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DrivingSales Executive Summit 2011: The Big Bang (And Oh, What Comes Next?)

Wow. What happened last week was amazing. Nearly every session at this year's DrivingSales Executive Summit (DSES) rang the bell. From the opening comments on Sunday to the closing minutes Tuesday, nearly everything seemed to gel with a couple standing ovations to boot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is engagement, learning and a focus on the dealer at its best.

Day one featured returning emcee Charlie Vogelheim introducing DrivingSales' own Jared Hamilton followed Paul Potratz, JD Rucker and Jason Falls as the opening keynotes. Having outside-the-industry, topic-rich speakers has been a hallmark since the opening of the DrivingSales Executive Summit in 2009 and this year simply added to the validity of such influencers.

Day two started with a social media study by Dealer.com's Kevin Root and Matt Murray, then featured Aaron Strout on location-based marketing which presented some still very-new ideas to the crowd of over 400 attendees*. Four sessions of breakouts followed, covering a range of in-the-moment subjects, in addition to the Dealership Best Idea presentations. In between, two powerful events happened: a new Digital Marketing Dilemma "battle" format that had people buzzing into the evening and beyond day three, along with the DSES-exclusive Innovation Cup Vendor presentations. After the cup participants used up their allotted time, all attention was on the evening keynote Gary Vaynerchuk. He stole the show, got the more-than-typically-timid audience leaning forward and received what was described by nearly everyone as a one-of-a-kind, never before seen standing ovation. And a resounding ovation it was, not a "my gosh that was a boring presentation but at least it closed the day" kind of applause with people standing. Gary Vee rocked the house and converted the few not-yet-socially-commited dealerships on the spot. He followed that with a signing for his "The Thank You Economy" book.

Day three opened with Google and closed with the cup. And in between we heard from Zappos' Rob Siefker and what could arguably be the automotive industry's "Big 5" CEOs representing Dealer.com, Cars.com, ADP, DealerTrack and AutoTrader.com talking about what's coming in 2012. Many viewers not only enjoyed the big-company heads, they were comparing notes about who hit the ball the furthest (Mark Bonfigli of Dealer.com provided the second standing -albeit provoked- ovation of DSES).

Even with heads-up prep prior to DSES by the DrivingSales team, the Google session seemed to miss what most of the dealers there wanted to hear including answers to, among other things, Google Places questions. So there is room to improve in 2012 as well as grow. And by all signs, DSES may be getting quite a bit better and bigger in the coming year.

Kudos to those that made the draw in the breakout sessions including Jeff Cryder, Joe Webb, Tracy Myers, Cory Mosley, Marc McGurren, Brian Pasch and Dennis Galbraith.

The most heartfelt appreciation and thanks to Jared Hamilton and the entire unsung DrivingSales Executive Summit team. They put together the finest event for North America's most progressive dealerships out of a passion for what makes the industry tick. It was also a bit of a compliment to many of the DSES speakers as they were also invited to participate across town at the JD Power & Associates Internet Roundtable. You know who you are and the fact that what you contribute makes a difference to the industry. It was a pleasure to spent some incredible time with you at Bellagio over three days in October 2011.

Until next year…be well, be listening, be teaching, be growing and be yourselves!

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

*Being as how DSES is the only automotive conference streamed live as it happens, we may not know the total amount of attendees above the 400+ in attendance, but it's easy to say the impact went well beyond the walls of the Bellagio Hotel conference center. Dealers everywhere were affected by the 2011 DSES. DrivingSales and DSTV proved once again that you need to serve dealers in the ways that you are founded on. Education goes everywhere…socially.

It’s That Time Of The Year: A Legacy Or 2 Steps Forward, 20 Years Back

Confernce season! You're about to experience record-setting attendance, more technology than will choke a horse, speaker after speaker, keynote after keynote and talk about how 2012 should be your year to embrace it all. Oh, and the budgets! Take here, put there and add everywhere that starts with digital. Whew, welcome to the conference season.

This is the time of the year that makes the chasm between doers and don't doers greater, creates the delta between those who practice and those who pretend and allows those who want, a battle cry. But it's no guarantee of success. Recently IM@CS experienced its fifth pre-term cancellation in the past four plus years. What happened? One person leaving. One really good, very focused, and awake individual…but still one person. It was an experience that you might call two steps forward, 20 years back. There is no focus on the web there now.

Remember that staying on top of everything that's changing and relevant takes time, attention, questions, resources and commitment. When that one person, or in some cases few people, don't do the work for the many or depart the dealership, what happens? Where is the commitment that is required to truly be successful? It's not the ideas or initial execution that makes the difference, it is the promise to maintain for the long term. It may even include an expectation for excellence and signifiacnt cost. Every individual that has applied a successful strategy for web-based results in their dealership or group has been doing so for a while. In some cases, a very long while. These are experiences that you might call building a legacy.

So take heed. Commit to what comes after the events. Make a differnce starting with the decision to go. The cost of attending an event like the DrivingSales Executive Summit is one of the smallest you'll ever make. Most dealers spend more on coffee or shuttling customers to the local mall in a month. And those costs don't grow your business anywhere close to the amount that a digital investment will.

A legacy starts with a unbending determination to see things through, not giving up at the first sign of resistence or willing to settle for mediocre. And sitting down listening to someone telling you what you should do versus talking with someone about how to do it is a massive difference. Today it seems as though more dealers are willing to settle for second rate and not executing a plan over doing the work it takes to build to the point of success and making sure everyone is on board. Last time we checked, an engine doesn't run without fuel and a stuck cylinder means problems. Always move forward. Even fail forward. But move forward.

Yes, it's that time of the year again. But it's always that time of the year. The battles are won and the vision grows every day in the trenches. Press forward with a commitment to you, your business, your staff, your product and ultimately your customers. Remember that is why we do what we do. Refuse to take the backward steps that more businesses seem to do today. Don't compromise. Because you're better off doing it or quitting it. Are you in it to quit it?

And lastly, with a heavy heart for the loss we experienced today, consider some of the words that Steve Jobs has shared and how it relates to us:

“But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

So are you ready for what needs to take place after conference season? We'd like to hear from those who are….

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results