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Digital Dealer 10 from the world of April Rain

Digital Dealer 10 from the world of April Rain

April 18-21, 2011 

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So, let me start by saying it was a year ago that I had attended my first Digital Dealer. I was in Business Development at CarSoup, primarily worked with Minnesota dealers, and had about 250 Facebook Friends. I started my automotive networking at Digital Dealer 8, then continued at Digital Dealer 9. In the year since, I have been promoted to Digital Development and trainer with CarSoup's sister company, Cuneo Advertising. I now have more than 3,500 Facebook friends. I write, blog, do newsletters on digital automotive technology and I'm facilitating training sessions and summits for local Midwest dealers. That's the power of networking, and utilizing your resources to create professional momentum. You can get as much or as little as you put into something.

Here is another conference from the world of April Rain…


Monday morning I wake up bright and early, excited for one of my favorite parts of my job: Attending conferences. I get such a high meeting new and relevant people, discussing digital marketing and new technology with industry experts. I love the motivational energy, the conversations, the analytical and philosophical discussions. I love that “computer geek” is the new cool. The cocktail parties aren’t so bad, either.

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So I am off from Minnesota to sunny Florida. What I love about flights is that they become a little remote offices when I have no Internet (unless I pay for it)…so I can't be distracted by Facebook, I can't check into 4sq so no one can find me, and there's free coffee so I can buckle down and get my work done. In this case, "work" is being certain to write this blog as I go, before all the details of the week escape me (which is what happens to most of us once we leave a convention). To increase your mental retention rate, here is my first tip.

 TIP#1: Take time during the the conference to write down what you feel was very important and what you plan to put in place as soon as you get back. Forget your pages full of notes and your pocket of business cards. Write a "To do List" of goals and tasks.

 Okay, so I land in Orlando, cab it to the Rosen Shingle Creek and spend the afternoon setting appointments.

TIP #2: This is for your next conference. Go in with an action plan. If you are a dealer, write what you want to accomplish and who you want to talk to. Circle the sessions you want to attend, and then leave yourself time to meet with new companies. 

I am in a unique situation because I am both a vendor and a dealer proxy. Because I represent dealers as an agency, and because I need strategic partnerships that are smart for my clients, I am eager to learn from workshops and pass that information on to my clients. I also meet with other companies to evaluate if they have the right products for my clients. And, of course, pursue new client opportunities. So I need to maximize my days and nights, attending as many workshops as possible, meeting as many people as can, previewing as many technologies, and touching base with all my current partners.

 With my trip roughly planned out, I turn on myFoursquare mobile pings. Foursquare is a mobile application that allows you to broadcast where you are to your network of friends on the same application. Facebook also has this feature called Places. Pings are notifications, so in my home city I leave this feature off. I really don’t need to know my friends’ whereabouts on an hourly basis. Locally I use it as a game or a way of finding coupons. At conferences, however, I use it like a fish-finder for my friends. I can see where everyone is clustering so I know where to go. I check in and see that some of my friends and business partners have arrived in Orlando, so we start texting to find a time and place to connect. 

 First came dinner at the Chop House with Todd Smith, Ted Rubin, and Eric Schlesinger with ActivEngage, Jim Bell and John Watkin from Don Ayers Honda and Nikki, Marc McGurren, Jason, Hagen Durant from Classic Automotive group. I have to say I am not usually a steak person but OMG it was crazy good. From there we all went back to Resort Bar, which was now filled with automotive peeps who had just arrived. I met with automotive interactive gurus Kevin Frye (Jeff Wyler Group)  and Alex Jefferson (Proctor Group) and Kevin Gordon (Jim Patterson Group). They told me about the convention’s Digital Scavenger Hunt.

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The Scavenger Hunt. It was an App that you downloaded called SCVNGR and you had to acquire points for completing tasks or answering questions. One was taking a picture with Arnold Tijerina  and ofcourse we had to rock the goofy self pic. Another was one with a great presenter, so yet another goofy pic. It was a fun, engaging concept, and if you won you got an Ipad 2. Since it was only for dealers I admit I didn't give it my all. Sad to say, my motivation is incentivized by rewards. Hey, I AM in the car business! 

