By Atul Patel —
Through the years, I would ask myself, "Is the automotive industry ready for this?" In my sixth year in the space after nearly two decades of building marketing tech companies before that, I am doubling down on my commitment to this industry. It isn't because the industry spends a boatload of money on advertising across all tiers or because the industry's adoption of marketing acronyms makes me feel at home. It is because I feel that this ecosystem is finally listening. So, what is everyone finally listening to? Before we answer that, I should explain some of my background. I've started and sold four mar-tech and ad-tech companies, and between all those, I've been involved in dozens of successes and failures in and around marketing. For all intents and purposes, I'm from "outside of automotive." For this reason, I am very opinionated about the things I've experienced. You might witness this when listening to me on a pod, stage, or conference call. What's unique about my perspective on marketing is that I've been involved in almost every important aspect of marketing through the years. And now, automotive has given me a chance to put it all to work and share it, and I finally feel heard. It isn't easy when the industry is sometimes enchanted by the notion of "outside of automotive" perspectives. I am hoping that dealership marketers realize, though, that picking up out-of-the-box (and outside-of-automotive) marketing technology won't bring lasting results. In fact, it's more work trying to connect the dozens of components needed to make marketing work these days in and out of the industry. It sure doesn't help that inside, the gap between the haves and have-nots of marketing know-how is so wide that it costs dealerships piles of money on expensive software and advertising commissions. What this industry really needs is a fully integrated capability that won't break the bank, that takes decades of ad-tech and martech history into account, and makes it work with our industry's nuances. Luckily, after many have tried disconnected tech from inside and outside the industry, the market is listening to what's possible. Of course, given that I lead a company that serves dealerships, it takes some work to earn that outside-of-automotive street cred. I also don't have a long history of selling expensive tech to dealers. My way around it is to just stay the course and leverage all the things that I've learned in ad-tech and mar-tech to pull together great software with integrations that are more affordable than ever before yet is as advanced as any other offering in any industry, so that dealerships can do more with less, especially in the coming downturn. What I believe we are achieving will serve as a role model for the future of digital marketing tech in any vertical. I'm so glad I fell into automotive and continue to have the chance to work with all of you. I'm astonished by the long careers many of you have in this industry – at dealerships, OEMs, vendors, and every combination of those. It turns out I've been in a parallel universe, learning as much as I can about digital marketing so that one day, I could collaborate with all of you to invent concepts that take the best of both worlds and make a huge impact on the customer's experience in ways other industries will learn from. And if you are ready, then so am I, to listen and get to work.