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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where is the Auto Marketing Industry Headed?

Several calls and emails over the last week have really got me thinking about where the industry is headed for auto dealer marketing. One word comes to mind for me: saturation. Look at one part of our particular product offerings for example: website solutions for independent dealers. A quick search of dealers in your local area is sure to pop up at least a few horrible websites. Some have been designed by the dealers themselves, and some have been designed by a local company for that dealer. I use the term company loosely, because most of these “companies” are nothing more than a computer and some local kid whose dad knows the dealer. I’m not knocking this situation, because sometimes it does work, but more times than not it ends up hurting the dealership with an unprofessional image. Dealers need to take online marketing as seriously as their offline marketing. Would they trust a 6-year-old with his box of crayons to work up the art for the magazine ad? It’s an extreme example, but a valid one judging from what I see out there.

So basically there are thousands of people in your local area who know how to build you a dealer website, but the important question is do they know how to do it right? Dealers are getting smarter. Some are slower than others, some I would definitely consider hard-headed, but overall they’re becoming more informed about their choices. I believe we’re in a transition phase in this industry. There are so many choices, and some companies are really going to stand out above the others. The market is so saturated with people or companies that claim to be capable. As we reach a critical mass in the marketplace, dealers become more informed and there will be a lot of consolidation taking place.

Taking it to the next level is the natural next step. Website companies may begin to consolidate, some may merge, some may disappear. Why stop there? A lot of companies are already broadening their skill set to help dealers. We’re getting ready to launch an eBay listing manager. We’re starting to offer pay-per-click campaign management and press release services to dealers. We’ve also been approached by several companies to act as resellers of their technology, again, keeping everything under one roof. As a dealer, if you could have one company handle your website, your inventory management, photos, window stickers, lead management/CRM, and several other things, wouldn’t it be better to have that one company instead of 7 separate companies? A one-stop marketing shop of sorts. I had the pleasure recently to speak with Eric Gidney of Next-Level Automotive who has built his business model on this principle. Eric and I actually both worked for Autotrader.com for several years (among other auto industry jobs individually), so to say we know the industry is an understatement. While we at Higher Turnover are broadening our services, we’re still staying focused on web development and applications. Next-Level Automotive is currently taking a more hands-on approach with the dealers in a focused area (Philadelphia, PA). They’ll actually go to the lot, take the photos for the dealers, work with them on print/direct mail campaigns, and generally do some of the things that someone like us isn’t able to do without having 2,000 field reps across the country.

Next-Level Automotive’s existence and the speed at which they’ve grown in the Philly market are perfect examples of where this industry is headed. It's already starting on the local level, and I think it’s a good thing for the dealers.

1 comment:

Eric Gidney said...

Thanks so much for recognizing the work we here at Next-Level Automotive are doing for our dealers. Giving a dealer a trusted company that they can turn to for a larger part of their business needs just makes sense. Like you said, we give our dealers options in everything from inventory management with photos and window stickers, to even direct mail and email marketing campaigns. We also now offer Owner Loyalty programs as well. The business model is a win-win. Dealers eliminate the hassle and higher costs associated with using multiple vendors...and also see better results because they deal with one company that gets to know them and their business at a closer level. Because of this stronger relationship, we at Next-Level Automotive even custom create solutions for our dealers. If we dont have what a dealer needs...we'll get it for them! Everything we do is a unique, custom solutions that all translate into taking their sales to the NEXT LEVEL!