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Robert Karbaum

Robert Karbaum National Digital Strategy Manager

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Top 8 DrivingSales Executive Summit 2014 Takeaways

3d7d952ac8e8e94231c78f05462d518e.jpg?t=1Conferences are easy. Free food, free swag, free parties, and more information than you can shake a stick at. It is like going back to college, condensed into 3 days.

Now comes the work; taking what you have learnt and doing something with it. Creating an actionable items list and work-back schedule.

Our day-to-day lives catch up with us very quickly and it is all too easy to put off making a plan. Before you know it, it's the next year and the next conference season and you haven't moved on anything you have learned.

A similar but equally daunting problem is hoping to accomplish EVERYTHING. Often there are so many fantastic ideas it is impossible to choose. This past DrivingSales Executive Summit is a prime example. The great information I took in, is far more than I could ever accomplish.

The reality is this: you can't implement everything, but you can't afford to implement nothing. [] You need to determine what is most important and how you are going to accomplish it. To assist you in this endeavor, here are my top 8 takeaways from DSES 2014. In no particular order.


The Takeaway: You can’t just pump out content anymore. Not only do you need quantity to build yourself up as a reliable source, but you also need quality original content that is designed to answer user intent.

Rand Fishkin (@randfish) - "Google is an Answer Engine"

Rand, self-proclaimed "Wizard" of MOZ (and I don't disagree) gave us an update of Google and how it is no longer a "search engine" but now is moving towards a Skynet inspired sentient being, or "Answer/ Intent Engine".

We no longer seek out information, we seek out answers. Our instant gratification culture is in full force. We want an answer box, and we are not willing to accept anything less.

To facilitate this change Google now acts to solve the world's questions, before they are asked. The engine, now smarter than keywords and meta tags alone decides what answers it wants to use based on how it interprets content. Not on how you present it.

The Takeaway: You can't just pump out content anymore. Not only do you need quantity to build yourself up as a reliable source, but you also need quality original content that is designed to answer user intent.


Jared Hamilton (@DrivingSales) – “We are going to be competing on customer experience”

Jared Hamilton (@DrivingSales) - "We are going to be competing on customer experience"

Jared gave us a sneak peek into the massive study DrivingSales is currently undergoing that focuses how we are perceived by the customer, and what they want in the car buying process. The results thus far are scary. This study, to be unveiled at NADA 2015 focuses on what customers ACTUALLY want in their automotive buying experience, not what we think they want. Or, more accurately, what we are cramming down their throats.

Right now the automotive industry is at a serious fork in the road and we have run out of race track. We need to decide today if we are willing to put in the effort to make serious changes to how we do business.

If we continue on the path that we are on, customers will moved towards alternatives that offer a better customer experience. We have all seen the Blockbuster story, the Kodak story, the Borders story, Blackberry, Tower Records, Circuit City, Polaroid, Sega or the countless other incidents where empires have fallen because they refused to adapt to the needs of the customer. If we don't change, right now will be the point where everyone looks back and says,

"How could they not see it? They had a chance to save themselves"

Now, where this hits the DEFCON-5 alert status is that we ALL need to work together to provide a phenomenally better customer experience. Not just one dealer, or one group, or one manufacture; we ALL need to really, truly, and honestly change.  Else, stick your head in the sand and wait for it all to be over.

The Takeaway: Customer Experience; we are all in this together.


The Takeaway: Innovate your business to forecast the needs of tomorrow’s customer today, and start by asking why.

Brian Solis (@briansolis) - "Asking "why?" Prompts "what if?" Which leads to "what's next."

I don't need to watch horror movies to be terrified this Halloween, when I have Brian Solis. This slide from his presentation is what I mean:

"9,480. The mileage per year you'd have to exceed in order for mid-size car ownership to be cheaper than taking an UberX car everywhere you go." []

That is terrifying for anyone who works in the car business. Now, I am aware some due diligence into the data needs to be done, but on the service it's enough to panic.

Terror wasn't what Brian was hoping to convey however. In fact, it was one of the best presentations that inspired the reality of today's marketplace. He took our hand, and together we walked off the cliff of the past into the future. I believe his goal was to inspire us. Allow us to see how rapidly things can change under our noses. Prepare us for the coming change by asking "why" and most importantly innovate.

When you add this presentation to Jared's, its blindingly apparent how much we as an industry needs to change to adapt to the customer expectations of tomorrow.

The Takeaway: Innovate your business to forecast the needs of tomorrow's customer today, and start by asking why.


The Takeaway: "Pick up the F-cking Phone, then focus on your digital wizardry"

Elise Kephart (@TheYoutubediva) - "Pick up the F-cking Phone"

While the majority of Elise's breakout was a glimpse into her utter brilliance as a self-promoter, one of the most pertinent points of the entire summit was her opening slide, "Pick up the F-cking Phone".

As much as I loathe the phrase, "Back to basics" I can't argue with Elise's opening. Especially at a tech-heavy summit filled with the latest and greatest technological advancements, it is easy to forget what works.

Yes, you can geo-target customers, hi-jack their email inbox and send personalized video messages, and track their every movement prior to and upon arriving at your dealership; however none of today's digital trickery works without having a conversation with a customer. Something best accomplished by simply: picking up the phone.

So, amongst all the fancy new software, processes and ideologies don't forget the most basic tool in the automotive business: the phone.

The Takeaway: "Pick up the F-cking Phone, then focus on your digital wizardry"


The Takeaway: Advertising = Planning. Lots of planning. 

