DD26 could have been subtitled, The Marketeers Strike Back. I believe I counted 104 sessions, 62 of which (60%) were dedicated to marketing and/or advertising of some sort. Out of the 148 vendors who supported the event, 85 self-identified as companies who should be listed under the category “Advertising & Marketing.” Let that sink in, nearly 60% of those coming and going were talking about or selling digital advertising or marketing services. Plenty of choices for dealers who walked up and down the aisles of elevator pitches and shiny swag. Some notable standouts were fairly easy to spot, and all sang from the hymnal of “complete transparency” such as The Herman Agency (thehermanagency.com) and Reunion Marketing (reunionmarketing.com), which was very refreshing.

Worth the Price of Admission

On Tuesday alone, there were 38 sessions with topics ranging from artificial intelligence to sales process optimization delivered by human intelligence. Kevin Frye from the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family never disappoints, and he shared tech and tactics to lower lead costs and improve the customer experience. Continuing with technology and alliteration, Mo Zahabi of VinSolutions (vinsolutions.com) helped us “Demystify AI” and lay a foundation for in-dealership utilization. Disrupting the sessions was Christy Roman (womeninautomotive.com) helping us identify cultural and digital impacts in our dealership and adaptations for change. There were 10 sessions with a focus on video content, including the dynamic duo of Joe Webb and
Steve Roessler.

Robert Richman, Co-Founder of Zappos Insights (zapposinsights.com), ended the opening day by delivering a powerful keynote with a call to create a strong culture and sustaining that culture through every employee and customer interaction.

The opening night hit a high note at O’Shucks Bar with the tradition of the #JASK (Joe, Arnold, & Shaun Karaokethon) sponsored by Reunion Marketing, Clarivoy, and InteractiveTel. Great atmosphere, world-class networking, phenomenal stage talent, and a fantastic time had by all!

Some of the Wednesday session highlights began with Ron Burgundy’s “classy” rendition of SEO (presented by Greg Gifford) and continued with others covering video, Facebook, Snapchat, reputation, and fixed ops. At lunch, CarSaver’s Chad Collier (carsaver.com), discussed the perks of more eyes on inventory by leveraging Walmart’s 250 million customer base, including 140 million visits to Walmart stores each week and 127 million unique visitors to walmart.com. Whew, that’s a lot of POW. The afternoon sessions covered digital marketing strategies, modernizing our sales force, amplifying SEM, shopper behavior, “Fire, Flood, Focus” (session featuring Carey Kniskern of Fields BMW Orlando and Tom LaPointe of Preston Automotive Group) and other “Bull$hit!” (a reference to Jeffrey Tognetti’s session, “It’s Time to Call Bull$h!t”).

I had the opportunity to moderate a panel with three all-time industry greats Brian Rydell, Barry Brodsky, Vincent Micciche, and the new-comer Rudy Tremenio (aka El Patronn). The presentation was titled, “Digital Marketing Solutions Don’t Solve Dealers Biggest Problems: Improving Website Conversion Rates and Sales Process.” Thankfully, we played to a packed house.

Brian Rydell of Rydell Auto Group (rydellcars.com) shared a composed take on some of the little website adjustments they’ve made to positively affect processes for their group of 70 well-managed stores across 18 states. Barry Brodsky of eAutoAppraise, (eautoappraise.com) and Vincent Micciche from Strolid (strolid.com) both with long-time, practical retail sales and store management experience, were able to discuss how process improvements and tool implementations help their dealer clients improve shopper to lead conversion and well through the purchase cycle. El Patronn was true to his reputation as an industry leading self-promoter, having input on every subject and sharing passionate anecdotes of his Mitsubishi Store in Brooklyn, New York (brooklynmitsubishi.com). To end the day, Erich Gail set the stage for a community-first mindset as moderator for Wednesday afternoon’s keynote panel featuring Doug Wilson of Wilson Auto Group (wilsonautogroup.com) and Time’s 2019 Dealer of the Year John Alfirevich, owner of Apple Chevrolet (applechevy.com).

Digital Dealer hosted a memorable party at Mango’s, sponsored by LetGo (us.letgo.com) with great music and plenty of salsa (and not the kind for dipping). While some party-goers were content to just dance, others enjoyed networking over beverages with new and old friends.

Closing keynote speaker Gail Kasper, owner of GKTV (gailkasper.com), captured our attention after breakfast on Thursday, with a presentation focusing on brand development through social media video intention, creation, and release (aka posting). Followed by the final round of sessions, including Denise Casagrande of PCG Digital (pcgdigital.com) stopping thumbs in their tracks
in the social marketing realm, and George Nenni of Generations Digital (generationsdigital.com) honing on
Google Analytics and paid search metrics.

Who’s Paying for This?

Being the soothsayer of many an “E” brand and now the owner of my own, I’m constantly impressed with the level of talent defining, creating, and representing automotive technology. The DD26 expo solutions did not disappoint. The new and cool tech represented was amazing for professional customer engagement, even if mixed with subtle notes of “how can you know that about me” and hints of “that could be downright creepy.” Nonetheless, the technology available to dealers today is incredible. 

There were a few new faces on the expo floor as well as old friends with new solutions. One of the notable newcomers was Cartender (cartender.com), a marketing company slanted toward a dynamic, on-demand video solution
for your existing website’s SRPs and VDPs. Randy Roberts of Dealer’s Link
(dealerslink.com) spoke passionately about their feature-rich inventory management and a dealer-to-dealer marketplace service for acquisition or reduction of used inventory – without any buy or sell fees.

Some things can go without saying, but Digital Dealer 26 included the attendance of an old friend who must receive my sincere thanks and appreciation. Cary D. Smith is not only a friend and auto industry veteran, but he now works with me at Dealer SuperHero and his involvement at DD26 was extremely valuable. Attending sessions, keynotes, and learning from sponsors enabled us to divide and conquer as needed.

As far as Digital Dealer events go, this one left a big impression on all in attendance. Much learned, new friends made and supreme appreciation for those who gave their time, expertise, and talents. If you haven’t already linked up with the many industry experts that were at the show, you really should consider connecting with them on social media.

Fortunately, we only have a few months until the next Digital Dealer Conference & Expo in Vegas! Digital Dealer 27 takes place this Aug. 19-21st. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you too!

Author: Shaun Raines

Shaun Raines is the Internet car guy and Founder/CEO of Dealer SuperHero, a Digital Performance Management, Marketing and Creative Services company serving dealers and vendors in the automotive space. His 25 years of automotive experience includes helping the Reynolds teams that launched Microsoft’s CarPoint.com, CarsDirect Connect, Yahoo Autos, Automark Websites and Reynolds Web Solutions. Before launching Dealer SuperHero, Shaun was the VP of Business Development for DealerOn, Director of Automotive for ReachLocal and Executive Director of Dealer Relations at DrivingSales. His unique blend of humor and automotive experience has made him a sought-after speaker at industry events and 20 Groups. EMAIL: shaun@dealersuperhero.com.

Digital Dealer