Digital Conflict of Interest

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Last month, I saw one of the most disturbing things in recent memory in digital automotive advertising. Multiple dealerships are running the exact same ads online. Read on to learn the strategy to make your brand standout.

A manufacturer-sanctioned and co-op-approved website provider was running the following paid search ads for a group of competing dealers in the same market.

The only positive thing is that at least the holiday was acknowledged in the ad copy. The fact that all of the competing dealers have identical ad copy is egregious, not to mention it gives no one a competitive advantage.

Now, let’s take it a step further. As the dealer, if you give your website provider direction and ideas on how to make your ads different from your competitors, who’s to say they aren’t going to turn around and reuse it for their other clients?

There are no rules in digital marketing, namely PPC and SEO, as to how closely competing dealerships can be located to each other and still work with the same website provider. SEO is the biggest area where this downfall occurs because again, unless you are providing clear direction on what you want to happen with your SEO they are just going to make yours like everyone else’s. The only difference would be your city name.

See this example in which another provider uses the same page descriptions across multiple website templates for dealers in the same market.

Again, the only positive thing to note is that at least you have these descriptions up. The negative far outweighs the positive in that you have no competitive advantage to your site.

Every dealer wants to beat and outperform their competition. It is the very nature and spirit that has driven the automotive business since inception. The problem is that when your single greatest asset has you on a level playing field with everyone else it’s impossible to outperform the competition.

So, what are the next steps?

Adopt a mindset in which you believe those who are on the cutting edge will win. Find the best-qualified sources to handle your SEO and PPC, not just the ones the factory dictates. If manufacturers make you use a certain website for compliance, then have a second site that positions you to be out in front of your competitors. If it costs you true dollars in reimbursement money, then do the math to determine whether that is a greater loss to you than the sales you are losing by giving up market share and losing to competitors. Don’t think that you can train a subpar provider to give you better service. You will end up wasting your time and teaching them how to give your competitors the edge. 

About the author

John Paul Strong: For someone who spends an average of 135 days outside of the office meeting with clients, John Paul Strong remains the driving force behind his Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising. Strong began his career as a fresh-faced account executive at Martin Advertising. Learning much, but never satisfied, he convinced his father to partner with him in reopening their own advertising agency in 2004, catering exclusively to the automotive industry. The company started strong but humble. The original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to 100 full-time employees and more than 220 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Along the way, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners. Yet, Strong still finds time to share what he’s learned along the way. As an avid writer, he has published two books in the Next Day Traffic series, along with more than 1,000 automotive-focused blog posts. He is also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, and his success has been recognized in the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40” feature and the 2017 CEO Awards. The foundation for Strong’s career began at the University of Montevallo where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and advanced public speaking. Always staying ahead of the competition, Strong later went on to study in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program. Amid all of his endeavors, Strong always makes time for what matters most – his family. He is a proud husband to Amy, and father to Lilly Grace, Anne Charlotte, Hudson, and Ford.


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