We write a lot about car shoppers and their wishes, hopes, and fears. They want something to fit their needs at a decent price, and they’re worried about getting tricked or misled. When it comes to selecting an automotive marketing services vendor, many dealers feel the same. There are a lot of options out there, a lot of money on the line, and a lot of work to be done. It’s reasonable to be worried about picking the right marketing partner. We’ve tried to help dealers worry a little less by putting together this guide to evaluating an automotive marketing services vendor. When looking to get marketing help, ask yourself (or them) the following questions.

 

What quality of work do they do?

Should be innovative, unique, or at the very least, an exceptionally executed version of the same thing everyone else does that is good enough to stand apart from the chaff. There are a lot of vendors out there, as we’re sure you know. Don’t be afraid to take a while in picking out the vendor or agency that does work that impresses you.

Do they fit your needs?

Just like all dealerships can sell you a car and can probably fix it if there is a problem, all marketing vendors should technically be able to do anything across the marketing board. That doesn’t mean that they are all created equal. Each automotive marketing vendor will have different areas of expertise. What are your needs? Can you do your own content, but need help with SEO and PPC? Do you have social media down but can’t get the hand of analytics? Make sure that vendor you are considering is an expert, not simply capable, at what you need.

Will communication be a problem?

Whether you are outsourcing a few tasks or bringing in a long-term marketing partner, there needs to be an established and open channel of communication between your dealership and your automotive marketing vendor. Sales needs to be able to communicate to marketing without needing to go through an intermediary. Marketing needs to be thoroughly integrated with the dealership, and the dealership needs to be ready and willing to understand the ideas brought forth. If you get the feeling that this will be difficult with a particular vendor, they’re probably not the best bet.

Do they understand your dealership?

If you’ve been in the car business a while, you can tell the difference between when someone is listening and agreeing and when someone is listening and truly understanding. You probably have a mission statement for your dealership. Something you truly believe that you want to come through in all aspects of your business. Do they believe as thoroughly in your message? Will they work hard to make it come through in their marketing?

Do they seem formulaic?

There’s nothing wrong with a winning formula? Coca-Cola got it down and they’ve been champions since 1892. Well, besides the minor blip in having to remove cocaine from their soda.  But not all dealerships can use the same marketing strategy, messaging, and content. A dealership that is one of two in a small town is going to need a different flavor of marketing than a dealership that is one of dozens in a huge metropolitan area.

Do they do their research?

Do they seem like they know their stuff when it comes to research and analytics? They have to have both. You need a marketing service that is interested in market analysis and constantly keeps tabs on the ever changing currents of retail and consumer interaction. You also need a marketing service that knows they can’t make emotional decisions. They need to look at data, past and present, and figure out from that what is the right call to make. This can be hard to tell, but you can ask them to walk you through the process of how they establish what will work and what won’t. Or even ask to talk to their analytics people or an account manager.

Do they chase results?

Taking a position and trying to do something different is all well and good, but do they focus on results? Dealers live and die by results, and your marketing agency needs to come up with a successful approach that will get you results. Now, there’s generally always a breaking in period, but after that, you should see them chasing everything that works for your dealership in your situation. If you don’t want to to wait till you hire them until you’re sure they do this, ask for an example of when they’ve gotten results like the ones you want for a similar dealership in a similar situation.

Does it feel like you are picking a partner?

One of the best pieces of advice we unearthed is that you should feel like you are picking a partner. Regardless of the amount of business you’ll be doing together, it should feel like they are as invested in and dedicated to your business as you are. It’s all well and good to find a marketing service that does great work, but if they don’t seem like they’ll work WITH you in addition to working FOR you, they might not be a great fit. You don’t want the level of partnership you experience to be based on your billings.

Do you trust them?

Car folks know that sometimes you just have to go with your gut. One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is whether or not you trust them. A healthy grain of salt is fine in all business relationships, but if you just don’t feel right with them, don’t hire them. Even if they seem fine in all other regards.

 

Car dealers know what they’re about and have a sixth sense for BS, but a bit of advice never hurts. The above questions are our best picks for evaluating a good automotive marketing services vendor. May you wade into the fray well armed.