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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

Accountability. Denial. Cover Up. A Losing Game.

We all come to proverbial "forks in the road" when it comes to performance, to delivering, to being reliable, to following up and ultimately to understanding what it takes to be better. There are mainly two types of being in business, away from the actual retail transaction if you look at things in very simple terms. Partnership and vendorship. They are both a state of being. Partnership is one thing: a cooperation. Vending is one thing: a delivery mechanism.

Over time all businesses play roles in one or both, likely both. While no person or no entity is perfect, it is in our best interest to actually perform to the best of our ability. It is also in our best interest to acknowledge what is done and undone. In a world where it is standard business to over-promise and under-deliver, when marketing trumps products and services, and reps and salespeople are most concerned with commissions or kickbacks, it is rare for someone to raise their hands and accept responsibility.

Recently I've had to experience both sides of the coin. One as a vendor and one as a partner of the client with another vendor. Watching, as we always do, from the outside, it is interesting to witness companies deal with requests (or demands) for products and/or services. We live it every day. Being first to accept responsibility no matter what. It's a fundamental approach to delivery and client satisfaction. Many argue with that philosophy. In the end, you end up reaping what you sow.

Nobody is wrong in arguing. It is natural to disagree. It is, however, wrong to stay in a position or unbending stance. No matter how comfortable we can become in believing what we vend is completely ideal, there is no such thing. And no company can profess, at least honestly, to no issues of dissatisfaction. This is another thing I've recently had to experience. It is a hopeful thing, just not achievable.

It is in all of our best interest to be teachable, flexible, to listen, ask and confirm as well as validate. In a partnership, these are musts. When these critically important things start to disappear and position is asserted, it is no longer a partnership. Companies need to understand that shouting in order to position or defending their position is detrimental. And not simply because it is being said here, but because most will say and acknowledge the simple fact.

So what do you want to provide? Many businesses seem to want to provide with the opportunity to partner. Some businesses seem to want to partner with the opportunity to provide. No cart or horse here. Not which came first. All of us want to prosper and profit. It is required to continue to provide services. But at what cost? It is true that you can't make everyone happy all of the time. But no business that has more than two customers has never had a squeaky wheel.

Over the next five months, when so much comes down to the pitch, the sell, the flash, the sizzle and the gorilla on the roof, it might just make a few vendors become partners if we all stop and recognize what we're doing this for. Customer service starts with a customer and ends with service. We must be accountable. If your service is operating at 60% efficiency, you might just find that your customer is 40% out the door. If you're paying attention. You can point at anything else that touches what you make, but it's still your responsibility.

Lack of accountability, denial or service, sweeping things under the rug and the like are just a losing game. Oh, it may take time. But it will happen. Businesses today want real. They need honest. They expect more. They deserve what they expect and definitely what they pay for.

Don't you? Act that way.

*No clients were harmed in the making of this post. But many are simply fed up.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight. Powerful Results.

Four Down, Seventeen Thousand To Go

The last four years have been a blur. Everything has been. From search to social. From template to script. From inbound to outbound. From high line to in line. From DMS to CRM. There have been times where the greatest part of building has simply been the lack of tearing down. It’s been work, even a pain, and it’s all been worth it.

The clients, the information, the partnerships, the alliances, the events, the suppliers, the sources, the reading, the sharing, the confusion, the mistakes, the opportunities, the defeats, the victories. One thing doesn’t stand out more than the other except the constant movement. Each day, all one thousand four hundred sixty of them, has started with an enthusiasm, a passion, a dream, a goal, a commitment, a push, a joy.

Yes, we've been eating the elephant a bite at a bite. One of the most gratifying parts is the tasty pieces. One of the most humbling parts is realizing what you’re doing while you’re in the moment. Our industry now moves at the speed of retail. Which means it moves at its ability to get out of its own way. Much too often there is a focus on moving ahead before there is even an understanding and acknowledgement of a desire to do so. Sometimes the hardest part of moving is the willingness to stop, look and listen.

