Automotive Marketers versus Marketing Automotive People

There has been a question that has popped up over the years ever since the rise of the internet as a valid marketing venue for car dealers. Should dealerships and vendors teach automotive industry people about marketing or should they teach marketing professionals about the car business?

I've seen both concepts work and I've seen them both fail. The answer always comes down to the individual; marketing people like Brian Pasch have been successful learning about the car business and car people like Jim Ziegler have been successful learning about marketing. However, there are some general traits that can be examined from both perspectives that should help vendors as well as dealerships themselves make decisions based upon their own strengths within the company.

For example, when I first came over to TK Carsites in 2007, there were very few car people. There were marketing geniuses throughout the company but very few had ever worked at a dealership itself. Rick Chavoustie, Joe Turner, and I were the first batch of car people to come over to the company and while I won't attribute those moves solely to the tremendous growth the company experienced over the following year, I can say with a certainty that it helped.

If you look at hot website companies like DealerOn, DealerEProcess, and Dealer Inspire, you'll see a similar trend of "car people" leading the charge for them. It's clear that they understand the car business from more than just the vendor side.

Conversely, I've seen some extremely successful digital marketing professionals make the transition over to the dealer side and find success. A conversation I had today with Joe Ventura from Better AutoMall revealed an incredible amount of insight from a person who has been in the car business for 9 months. He noted that data drove his purchasing much more than intuition or gut feelings that often drive experienced dealership inventory buyers. The results have been clear for his bottom line.

For us, it seems like a healthy balance is the answer. We are hiring like crazy lately and it seems to be split down the middle - the car people we've hired and trained in the art of marketing have been as effective as the marketing people we hire and train about automotive. We have the luxury of having the same type of split at the top; I spent a decade on the retail side while my partner has been on the vendor side for 17 years. The balance has translated into us making strong decisions and taking care of our clients appropriately.

At the end of the day, it's still about the individual, but a best practice for both dealers and vendors would be to achieve as much balance as possible for the sake of perspective. Car people see things through the lens of experience while marketing people bring fresh ideas to the table. Put the two together and you should have a recipe for incredible success.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

Views: 48

Tags: automotive, hiring, marketers, marketing, people

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Comment by Philip Zelinger on March 23, 2014 at 2:00pm
As a "car guy" my answer has always been that you have to have walked a mile - or more - in an auto dealer's shoes to be able to advise them how to improve their business. While that still holds true in terms of internal operations and sales processes I am not as confident that it applies to marketing and advertising in today's consumer driven marketplace.

Social media and marketing is based on networked content that is best sourced from customers. Dealers are able to contribute to the conversation as "car guys" but only if they don't cross the line of being too self serving in their messages. Perhaps the real filter should be similar to one that applies to all hires in the auto industry.

My best salespeople were usually sourced from other industries that served consumers with people skills that were universal. Restaurant servers and other hospitality industries were always fertile ground for new hires that could be trained to do the job but they couldn't be trained to be nice people.

I guess my point is that it is as it has always been. Experience in the auto industry or in marketing is still subordinate to understanding human nature and being able to recognize that your true boss is the customer. Social marketing relies even more than conventional or digital media in this regard so I suppose that a true social media expert will trump an old school experienced car guy as long as they recognize the need to learn and respect the experience of their more experienced managers when it comes to proven sales processes at the dealership.

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