A vendor friend in a different segment of the automotive marketing world made us a wonderful offer yesterday. She really liked what we were doing with our search and social products and offered to introduce and recommend us to her contact at a manufacturer who handled certification for vendors like us.
This, of course, seemed peculiar to my friend. Why wouldn’t we at least try to get certified? It’s not hard, she pleaded. It makes it easier to sell. There’s even co-op money involved. What could possibly motivate us to avoid such relationships?
The answer seems simple since we’ve been living it, but it wasn’t easy to get here originally. My partner was national sales director for a billion dollar automotive website provider that thrives on OEM relationships. I participated in 7 OEM meetings/presentations in the year and a half prior to leaving my previous employer. Choosing to stay away from OEMs was challenging but we have stuck to our guns so far.
For the vast majority of companies in our space, OEM relationships are the key to sustained success. They give give bulk clients, credibility, and an easier path to the sale. Unfortunately, they also bring something else into the fold. Most OEM relationships mean a shift in allegiance. Depending on the terms of the arrangement, it’s very possible that a company’s clients shift from being the dealers to being the OEMs themselves.
That doesn’t work for us.
At Dealer Authority, we work for dealers. From a SEO perspective, we work with one dealer per brand per metro. In social, we work with more, but our strategy is not the type that OEMs would ever want to endorse because they highlight the dealership rather than the manufacturer.
Our core is to fight against the cookie cutter techniques that are often employed by OEM certified or mandated solutions. They have to work in bulk out of necessity. We don’t have to because we are and always will be nimble.
This is not a jab at those working with OEMs or even the OEMs themselves. We appreciate their situations and understand the need to keep it spread out for the sake of growth. However, for our company which focuses on extremely aggressive, dealer-oriented campaigns, an OEM relationship just isn’t a good fit.
General Motors will tell Chevrolet dealers that their competitors are Ford and Honda dealers in the area, yet they grade them based upon how well they do against other Chevy dealers. While conquest is important, the day-to-day competitor from the view in the trenches is the other Chevy dealer that your customers are also shopping. The OEMs are tasked with fighting each other. Dealers have to fight with other dealers of the same brand.
That’s the reality of the situation. We know it might not be the smartest move for us, but it’s definitely the best move for our clients. Sometimes, you just have to be fearless. Sometimes, you just have to be a honey badger.