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Jared Hamilton
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I have attended and presented at every Digital Dealer Conference since its inception.  Every iteration has a slightly different focus and buzz, so it’s valuable to attend them all.  (And okay, who doesn’t love a good reason to go to Vegas?)  Last week’s conference had a good turn-out of over 400 dealers, which is especially strong considering current industry conditions.  And there were dealers at different levels: I spoke with Internet managers and I also spoke with a lot of GMs. 

I think the overall, most important conversations at the conference centered around how dealers are more actively trying to leverage their websites.  I definitely walked away with ideas to use in our business.  In particular, there was a lot of great discussion about the power of social media and live chat.  I look at this conference as it’s two times a year and technology moves so fast that it’s good to take a temperature reading and take the time to get a 360 degree view of what’s available, because it’s constantly changing and evolving.   When we spend all of our time at the dealership, it can be easy to become isolated and operate in a “closed circuit.”  The conference offers a great chance to step back, get out of the dealership and see the forest through the trees.  I didn’t get to see all of the presentations, but I do have some thoughts about some of the great sessions I did see.    

I co-presented with David Kain the newbie session that launches the conference.  David is truly an industry expert and I don’t think there are many individuals out there who have more insight into running a successful dealership.  Obviously this session was primarily attended by new-comers, but we also found that some more seasoned managers attended as well.  When talking to them after the session, a few of them mentioned the importance of getting the fundamental messages repeated.  Some information is so vital that you really can’t hear it too often.     

 Allan Cooper’s session was awesome.  He is a real pro who understands what is required for success.  He discussed his vast experience and the evolution of the dealership with the Internet.  In particular, he outlined the value of data mining and how to connect a lot of pieces of the marketing and sales puzzle.  It’s really easy to lose focus of Integrated Marketing and Communication (IMC) and his session really stressed its power for the dealership. 

I also found Tim Jennings’ One-Man Internet Department session valuable.  With current conditions, a lot of managers find themselves in this position and he offered a lot of great, hands-on ideas for branding yourself and getting your name out there.  He has a really good “boot-strap” focus.

Dale Pollack IS the used car guru.  Because of his experience and the software he’s developed, he really has his finger on the pulse of the used car market.  And anyone dealing with the pre-owned side of operations should read his book Velocity.  Everybody was raving about his session at the conference. 

Dennis Galbraith also led a great session and discussed how dealers are beginning to embrace live chat as more consumers are embracing this service.  Smart dealers are now using chat on the dealership website to turn casual shoppers into active buyers.  He also discussed the importance of having dedicated, well trained staff to man the chats. 

Dave Anderson led a key note speech that was also very valuable.  He is a really great presenter and this session was packed with good advice to avoid mistakes and create a faster, leaner organization, more important than ever in the current conditions. 

These are just some of my observations.  What did you think about the conference?  What were your main take aways?

 

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