I went to NADA 2022 to meet up with some clients, check out what’s new and mostly to gauge the pulse of the industry in these strange new times. It was time well spent for me, as our VP of dealer performance, but I observed some concerning trends as I watched the dealers around me. Let’s unpack three mistakes I saw …
1. Drank Some Kool-aid
Bow down to your manufacturer overlords or suffer the consequences! Really though, there was a repeating message that dealers need to get in line (or already are in line), and a sense of fear that OEMs are going to move away from the franchise model for electric vehicles if we don’t. I agree that a certain amount of progress can be driven by the manufacturer — see: $10,000 ADMs are bad for buyer perception of your store — but there was a lack of civil disobedience evident here. The best marketing and technology solutions are frequently the ones not approved by the OEM!
2. Walked Past the Little Booths
We didn’t have a booth because we don’t sell at NADA, but I talked to vendors at smaller booths and the people walking up were existing dealer clients. How are you going to find a new, cutting-edge product from a boutique agency if you only look at OEM-approved vendors and automatic carwashes?
3. Only Attended “Comfortable” Workshops
People in the “What We Learned At Google About Dealers” workshop mostly seemed aware of the concepts already, and the room was only one-third full. I did see a few GMs leaning to their marketing manager asking, “Do we do that?” and therein we have two problems. One is that the dealer body is afraid to look or feel dumb by going to a nerdy marketing workshop. The other is that stakeholders aren’t plugged into their digital presence enough.
What To Do Better
I’d like to see more dealers thinking about their own bottom line rather than the OEM’s opinion and the solutions they approve of. I think through a digital marketing lens — that’s what we’re experts at — and I see a lot of dealers handicapping themselves in this area especially. Next NADA, try to do better. #1… Look for the smaller solutions and learn things you don’t already know.
Between now and January 2023, focus on what you can influence today (used cars and service) and ready yourself for the inventory rebound, when your digital presence is going to matter most. Now is a good time to experiment, when new cars are selling themselves, so #2, scrutinize your website; Is it clean and easy to use? #3, Get your organic search strategy aimed at increased market share; 4,000 words of unique website content each month should be a starting point. #4, Analyze your paid search for waste; On average, we find $4k/mo. in search engine marketing (SEM) waste due to bidding on keywords you naturally rank for organically.
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