Obstacles aren’t hurdles, they’re gut checks. They’re sometimes ways that remind us to adjust and sometimes they’re simply a deep breath before continuing on the path. Changing businesses is not a small undertaking. The level of trust required is awesome. Remember that success is measured by how long the changes last, not how fast you simply make change.

Right now is such an incredibly dynamic time. Better said, it’s likely the most dynamic ever. Yet businesses are being led down more paths than ever on guarantees that can’t be made, or measured, or tracked. If you do what we do and you do it more for a check than leaving a legacy, talk with yourself.

Four years later the work is harder, the goals are greater and results are sweeter. Every one of our clients deserves a heartfelt “Thank You” for making us work, keeping us honest and staying committed to their vision. Thank you to the clients that let us go too, as humbling as that is, because is made us think and become better.

And an important thank you to the entire industry. The good, the bad and the ugly. May we raise the determination to learn and change, ridding ourselves of old school mentality, waste and reluctance. Just because something worked for decades doesn’t make it right nor beneficial. Remember that at the end of the day we are all consumers. There a lots of “us” coming through the doors of dealerships. Let’s recognize and celebrate that. Let that fact evoke a stronger calling to improve. Every day.

Four years since IM@CS started. 17,000 more dealerships to improve. Who’s with us?

 

Man isn’t afraid of his own shadow. Just getting out of its way   –Gary May

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Are We Just Digital Lemmings?

(Cue the Madonna music) “You know that we are living in a digital world and I’m an automotive digital nerd…” Can you see it now? The musical hit of the automotive digital conference season! Or possibly one more thing that keeps a dealer from making the commitment he or she needs to make that will actually do something great for their business.

Whether acknowledged or not, most of us in the automotive digital realm must have some kind of recessive gene or a predisposition for suffering. But are we the ones making it better or worse? Remember that what drives someone to change is either opportunity or fear. Fight or flight. Survival or death. Being as how we can’t make decisions for others, let alone many times for ourselves, a small percentage of the industry are lining up on a regular basis, strapping our brass cojones on and taking the plunge.

2011 has been an amazing voyage so far and the last four months appear to be no different. If anything, we may experience the dizzying effect of greater immersion. So are we just digital lemmings or do we have a definitive purpose supported by concrete goals? Is our purpose so clear that a dealer can understand both potential benefit and potential loss within 30 minutes?

Let’s ask ourselves just as wide ranging a question as we’d ask a vendor:

“How do we know what value we bring?” Especially since many of the tangibles are so obscure to start with that the ability to define a “good job” takes months or longer.

“How can we define, in lay terms, what we’re attempting to do so that our clients can take over the efforts?” Especially since many times we don’t even understand completely what we’re doing nor expecting.

“How does what we are doing provide the opportunity to create change?” Especially since setting expectations in a “what’s in it for me” environment is at best difficult.

It’s great to participate in an exciting and extremely dynamic part of our business. For many, it has proven immensely successful and profitable. We can all agree that the higher the risk, the higher the reward. At the same time there are days (or longer periods) that can easily qualify as a “loss”.

Being as how this will be read by the leading edge of the force in the automotive digital world, we don’t need to excuse ourselves. But maybe, just maybe, we need to explain ourselves. There is such a high level of blind trust that goes on with relatively significant investments, that defining what we do and don’t do along with what we’re attempting to do and attempting not to do is overdue. There is also a need to be more willing to call bullshit in an accountable, cooperative way.

Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, yes even at a 20 Group meeting, it likely is. It takes a lot to simply take a leap of faith. It’s something entirely different for a vendor to take a client over the edge. No buses or trains here…no company is perfect. Just try not to come off that way (free $100 advice).

So can we lead an industry that’s mostly in the dark collectively? Some of us surely hope so. What’s coming up with three amazing events in Las Vegas in October sure sounds like the right opportunity. Remember that the total amount of people in attendance will likely represent less than 0.001% of the retail industry, OEM and agency staff (less than 1% of just dealer staff). So we need to be incredible. We need to be prepared. We need to show and provide the best information. We need to listen to and respond to the questions and admit when we don’t have an answer. We need to show the way and not just talk about it.

