Guess Who Foots the Bill for Those Vendor Perks?

vendor perks

The area rep for Vendor X, a digital marketing provider, just drove away from your dealership with your internet manager in the passenger seat. Don’t worry, they’ll be back; your internet manager is just being treated to a free lunch. A simple perk, if you will, delivered by the vendor.

A perk, nonetheless, and your dealership is paying for it.

Dealerships, you see, ultimately pay for the perks vendors provide. From doughnuts to game tickets, your dealership foots the bill for everything your vendors “give” to your team. You pay the bill and the vendor gets the credit … and the continued business.

It’s not just little perks, either. If you’re part of a dealer group and you have department directors (like fixed operations, used vehicles, ecommerce, etc.), your team is often enjoying vendor perks that border on the ridiculous.

How ridiculous? Here are just a few of the lavish perks I was offered in a single year as the Director of eCommerce for a dealer group a decade ago:

  • Two tickets to the PGA Championship, US Open, British Open and The Masters.
  • Two tickets to a Formula 1 race in Europe, the Indianapolis 500 and several NASCAR races.
  • A Super Bowl trip with the vendor’s CEO, as well as Stanley Cup and World Series tickets.

Add to this list countless lunches, 30-plus dinners at top-rated (i.e. expensive) restaurants, a $400 Mont Blanc pen, a $300 bottle of wine, numerous gift baskets, and a few trips too boring to be included and you get the gist. (Oh, and the trips included first-class accommodations and all expenses paid, of course.)

Vendors Prey; Dealers Pay

Those vendors spending lavishly on your team or even just making regular visits to your dealership will argue that this “personal touch” is necessary to ensure they’re providing you everything you need to be successful.

They’re not, of course. The personal touch and perks offered by vendors today serve just two purposes: First, to keep your managers focused on relationships instead of results; and second, to sell your store even more of the ineffective products they peddle.

My experience has shown that the more time a marketing vendor spends with your managers, the less effective their solution. Moreover, when a marketing product fails to deliver an acceptable ROI, the more likely it will be accompanied by free lunches, game tickets or even a first-class overseas trip.

This means that if one of your managers is getting the personal touch from a marketing vendor, you’d better like it… because, you’re paying for it.

There are No Free Lunches

If you want to be certain your marketing dollars are being spent wisely, it’s time stop the in-person meetings. In other words, it’s time to tell your marketing vendors to stay out of your dealership unless they’re delivering actionable training to your team.

It’s 2018, and there’s nothing a marketing vendor can provide your internet manager during a two-hour lunch that benefits the dealership that could not also be provided via phone and/or webinar. For example, a full PPC review (with a reputable vendor) should take no more than 20 minutes each month; and can, of course, be conducted via a WebEx.

And, that’s only if you feel you need the review.

Properly tracking and measuring your marketing effectiveness should be the responsibility of someone on your team. Asking your internet manager, for example, to prove the effectiveness of your digital marketing vendors to you and your senior managers is a critical step to weeding out the relationship-only vendors.

For all digital marketing vendors, your internet manager should be able to demonstrate each provider’s impact on your bottom line through transparent vendor reporting, your CRM and a (properly maintained) web analytics account.

An effective marketing service doesn’t need to send a rep into your store on a regular basis, because they’ve discovered every dealer-client has these things called telephones, computers and webcams that can facilitate any face-to-face meeting in a way that doesn’t add thousands in unnecessary account management overhead.

Overhead, like all those free lunches, game tickets and first-class trips that the dealer ultimately pays for, because, as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Good selling!