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2014 DrivingSales Executive Summit Recap

For the sixth year in a row, DrivingSales Executive Summit (DSES) sold out to an enthusiastic and progressive-minded audience. With the Bellagio Hotel as our venue, we were all treated to an impressive main stage, plenty of space, and exquisite food catering—and, of course, the most advanced content in the industry!




Day One

We began the conference earlier than ever before, kicking off at 1:30pm on Sunday, October 12th—and that's not considering our Canadian breakout session sponsored by e-Dealer, Glovebox, and SCI Marketview that started at 8:30am or the Cox Automotive brunch and panel presentation that commenced at 10:30am. DSES indeed had a packed schedule!















And then, the audience was shown the 2014 DSES Kickoff Video:

Introduced by event emcee, Charlie Volgleheim, the founder and CEO of DrivingSales, Jared Hamilton, provided a high-level overview of Executive Summit, what the attendees could expect from the conference, and a brief look at the auto industry as a whole. It was a great segue into the first keynote, Florian Zettelmeyer, and his presentation on what dealership executives should understand about data science.

His message was based on three key points:

  1. Judge what good looks like
  2. Identify where analytics adds value
  3. Lead with confidence


Next up we had the DrivingSales Best Idea Competition, and we must say that each finalist brought an inventive concept to the stage and all deserve recognition.

  • "Free Gas Friday" – Cathy Nesbit and Alyssa Safty, Director of Social Media/Comm. Involvement and Internet Manager, Harry Robinson Buick GMC
  • "Monetize your Digital Assets" – Bryan Armstrong, Internet Manager, VW SouthTowne
  • "#MyRideYYC" – Shelly Hebert, Business Development/Marketing Manager, Glenmore Audi
  • "Vehicle Xchange Program: Loyalty-Driven Sales Velocity; in-Store and vBDC" – Erich Gail, COO, Cardinale Automotive Group
  • "YouTube Postal Service" – Robert Karbaum, E-Commerce Manager, Weins Canada Inc. / Don Valley North Toyota


But as in all competitions, there can be only one winner. And for the second year in a row, Robert Karbaum took home the large trophy. Congratulations, Robert!














After a quick break, attendees joined together in various conference rooms for the first breakout sessions. This year, due to the feedback we received from attendees last year, we had our largest breakout speaker lineup yet with over 30 sessions. From advanced general marketing and dealership operations to search and mobile, our breakout speakers covered a multitude of valuable information that will help dealers.














Soon after the breakout sessions ended, Jared sat down with Jonathan Ord, CEO at DealerSocket, and Mitch Golub, president at, for a fireside chat.

Lastly, keynote Brian Solis concluded the first day of the conference with how to build better costumer relationships by embracing technology and innovation. A few key items from Brian's message included:

  • Digital Darwinism: The evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than your ability to adapt.
  • "In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete." – Buckminster Fuller
  • Connected customers see the world differently. They're "always on." Think. Like. The. Customer.














Lastly, attendees mingled at our reception sponsored by, Dealertrack, and Gubagoo and Solis' book signing event. It was a very full day and a great way to start DSES!














Day 2

Bright and early at 9:00am, Charlie welcomed DSES attendees and introduced keynote Mike Hudson who presented on how to capture connected consumers and taking control of the sales funnel. Mike shared some interesting data:

  • 2013 U.S. smartphone users (individuals of any age who own at least one smartphone and use them at least once per month) = 184.2 million or 51.8% of the population –
  • 2014 average time spent per day with major media by U.S. adults = Digital @ 5:46 hours vs. TV @ 4:33 hours –
  • U.S. mobile device users who research category-related info on their device while in store, March 2014 = Auto dealership: 11% tablet, 7% smartphone














After a brief rotation break, we had six breakout speaker sessions for attendees to choose from. We received a lot of great feedback on each breakout session through our DSES app, and we appreciate the time it took for participants to fill out the quick surveys. DrivingSales takes your opinions and advice seriously and we will use the data to further improve our format and content.

When the breakout sessions ended, we all met back in the main ballroom for another fireside chat with Jared, Steven Anenen, CEO at CDK Global, and Malcolm Thorne, CSO at CDK Global.

The fireside was followed by keynote Adam Justis' presentation on customer-centric, integrated marketing in a digital world. A few key insights:

  • 76% of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than the past 50 years
  • Consumers expectations: personalized, relevant, and real-time
  • Dealers need to (1) drive strategic conversations, (2) surface cross-functional opportunities, and (3) invest in areas of critical need














Adam was followed by keynote Jack Simmons and his presentation on how to rescue service profits through trust and price transparency. Some key takeaways included:

  • In a 2012 DME Automotive study, it was estimated that dealers will lose 60% to 78% of revenue on three- to six-year-old cars and 82% to 92% on cars more than seven years old (consumers seeking basic services tend to defect over time)
  • In a Local Insights Digital Report from July 2012, searches related to auto parts is #2 of 10, while auto repair and service is #6 and automobile sales #9
  • According to a GFK Service and Repair Price Report from October 2013, customers feel that tech certification, price guarantee, and consumer reviews are the top three most important components in choosing a vehicle service provider



























After our delicious lunch sponsored by FORCE Marketing, we had our finalists from the DrivingSales Innovation Cup Contest share their innovative solutions to the audience:

  • Gubagoo Behavioral Engagement and Scoring Technology (B.E.A.S.T.), and Chat and Call Centers – from Gubagoo
  • Lead Launch – from CarWars
  • LotLinx Vehicle Display Network – from LotLinx
  • Mid-Interval Communcations – from DMEautomotive
  • NewCarIQ – from Pearl Technology Holdings, LLC


Finalists introduced a fantastic product, and we're grateful for their participation. When it was all said and done, judges voted for NewCarIQ from Pearl Technology Holdings, LLC. Congratulations, NewCarIQ!