I was also excited to run into my Minnesota buddy and lead partner Frank Laport of Autobytel. While cocktailing I met Larry Bruce with MicrositesByU, who literally yelled "OMG! You're April Rain! We’re Facebook buddies." Interesting than Virtual April Rain has more friends than Actual April Rain. Anyway, Larry and I become instant Actual friends and later in the night I received one of the most epic compliments via social media, with a hilarious viral effect. It started when Larry Bruce put on Twitter, "If you don’t know April Rain you are not in the car business". That travels through the whole week and at least 30 times when I introduced myself to people they replied, "April Rain! Does that mean I’m now in the car business?” I have never experienced such an amazing demonstration of social media. It was so much fun, so Larry Bruce, thank you! The night finished out with great conversations with Cliff Banks, my friends from Don Ayers, and my new friends from Classic Automotive.  

DAY TWO (for me, but Day One of the actual conference) 

So I have already broken George Magda's rules for Conference health (See my NADA blog for the complete list). I'm going into Day One with very little sleep. But, one cup of coffee and I am ready to go. My boss, Larry Cuneo, and CarSoup’s VP of Product Development and User Experience, Brian Bowman, have flown in. We meet Brian Pasch, PCG marketing at the Hilton Orlando for lunch, and have a great conversation about SEO and SEM and progressive marking for dealers. Then we head back to the conference to attend workshops. 

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Power lunch :P

 My favorite sessions were: 

“What You Thought You Knew About Online Car Shoppers”

…with Larry Bruce, Jason Ezell, Kendal Billman, and not just because Larry had recently become my Twitter brand ambassador.  I loved seeing analytics as a guide for change and not just subjective opinions. 

“Dealer 3.0 Cheat Sheet

…with Jerry Thibeau, PhoneNinjas and Alex Jefferson. They actually call dealers’ staff, playing them on a speaker for tips on what to do differently. Quite an eye opener. 

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 I am always excited to run into Minnesota dealers like Mark Swelland of Hudson and New Prague Ford, Brad Banitt with Red Wing Chevrolet, Matt Mahoney, Sears Imports, Mike Grooves and Chris Gulbransen from Apple Autogroup and, of course, dealer icon Bill Krouse, a  former top dealer who's now a consultant.

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 After making the rounds in the exit hall and saying Hi to marketing friends and partners like Layton and Kristen Judd with Three Birds Marketing, Kristen Collins from DealerFire, Phil Sura and Su-Lin Velin Jaski with Unityworks, I got a caricature drawing at Jack Behar’s booth with InteractiveTel. 

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We had an amazing dinner at Calabella with Larry Bruce, then headed to the VinSolutions party at the pool Bar. Had a lot of fun with Vin Solutions Buddies like my neighbor Sean Stappleton, friend and motorcycle cohort David Marod and new buddies Jeff Loos and Kendall Billman. 

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Phrase of the night:

The recent Sheen fan phenomena definitely had taken over Digital Dealer. You couldn't go two minutes without seeing a tweet that said “#winning”. 

 TIP #3

NEVER drink and social media. Friends don't friends tweet while intoxicated. Definitely don't Foursquare from the bar at 2 am if your boss follows you on 4SQ or Twitter.

We fully intended to go to the Responselogix and Sister Technologies parties but stayed at the VinSolutions party till close. It was like a revolving door of networking. Every half hour a new crowd would show up, so my theory was that if you stayed there long enough you'd eventually meet all 2,500 people at Digital Dealer. I think I got close :) Many people know I love to network and if you combine that with a short attention span people know that I can get sidetracked. Apparently when I left the table to the bar to get a drink there was a $40 bet amongst the group on how long it would take for me to come back to the table. I think my buddy Mike Benavides, Auto Data Solutions won that bet I am pretty sure I should get lunch out of that:P

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A great day of sessions, workshops, meetings. I got great data information from Michael Sharkey with R.L. Polk and got to see my awesome friend Laura Hutchinson with CarFax. I was definitely busy. Too many awesome companies and so little time. We stop to talk to Jim Ziegler and his beautiful wife Debbie and it was hilarious she had business cards that looked like $100 bills and they would through them on the floor to watch people pick them up all excited then open it up and laugh. It was so funny. I am going to do the same thing but with scratchers. I'll leave them around and then when people scratch off the see if they win it would say HAHA call April Rain. 

