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So, I was out at NADA this past weekend in San Francisco. I hadn't been there in awhile... actually my last NADA was also San Francisco a few years back.


If you were there... what did you think?


Personally, I thought it was kind of boring. The dealer attendance looked to be OK, but I didn't see a lot of booths jam packed with dealers. Most of the dealers I noticed were walking around with that "is there anything here that is going to transform my business" look on their faces. Some new companies concentrating on social media and iphone apps, etc. but not sure that is the answer either.


What used to be ad agencies and marketing companies have been replaced by large software companies who have convinced the dealers their systems are going to change their world and do it all for them.


I used to go to NADA to network with other vendors to find ways to work together. This year I actually got kicked out of a booth because the guy said I wasn't a dealer and he wanted to "protect his products"... which by the way I first used for one my dealer clients back in 2004.


What are your thoughts?





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  We saw a huge increase in traffic from dealers at the VinSolutions booth. While last year was strong we simply could not talk to everyone that came into our booth this year. When I was able to step away for a few minutes it seemed to me the exhibit halls were very full but booth traffic varied widely from overflowing to not much going on.

Hey Shawn -


Yes, your booth was quite active. We were there for awhile on Saturday talking with some of the staff. Got a chance to meet Johnny Rodgers also... great guy!!

Anyone kicking an Independent Consultant out of his/her NADA booth because they are "not a dealer" . . . seems stupid, and I don't understand that.  I would think they would want to garner your support and usage by your clients.


I didn't find NADA to be boring.  I do, however, think SOME of the software houses there ran the old gambit "dealers want and will pay for turn-key solutions that they find later aren't turn-key".


I was speaking at NADA and I found the level of engagement and the questions asked by dealers very encouraging.  I did not spend much time on the exhibit hall because of one on one meetings but I was glad to be there and share in helping dealers learn about digital marketing.



I find your observations interesting, especially the part about getting kicked out of a booth! After I spent about an hour hanging out at the exhibit and watching their crew getting choreographed to perform a music video shot to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller (lots of fun), I went around taking photographs... As I was leaving the North Hall, a vendor came running out to me and was quite upset "Why are you taking photos of my booth?" he asked... I was taking photos of the entire convention hall, so I responded that I was being like a tourist and taking photos for my blog (I gave him the ADM URL). He asked me to delete my images, and I simply laughed and said "No".  Just then, Gary May was walking up to me from the opposite direction, with his arms held out wide saying something like "You wanna piece of me?" and the upset vendor turned and went back into his cave...


NADA 2011 was my 15th NADA Convention... Not sequentially, I missed a few years in the 90's, but I have been to every one since 2001.  I do not recall any previous NADA Conventions with more surly or less hospitable vendors. On the other hand, now that I am no longer associated with a big DMS provider, maybe what I am seeing is how many of these suppliers REALLY are, and not seeing how they treat either a dealer, or somebody from Reynolds or ADP, with whom they need to be able to access their systems for data.  I'd be interested in hearing other observations or theories as well...


BTW... I was VERY impressed with Jerry Thibeau's Phone-up Ninjas products and services, as well as the Ford Motor Company exhibit, especially around accessory Point-Of-Sale display fixtures and signage.  And, I think I have a better appreciation for the success of the team... They seem to have enough fun working together that it carries over into a higher quality of service and products being delivered to their dealer clients.

Well, Ralph, come to think of it there was one bad experience like that.  We were in the hall and stopped at a booth that was showing license-plate holders and other doodads.  One of our group was a 3rd party who wanted to buy for his dealer (he does all their buying as part of his contract)--and the OWNER OF THE COMPANY told him "We don't do business with 3rd parties!".  And proceeded to get very obnoxious.  I understand if he doesn't want some kind of jinky situation or somebody putting a price bump on his product, but this was not the case.  Before the buyer could explain himself further, the owner starting cursing at him!  I think the owner meant "We don't do business."   Period!

Don't get me wrong, I met some great people while I was out there... just thought it was a little bit different then what I have been used to in the past.


Also, Ford's booth was AWESOME - they definitely did it BIG this year!!

I always thought it was funny that everyone wanted to showcase their wares, but were afraid to show it to potential competitors.  If you really have a worthwhile product you should be happy to let the other guys know what they are up against.  Best thing you can do for some of those guys is to convince them that they should go back to whatever it was they were doing before.  


Anyone that has been around long enough knows that the competetive analysis intel comes directly from the dealers that are using the product and the marketing material from the companies themselves.


On the other hand, after hours on those concrete floors the patience can wear a bit thin for people that are just pumping you for information.


As for the photos:  Good thing we didn't do a live broadcast :)  C'mon Really!  In this day and age with every handheld device having a camera, you are gonna stop people from taking pictures?


  I agree 100% with you about the Phone-up Ninjas products and services. Jerry does a great job and we have worked with a number of dealerships that utilize Jerry's services, each of them has seen a huge value and ROI.

Owen - vAuto had a very good NADA. The thing that impressed me most about my conversations with dealers was that optimism seemed to be back! It's been a tough couple of years for the industry and we've all seen the effects; including some good friends closing their doors. But the dealers that are left, that have weathered the storm and attended NADA seemed very positive and upbeat - at least the ones I spoke with.


As for vendors turning away consultants; Wow! That just seems crazy to me. We earn a tremendous amount of business by referrals, both from our current customers AND from consultants. Tommy Gibbs spent a lot of time in our booth speaking with dealers and David Kain stopped by to video our new 'Launch' product for his clients that couldn't make it to the show.


Owen, I'm not sure if you had an opportunity to stop by and say hi, but make sure you do next year. Maybe we need to hang a "Consultants Welcome" sign outside :-)

Ralph, I wish you would have stopped by re:member group's booth to take photos--we would have loved to see you! We've been sporting the "route 66" Car Club sign since last SFO NADA show; funny that NADA used it for their overall theme this year.

We welcome consultants. There was one "consultant" that came to our booth with a fake badge on. I knew he was fake, but gladly shared my services with him, and he gave me his card at the end. I politely said, "you knowyou should really buy your own badge. We pay a lot for our booths, and we just want to know who we're talking to."

As for competitors, c'mon by! We've got nothing to hide, and frankly we are personal friends with many of them. I just ask that you have integrity and not wear a dealer/manager badge.

The show was upbeat, optimistic, and there was a ton of great, interested traffic.

Ralph and Shawn,


Thanks for the mention, much appreciated.

It's sad that vendors don't see the value in building relationships with Allied Industry attendees.  These folks often have relationships with lots of dealers. 


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