As Pamela Vaughan so aptly describes, there are many reasons why all car dealers, General Managers and automotive marketing professionals should be aware of the pitfalls around being overly dependent on making decisions based on report data and performance metrics numbers…
Among many reasons I wanted to feature Pamela Vaughan’s article on the ADM Professional Community is my own direct experience working on teams that provide marketing services and advertising products to auto dealers. While working on such teams for many years (since 1997), I was privileged to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in automotive marketing. A standard operating procedure for such supplier and service provider based teams is to focus on researching a never ending supply of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data and Reporting Analytics… Many hours and a high level of concentration are routinely invested in extracting the data points that make the products these teams provide to car dealers appear more effective than they may actually be for most dealerships.
Data Bias Logic and Justification
The logic behind these initiatives is similar to the old days of the Cold War with “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD)… Since each supplier’s perception is that their competition is doing it, they feel a tremendous amount of pressure to extract the compelling data that will empower their sales team in gaining a competitive advantage while seeking each dealer’s attention.
Although the data is usually factually true, I have seen far too many dealers exhibit a tendency to become overly dependent on supplier provided reports and metrics. This is then exacerbated by the far too prevalent tendency to focus on examples and “Case Studies” taken from other dealers which have been selected for the purpose of making a sales presentation or proposal.
The Most Relevant and Useful Marketing Data Sources
Like most automotive professional marketers, I am a firm believer in the appropriate use of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking and reporting. However, it serves every dealer well to realize that the most important metrics are the ones the dealer extracts themselves, or by trusted managers using the same measurement tools and parameters each month.
The most relevant Key Performance Metrics (KPI) are the ones generated by the dealership when compared to the previous month, the same month a year ago, the YTD compared to the same time period a year ago. These are extracted and reviewed without filtering or withholding of data points that do not show what somebody wants to see reviewed by the dealer. As stated, my personal experience is that Marketing Reports and Performance Metrics that are reported to dealers by suppliers and service providers are completely factual, but they have been selected by design, and for the purpose of casting a favorable light on the products or services that supplier offers.
Beware of Supplier Built Reporting Systems
There is a growing trend for many of the more all inclusive dealer website and marketing service suppliers to create proprietary and inclusive reporting systems. These supplier provided reporting tools and apps remind me of asking a fox to report on the state of the hen house. I have seen several of them make use of such tactics as (for example) blending organic traffic with paid traffic, then dividing by the dollars the dealer spends within THAT SUPPLIER’S Search Engine Advertising (SEA or SEM) system. The assumption being that all traffic to the dealer’s website came from their own source of search advertising, which results in reports that appear to be a very low “Cost Per Visitor”… The dealer that views such reports will routinely confuse this metric with Google generated “Cost Per Click” data, incorrectly concluding that the supplier’s system is performing far better than it actually is.
Such systems also take advantage of OEM sponsored or third party provided Search Engine Advertising (SEA) programs to enhance what their internal and proprietary reports show the dealer. These types of supplier built data and KPI reports are being generated from “Bias Engineered In” reporting systems. This creates a compelling argument in favor of using independent and more reliable KPI reporting and tracking applications, such as Google Analytics. Reporting application such as Google Analytics, WebTrends or Adobe’s SiteCatalyst are a far better source of data for making marketing decisions. They are unbiased and more reliable for dealers to use.
Almost all supplier engineered, designed and built-in reporting system will BY DESIGN contain a bias towards making value added products and services sold by that same supplier look better.
Ralph Paglia created this automotive professional network and community of Internet sales and marketing thought leaders, practitioners and suppliers as a service to his auto industry colleagues after having a negative experience with a site that portended to be an automotive professional community…
In December 2007 Ralph had joined an online community set up by the owner of a small automotive software company. When Ralph joined this web based community of automotive professionals, there were about 45 members. Ralph invited friends and colleagues using his Outlook Contact files and soon his invitations resulted in over 200 of his contacts joining the community. On January 2, 2008 Ralph Paglia went to log into the web community and received a message that he had been “Banned” from the community!
When he realized what had happened, Ralph decided to create an online community of automotive professionals that would be open and unfettered, providing a voice for all automotive marketing and sales professionals who want to communicate with others in the auto industry without fear of intimidation, being banned, suffering the indignities of censorship or being deemed not worthy due to who they work for or what their roles are in the auto industry…. Unlike many sites commissioned with serving automotive professionals, we keep ADM “wide open” in both heart and mind, with little moderation and even less censorship. From its inception, the ADM Community has been about letting people reveal their true nature, their thoughts, beliefs, strategies, practices, ideals, contact info, business propositions and tools… The ADM guiding principle being that as adults in the car business, we know when we are being sold, we know when we are being worked, and we know bullshit when we see, hear or read it! I hope that Tom Lesard is looking down, and is proud of me, the 25 year old green pea General Manager that he mentored…
This online community is dedicated to Thomas Lesard who was my boss from 1982 to 1984 while I worked for the De La Fuente Automotive Group in San Diego, CA. In 1982 Tom Lesard made me promise to return in kind the leadership and mentoring that he so generously provided me with. I had asked him how I could repay him for teaching me how to REALLY interpret dealership financial statements from a management perspective. Tom’s life, and those of two passengers, was cut short when the plane he was piloting crashed on approach to the general aviation airport in Kearney Mesa. I know that nobody misses Tom as much as his family, but here it is 25 years later and I am still making a conscientious effort at keeping the promises I made to Tom… Such is the lasting impact of true leaders.
Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community (ADM) Launched at the beginning of January 2008, by the 4th of July 2008 the ADM Professional Community had over 1,000 active registered members… By the end of April 2009 the ADM Community boasted well over 2,400 active registered members and over 10,000 Unique Visitors each month… All of whom come to the site to gain insight, guidance, wisdom and to see what other automotive professionals are doing, and decide whether the guidance received might work for them.
That’s why ADM was created, to provide an open source of strategies, tactics, email templates, phone scripts, reporting spreadsheets, SEO practices, job descriptions, pay plans, images, videos and, well, anything else that we can think of that could help any of us do a better job of finding customers and selling more cars!
Because, if we all share these tools and insights for the purpose of raising the overall level of professional capability in the auto industry… In the end, we will have accomplished a lot, including making all of us who participate in the ADM Professional Community “experiment” more successful, better paid and most importantly, the beneficiaries of a greater degree of professional respect from our colleagues and coworkers within our chosen field of endeavor… Selling cars and making stars!