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DrivingSales Executive Summit 2012: A To Unmarketing


The 2012 DrivingSales Executive Summit has closed its doors with an amazing, energetic event to show. Congratulations to the entire (growing) DrivingSales team, you have left a higher bar to be measured against, once again. With nearly 1000 in attendance, primarily dealers, the vibe was strong around leading-edge strategies. And the expectations were high...

Opening in one of the Bellagio's main ballrooms, with the shortest intro of the four-year event by Jared Hamilton, emcee Charlie Vogelheim introduced Dennis Galbraith to talk about "big data" for dealerships, emphasizing the importance of executable data-based strategy, followed by Luke Wroblewski, renowned mobile expert. The information shared by the former Yahoo design guru wowed the crowd. While not industry-specific, the impact of traffic and studies was easily translatable to both OEM and dealership tactics. The big question was, why are we not better around mobile strategies? The opening reception definitely reflected the excitement for the event.

Florian Zettelmeyer opened up day two with a deeper drive into "Big Data" with a focus on national brands. Like Luke's presentation the evening before, the practical application into automotive was significant and it turned quite a few heads. Feedback from dealers was overwhelmingly positive, and interesting. So were some tweets: one suggested a drinking game each time "Big Data" was heard, the other coining "Big Data" as the.....well you'll have to find and read it.

Rand Fishkin was next and the SEO oracle delivered. Talking points included off-site, social signals, long-tail and other critical search components. The feedback from the session was that it was top-notch. The SEOmoz founder gave dealers (and many vendors) information points that area critical to success, especially given lots of "enterprise" information that is typically given to the industry.

One of the marquee events of the DSES was next...the Best Idea competition. It's best to watch the videos on DrivingSales TV since this post can't quite catch the passion that the dealers being to the table. Everything, at the end of the day, is about the dealer and the industry moves as the speed of retail. So go watch! After the first round of breakout sessions, it was back into the main ballroom for the Innovation Cup. This year cDemo came out on top. Next year those in the running are going to watch to polish up their presentation and explanation skills....

Cobalt was next with their presentation that was supposed to hit on research and, wait for it.... Data that the industry could use relevant to websites and traffic. Some of the points were relevant while many points were already part of existing marketing for most of the dealers in attendance. Then, the full-capacity crowd was rewarded with a gem of a presentation from Billy Beane. The Oakland A's General Manager, who doesn't make public speaking a regular practice, talked about how businesses must be smart, agile and customer-centric, plus saving some tongue-in-check monologue about Moneyball. The audience paid full attention to his ideas, quotes and stories.

Tuesday opened with Facebook and Google...and a heavy dose of anticipation. The two biggest subjects on the industry's mind, Google reviews and Facebook advertising, were not covered due to both companies request. Tom White did as good as possible a job without a full quiver of questions to ask, still leaving some important aspects to be covered by both the search and social giants.

Then one of the most highly anticipated sessions in the industry in 2012: Jared Hamilton hosted TrueCar's Scott Painter for a one-on-one Q&A. Whether Jared took it easy or was tough on who represented the industry's pariah about a year ago or not is of opinion, there were some great questions and responses with some in the crowd wondering what position TrueCar will play into 2013.

Jim Dance followed with a leadership focused presentation that should immediately impact dealership operation. Rich in examples and strategy, Jim did have a post-lunch audience (always tough) that revealed many taking notes. Packed afternoon breakouts brought the event to the evening's joint keynote with JD Power's Automotive Marketing Roundtable. Mini's marketing head Tom Salkowsky talked about their passionate customers and gave chimerical and video examples of just how dedicated Mini owners are.

Then, Scott Straten of "Unmarketing" fame stepped on stage and gave the packed ballroom plenty to laugh, cry and think about. Between chanting "stop it" in regard to mediocre marketing and technology use to bits of "Awesome", his words danced throughout the mix of dealers, OEMs, agencies, media and portals packed i for the following conference. Sick as a dog, Straten simply engaged the audience with the same style and techniques he begged attendees to use.

Amazing event. What will the DSES team due to make 2013 shine? We only have 12 months to find out...

Special announcements: Jared Hamilton introduced industry veteran Kevin Root as President/COO of DrivingSales and revealed that in April 2013, the DrivingSales Automotive Presidents Club featuring Seth Godin. For dealers who want to attend the New York event, go to


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