As promised, we at Wikimotive have been delivering yet another knowledge-packed video series over the last few weeks. This time, we are hosting a special guest: Vendor Accountability Advocate from ThinkBetter, Angus Fox. Angus has taken the stand to tell you how to ensure you are getting the most out of your third-party vendors, from your automotive SEO provider to your on-site chat tool vendor.
With each one of these business aspects being important to your dealership’s success, it’s essential to keep your vendors in line; this is exactly what Angus is covering during this series. But, for those who have lost track of time or simply missed the first few episodes, here’s a quick recap of what we learned about vendor accountability over the last five weeks.
What is Vendor Accountability?
First things first, what is vendor accountability? In ThinkBetter with Angus Fox Episode 1, that question is answered right off the bat. No one says it better than Angus, “Vendor accountability is the alignment, execution, measurement, and refinement of a set of expectations with one or more of our vendor partners.” In short, it means making sure the product or service you are writing checks for is what you are actually getting.
This leads right to the question of who needs to be held accountable. And the answer to that is a stern: “everyone.” If you are paying for something, you want to be sure you are getting something useful and meaningful. If you don’t keep up with accountability, you could find yourself shoveling money into growthless marketing tactics or broken tools that will only frustrate your online customers.
It might seem scary to hold the people who are supposed to be experts in their field accountable for their work, but it’s essential. That would be like one of your customers driving off the lot with a car that doesn’t run properly and never speaking out about it. If you are paying money for something, you should be getting quality back.
What Tools Should I Be Using to Hold My Vendors Accountable?
It’s evident that holding your vendors accountable is important, but how do you even begin this process? There are a plethora of tools you can use to audit your vendor’s performance, which we learned all about in ThinkBetter with Angus Fox Episode 2. While the tools you use to analyze your provider’s effectiveness will completely depend on the service they are providing, Angus gave some great examples of tool usage in the episode.
The first and arguably most important tool to have in your arsenal is your CRM (customer relationship management), which is any tool that is giving you leads. You will also need your Google Analytics account (both Universal and GA4), which you should have full ownership of to ensure you never lose data, your Google Ads account, Google Search Console account, and even your Bing Webmaster account. Cue Angus: “Yes, Bing. Certain audience segments favor Bing over Google, believe it or not… even in 2023.”
Many of these accounts link together to make them more powerful. Your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts should be linked to tie in what happens on the search engine results page (SERP) to what your online customers are doing on your site. For similar reasons, you should be linking your Google Analytics and Ads account. Finally, Your Google Ads and Search Console accounts should be linked so that you can get a granular view of your paid and organic results to ensure your vendors are optimizing their time and efforts.
Having all of this information at your fingertips will allow you to take charge of your vendors. By utilizing Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, you will be able to export and organize this data in a digestible format. Then, you can use Looker Studio (previously known as Google Data Studio) to put all of your data in one place, look at it, and bring it to your vendors.
How do you know what you’re looking for in this data? How do you know which is the best way to present it to your vendors? And how can you even start this conversation to begin with? That’s exactly what Angus got into next.
How Can I Compare My Third-Party Inventory Providers?
ThinkBetter with Angus Fox Episode 3 goes right into the deep end by answering the question: How can you compare third-party inventory providers? Admittedly, it’s not the easiest thing to do between the on- and off-page nuances. The only reliable ways to look at their success are to measure what happens once their referral traffic gets to your dealership’s site and the number and quality of the leads that are sent directly to your CRM from them.
It’s important to measure the value of each lead, such as the cost per lead or cost per acquisition rather than the action itself, like scheduling service or a test drive. This allows you to better understand what kinds of leads are coming to your site. Are they all low-budget used car sales? Are they all high-end luxury brand shoppers? Somewhere in between? Taking a look at the values and variety of leads will give you the best idea of your third party’s performance.
From there, you should be taking a look at the major metrics, including your pages per session, bounce rate, and engagement, to see how those customers act once on your site. The goal is to have an even battlefield that allows you to look at all third-party traffic data within the same scope, which is essential to a fair comparison. But data analysis isn’t all you can do to get to know and compare your vendors; you should also be asking them questions… lots of questions.
Questions to Ask Your Vendors
Looking at your data, understanding it, and being able to make fair comparisons are all essential to vendor accountability. However, sometimes you just need to get straight to the point and ask questions. With these questions, you should be able to get a solid understanding of what each vendor has to offer and if they are holding their work up to their word. Of course, there is always proof in the data, but being able to have frank conversations with your providers is essential to making them want to perform their best.