So let’s kick the lemming routine and make the leap a big but manageable step. Let’s give everyone that wants it the secret sauce. Let’s make sure that nobody goes home with a nagging question. Let’s do what is right as if the entire automotive industry depended on it.

And by the way, the entire automotive industry does depend on it….

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

The Dealership Environment: Inspired By Everything, Motivated By Nothing

Face it: You’re whipped. Which way is up? Which way is down? Is flat the new growth? Is the shiny object the new thing keeping you from the golf course of from your sales course? Fact: the dealership environment is as fragile and unsteady as it’s ever been. Yet there are more opportunities than ever.

Look around for a little while at any dealership and on the surface it looks functionally no different than it did just a few years ago. Dig a little bit and everything changes. But you already know this. You’re obviously more progressive or being informed by someone who is because you won’t find the sports score ticker or a reality show recap here. It’s all business. But is it new business?

With more advice than ever, including a massive dose of simply republished (or regurgitated) articles and data, and more tools than ever, including predominantly recreated, re-skinned and relicensed  products, it easy to get inspired by everything while ultimately motivated by nothing. So how do you stop the regression and inevitable redirection?

Have a plan. Plan your work. Work your plan.

More than ever, and especially with the speed of all things “new”, it is critical to write everything down, have a plan (including accountability for yourself), build support and see things through. Anything less is simply “blocking and tackling”, which is crap. Is this advice sage? Not at all!

In order to succeed you’re likely doing a number of the things listed above anyway. But are you doing it for everything, every day and do you have a plan of action? Can you get uncomfortable long enough to become perpetually motivated? Can you create the buy-in needed for at least a year? Two?

With the level of community support available, on DrivingSales for example, it’s easier than ever to get the motivation necessary. Remember, the platforms are for sharing and doing. DrivingSales and the other networks are some of the most underused resources! They are not supposed to be selling platforms. Simply reading and not sharing is akin to watching an accident unfold in front of you and not helping. Considering most dealerships are not the most positive environments around why, aside from the ego and time excuses, would you not go to where you can participate, learn, ask and excel?

While there are some great people sharing and answering questions, the purpose of the forums is to engage. The challenge ahead of us is not the economy (national or fuel) or the products. Our collective Achilles heel is not process or response times or the OEMs enforcing programs they don’t understand. Our greatest faults are relaxing, waiting for things to automatically happen for us and not participating. Not asking more questions and letting go of our egos. Not taking more responsibility for our staffs, interactions and brands. Being in the store but not being aware or active. Like most dealers in social media, we might be inspired but by not listening, involving and really trying, we are limiting our success. All of us.

1,000 people at the largest events for dealers, vendors and the OEMs? If those in attendance were just dealer staff, that would represent only 0.0005% of the retail industry. 50 people involved in a community with 50,000+ that touch the content? That’s a slightly better 0.001% involvement.

How can we motivate an industry? It’s not a CRM. It’s not going to happen with a DMS. And it’s surely not going to be spurred by a dealership website (have you actually looked at yours? Really?!) We must be motivated by what can move or change things for the better. We must be motivated by those things that last longer than 30 days. We must be motivated by how much more we can do. We must be motivated and then validate those that did the motivating, then motivate others.

Our industry does have more leaders than are presently obvious. It’s just not obvious. Not for now.

Businesses, already challenged, are going to be challenged more in the foreseeable future. Do you want to go into that future armed with only a pea shooter? Why not an arsenal? Why not a team? We are better than that. An industry that represents the largest part of our (shrinking) GDP deserves to be better, not lethargic!

Take the challenge and get a plan together with solid fundamentals and a road map. Let your inspiration without action turn into something greater.  What would happen if 2,000 people were active on communities? What if 3,000 showed up at the best events? We don’t know.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Making A Laughing Stock Out Of Social “Media”

Being involved in helping build awareness via social networks for dealers over the past three plus years, there has been a lot to see. And wonder about. From using APIs, feeds, republishing other content without attribution, ghost writing, "social" content farms, 50 plus network claims and more, it's a real "Wild Wild West" in what can loosely be called social media.

