Are auto dealers are living a lie that perpetuates mediocrity?

by · April 7, 2011

The title of this post is actually from an article that was published recently on Below are excerpts from the original article, which will you see tap into a deep problem many automotive marketing professionals are experiencing or witnessing in their efforts to service car dealerships.

In a stunning address to the Innovative Dealer Conference in Denver recently, Automotive SEO expert Brian Pasch called for auto dealers to get serious about training their management teams! Themselves too.

This something Pasch has been championing in the automotive marketing community. It’s a noble cause, but one I personally approach with caution.

Brian’s comments before several hundred dealers called for them to stop using “your budget” as an excuse for not getting yourself and your key managers up to speed in all areas of today’s car business. He said that you need a “strategy” not a “budget!”

Couldn’t agree more. We all know that dealers will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in advertising on things that don’t work, but only because they are familiar with certain things. It is what they know.

On the contrary, dealers can be reluctant to spend even a fraction of that on new media, which has proven affect. Dealers can also be reluctant to invest into training and educating themselves in new media, which is what is at the root of this issue.

Brian’s company, as many of you already know, advises dealers on digital marketing implementation in the dealership setting. During his speech, he related how a dealer recently told him how he would avoid calls from Brian’s company and other digital marketing advisors; he simply would not take their calls. When asked why that is, the dealer said, “Because I don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

Brian then suggested that this dealer is simply fooling himself into believing that educating himself and his managers is not necessary. Possibly he is just hoping that the new marketing landscape that is being defined by the Internet and its major players, (like Google), will either simply go away, or that in some way he and his team will learn everything they need to know by some mysterious type of osmosis.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Dealers have been selling cars the same way for nearly a hundred years. The past decade has seen more change than the all the previous years of marketing and advertising. You can not expect things to change so quickly.

Four years ago, I anticipated that blogging and social media would be more mainstream for car dealers in about 2-3 years. This has turned out to be the case and there is plenty of product out there for car dealers now, but the rate of change is so rapid that most of us don’t know which way is up or down any more, and a few short years is not enough time for a majority of people accustomed to doing business a certain way for so many years, to simply adapt as many of us would like to see.

Pasch is right. The “budget” excuse is a cop-out for those that want more than is realistically feasible and do not know how to monetize Internet marketing.

If you and your management team are not doing what is necessary to educate yourselves in a fast changing world; then you will be left behind. If you are not encouraging training and re-training for your key managers, they will quickly become ineffective. How will they be equipped to meet the challenges of a new and changing retail landscape?

Mandatory continuing education is a staple in many fields. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers and even nurses and school teachers must…get that – MUST… demonstrate that they are keeping up with the changes in their professions. They can lose their licenses and certifications if they do not.

While this is true, we must remember to keep an apples-to-apples comparison. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers must continue their training and education, but not to become marketing experts in their fields. Rather to become thought-leaders in their fields in the context of their work.

I do not believe that dealers should be reprimanded for not improving their skills in blogging and social media. They should however be held accountable for being ignorant to the importance of certain types of marketing such as blogging and social media. When the decision makers at car dealerships make bad decisions based on lack of understanding, it’s the dealership that suffers from it and their customers pay the price for it. In this light, ignorance is irresponsible.

While car dealers and their managers may not have a professional organization to force them to do so, investing in your own continuing education and that of your managers should be priority. Or…as Brian so vividly commented…”If you don’t, then you are perpetuating mediocrity!”

The dealer business unfortunately is steeped in mediocrity. Staff turnover is completely unacceptable. It’s a cancer. And it exists because of the issues that Pasch is emphasizing.

A few years ago, I believed this would change in the coming decade. It is changing for some, but we have a ways to go. In a lot of ways we are only getting started.

Producer and Host of the AutoConverse Future Mobility & Connectivity Podcast, Ryan began working in the automotive industry in 2001, establishing his roots in online vehicle merchandising before expanding into digital marketing and now multi media for Automotive B2B. You can connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.