Discussions in the auto-retail industry often center on, “Which product are you using for your customer-relationship management software?” or “Are you using Facebook to reach customers?”  While important, these questions don’t encompass the road to success; they’re merely a part of it. 

We tend to over-invest in tactics and under-invest in strategy.  We spend too much of our time focusing on what vendors sell us: technologies, products and solutions that prove return on investment.

Don’t get me wrong, vendors aren’t steering dealers in the wrong direction. These are all good things.  But there are so many good things on the Internet now that just good is becoming your enemy. 

What dealers need is great. These days on the Internet, the difference between good and great is not so much which product or technology is being used, but how that product or technology fits into an overall strategy. 

This is where dealers need to start making connections to reach new levels of business operations and profitability, and this is the theme of the 2012 DrivingSales Executive Summit Oct. 21-23 at the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas.

Dealers need to focus more on building the foundation of their business strategy, and then add tactics that promote that strategy’s success. 

The life of an auto dealer gets hectic and crazy busy. It is tempting to want to go with a product or new technology that promises to make it all so simple or that has received high marks from other dealerships or has the new secret digital sauce that allows you to turn it on and let the magic begin. 

But the magic cannot start without a strategic foundation that includes looking across the entire dealership and looking at what the data from all those digital tools is saying.

The fact is that dealers need to break out of departmental silos, view their dealership as an interdependent universe and formulate an overarching strategy that takes into account what customers are saying the strategy should be.

It all is there in every piece of data the dealership owns, from the profit and loss statement to service repair orders to which vehicles, accessories, loyalty programs, and finance and insurance products customers are interested in.

Each slice of information helps show dealers what their customers want and when they want it. 

Sound daunting? It shouldn’t be. There never has been a time when dealers have had such easy access to so much powerful information, both on customers and the inner workings of the dealership.

The challenge is to know how to order and interpret that data and how to enable it to tell your dealership’s strategy story. From there, it is simply a question of finding the tactics, tools, and products that will make that strategy thrive. 

Jared Hamilton is founder and CEO of DrivingSales, a social-media and educational website for auto dealers.