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2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit Recap Part II

By Eric Miltsch on Oct 22, 2013

2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit

Here's my follow up recap for the rest of the 2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit held last week in Las Vegas. 

Dylan Swift, National Director of Marketing at Yelp, opened up Monday morning with an overview of the online review landscape. He raised some eyebrows with his initial recommendation to the crowd: "Don't ask your customers for reviews on Yelp!" Dylan said that reviews should simply be an organic extension of your dealership's experience. Bad experiences will yield negative reviews. So, make sure your experiences are as positive as possible. Sure, obvious stuff - but it does helps to hear directly from Yelp about their processes and admitting the possibility of reviews being stripped away. (I've had legitimate, positive reviews for my dealership removed - and with no explanation) 

Some dealers may have taken this guidance as a sign that Yelp doesn't necessarily understand the dealership review landscape (much like Google struggled a couple of years ago) Others may have interpreted this as a subtle hint that if you participate in Yelp's paid advertising programs, then maybe your reviews won't disappear. I don't believe this is a conspiracy of sorts, but the question does still remain about why so many positive reviews go missing. 

One simple take away: If you're using specific call to actions in your CRM follow up emails, you may want to remove Yelp as an option. Showroom iPad kiosk solutions that include Yelp should also be considered for removal. 

Next up on the agenda was the DrivingSales Best Idea Contest. This has always been one of my favorite portions of the entire event. Creative and progressive dealers compete against each other by sharing their best ideas to help improve their dealerships performance. There is never a shortage of great efforts and ideas. Another reason why I like this contest is that it helps the audience get a wonderful view of the enthusiasm these dealers posses - that's refreshing to see and should act as an inspiration to everyone in the audience for them to bring back to their dealerships as well. All of the contestants did an excellent job with their ideas; their presentations were also top notch this year. 

Congratulations to Robert Karbaum, eCommerce Director for Weins Canada Inc. as he took home the top prize of $3000 with his Appointment Boarding Pass idea. (A strong signal that the Canadians are serious about upping their game!) Cheers to the other contestants who eagerly shared their efforts with the attendees - that alone is an awesome gesture and something that everyone respects tremendously. (There was some online chatter about this portion not being about the dealer's individual ideas vs. them showing of variations of vendor products - the main point here is that the dealers are trying to personalize these efforts and make them their own.) The others dealers competing were: 

  • “Picture Perfect Reputation Management” – Megan Barto, Marketing Director, Ciocca Honda

  • “True Internet ROI” – Mark Brady, CTO/CMO, Fisher Honda-Kia

  • “Sell My Car” – Zack Freed, E Commerce Director, McCombs Automotive Team

  • “How to Visualize Big Data in the Dealership” – Jason Stum, Digital Marketing Manager, LaFontaine Automotive Group


And for those in attendance, please don't be lazy and simply copy their idea. add your dealership's flair and personality to the concepts is you'e so inclined and make it fit your brand's personality. That's how you stand out among this crowded space. 

The next keynote to speak was Dr. Joeseph Weintraub, Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior, Babson College. Dr. Weintraub is an expert authority on leadership concepts and strategy - he's also one of those people that makes it extremely difficult to fit all of his experiences and knowledge into a 30 minute presentation. This is the type of guy you listen to all day long and then sit around a nice meal and simply soak up his wisdom. His emphasis on coaching content and leadership initiatives should speak volumes to dealers. He struck a chord with me with his message about creating learning through relationships to help improve the method and the processes. It needs to work on both ends and can't just be a one way street. His concept of allowing an organization's leaders to help grow future leaders make complete sense; the future of any dealership lies within the abilities of tomorrow's leaders, yet many simply ignore this path or don't recognize it at all. Dr. Weintraub's key elements of innovative companies is also something that dealers should consider adopting to help maintain a fresh stance in today's stagnant culture. Some examples include: 

  • “Avoid analysis paralysis when we identify new opportunities by exhibiting a bias towards action; we are constantly experimenting"

  • "We are not afraid to fail, we treat failure as a learning opportunity"

  • "We have the right recruiting and hiring systems in place to support a culture of innovation" 

  • "We are consistent in actually doing the things that we say we value"

  • "We have a deliberate, comprehensive and disciplined approach to innovation" 

2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit

The next portion of the event I experienced was the breakout sessions. This year's DSES had a stellar lineup to choose from depending on your own personal needs and situation. I made it a point to visit as many dealer breakout sessions as possible because I was most interested in seeing what these dealers are doing. And I was not disappointed with the content I experienced. While they were all filled with timely, relevant information, two sessions that stood out for me were given by Aaron Wirtz (Subaru of Wichita) and Grant Gooley (Boyer Automotive Group). These two sessions were both highly polished and you could tell they had months of preparation and rehearsal put into them. Both presenters created an infectious enthusiasm among the audience and shared great concepts. The actual tools and tips shared almost seemed secondary; I enjoyed the way Aaron and Grant made their successes seem effortless - and fun. You could tell they simply love what they do. If your dealership doesn't have someone with that type of passion in that role, then you need to find one, quickly.  

