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!