So I when we finally stopped playing around I went in to my room, Skyped to the kiddos and then headed to the DealerOn IceBar Party. Ali and everyone at DealerOn hostested an extremely cool party. (Excuse the pun) 


Do not skip dinner and go straight to Drinking Vodka from an ice bar. Even if they have root beer favored vodka. I know these tips seem pretty specific but they are designed to help.

It was great getting to chat with Mike Roscoe, owner of Digital Dealer, and I absolutely adored meeting Kim DePalma while we drank literally the best cocktail ever. It was like a root beer float with vodka. Seriously you can’t wrong with sugar, vodka and networking with gorgeous, intelligent, strong women in the automotive business.  

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From there our entourage headed to the ActivEngage party at the Blue Martini. Everyone who’s anyone in automotive was there. I not only met up with all the previously mentioned peers but also got to catch up with Tim Jackson, CADA., Kate Frost, Kate Frost INC., Glenn Hardy and Minnesota-based vendor Ben Anderson, AutomotionTV and Jeff Kershner, Dealer Refresh.  I've got some hilarious pictures that are just too embarrassing for Facebook, mostly because I look like a total goof. I have a particularly high ego when I drink. It’s so unfortunate how uncool I look verses what I think I look like. 

TIP #5

This in conduction with Tip 3 regarding cocktails and social media. If you are inclined to make generally goofy faces when you drink, then don't get your picture taken.  

* I would also like to point out that if you have 3500 Facebook friends and you post on a regular basis when I ask to take your picture don't be surprised when that picture ends up on Facebook. What do you think I am going to do with it, Scrap book?  

TIP #6 

Be a considerate Facebooker. I always show people the picture I take so they have the first right of refusal. If they hate the picture I delete it. I also don’t criticize or slam on social media. Digital Karma operates faster than the speed of light!

So the night wraps up and we make our way back to get a minuscule amount of sleep before our final DD day. 


Believe it or not, I am up and bright and early to pack and have an 8 am breakfast with Jason Ezell of Datum. 


If you are going to have meetings with ridiculously smart data analytics experts do it on Day One when you are rested and much smarter. 

It was actually a great discussion and I am highly motivated to start taking clients digital advertising analytics to a whole new level.  Some other hot technologies at this conference were the rise of dealer application and of course the always essential and evolving website optimization. A few more meetings later, I'm to the airport where I scored a ride with friend Pete Macinnis of Dealer Centric and on the plane home I got see friend Nick Cybela, Ford Digital and Mary Bedder, White Bear Mitsubishi and now I’m sitting on the plane, excited to get home and see my babies. 


Always have a disclaimer: For example I am not trained and or certified in automotive blogging so follow my tips at your own risk, I am not responsible for any negative consequence you receive as a result of taking my tips. 

That sum’s up another April conference adventure. At least the events that won’t get me fired, arrested, deported or flagged by the FBI. Ha just kidding...maybe.

To view my Digital Dealer photos go to:

See you next time...

April Rain

Digital Strategist and Trainer with Cuneo Advertising 

and a enthusiast ! 

Other awesome peeps It was also great to see: Eddie Cawley, AutoTrader., Dawn McCauley,Shaun Raines, Karen Shenefelt., Reach Local., Bart Wilson Driving Sales., Ed Parkins, John Hanger, Marck Hayes, Ryan Lucia Contactatonce, and Tim Jennings, The Internet guy. 

Views: 447

Tags: advertising, april, carsoup, conference, cuneo, dd10, dealer, digital, marketing, rain


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 16, 2011 at 9:34pm
April - I really enjoyed reading your report, which is almost like a "Conference Diary" and can sincerely state that after every conference I always seem to realize that there were a whole bunch of people I missed interacting with, and for me, the 10th Digital Dealer Conference was the one where I missed spending time conversing and interacting with you... So i could get a mention in your report! LOL... I am sure we will get a chance to spend time in conversation during the ADM Member Reception at the 11th Digital Dealer Conference.  So, till then, thank you for the great article and sharing your Digital Dealer adventures with your Automotive Marketing Community!

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