Questions to Ask Your Inventory Provider
In ThinkBetter with Angus Fox Episode 4, Angus outlined a list of questions to ask your inventory provider both before you hire them and on a monthly basis thereafter. These will help you get to know your representative, what the vendor can do for you and yours, and their current performance. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Questions for Your Representative:
- What is your role at the company?
- What actions can you take directly on our behalf? Which actions require support?
- Can you alter our campaigns, or does someone else need to do that?
- If we do make changes, what’s your average turnaround time?
Questions to Understand the Vendor’s Offerings:
- What are the main goals you’re helping dealers using your product meet? Is it leads? Is it impressions? Is it branding? What am I getting for my money?
- What results are dealerships like mine typically seeing on the platform? I mean dealerships that are in a similar metro, with a similar inventory, who have a similar sales performance.
- What can I reasonably expect from your product?
- What KPIs does your company find most valuable in leading to an actual customer visit?
- What KPIs are you telling me will lead to that with your product?
- Who’s your best-performing dealer on your platform? Why? What are they doing differently than what I can do?
- What does your average customer persona look like? Where are they in the buying funnel? How long after they see a vehicle on your website do you expect them to make a purchase?
- What would be a typical CTR (click through rate) from your website to my website? What factors do you find influence that?
Questions to Ask Monthly:
- Who in my market is currently outperforming me on your platform? Why?
- Is there anyone on-brand that’s beating me?
- Are there any features of my current package that I’m not utilizing or that I could utilize better?
- Is my current inventory feed sending you all available fields? Are there any fields missing that could enhance my appearance in search on your website?
- What improvements have you made to your platform since our last meeting? How do I take advantage of them?
- Have you started working with any third parties who buy or sell my customer data?
Questions to Ask Your Website Tool Provider
Likewise, ThinkBetter with Angus Fox Episode 5 outlined questions that you should be asking your website tool providers. Posing these questions will help you understand the quality of your tools, their performance, and their levels of security. The later questions also get into keeping your provider accountable for their end of the stick when it comes to Google Analytics compatibility, user experience, and general usability. Here’s the rundown:
Tool Performance Questions:
- Have you worked to optimize your tool?
- Are any of your scripts render blocking?
- Do you have an efficient cache policy?
- Are any images you provide optimized and lazy loaded?
- How does your tool affect page speed?
- What pages will your tool be on? Does the script need to be on other pages besides the page it’s on?
Tool Security Questions:
- What user data will be extracted from my customer?
- Will you be using that to remarket to my customer?
- Can anyone else buy that data and remarket to my customers?
- Are you storing my customer data? Where? Is it encrypted?
- Are you transporting our customer data?
- Is there a data security policy? Does it match our dealer data security policy?
- You all have a dealership data security policy, right?
- Does your tool have any outside dependencies?
- Is there any code being written by someone outside of your company that your tool needs to function? If so, what are you doing to make sure that code is secure?
- How often do you update your tool? Do you have a secure updating process?
- Do you have any problems with your update process and my website provider?
Questions to Hold Your Tool Provider Accountable:
- What mechanisms are available to track utilization of your tool? Do you have a dashboard or report?
- Do you currently send events into Google Analytics, or any other analytics program?
- Are you Google Analytics 4 (GA4) compatible?
- Has your company ever had an outside security evaluation performed on your tool? Can we see it?
- Are you aware of any conflicts or issues with any other tool providers? Do we have any of those tool providers?
- Does your tool work natively on both Android and iOS?
When you ask your vendors these questions, you are not only collecting their answers, which can be useful, but you are also proving to them that you have interest in their work. With this proven interest, it is likely these providers will be more likely to work hard to help you meet your KPIs, which is ultimately the goal of vendor accountability.
Keep Up with the ThinkBetter Video Series for More Tips!
Over the last few weeks, Angus has provided pertinent information about how to hold your vendors accountable by looking at your data and asking questions. Over the next couple of weeks, Angus is going to provide questions for your PPC provider, give you tips on how to analyze your referral traffic, and even give some third-party vendor recommendations.
You’re not going to want to miss out on all of this great information, so follow us on social media, keep up with the blog posts right here on our website, or contact us for more information today. Wikimotive and ThinkBetter are always here to help you crush your competition!