After the breakout sessions, everyone rushed back to catch Bruce Kimbrall, Disney Institute, talk about their favorite brand - Disney. Always so much you can learn from top brands such as Disney and it was a treat to hear their perspective. The message is also so powerful when you hear from such a historical brand and you begin to piece together how a company can become such a part of our lives. Bruce shared Disney's six stage of branding: 

  • Unbranded Goods

  • Unbranded References

  • Brand as a personality

  • Brand as an icon

  • Brand as a company

  • Brand as a policy


He shared their philosophy on brand loyalty - always a hot topic for dealers. He insisted it boiled down to brand integrity. It doesn't matter what your product or service is, it will always come down to creating a positive experience for the guest. This philosophy transfers nicely into the concept of valuing all consumers to create the lifetime value effect. It does your organization no good to only create a portion of consumer value during their lifetime - it must be ongoing. He also described the steps involved in this process:

1. Create internal service quality (How you treat employees) 

2.  Employee satisfaction

3. Employee retention

4. External service quality (How you treat your customers) 

5. Customer satisfaction

6. Customer value

7. Customer loyalty

8. Profit/Growth/Revenue


Leadership was another key theme during his keynote. Everyone is empowered to lead - and create magical moments for every guest at Disney. He also indicated there was a direct correlation between those who created the highest guest satisfaction and who ultimately became a great immediate leader within the organization. And while everyone may assume various reasons why guests come back to Disney time and time again, they really come back because of three reasons: How clean they keep Disney, friendliness of the staff and because guests feel safe. Very universal emotional triggers and Disney appeals to these factors on a consistent basis. 

2103 DrivingSales Executive Summit

Tuesday's session kicked off with the ever-popular Digital Battle Debates hosted by Joe Webb (DealerKnows). Joe lined up some great participants in this year's debate and paired them up with the perfect competitors to help fuel the debate fire. This format works great and creates for a memorable session - especially when you get people like Bryan Armstrong battling against Kevin Frye in a debate over who should be handling your marketing efforts: Either old school car guy vs. new school technology guy. These guys are both animated speakers and also good friends - but the key element is the passion with which they stick to their side, yet can walk away with a hearty handshake and a hug. Conversely, JD Rucker and Ralph Paglia debated a topic in which I can barely remember because they both kept agreeing with each other. I couldn't tell which side either of them was representing. Its a debate. We want to see blood. 

Congrats to all of the debate winners: Subi Gosh, Dan Boismeir, Kevin Frye, Jerry Thibeau and JD Rucker. 

2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit

The next keynote was Cameron Chell, CEO Podium Ventures. This was among my favorite keynote of the entire event (along with Danny Sullivan) Cam is an extremely dynamic speaker who is definitely not lacking anything in the confidence department. He's also not afraid to tell his story. A very powerful personal story. His presentation was all about the value and the cost of trust. And to help make his point, he shared some of the most personal elements of his life and how he has moved along his life path. He described incredible successes of having built a business worth a half billion dollars and then experiencing losing it all due to drug and alcohol addictions. He shared how his experiences on 9/11 changed his entire thought process and the incredible pains it created in his life. And he talked about his incredible recovery; he shared how this process taught him to put others first and what it really meant to build and maintain trust. He told a wildly inspiring story about how he was able to convicine five of the world's largest nations to help him put video cameras on the International Space Station. I can't even imagine how one goes about taking a risk as large as this. This was moving, it made me think a lot and left me with such a strong positive feeling afterwards. I'm not sure if everyone in the audience felt the same, but that's the beauty of the these events - so much for everyone to take away when you have such high quality speakers. 

2013 DrivingSales Executive Summit​The event was closed out with Danny Sullivan, Founder of Search Engine Land, and one of the top authorities on search marketing in the entire world. Danny was also among my most anticipated keynotes. He could easily fill up several days of SEO/SEM/search marketing content but I was impressed with how he managed to cover so many key topics in such an easily digestible format within 45 minutes. Some may argue he wasn't specific enough, but I liked how he covered the most relevant topics for dealers and the areas where they should be focusing. Danny could have easily buried the audience with a very granular, deep-technical dive - one which nobody would have enjoyed. 

As a dealer, I would have focused in on the the following items that Danny mentioned within his presentation: 

  • Create better, more creative content. Yes - this is a very difficult thing to do.

  • Participate within Google+. Google is centralizing it's product quite & this will help your activity and rankings.

  • Build your local reviews. Do it right by creating great experiences. The reviews will follow. 

  • Mobile optimization. Make sure your site works on other devices, provides the right content and has the proper mobile architecture with regards to the mobile redirects. 

  • Start using structured data. Tools are available within Google Webmaster tools to help tag your content properly. Hint, work with your website vendor on this. If they can't help you, find someone who can. This is a must-have element as the Semantic Web continues to grow and take over the search engine results. 

Overall this was another great event and one that you must be at if you consider yourself a forward thinking, progressive dealer. The audience continues to get more aware and smarter every year, you'll need all the help you can get to stay a couple of steps ahead of your competition.

2013 DrivingSales Executive SummitThe opportunities to meet, hang out and collaborate with other top-notch dealers and vendors are limitless. My experiences at this event each year are so valuable because of the quality people I meet. Those relationships are more meaningful now because of the personal friendships that have grown as a result of this event. I encourage everyone to put in the effort to meet more people and build your relationships - I'm fortunate to have such incredible industry friends.

Congratulations to Jared and team for another stellar DSES, looking forward to seeing who's on stage next year!

Thank you!




Thanks for the shout-out to the Digital Media Battle, Eric. DSES was a great time.

Oct 23, 2013

Honoured to be mentioned in Part I, AND Part II !

Oct 23, 2013

Great recap(s), Eric! Fantastic event and what a fantastic group of people that put this show on; all with one goal and that's to help the fellow dealer.

Oct 23, 2013

I know how much work goes into a recap like this - great job Eric! I really enjoyed the conference, with the highlight being able to meet with so many great folks. I am already looking forward to a follow-up on the data panel and to see if any progress is made. Cheers to all!

Oct 24, 2013

Robert - I knew you were going to light up the stage when I heard your prep-deck up in our room. You've got a gift.

Will - Thanks. We're all lucky to be a part of such a fantastic group that is certainly trying to help one another.

Kevin - Appreciated. Unfortunately I missed the data panel; the tweets & offline chatter were among the most lively.

Oct 24, 2013

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