More often than not, the authentic part of brand building and gaining a following of targeted prospects, customers and partners is overshadowed by the "numbers game". Having not participated in the rat race, a few companies have catered to dealers from a more genuine and pervasive angle. In our case, even in working with some of the most reputable dealers in the US and Canada, our focus hasn't changed.

Just like with traditional or measured media, you can always pull an extra customer or two from outside your PMA/AOI because they saw your ad, lost leader, teaser, direct mail from a purchased list and the like. But the effort usually takes a financial investment, as well as a dedicated staff to take a couple hundred extra shopper calls from 50-200+ miles outside your selling market, that exceeds not only the return but takes un-calculated hours of effort. Again, you can likely sell one, two or even three. But at what cost?

Shiny object syndrome. Your choice: make it part of your business, or do like most dealers do with anything besides a warm body walking into the dealership. Isn't it so much easier when you can just throw hundreds to thousands of dollars at it to have it "done" by someone else, software, a new staff person, an existing staff person not doing their current job effectively or outsource it. Welcome to cardealerville, where more often than not (because there are some dealers and stores that simply kick a**), it's easier to just make it by rather than listen, learn, commit, apply, measure, adjust, remeasure, ask questions and do it forever.

Social networks. Facebook. It's a numbers game. Right? Yes, but only to a degree. While there are ways to grow a true, engaged following from email blasts to events, promotions to ads, signage to signature lines, an overnight success is as close to real and authentic as Simon Cowell keepng his opinion to himself or Donald Trump's hair staying in place without adhesive.

If you can add 2,100 fans in 48 hours and 1,100 of them in 11 hours, during the last few days of the month, claiming to do it with two salespeople walking around a (popular) mall armed only with iPads and their charm, there's a brand new Lexus LFA for sale at my house for $3.95 tax included.

Not to say that it can't be done. For Coca Cola. For United Airlines. For Zappos. For Lady Gaga. For a car dealer? Here's a reality check. The average percentage of people that you can stop, in a mall, during their shopping, fully engage, a get to do something you've asked them to do (as in "Like" a Facebook page) which requires about 2-4 minutes per person considering logging in, going to the page, liking it and logging out, is about 20%. If you're great. So, if you've added over 2,000 Likes, you would need over 10,000 people "walking by" you. Asking to Like a car dealership's Facebook page. At month end. Of a Holiday weekend. In a down economy. Need we go on?

Dealers. Heck, any business that reads our posts. This blog has been, is now, and will always be driven by the passon that our company has to education, improvement, information and moving the industry forward. Not hearsay. Not ego. Not reputation. Not prominence. Not sales (unless you're talking about a sales increase for the businesses reading our blog).

With less than 1% of franchise dealership employees getting a digital education at events, less than 5% participating in any level of OEM or third-party endorsed education, the attraction of paying $100 for 1,000 Facebook Likes can be too easy. Using automation and $50 a month to get thousands of Twitter followers can also be the same kind of aphrodisiac. Zero to hero is usually filled with as much satisfaction as a no-calorie candy bar. It may sound great, but selling high-line cars to a growing "Fan" base from South East Asia or South America is……………..well, let's not go there. Some of the OEMs actually read this. Wouldn't want anyone to get in hot water.

So just enjoy the teeming hordes of Likes you Real Ameican Genius of the Facebook Page. You deserve a nice cold one. Shower, that is.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results.

When The Cover Comes Off The Onion

Let's face it, we still live in a marketing-based world. And nearly all of it still screaming for attention, sales, mass following, validation, acceptance and more while typically ignoring what matters most. Yes, it's morphed and transitioned and (partially) gone to the place called online but it is created and delivered in the same way it nearly always has. And for automotive, in both B-to-B and B-to-C arenas, the deliverables suck (we'll try to not use any more technical terms in this post).

