There's a phrase that every marketing manager, internet manager, and general manager at car dealerships should remove from their minds when dealing with vendors. "Set it and forget it." Now that I've been on the vendor side for over a year, I realize how important it is to constantly hold your vendors accountable
I'm not suggesting that I've experienced this first hand with my company. However, I've seen so many occasions when we're analyzing the marketing efforts for our clients and realizing that vendors from website providers to PPC companies are falling short when it comes to actual account management. Many are allowing their vendors to go unchecked and the result is a complacency that shouldn't exist in our industry. It's just too competitive.
Here are some quick tips I used when I was on the retail side and that I've been able to hone ever since coming over to the vendor side. It's only five, but it's a great place to start.
- Take the Calls: You're busy. I get that. It can be hard to squeeze in the time necessary to take the weekly, monthly, or quarterly results calls from the various vendors, but you have to make the time. For our team, we do everything we can to force the calls to happen. If a dealer says, "No need for a call, just keep up the good work," we help them to understand the importance of these calls. We need direction. How other vendors are able to do it without direction on a regular basis from the dealership is beyond me.
- Email Everything: Just because someone says that they're going to take care of something over the phone doesn't always mean that it's going to be done. If something is promised, make it concrete by confirming the conversation and promises via email. This applies during the vendor sales process as well. Have you ever been promised something by a salesperson only to have it questioned during production? It happens all the time, but if you have an email confirmation showing that you were promised something before signing the contract, that's as good as having it written into the contract in the first place.
- Fire Your Vendors from Time to Time: I'm referring to everyone, even the vendors you like. It can be as simple as a quick email saying that your contract is coming up soon and you want to receive a full presentation of the latest and greatest before deciding whether to continue with them. If they aren't kept hungry, they'll get complacent.
- Consolidate Meetings: This is something that we've found to be very useful with our clients. We like to be on meetings with the website vendors, PPC companies, analytics companies, and even their traditional ad agencies. This allows for time savings for you (one call with everyone is better than three different calls) but more importantly it allows for communication and strategy discussions that can yield some great brainstorming to solve problems.
- Holistic Email Strings: When you identify a challenge or opportunity at the dealership, get everyone together via email to come up with ideas. Here's an example: "We have a Nissan point opening up 10 miles to the north of us. It will be the first Nissan store in the area and we think we have a play with our Mazda store to compete with them. Please reply all with your company's ideas on how to go on the offensive and turn this into a good thing for us."
In the coming weeks, we'll be bridging the gap between dealers and their vendors through our automotive marketing consultation service. It has been in beta testing for several months now and the results have exceeded our expectations (and the expectations of our clients). If you're interested in getting involved in the beta at a reduced rate before we unveil it to the public, please contact me.
Keeping everyone heading in the same direction is extremely important to the success of your dealership or group. The differences I've seen between a properly managed vendor strategy and one that's haphazard are like comparing apples and orangutans. It's that big.