Adam Justis - "Last Millisecond Marketing"

Adam easily had the best looking presentation. Being from Adobe you would expect that :P

Joking aside, his presentation outlined how the marketing world in the last two years has changed more than in the last 50. When you put that into the dealer's advertising perspective, traditional forms of advertising are so far out of the spectrum it's no longer funny. It's just sad.

The days of slapping together an advertisement minutes before deadline are gone. Long gone. Really long gone. To compete in today's marketing landscape takes some serious planning. Not just for what sales event you are going to run next week, or next month, but recording data and using it to plot where the customer will be next and drive content at the exact moment. The concept is last millisecond marketing, where literally in that last moment the advertising message can change based on the behavior of the user.

Now, this is some pretty heavy stuff for most, and that's okay. What is most important is the planning. If you aren't in the habit of seriously planning your advertising strategy, the follow of your website and what triggers which advertising; you need to start now.

The Takeaway: Advertising = Planning. Lots of planning.


The Takeaway: "Stay ahead of the curve. Start planning now on how you can implement this technology ASAP"

Paul Wagner (CloudEngage) - "There is no reason to deploy an app. Period."

I've never been a fan of dealership APS. Not just because between 2011-2013 I was be pitched 5-10 times a week, but because I knew from the start they were a cash grab from unscrupulous vendors hoping to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting dealer.

The only aspect I saw promise in, was push notifications. That you could target your customer based, based on demographics and most importantly location. How fantastic would it be if you could notify a customer who is due for an oil & filter service when they are 2 miles from your dealership?

Somewhere along the way, aps and location based push notifications floated off my radar. It wasn't until I was sitting in front of Paul that I realized I've been missing out.

Push notifications are now available through a mobile web browser. Modern HTML5 mobile websites in conjunction with the latest iOS and Android Operating Systems now have the ability to push notifications to a user's smart phone. No ap required.

Not only that, but the idea of having your website morph based on location literally made my jaw drop. (Ask Paul, I was sitting right in front of him).

I'm going to throw it out there now, but this will be THE hot topic of 2015; mobile location based websites.

The Takeaway: "Stay ahead of the curve. Start planning now on how you can implement this technology ASAP"


The Takeaway: Your customers are different, don't paint them all with the same brush. 

Bryan Eisenberg (@TheGrok) - "Segments, sub-segments & self selection"

I will happily admit to being biased in favour of Bryan, as I have completed the DrivingSales University Conversion Optimization Certification that largely focuses on his teachings, in addition to having read countless of his books and blog articles. With that said, I believe the very best thing you can do with your dealership right now is to start picking up what Bryan is laying down.

Although his keynote didn't even begin to do justice to the information available in his books or the DSU course, it did touch on one of the most important aspects of his teachings: Customer Persona's.

All customers are not the same. One customer may be more emotionally driven, another more competitive. Each customer will require different items and touch points on their car buying journey. Why then, do we only have one way to flow through our websites? If each customer naturally follows a different path, why do we force them down the same funnel?

Bryan's concept is simple, but does take some planning. Determine all the different persona's that match your customers, and plot our how they will journey from search to website to sale. Each persona will have a different path. Take this information, and then modify your website / process to reflect the natural paths they want to take. Providing customers the process they want, will ultimately lead to a higher conversion ratio.

Let me explain it a different way. You are the parent of 4 children, two boys, two girls, all different ages and you want them all to clean their rooms. Which is a better strategy:

  1. Tell them all to clean their rooms, or else.
  2. Have a different strategy for each child based on their personalities.

Option "a", may work in the short term, but if your goal is to have them keep their rooms clean in the long term you know that each child will require a different strategy. One child may require a reward system, another may require "buy-in" on why a clean room is important, another may want to keep a room clean on their own.

Each persona will react differently to your sales process, so to maximize conversions your process should be able to adapt accordingly. It's a big overall task, but it's imperative to start thinking more about the differences between your customers.

The Takeaway: Your customers are different, don't paint them all with the same brush.


The Takeaway: The better the mobile experience, the better the customer's ENTIRE experience will be.

Mike Hudson (@verified_hudson) - "Auto shoppers are spending more time on pc than mobile, because are forced to."

Mike's data wasn't surprising, but it did offer hope for those willing to put into the effort. The mobile car buying experience is not ideal, so much so that customers are being forced to do their shopping on a PC.

The data shows that the shoppers want to interact with us on mobile, we just don't have the infrastructure to allow them to do this. What this means to you is, if your store has a truly fantastic mobile experience you will be head and shoulders above your competition.

This ties into the entire concept of customer experience. The car buying journey begins on your website, and if that experience is negative it sets the tone for the entire process.

The Takeaway: The better the mobile experience, the better the customer's ENTIRE experience will be.


What did I miss? Do you agree/disagree with any of my points? What were your biggest takeaways? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

Robert Karbaum
Thanks Megan!
Tim McLain
Excellent takeaways, thanks for sharing! I hope all dealers take a moment to think about new ways to attract cross-shoppers with conquest remarketing. I shared case studies at DSES. It's a new, cost-effective tactic most dealers aren't using - and it's boosting CTRs and cutting conversion costs in half. Grab my deck - "Success Stories in Search Remarketing & Advanced Mobile Search for Progressive Dealers" - from the master list here: See you all next year! Tim McLain, Netsertive @tmclain
Grant Gooley
Robert, maybe you should take Kephart's takeaway for when I call you!! :P On a serious note, well said and some great info here. I've said it once and I'll say it a million more times... DSES 2014 was the year to remember. The DS team took the summit to an entire new level. These takeaways are a great example as to why it was so great!
Robert Karbaum
Haha Grant. I only accept personalized videos. No phone calls. :P

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