It's not that the market, the public, the customers, the industry or even the actual providers don't expect any different, it's just that it's what's done. Is it that when you stop screaming "we're #1" it allows another company to scream the same thing, making it true? In the experience garnered by partnering with dealers all over North America, the most dissatisfaction expressed comes from dealing with companies screaming about top results while not backing it up.

Have we become so skewed that we'll actually do what we don't want to take part in ourselves? Or have we become so numb to the barrage of messaging that we don't notice? So let's take a layer off!

1. Old school. We practice what we preach, right? There is a lot of talk, once again, about "back to basics" and "blocking and tackling". Are you practicing what you preach, or is it time to get real? For starters, look at how salespeople are being "taught" typically, if at all. Motivational speakers? In-your-face, Glengarry Glen Ross "coffee is for closers" stuff (even though it may be true)? "Seasoned veterans that can do everything" sessions in your store? So…do you actually do that to customers? Do you talk to them that way? If not, why do you need it?

Salespeople are motivated by, wait for it, MONEY! If a salesperson is not on the ball, they may need a pep talk from an outsider for $5,000-$30,000. Right? More likely they need a couple days off, fresh air, a good book, some exercise and to get away from the naysayers at the dealership (which can also include management!). The first layer of the onion feel like the first burn of summer vacation…

2. Hyped 20 Group sales. For good and for bad, dealers talk to dealers that talk with other dealers. They recommend things. They invite speakers and presenters (don't forget the pitch masters) to their groups, associations and getaways. And then it happens: after providing a dealer/group with some great info, recommending appropriate partners, showing them how to best get the true answers as they consider the next move…you walk into the store that has been desperately needing a real kick in the behind treatment to get going, and alas…they had a round of golf with their buddy 86 states away and bought the same (fill-in-the-blank solution/vendor) because "they're selling cars like water".

No real research, no real competitive bids, no idea what they're doing. And, being as how it's automotive retail, after the install and training, the 30 days of excitement wears off and it's just another check. Until the next company comes in and…"nope, we don't need any new fill-in-the-blanks…we're all over it!". Yeah Bill (if you're a Microsoft fan or Steve if you like Apple more), you're all over it. That layer of the onion just put a divot in your business way bigger than the one you did on the 14th hole with your buddy.

3. Media. While that should be enough said, it still needs clarification. You are what you eat right? So, it is worth venturing a guess that you are what you read as well. Did you ever like a newscaster so much that the news was somewhat not as believable when someone else was on camera? That sure explains a lot in the automotive industry. A change of scenery is becoming more and more what the doctor ordered. Social media has surely facilitated the fact that a handful of sources is not as good as many good sources. Considering, at the same time, that there is definitely garbage out there called news, the world would just not be the same place anymore without the streams of great, timely and absolutely valuable information.

Or do you still get it from the same 10 people over and over and over? Better yet, do you get it from a place that sells what you end up seeing? Trust is absolutely required and good data is needed. So is a great line of questioning that deserves an honest, unbiased answer. Have you got your answer yet? The pain from that layer of the onion comes with a tear, a grimace and a cost.

 

Change is necessary, more than ever. And more than ever, things are remaining the same: The OEMs' ads. The Tier II ads. The vendors' pitches. The automotive media. The balloons. The gorillas on roofs. The radio spots. The newspaper. What are you trying to tell a public that is wide awake and ignoring it all?

Look outside, there's a new day. It's called opportunity. And it's not wearing yesterday's clothes. It's not driving a….oh boy. Better not go there. That onion might end up being really sour….

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

I Before We, With No Exception To D(ealers)

It's the end of the year and the heart of the holiday season, right in between being thankful for everything we have and swearing off more than half of it (mostly weight) for the coming year. It's the time of the year when a few minutes on the automotive networks and news sites gets the mind going. It's also right after last week's (first ever) rant….

So in spelling, it's i before e except after c. Makes sense. Well, it makes no more sense than if it had never been that way and we simply didn't make the rule. No different than putting I before we, especially for the D's. The I's are the loud talkers, advertisers and general blow hards. We…in case people forgot, are the industry. And alas, the D's. The D's are the dealers. Those are the ones that move the industry.

