This year, because margins are tightening, "we are taking a hard look at our marketing partners," Primm said. "Not only making sure we understand what we are paying for but is it effective?"
Cascade's review seeks to determine whether those marketing vendors' performance goals are understandable, measurable and accurate, she said. The dealership group also is reworking its marketing mix and decided to eliminate print media for a quarter and boost its social media spend, while adding a TV station for advertising.
And then there are extraneous vendors. Primm said Cascade discovered it was paying a vendor for a service that comes free from one of the automakers it represents.
Kelleher takes a hard look at his store's vendor costs twice a year.
"It's amazing what will happen after just six months," he said, adding that prices for certain products can rise during that time without the dealer's knowledge. Other purchases may have seemed like good ideas a year earlier but did nothing to increase sales.
It's why Kelleher, too, is focused on vendors' performance. For certain operational aspects, such as digital marketing, he encourages relying on a trusted vendor to focus on detailed information while making the performance trackable. For his digital marketing, he uses a simple dashboard to monitor criteria such as unique website visits. It also can quantify visits per dollar spent, for example.
Digital retailing, where more of the vehicle transaction happens online, and digital marketing are common focuses for dealers as they scrutinize vendor costs. Can a new digital retailing tool, for instance, save money by making a net reduction of vendors possible, or does it just add cost and another relationship to manage?