In recent weeks, the automotive industry has experienced firsthand the pitfalls of siloed technology and the cost of not having control of one’s first-party data. We at The Dream Team Media have been speaking about the importance of data ownership in automotive and the need to improve the tech stack for dealerships, giving them autonomy and access to industry-agnostic software technology. The recent events have shown us that having all of one’s tech in one giant industry basket can lead to disaster. However, this is not the only instance where things can go wrong, and we must learn that ownership is key to preventing such situations. 

Aside from the frustrating and archaic walled garden of automotive software, automotive marketing has a huge prevalence of bad behavior when controlling dealer data for marketing. Digital marketing adheres to a decades-old tradition of showing inventory and nothing more. When car dealers moved from magazines and newspaper classifieds to online marketplaces, AutoTrader stepped up to the plate with an online marketplace and integration to dealer software programs via ADF/XML, which only exists in automotive. Do we need to keep using this? No. Are we still using it? But, of course! Why fix it if it isn’t broken? It’s broken if it holds you hostage to technology that is not at the level your operation needs. I have zero hate for AutoTrader, by the way. Quite the opposite, I am grateful for their innovation at a time when it was needed. However, innovation has been at a standstill for quite some time in our industry. We are ripe for a sea change.

When I started working in marketing for my dealership, I worked through my pain points to dominate the entire search results page on Google for my dealership in my metro area. When I started working with dealerships to help them dominate, I encountered the pain points of the siloed technology of the automotive industry. Having worked as a dealer and a vendor, I concluded that websites belong to marketers and developers, not inventory management systems, underwriting platforms, or CRM providers. This change can’t happen overnight, but there are steps we can take now to change the tides within our industry.

Read How We Optimize Data in Marketing for Dealers.

What can you do about it?

You need solutions now. You choose a tech partner for one aspect of your dealership, and it seems harmless to tolerate the other services they provide to get the best they offer. That is until something brings that house of cards tumbling down or until you get tired of tech support stonewalling your requests. While we can’t change the industry overnight, we can approach each day with the same mindset. Here are some ways we can collectively turn the tables in automotive so that the demand shapes the supply rather than vice versa.

  1. Ask questions.
  2. Ask for more.
  3. Tell them why you turned them down.

Questions to Ask

There is a common tactic in technology companies that we have all experienced. It’s a free trial to access all the bells and whistles. Once you have all of your data stored with them, upgrading and staying is easier than transferring everything to a new provider. We all know this very well in the automotive space. The difference in automotive is that there is little integration among diverse software systems. Meanwhile, in the rest of the tech world, technology systems constantly work to improve integrative capabilities to give users what they want. Here are some key questions to ask a company and potential answers that indicate your autonomy after signing the dotted line.

Q: Do you integrate with other companies?

A: No, we have our own options for you to use. Red Flag

A: Yes, we work with XYZ and ABC companies. Here’s a list of who we integrate with. Yellow Flag

A: We can integrate with any browser-based company with an open API. Green flag

More and more small players want to work in the automotive space, especially regarding websites, CRMs, and even DMS providers. New companies spring from pain points, so it’s best to ask the company about their origin story. 

Q: So, how did your company get started?

The answers here may vary, but ultimately, what you are trying to discern is the following:

A: They started because they exited another big company and wanted to start their own. Red Flag if the story stops there.

A: I worked at ABC Company and wanted to improve dealers’ ability to do all these wonderful things and save money, etc. Green flag because the reason is dealer-driven.

A: I struggled as a vendor because I couldn’t integrate with other vendors, so I solved that problem. Green flag and maybe consider being an investor

A: I’m a [insert skill like software engineer, web developer, or marketer] and saw a need for dealers to be able to… Green flag.

A: I’m a [insert skill like software engineer, web developer, or marketer] and saw an opportunity to provide something no one else was doing… Red flag. See the difference?

Read the Five Digital Marketing Terms You Should Know.

Ask for More

You may not need to leave your current vendor to get better results. It may be a matter of consistently asking for what you want. Vendors can’t read your mind, so the more you proactively and professionally communicate what you would like to see in their program, the more receptive they may be to considering it. As a vendor in this space, I have seen a lot of vendor-hopping among dealers. However, I have improved upon my services thanks to the dealers who actively communicate what they’d like to see done differently. They also get the first to market with new or improved services they helped create, giving them a competitive edge. Not every investment has to yield a dollar-for-dollar return. Sometimes, investing in a long-term relationship with your vendor gives you a competitive advantage in a tight market. 

Tell Them Why You Turned Them Down

Dealers turn down vendors every day. Ignoring their call or email relays a lack of interest, even if you aren’t openly saying no. Any good salesperson knows that silence should not be interpreted as a no, so vendors persist. However, these dealer vendors differ from the extended warranty salesperson or the debt consolidation telemarketer. Dealer vendors can only provide services to the extent they know what you want. Your “no,” “not now,” or “not sure” reason can help shape the services dealers have available to them. As a vendor, the reason I get a no is like gold. It fuels how I shape and price my services for dealers. I am grateful for every “no” I’ve received that was followed by a why. It’s the “why” that bears new vendors, new ideas, and new solutions to help dealers achieve their goals. Dealers, your “no” can help shape your industry.


As a dealer turned vendor, I’ve built The Dream Team Media Company’s services and partner relationships that help combat the automotive industry’s walled garden conundrum. Marketing is the business of attracting buyers in a world that is evolving. Websites need to integrate with the platforms that reach people, like Google and Facebook, and their structure and performance should reflect that. Websites should cater to how users shop and how dealers sell. How buyers shopped 2 – 5 – 10 years ago differs from today. If the website and marketing aren’t evolving with the times, then all it takes is one industry disruptor to dictate how you change. (Hello, Tesla! or Carvana!) While these companies aren’t dominating, they’ve changed your business. You can either react or act ahead of your current and future competitors. 

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to run my business from a proactive rather than reactive perspective.

If you’re Team Proactive and want to improve your marketing, data optimization or build a new website, schedule your no-cost digital assessment today.