In the event that those that believe the real deals are: the ones doing all of the talking, the media, the OEMs and the old boys club…you're dead wrong. Not that more than an acceptable level of that goes on, it clearly does. But the writing on the wall is getting more clear by the day: the dealers, customers and (ahem) the banks/captives move our beloved industry. Just because an outside person can come in and put a deal together doesn't mean that anything….anything improved the dealership.

More and more dealers are waking up to the simple fact that they've been taken for a long drive on a short road for quite a while. And since the days of milk and honey have been over for a bit, it's more painful than most would care to admit.

So check out the majority of content on our favorite places to read. More #1 this and that's. More white papers. More new, unbelievable this and that's. More covers and articles blaring horns and sirens. OK, the numbers are up in 2010, thank goodness. Even if we're at 12M new units, that's not 17M. Not playing the downer here, lots of stuff is good, but realize that yelling about being the best at something does nothing for business at retail.

Heck, there should be more practicing of the preaching. Any company claiming they're the best, don't just back it up with 1-5% of the client base with quotes. Get the bottom percentage to do the same thing. Ask them to write testimonials without any favors, kickback or kudos of any type. And if you have three times the customers of your next competitor, you should have at least three times the reviews.

We need to move the industry at retail. We can't change the banks, so let's put our efforts where they matter most. Yelling about moving a dealer's Internet sales from 25 to 50 per month, when you didn't? Screaming that you can do the best job in the industry at whatever and your clients aren't the best in the industry? Promoting as best-in-class when the company's experts can't get on the phone for days to review the company's performance in what should be their core competency? Shame on us. How many things have become more important than the customer and how many things are in the way of simply delivering?

Let's make dealers better tomorrow. If a dealer is paying for a service, every 30 days should be better in some measurable form. It's not always units or profit. Sometimes, it's efficiency (which drives profit anyway) or education or communication or retention. Something that makes more sense than simply spending more. Let's put the dealers first. Before the next award bought. Before the next accolade spun.

I before we, with no exception to D is the wrong approach. Pass on the awards, the half-baked "third party" certifications, the advertisements (please!), the 'unbiased' networks, the bling and the paid glorification. Let's get more DEALERS on the cover of Newsweek, not CONSULTANTS on the cover of….

Whooops, that one almost got out….

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Resultsego,

Things That Pissed Us Off In 2010 (Yes, They Pissed You Off, Too!)

We know it, you know it, they know it. Almost everyone knows it. Because if everyone knew it we wouldn't have ben put through it. But we were, you were and they were. Disclaimers: These are not in order of importance. Many companies are being called out, not all. This is a singular perspective.

So here it goes:

1. Automotive marketing overall: Sucked, still sucks, will likely continue to suck.
2. Dealership websites: 1995 called and wants its sites back. Give us a break and some new suppliers!
3. OEMs that don't publish new inventory: Get over it. customers leaving your brand are.
4. Automotive trainers that re-branded as web consultants: A new suit can't cover 1982 style.
5. Reputation management companies: Fudge is brown. So is bull%^&*. Fake customers? Envelope stuffers? Hooters girls? Please leave…
6. Motivational speakers that re-branded as automotive trainers: See line 4.
7. Social media companies: Charging dealers $3,000-5,000 plus per month? Larceny is still a crime.
8. DMS companies: Still make clients sign in blood for 15 year old technology, for 15 years? Nice. FAIL.
9. Website company dashboards: No, use this thing called Google Analytics. Quit fudging numbers. Block dealers' and your IPs for starters!
10. Inventory marketing portals: The luster is long gone. Run or acquire some companies for revenue!
11. Sales reps: Stop selling and start helping. Don't know much so you can't help? Sell elsewhere.
12. Ad agencies (Tier 1): Quit the facade. Traditional doesn't sell. Experiential does. Learn to like social. Get help.
13. Ad agencies (Tier 3): Quit lying to yourselves and your clients…You don't get digital. Get help.
14. CRM companies: If you don't do that, say you don't do that. Otherwise add it for free. Pariahs.
15. Website companies using Flash: 2003 called and wants their websites back. It's called HTML or PHP.
16. Facebook Personal Profiles: Businesses, we've been yelling. Set up pages. Not "friend" profiles!!
17, Social media companies: Setting up APIs and RSS feeds from OEMs is not social. It's plagiarizing.
18. Social media companies: Setting up inventory feeds as posts? If that's social, I'm tall, rich and hot.
19. Traditional media/ad networks still selling to dealers "old school". Shame on you (and your bosses).

