The Internet as a communications tool for car dealers is evolving and never before has the changing landscape been more challenging for dealer principals and General Managers. As car dealers seek to develop online brand messaging their advertising budgets are being pulled in many directions. Every month a new digital strategy is being presented as the next “big thing”.
Dealers are struggling to validate the benefits and implementation costs of social media, chat, streaming video, reputation management, SEO, SEM and a dozen other digital marketing pitches that come across their desk each month. With little track records or case studies to help dealers with the education process, seasoned mangers are scratching their heads and looking for advice and support from the companies that they have leaned on in the past.
Unfortunately, these products are coming from more single source vendors and not their current automotive advertising agency. Most traditional automotive advertising agencies that have delivered success with direct mail, radio, TV and print have stumbled to provide integrated digital marketing offerings. Automotive advertising agencies clinging to traditional marketing expertise has created a disruption in the marketplace with no clear winners emerging from the chaos.
Dealers who once had a single call to make for their advertising and marketing strategies now have to make multiple calls and are forced into becoming a General Contractor to build an integrated marketing strategy. Dealers have neither the training, desire nor the sustainable skills to act as a General Contractor.
Next generation automotive advertising agencies must seamlessly merge the traditional and digital landscape to increase their value to car dealers. The marketplace is screaming for integrated automotive advertising agencies that offload the burden currently on car dealers who seek to gain market share with the changing of advertising models.
Antiquated Data Exchange Standards and Protectionism
To complicate the integration of traditional marketing with digital marketing strategies, dealers are still tied to vendors that do not embrace open standards for data exchange and collaboration. For example only two DMS providers serve all new car dealers in the United States. For some dealers, the distribution of the dealer’s own data is restricted by antiquated data access policies.
It’s hard to believe that in 2010 a car dealer cannot click on a menu to export a file of their own inventory into an ADF compliant XML file to send the third party advertising sources. It is hard to believe that some vendors still use modems for data transmission. Car dealers have allowed the confiscation of their own data and are held captive from creating truly innovating data reporting systems.
Since car dealers are using multiple single source software solutions, it is time to recognize that “lead lifecycle” reporting is one of the last barriers that car dealers need to measure true ROI. When a dealer has a website provider that is different than their CRM vendor, significant data is lost due to the current way data is exchanged. Commonly data is transmitted between two different software platforms using a file format call the ADF specification.
The automotive industry needs a revised ADF specification to allow an open source solution to end to end reporting across multiple software platforms. The current specification is a 1.0 version that was last modified in 2000. A lack of leadership and protectionism is complicating a revised data exchange standard and costing dealers thousands of dollars a year.
Where are the Leaders?
The automotive advertising agency of the future needs to shepherd vendor integration because it is what their clients truly need. I truly believe that dealer Principals and General Managers are spending way too much time in the General Contractor role and if asked, they would give up that title in a heartbeat.
Automotive advertising agencies that seek to gain market share must invest in properly trained technical staff that understands SEO, SEM, website design, data communications, data analysis and third party data integration.
Automotive Advertising Agencies that fail to provide integrated traditional and digital marketing strategies are going to be asked an uncomfortable question by the dealer: “And remind me what I am actually paying you to do..”
When that question is asked, you can start the clock on when your account will be replaced by an agency that took the burden of the dealer and didn’t wait to let the market disruption be the last straw.