Professional Community for Automotive Marketers, Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
As of recently, there have been a total of 11 Digital Dealer conferences. In fact, while sitting in on a session given by Anthony Bartoli on Day 3 of the conference I heard him talk about what the conference was like originally. It was interesting to hear about how few speakers there were and how cramped the rooms were. He explained how interesting it was to see the early adopters tackle on digital sales and marketing efforts. It is unfortunate that I missed out on the first few Digital Dealer Conferences simply because I was not made aware that they exist. I was only an up and coming manager in a dealership that was starting to learn and search for the right resources.
It took me trial and error to get good at what I did for a living. In fact, my lessons in automotive internet sales were going to see people like Cory Mosley (who was an inspiration for me to do what I do now) put on a seminar or simply just searching google for “automotive internet sales”. I did discover DealerRefresh and sink my teeth into reading the articles that Jeff Kershner and Alex Snyder would publish. It was not until 2008 when I was already a seasoned professional starting to make the right contacts and use social media to network with my industry colleagues that I discovered Digital Dealer. I first heard about it during the week that it was going on. It was Digital Dealer 5. At that time, I had just joined Automotive Digital Marketing and started to connect with everyone. I had even met my really good friend, Ralph Paglia around that time for the first time ever.
Well I made a commitment to myself to attend Digital Dealer 6 in Las Vegas which was at the same hotel as this last Digital Dealer event. I was impressed the first time that I attended the conference because I picked up a lot of useful information that would help me grow as a professional. I also met a lot of people and networked. At the end of that conference I thought I had been to greatest conference ever. The following year I attended another Digital Dealer conference and was almost as impressed as I was the first time I went. I guess after attending one, I kind of felt like I expected more out of it. It was still a great conference and I learned a lot.
It was unfortunate that I missed two Digital Dealer conferences in between due to conflicting schedules. However, I did not expect this one to completely blow me away. When I saw the lineup of speakers that were announced I knew I would be excited about this. The Digital Dealer conference made some improvements by bringing people like Eric Qualman, author of Socialnomics to be a speaker as well as Keith Watts from Facebook. The other thing that really hit me was the attendance record. I remember at NADA 2011 in San Francisco when I told Mike Roscoe that “I think Digital Dealer has become a household name and a must attend event”. I added, “It is like a mini NADA for dealers wanting everything digital”. He seemed to like my expression and opinion.
I had been pre-registered and still had to stay in line for an hour to get my pass. It was an amazing hour as I got to network with some new dealers that were there for the first time. After being at this conference, I am starting to believe that dealers are starting to embrace digital sales and marketing. This is the first step is to attend the conference and take as many notes as possible before coming back to the dealership and implementing strategies.
I got to see Ralph Paglia speak about hiring and recruiting which is something that I wish I learned from him over three years ago when I was a manager. I am sure that I would have done things better at the time when it came to Human Resources. The other session that I enjoyed was seeing my friends Joe Webb and Tim James talk about vehicle merchandising. Joe Webb is a very good friend of mine and just one of the best automotive internet sales professionals in the industry.
It was great to see Jeff Kershner talk about how he turned around a Nissan dealership that was a part of his dealer group. I enjoyed it because Jeff has been hosting his own blog for a few years now and it is great to see someone not just talk the talk but also walk the walk. I am honored to have him as a friend in the industry as well. The other proud moment of my visit to Digital Dealer 11 is being able to see my Checkered Flag friend, Christine Knowles speak about eMarketing. She did an amazing job for her first time with a great sense of humor and a brilliant mindset for digital marketing. I am happy to see that she took over a very important role when Alex Snyder left and is maintaining it very well.
As I mentioned earlier, I got to see Eric Qualman speak which was a breath of fresh air as well as Keith Watts from Facebook. These two speakers single handedly helped make Digital Dealer 11 the best one yet. It was unfortunate that I missed the speaker from Yelp. But there is only so much that you can do in the three busy days. But I did get a chance to see Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda present how effective his strategies are and why he is able to dominate the Honda market. He is brilliant dealer operator that many need to learn from.
On the networking side, I got to meet with some old friends as well as make new ones. There are some great new up and coming companies out there. My friend, Ric McCoy introduced me to this awesome new product that involves QR codes. Dealers need to check out Scan & Drive (http://scananddrive.com/). This is such a game changer. It was great to see my friend Adam Ross of Infinite Prospects (http://www.infiniteprospects.com/) who was working with Instaquote (http://getinstaquote.net/) which is another solid game changer in the industry. Adam and I go way back a few years. I enjoyed meeting up with the good guys at DealerOn (http://www.dealeron.com/) as usual.
I made a new friend and met someone that I wanted to meet for a few years now. This person is Jennifer Suzuki (http://www.edealersolution.com/). Who says competitors can’t be friends? She is really great at what she does and has an amazing personality. We got to spend some time talking and learning about what we do. Here is a person that has been training and consulting since the same year I first got into the business so clearly I look up to her. I also would like to thank Jennifer for having me at her party as well.
I spent some time with my friends at DealerRater (http://www.dealerrater.com/) as well as Vinsolutions (http://vinsolutions.com/) who put on such a memorable party. I even got to spend time with an old friend who was a client of mine in the past. She is a very strong up and coming internet director that I believe will be doing huge things in her new endeavor. Let me introduce you to Subi Fernando, internet director at Preston auto group in Maryland. A special thanks to Tier 10 Marketing (http://tier10marketing.com/) and its partners for putting on such a great party. The tribute that Sean Wolfington gave to Steve Jobs was humbling and provided a lot of class. I have a lot of respect for Sean because he is so brilliant in everything that he does.
It was unfortunate that I missed out on the Joe and Shaun Karaoke party but I had a blast at the ADM Party. This was by far the best ADM Reception ever because the flow of people coming and going one after another was priceless. I managed to talk to a lot of great people and get my networking out of the way. I have a lot of admiration for Ralph Paglia and his wife Elizabeth Archuleta because they are so great to talk to and so brilliant. I look forward to spending time with them in Jamaica for New Years.
Overall, between the learning and networking it was a successful event. It was a huge success for my training company Dealer eTraining (http://dealeretraining.com/) because I was able to share the progress and the successful growth with more friends than ever. Also, the networking allowed for me to create possible opportunities that will benefit Dealer eTraining as well as my clients and partners. I look forward to being a part of future Digital Dealer Conferences as an attendee and even a speaker. This event is a must for dealers in all parts of the world.