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Digital Marketing in the Automotive AfterMarket - Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

This may sound critical of the industry that we all know and love, especially since it has taken good care of me and my family for over 45 years but, the Automotive AfterMarket is slow to adopt new trends.  I don’t mean the fads that come and go in business such as the Paperless Office or BitCoin but, actual bankable trends.  For example, how long did it take for our industry to adopt E-Commerce, Web Based Cataloging, and “The Cloud.”  Don’t get me wrong, there have always been early adopters and stand-outs.  Back in 1989 I remember seeing Cardone Industries’ 1 Gigabyte computer storage room during a plant tour and training session.  At the time, that was a massive amount of storage and it was an indicator that Cardone would be a leader in technology in the AfterMarket.  Another example, the domain Moog.com was purchased on December 17th, 1990, long before many companies inside or out of the AfterMarket even had email. 

To be honest and to its credit, our industry was quick to adopt EDI and LinkedIn. We are however, very wary of some truly solid technology trends.  We are especially way behind the curve in terms of digital marketing trends.  Few companies are truly harnessing the truly remarkable power of Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Organic Search (SEO), Paid Search, MicroSites, Mobile, Video, Blogs, and Email Marketing to their fullest capacity.  Of course, like Moog (Federal Mogul) and Cardone saw the writing on the wall years before many other companies did, there are currently some exceptions.  The Big Box Automotive Retailers, for example, have done a better job than most AfterMarket companies at taking advantage of these technologies.  We, as an industry, however, have much to learn.  Many factors can be blamed for this marketing technology lag but, I believe that age has a lot to do with it.

  1. The average age of the AfterMarket professional has increased significantly.  Youth has always been the driving force behind technology adoption.  
  • The AfterMarket has not attracted enough young talent.

Other industries are competing for and getting the talent that pass on our industry because of their competitive advantages.  Higher pay, a higher percentage of female professionals and greater professional growth potential as well “sexier” products draw them to other industries.  You can bet that the smart phone, green energy, and pharmaceutical segments of the economy are not lacking in fresh talent.  Chain Retail has hired a lot of talent but then again, Chain Retail are doing the best job with these new marketing tools. 

  • Since most People stay in the AfterMarket, there are fewer job openings for new entrants in the traditional end of our industry.

While members of other industries may job hop into and out of their respective trade, let’s face it, the industry has been good to most us– commensurate to the effort put forth by the individual.  Most people don’t leave this industry once they’re entrenched – except for retail.

 

  1. The Industry is mature with thinner profit margins than most.
    Gone are the good old days of fat margins (at least in the traditional side of the business).  Most AfterMarket companies don’t spend a lot of their budgets on advertising and promotion because of the fear of a lack of a measurable return on investment.  This is akin to a farmer not planting in the Spring because of the fear that the crops won’t come up in the Fall.  We have to get beyond this this mental block and get advertising again – Especially since New Media Advertising is nowhere near as expensive as traditional advertising.

 

  1. The Industry is Overly Conservative – or Fear Laden. 

In our industry, trying new things is often looked down upon and discouraged.  Because of thin margins, most people are afraid to make costly mistakes.  This fear is turned into a reluctance to think or go outside the box.  Digital Marketing is pretty much an entirely new box (credit to Steve Miller) for the AfterMarket.  That said we need some new, fresh thinking that pushes the AfterMarket out of is “comfort zone” or box. 

Check back soon for the continuation of this series.

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