Dealers, you're not in the clear either:

1. Hiring any service, including social, as a "pay for it and leave it" service? No such thing. Period!
2. Hiring any company because you "liked the rep when they were at ________ before". Failure…
3. Not taking the time to get educated on new aspects of your business? Hand the keys back to the OEM
4. "Trying" new things?! Sample spoons are for ice cream. Business is for big boys and girls. Just Do It!
5. Cutting your nose to spite your face? Chances are you're too lean. Hire the right people, not resumes.
6. Leaving everything up to the factory (especially some luxury brands). Wake up! It's your business!
7. Believing the you can turn your store's reputation over to an outside company?!?! I've got a bridge…
8. Not flinching on a new $4,000+ service to a company you're already cutting a $15k check to? Dumb.
9. Spending $3,000 on a 3-day conference 3+ times when you can get a month for that?! And get more!!!
10. Spending any money on your business and not taking ownership of the new spend. Why, why, why?
11. Paying any amount of ad money to traditional media and it's not integrated and tracked?! Foolish.

New-age definitions when you don't understand the spend:

CPM: Can't Provide Much
CRM: Can't Remember Much
ILM: Incredibly Lousy Marketing
CSI: Coached Senseless Investment
SSI: Serving Senseless Initiatives
I/O: Incredibly overpriced
OEM: Overlord, Empire, Master
PDI: Petty detailed injustices
Social: Someone outside control incompetently and loosely
IMS: Inventory Means Something
DMS: Decades-old Money-draining (or Mediocre-Moduled) Systems

We could go down the path a long way but here's the simple version of the message: quit doing things old ways, with old thought processes, with old beliefs, with old defenses, with old intentions, with old management. If you want to run a dealership the old way, get stuck in 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994 or 2004. If you want to thrive in this and the coming markets, wake up to the reality that business will not be the same. Even if we sell 17 million new cars again, it'll never be the same.

Some may be able to, by all appearances, just skim along on the surface, mesmerized by everything going on around them and still put up the numbers. For most of the businessmen and businesswomen in the retail part of our industry, it's a deep dive kind of time. Your success depends on you and how you build your business's presence, results, growth and more. Less than 5% of your colleagues are engaged, firing on all cylinders and moving forward in today's market.

There are a lot of things that pissed us off in 2010. And we may never do a post like this again. But somebody needed to do it. This might motivate some, light a fire in others and have some in stitches. No matter what, it's time for moving some more metal. There's not too many ways to do that today.

Are you pissed off enough to do something? We've been helping those that want to do something for the past three years and three months. Are you next?

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

DrivingSales Executive Summit…In A Nutshell

 DrivingSales Executive Summit V2.0 hit Encore (Wynn) in Las Vegas last Monday through Wednesday. A few things: attendance doubled last year’s, the start was absolutely electric and the event finished on such a high it left many attendees literally longing for more and feeling like they needed another day. The DSES crew flat out delivered.

Upon walking into the main Encore conference room at 4:00p, it was packed. Charlie Vogelheim emceed once again with his typical style. Jared Hamilton, founder of DrivingSales.com, did a more-than-typically -fast-paced tirade on where the industry is from both his and an opportunity perspective. It was mesmerizing and for more reasons than the picture of the donkey suspended in mid-air. The foundation was set.

