finance, used vehicle market pricing, inventory management and distribution, hand held inventory marketing tools, window stickers, automated video tours, targeted marketing with email, text, direct mail, and telemarketing services. Their “Dealership Marketing System” has complete mobile integration so dealers can access reports from any mobile phone that has access to the internet including Blackberrys, Android and iPhones. Currently VinSolutions is certified by all major OEMs and integrates with most DMS companies including certified integrations with ADP, R&R, AutoSoft, and Arkona. Vin also has alliances and integrations with CARFAX, Autodata, RouteOne, DealerTrack, and vAuto and Kelley Blue Book, both of which are also owned by Autotrader.
To launch the new all-in-one dealership marketing system Dullea recruited the help of a few industry veterans who had a proven track record of helping other companies grow. Dullea recruited Sean Stapleton as their Chief Sales Officer and Kendall Billman to lead their web marketing initiatives. Stapleton was the EVP of sales at Who’s Calling where he helped create a new category of call monitoring and measurement and Billman helped develop web platforms for both Third Coast Media (acquired by Reynolds and Reynolds) and AutoONE Media.
Dullea also recruited Sean Wolfington to join Vin Solution as a mentor and advisor. “We brought Wolfington on board, because he led two of the biggest digital marketing companies in the industry, (CyberCar & Automark, which R&R bought in 2001 and BZResults, which ADP bought in 2006) and his experience and advice has been invaluable,” said Dullea. “Mike and Matt built an extraordinary team with talented guys like Kendall Billman and Sean Stapleton, the best salesperson in the industry,” says Wolfington. “They are the best at what they do and Dullea is a relentless leader who has built a fantastic team and company.”
VinSolutions digital marketing system has been widely recognized in the industry. Recently VinSolutions won the DrivingSales award for their website, internet lead management tool and their new VinLens product, a customer information application that lets dealers see who is on their site and what they are looking at so they can deliver custom messages and promotions based on what’s important to the customer. VinLens also lets the dealer see where the customer has been before visiting the website so they can track their advertising better. VinSolutions also took the top prize at the Automotive website Awards for building the most complete digital marketing system in the industry.
Autotrader and VinSolutions are amongst a few high growth companies who are offering dealers innovative technology that is helping the industry move forward. Hopefully Autotrader will be able to leverage the synergies of all of the companies they have acquired to serve their dealers better and so far it appears they are doing just that.
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