Next, Jared took the main stage and delivered his long-awaited keynote presentation: Prepare Your Dealership for the Next Chapter in Automotive Retailing: Competing on Customer Experience. Jared shared exclusive research on how customers actually feel when they deal with various dealership employees and the findings were eye opening:

  • DrivingSales conducted a study that consisted of 14 months, 1,300 actual shoppers, and over $1 million, starting back in February of 2014
  • Findings of study: the industry was graded an F+, with a serious lack of trust in the website, initial contact, showroom visit, deal making, and F&I
  • Five characteristics of a change-ready dealership: (1) mission driven, (2) defined process manual, (3) daily training, (4) monthly governance, and (5) leadership bandwidth














Jared left the audience wanting more, and he stated that there's additional upcoming data that will soon change the industry.

After a few more breaks and two excellent breakout sessions that featured 13 speakers total, attendees were treated to keynote Rand Fishkin who presented search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to love vs. leave for 2015. With his usual effectual delivery, Rand delighted the crowd with new techniques and approaches for dealerships to consider in their digital marketing plans.

  • A few ways SEO has evolved over the past five years include the move from keyword matching to topic association, domain-level keyword connections rising, and Google's crackdown on spam (which is basically a crackdown on ranking without a brand)
  • The goal isn't links. The goal is to grow the quantity of interactions to the point where the relationship is real.
  • Criteria for modern content investments: (1) one-of-a-kind, (2) relevant, (3) helpful, (4) uniquely valuable, (5) great UX, and (6) likely to spread














We ended the day with a reception sponsored by, vAuto, Kelley Blue Book, Vin Solutions, Manheim, and MakeMyDeal and an after party at The Bank Nightclub at the Bellagio sponsored by Good times were had for all at these two gatherings.

Day 3

At the end of our breakfast, sponsored by NADA 20 Group, Charlie commenced the award ceremony for the aforementioned Best Idea winner and finalists—handing out over-sized checks to all—and the Innovation Cup winner and finalists. And congratulations once again to our 2014 finalists and winners! We can't wait for what everyone will have in store for next year.

Next on the agenda was our fourth annual digital media debate, moderated by Joe Webb, president of DealerKnows Consulting. Each participant provided a well-constructed argument on their topics, and attendees were able to listen to some lively discussion on various topics, such as lead providers: organic vs. third-party; mobile websites: adaptive vs. responsive; and pricing structure: negotiable vs. one price.

Thank you again to the debaters for their participation and contribution:

  • Bill Playford, VP and partner at DealerKnows Consulting
  • Bill Simmons, eCommerce director at Haley Automotive Group
  • Christy Roman, founder at Now MarketPlace
  • Jason Ezell, VP of sales at DealerOn
  • Gary May, founder and president at Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services
  • Mike Halloran, director of sales at Fletcher Jones Chicago
  • Sean Stapleton, VP of sales and marketing at VinSolutions














Everyone then attended the last breakout session that featured six great speakers, and reconvened in the great ballroom for our concluding keynote Bryan Eisenberg, who presented great insight into creating legendary dealership brands and explaining his business process to align metrics, customer experience, and profit. A few points from his message include:

  • Buyer Legends is a business process that combines the emotional power of storytelling with hard data to open new opportunities, spot gaps and optimize your sales and marketing
  • "You create the system your visitor must navigate. People don't cause defects, systems do." – W. Edwards Deming
  • "Conversion rate is a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. It's a reflection of your effectiveness and customer satisfaction. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs." – Bryan Eisenberg, ClickZ 2001














This year we had a deep and impressive lineup of keynote and breakout speakers and feel that attendees were treated to an info-packed conference. Our hope is that each dealership in attendance will apply the innovative insights and techniques they learned during the conference and raise the industry to new levels.














Thank you to everyone who attended, participated, and helped with DSES 2014 and we look forward to seeing everyone next year!

Robert Karbaum
Honestly, it was the best DSES I have been to yet. It was such a complex group of speakers, and topics but it all worked together like a well oiled machine. I can't thank the DS team enough for all their hard work. Putting something on of this magnitude takes a lot of people, working very hard to get done.
Bill Simmons
This conference just keeps getting better and better every year. Thank you DrivingSales team for putting on this first class event for dealers each year.
Grant Gooley
DSES gets better every year! This year it didn't just get better, it elevated to an entire new category of conference. What's crazy is I already can't wait for next year :)
Bill Simmons
I vote for more Jared keynotes! We usually only get to see him on stage introducing people. But his speech on the customer experience was amazing and would love to see more of him doing these types of presentations.
Megan Barto
DSES was an amazing experience (as usual) - great job & kudos to the entire DrivingSales team!

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