Brian Benstock and Sean Wolfington talked about what Paragon Honda and Tier 10 did together to achieve massive results from integrated marketing. Not “let’s do this offline and see if it works on the web” so-called integration but a rarely-executed integration. The cost would strike most dealers, especially Honda dealers, as a shock today but it was a massive undertaking, shaved Paragon’s costs in what would rank as the “wow that’s great” territory and put them solidly on the map as #1. It was impressive.

Then it was time for Scott Monty of Ford (http://www.twitter.com/ScottMonty). As I’ve had the benefit of seeing a good part of the opening of his presentation before, it was crowd watching time. Simply put, Scott had the room wrapped around his finger. It’s amazing to hear about just part of what he, backed by a rare CEO in Alan Mulally, and the social media and marketing teams do at Ford. Day one’s reception at Piero’s was fantastic, the buzz consistent well into the evening.

Day two kicked off with great anticipation and didn’t disappoint. Jeremiah Owyang (http://www.web-strategist.com/blog) piqued the interest of many in the room with volumes of data as well as practical application. Brian Pasch and Erich Miltsch both hit their separate sessions, SEO and location-based services, with great engagement. Eric unveiled his CarZar application (http://www.thecarzar.com) which was definitely the talk over the rest of the conference. Grant Cardone followed with one of his rousing, impassioned pleased from stage about businesses maintaining an “eat or be eaten” mentality.

Three sessions of breakouts, then lunch, and three more rounds covered the rest of day two’s learning. The Facebook session (Albrecht AG and Lebanon FLM) was insightful but seemed to lack engagement with the audience and didn’t answer the “tough questions”. Rafi Hamid’s Enterprise Management presentation may have been a little much for some of the attendees. Fact is all could have, somewhat to completely, restructured their dealerships just from his insight.

Then it was time for the Dealer and Vendor Innovation Cup. What a great way for dealers to participate in what may change the industry next! These are some of the most innovative folks around, not hampered by other company’s offerings or what vendors don’t provide. Some of the substance was leading edge, others more common place. But the desire to execute, and what it took to continue to push the envelope, that was the compelling “meat and potatoes”. eCarList (http://www.ecarlist.com) and Marc McGurren from Jerry Durant Toyota won. Congratulations.

The one thing that continues to strike me after attending eight years of automotive conferences is this: why do we not connect the dots at the event rather than making the attendees do so themselves after the events. DrivingSales Executive Summit would have been the right place to have a Q&A session that allowed those that wanted the extra insight to get going when they returned to their dealerships later in the week. Note to promoters: breakouts, lunch sessions and other quick after-session times plus post-event webinars and curriculum are perfect for that and the speakers should be required to do their part.

Tuesday closed with another packed reception but I’d say the buzz was higher. Yes, there was even a Ralph Paglia sighting! Lots of connecting, introductions and big conversations (small chat was non-existent). It was fun to have a number of Canadians in the room as things change north of the border. The industry there is also changing rapidly and not having felt as steep of an economic decline as the US did, many retailers there are waking up to incredible opportunities for their dealerships. After hours, Sean Wolfington and Brian Pasch greeted some forty plus to their own reception which went on for another four hours plus.

Wednesday saw Dan Zarrella (http://danzarrella.com) put many on their ears and some looking inquisitively with a wide-ranging but hard-hitting session of insight all relevant to search, social, engagement, measurement and more. The accountability and opportunities dealers can create just from his time on stage would be more than a year of gains. Joel Ristuccia of Babson College brought incredible amounts of insight to the subject of change management in the industry, Dale Pollak did one of always rousing, but very up-to-date, admonitions about how dealers must change now and Jared Hamilton closed the event with John Holt of Cobalt Group on stage. Admittedly I missed that session while in the adjoining hall on phone calls and no tweets.

In closing, with definite room to grow and improve (and some more microphones around the audience for the Q&A session after each keynote), DrivingSales Exeuctive Summit was spot on in only its second generation. There was enough positive feedback to likely venture a guess as to how much the third edition would grow. And maybe room for…….

Congratulations to Jared and the entire DSES team for an impressive event!