Building a Lasting Relationship with Marketing Partners By Derik Beck, VP of digital marketing at Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care

In the automotive aftermarket, an internal digital marketing team is faced with the challenge of differentiating its company’s services and strengthening the recognition of the larger brand among an ever-growing number of competitors at the same time. Naturally, many in-house teams utilize the marketing services of outside companies to get the job done. I often look to our third-party collaborators for more niche skills such as animation, programming, graphic design, data research, and cross-platform advertising specialists. However, there is an art involved in developing a potential outside firm into a full partner to meet and surpass your company’s marketing objectives. With Cottman’s third-party marketing and digital colleagues, I’ve found the most meaningful relationships result from aiming to create a partnership, not simply a vendor or supplier contract.

A digital marketing partner is more than a vendor

Aftermarket vendors are essential in ensuring a car care or maintenance shop has the tools and supplies necessary to deliver high-quality services. But, within the marketing efforts for those services, marketing professionals are often seeking a deeper relationship with outside marketing specialists, and those businesses often pride themselves on being more than a vendor to their clients as well.

My goal is to find a partner who becomes embedded in Cottman’s marketing efforts. The skills and services a partner brings to the table are just one part of their larger function on the team. At Cottman, my focus is on the digital side of marketing and we depend on our partners for everything from animation to web design. Our partners supply us with the creative skills needed to accomplish our marketing goals, but they also grow to become trusted partners and in some cases, an advisory role to provide unmatched customer service and professional recommendations. The skills a digital marketing partner provides are often only one component of a larger, broader relationship.

While many vendors may provide exemplary services or products, if they fall short of a collaborative partnering role within the Cottman team, we often end up looking elsewhere for a more meaningful digital relationship.

Picking the right marketing partner
So your marketing team wants a partner, not a vendor—how do you achieve that distinction?

First, examine your internal corporate culture and the makeup and values of your team. Establishing a true marketing partnership with a third party requires compatibility and clarity of roles and responsibilities. At Cottman, we seek out partners who offer strategy and vision that complement our larger business goals. Our most recent marketing success, an animated car expert named the “Transmission Physician,” was the result of a variety of successful marketing partnerships rooted in our partners’ understanding of Cottman’s core marketing goals for the character. We wouldn’t have been able to launch the Transmission Physician into the world without marketing partners who were on board with the project’s objectives.

When we search for marketing partners, we start with a thorough walk-through of the outside firm’s process and commitment to our brand. We meet the team, we talk through eventualities such as what happens in the case of a shift of internal needs or deadlines, and we determine that this is a partnership we can rely on through the long and sometimes rocky road of bringing a marketing concept to final launch. A potential partner can win us over by being clear and upfront about their brand, their abilities and their bandwidth for focusing on Cottman’s marketing needs. An initial indication that a relationship has the potential to grow into something more gives a prospective marketing specialist an edge over the competition.

How to grow a marketing partnership
Clarity in expectations is the best way to begin any relationship with an outside company, and consistency in that communication can help it blossom.

From a marketing perspective, our first concern is that the services we pay a creative partner for are exceptional and delivered on deadline. But in addition, I’m looking for a partner who has a sixth sense for Cottman’s broader business and prioritizes our needs and requests.

As those foundational elements grow, I often find myself turning to these partners for their thoughts and opinions on narrative strategy and leaning on their digital expertise. No one knows it all, and over time, I appreciate a partner who demonstrates an innate understanding of the aftermarket industry but especially of Cottman’s niche and the larger direction of our marketing and growth goals. If a partner fails to show long-term added value in our holistic marketing process, I come to think of them as a vendor once more, rather than a partner, and I will likely begin looking for other creative companies to fill the role of a true collaborative partner.

In the aftermarket industry, effective marketing often lives or dies on establishing a winning team, both in-house and with outside companies. Choosing a partner rather than settling for a vendor on creative endeavors is the key to building that relationship into a partnership meant to last.

  • Gail Parker
    Gail Parker

    The customer service was concerned about the parking area for my vehicle for overnight early bird service.They called me to inform me they were gonna check back with me before any services on my vehicle were done with my approval which, made me comfortable to know they showed responsibility in their work.

  • Leslie Meyers
    Leslie Meyers

    Fast, friendly, reliable and fair. I ended up having to get my town & country transmission repaired/replaced & my spark plugs replaced right before Christmas this past year & they said they could do it the next day if I could leave it that day. Well I didn't have a ride home & my other car needed a jump start since we hadn't driven it much. The owner not only offered to drive me home, but also jump start my other car so I could of get my niece from school. If that's not service, I don't know what is. They also ened up doing my 2014 escape transmission the yr b4. They were recommended by a friend & I would recommend them as well.

  • Hina K. Huynh
    Hina K. Huynh

    I purchased a "newly" used vehicle and was concerned about transmission issues and they made sure I was taken care of. The staff was extremely friendly and polite, and not only did they provide me with all the necessary services I needed, they also educated me. I would highly recommend this location.

  • Miriam Green
    Miriam Green

    The service was great. Someone recommended them to me. They took care of the issue I was having with my vehicle with no issues. I’ll be going to them from here on out! A very satisfied customer

  • Samuel Jones
    Samuel Jones

    Staff were all professional. Manager was a saint, gentleman, and scholar. Great company with excellent values. I would highly recommend them.

  • K. Raymer
    K. Raymer

    Kevin and his entire staff are the best. I had a brake caliper fail and they took care of very quickly and for a great price. Since then, I had new flare fenders with led lights installed on my Jeep Wrangler. Same great service and value.

  • Loren Vann
    Loren Vann

    I have been taking my vehicles to Cottman for the last year and I have never been disappointed. Kevin is the General Manager and I have known him personally for several years. This is an honest shop with quality work and great, trustworthy employees. Law Enforcement friendly, which is a major plus. It is hard to find a reliable place for vehicles now and days so skip the stress and take your vehicles here.

  • Stephanie Besos
    Stephanie Besos

    I love this place. came here a few years back, great work. just came in recently, wanted to wait a few days for the review.let me tell you Vicki was amazing and as helpful as can be and kevin did repair and excellent job on my transmission as well as work with me . had a world of trouble with my warranty place but they did their best to help with it all and my car is running excellent. will be back soon for oil change and any future repairs. thanks guys.

  • Stephanie Besos
    Stephanie Besos

    I love this place. came here a few years back, great work. just came in recently, wanted to wait a few days for the review.let me tell you Vicki was amazing and as helpful as can be and kevin did repair and excellent job on my transmission as well as work with me . had a world of trouble with my warranty place but they did their best to help with it all and my car is running excellent. will be back soon for oil change and any future repairs. thanks guys.

  • Conley Smith
    Conley Smith

    My experience at Cottman was awesome! The waiting lounge was very clean and looked great. The front desk staff was kind and personable. My wheels got aligned very quickly and they did a great job for an awesome price! The owner is extremely professional and quite handsome as well.

  • Randall Vann
    Randall Vann

    Best shop to have your vehicle repaired. Professional and timely. Owner gives fair prices and easy to work with. I would highly recommend to anyone.

  • Mike Villegas
    Mike Villegas

    The work was excellent and done in a timely manner. Found the best pri ce for the work needed!!!

  • Justin Davis
    Justin Davis

    Great customer service!! The staff was very attentive. A issue arose while they were working on my vehicle, and the mechanics diagnosed it and where back on track in no time. What I liked the most was that they kept me in the loop while they tried to find a resolution.

  • Steve Lilley
    Steve Lilley

    Fast and efficient service.