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Digital Dealer 9…In A Nutshell

So we're in what many call the automotive industry's event olympics, digital dunking chair, online opinion onslaught, guruexpertvendorspeakerconsultantpitchyouintosubmissionsession and more (is that a word or an insult?!?!). Anyway, last week's Digital Dealer was one heck of a kickoff with around 750 dealers in attendance.

Over the three days, we heard both the good and bad, awesome and ugly and got to share time with the companies in what was easily the largest expo at any of the series of Digital Dealer events. With an opening panel that seemed to be more about defending third party lead providers and attacking other ways to drive traffic, it may have put an interesting asterisk on the event: One of the calls-to-action that is consistent of Digital Dealer conferences (as well as growing) is the ability for dealers to create more eyeballs, consideration, conversion and sales themselves without paying large sums to the marketing companies.

The rest of day one seemed to bring an overwhelming good vibe with some frustration but nothing more than past Digital Dealers. The evening was filled with various receptions, dinners, parties and (required?) gambling. Walking around The Mirage, you could see a kalaiedascope of dealers, OEMs, vendors, consultants and service providers roaming, playing and chatting. Ralph Paglia's ADM reception was well attended again (Ralph, two words for you and ADP: larger suite. Two more: air conditioning). The first day can be marked as a success.

Day two flew out of the gates and we had hop between meetings and sessions. Overall strong buzz, especially around lunch. However there seemed to be more dissention in the ranks when it came to enjoying the speakers. Obvious or not, blatent or passive, it's hard to control speakers. One session we heard about from a lot of people seemed to end up being an over-the-top pitch along with aggressive words toward competition. There's no place for that. The popular speakers seemed to reign more supreme at DD9 which represented a good amount of feedback. One that stood out for us was Kevin Frye's. He had a classy presentation and style that seems to be more prevelant in dealer sessions. Add the trust from the crowd and it's a recipe for success.

IM@CS hosted our second #imacswebpoker tournament and ended up hosting 22 players. We'd like to thank AutoData, AutoFusion, Cargigi, GetAutoAppraise and PCG Digital Marketing for their involvement. AutoFusion presented with Reno Toyota with a complete complimentary package of website, mobile site and Facebook inventory app. Thanks to the other dealers in attendance and congratulations to Dennis Colome of AutoByTel for taking the top prize and trophy. The evening was long but distinguished.

Day three is always a short one and we attended a session and a half. Didn't get a chance to talk with a lot of dealers as they went to the peer session as we headed to the airport. The morning started off with what appeared to be a full breakfast and expo which is a great sign, considering some left Wednesday night. Jumping between sessions from Brian Pasch and Ralph Paglia, both were packed in an apparent tip-of-the-hat to their reputations for delivering the right data and engagement. Dealers tackled their last-minute vendor meetings and some started making plans for next April's Digital Dealer 10 in Orlando.

Overall, Digital Dealer 9 was a success for the majority of dealers and others in attendance. In our opinion, Mike Roscoe and his staff still have items to address to make it an ongoing success, some they commit they're already working toward but still have to focus harder on.

Next week there's DrivingSales Executive Summit and JD Power Internet Roundtable so we'll report from Las Vegas again…

Crunch Time: Are Your Vendors out To Lunch? Or Are You?

It's very telling, especially today, when a supplier doesn't deliver.
Over-commit, under-deliver. While there is no such thing as 100%
delivery, 100% of the time when there are variables like creative,
interpretation, third parties and even technology changing at a
breakneck, daily pace. However the fundamentals should never change:
communication, expectation, examination and verification.

Being
around the automotive online space for over 10 years, it has been
common to be around or even directly involved with what you might call
"sales coups without production capabilities" or "sell it and then we'll
build it". Most of the time letting clients know you're building
something as they buy it is completely fine. Selling something as
complete or pitching services you provide when you really don't is
something else.

Over the past few years, it's been website and SEO services. Lately it's social media and reputation management. Two sayings to remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is; stupid is as stupid does. In all fairness, the impetus is always on the buyer. While that's not completely fair, everything deserves a second look or opinion. For one example, recently we've been in meetings hearing about services for a few hundred dollars a month promising positive reviews on hundreds of sites.

Even without prejudice, it is difficult to understand the reach, impact or importance of a positive dealership review on some obscure website. About florists. Being read eight states away from you. By someone who has no interest in buying a car.

Numbers are great. Especially transparent ones via Google Analytics or something similar. It's also great to have a string following in the social online around your business. Having 40,000 on Twitter and 10,000 fans on Facebook, most of whom never have or never will buy from you, refer people to you or possibly even realize what your business does. That's irrelevant. People moving into your PMA that own a car from your franchise? Great. Likely a potential customer. Someone on your social network that lives 8,459 miles away from you because you're giving away something for free? Worthless.

What's of less value than that? The people and companies that are selling the services because you don't have the time to know and understand better, let alone put resources against it. And the fact that you can do it for $300 less a month than another company that can do it for you? And you call yourself a business person? Please. The other day at an OEM meeting, we heard about dealers paying $2,000 dollars a month for social media services. There are real companies doing a better job for half the price. Dealers paying $8,000 a month for that?!?!?! Let's not even go there.

This is not about the struggles with real ROI in the digital space. Or people not understanding services. It's not even about pushing companies out of the industry that will intentionally pull the wool over dealers' eyes (that would take years anyway). It is about taking charge of what you want to do in your business, having goals, comparing apples to apples and making sense out of the insane amount of pitches car dealers face.

Many times it's your vendors that are out to lunch. Sometimes, it's absolutely you. Question reps and consultants. Question proposals and marketing materials. Question your staff on what to do. Heaven forbid, question your customers and find out what they want and expect first. And stop buying for the sake of it, because someone in your 20 group did or because a golf buddy (that operates their store completely different than you do) told you they found the magic bullet.

Get back to business. It's crunch time…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Debate All You Want…It’s Up To Washington…

Believe it or not, the auto industry and it's very immediate neighbors have always made the decisions. Whether it's to build large trucks or small cars, release vehicles from production with known problems or not, pay someone $60 an hour for a $25 an hour job, it doesn't matter as it was decided by the companies.

The 'Big 3' haven't listened too well to customers (and in some cases vendors) either, even though some listen better than others. And now, amidst some of the toughest times ever, our beloved industry must listen to no less bureaucratic 'stuff' than the unilateral decisions made inside Ford, GM and Chrysler offices for years.  Right now, we have no more influence on what happens with a potential bailout than every car dealer in the country actually listening to a consultant of company trying to apply new sales processes in their stores or having them switch their marketing to completely online.

Politicians will decide the fate of Detroit (and the immense trickle-down effect) regardless of what you and I think.  It's already happened with Wall Street. More than ever, regardless if the top executives listen, we can only 'vote' with our wallets.  And in case you haven't listened to or read the news lately, Americans are keeping their money in their pants, purses and mattresses.

We will all have to wait and see. It's not easy to watch this painful episode play out for so many reasons. Because now a whole lot of people (us) have to wait for a few people (them) in Washington to decide what happens next. So in the meantime, keep selling cars and do it better than you did yesterday.