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Another excellent year for the NADA Convention in Las Vegas has passed. I wasn’t speaking this year, so I was excited about spending more time on the show floor. I had the opportunity to interview vendors and several successful dealers. (Look for those video interviews from @DrivingSalesTV soon!)
The knowledge and experience base, with regards to advanced digital strategies, has increased tremendously throughout the retail industry in just a couple of years. Dealers clearly recognize the need for an optimized online presence and efficient internal processes. They were hunting for the next set of products and services creating buzz.
We’re seeing another major shift in focus as the community begins to embrace the importance of deeper social integration, data management and mobile strategies for both consumers and internal workflow.
The philosophies have become more encompassing as dealers and vendors look to connect with customers on multiple channels. You may have even heard Search Engine Optimization (SEO) being replaced with Social Engagement Optimization. Dealers continue to see the importance of user-generated content, (ratings/reviews) how it impacts consumers at different stages of the buying cycle and how it also fits into the grand scheme of search as well.
And, where hyper-local concepts left off last year, the SoLoMo (Social+Local+Mobile) movement is quickly gaining traction as a necessary element of any digital marketing platform.
My NADA experience started bright and early at the DrivingSales Awards breakfast Friday morning at the Bellagio. The room was packed with an all-star cast of automotive executives. Considering the success of the people in the room, a noticeable level of humility was consistent among all the award recipients. Another great thing to see was the mutual respect given to each other, their products and their companies.
A Friday night tweet-up sponsored by Jared Hamilton from DrivingSales and Jeff Kershner from DealerRefresh, had a strong turnout. I love having the chance for casual, yet highly detailed, conversations about the nuances of our business and the finer things that make us all tick. A quick stop to the Dominion/Autobytel party was met with another great showing of respectable people doing great things in the industry. A chance meeting with Glen Garvin, Cliff Banks, George Nenni and Will McGinnis will make anyone walk away feeling smart and energized. Throw in conversations with the guys from DealerFire (Eric, Brian, Carl & of course Kristen & Jessica) and Ken Potter from SureSale.com you’ll be so pumped up you’ll want to go out and build a new dealership with your own bare hands.
Friday night ended on the highest end of the excitement spectrum possible as I found myself jumping off the Stratosphere with Sean Stapleton, a group of VIN adrenaline junkies, Brian Young, Dan Moore and Larry Bruce. Spontaneous Vegas at it’s best. If you didn’t jump, you’ll get your chance at DSES in October. Do it.
On Saturday, Dealer.com secured it's spot as a top-notch NADA entertainer with their party at Haze nightclub featuring Grace Potter, Billy Gibbons and the “Most Interesting Man in the World” from the Dos Equis commercials. Sunday’s festivities also included the Autotrader.com Super Bowl party, DealerTrack and J&L Marketing’s events. Monday's closing session with President Bush was entertaining and inspirational.
I couldn’t possibly see everyone on my hit list, but I did have the opportunity to catch up with several new people along with those who I’ve come to know and respect over the years. The activity on the floor was frenzied compared to NADA of just two years ago in Orlando. I noticed a greater urgency from dealers as they appeared more receptive with ideas and how technology is impacting their processes. Another difference is how much more consideration was being given to how consumer behaviors are changing and how they’re connecting with dealerships. Finally.
Here's a quick recap of a few of the booths I visited:
Scan & Drive: QR codes are ok, but a QR code application with specific call to actions for conversion, CRM integration, vehicle history reports and a more value options is ok in my book. And this coming from someone who isn’t a big QR Code fan.
cDemo: Allan and Jay are moving fast with their innovative mobile appraisal application. Simple to use, increased functionalities and a bevy of new enhancements slated for this year make this one of the neatest retail start-ups to watch. I can see their platform moving beyond an operations/sales platform to incorporating deeper customer activities. I like what they’re talking aboot:).
3 Birds Marketing: Kristen and Layton gave a wonderful demo of their integrated newsletter management system. This platform not only helps you produce stunning newsletters, but also helps improve SEO performance with it’s ability to generate additional content and most importantly, provide a deep reporting function to help determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Dealer.com: Everyone was dizzy with excitement to hear more about their new mobile CRM product announcement. (Product name still TBA) Alex Snyder and team have been working away in the labs for a long time – apparently live launch is slated for later this year. Matt Murray was gracious enough to give us an off-camera preview of some other new products as well. Although I promised not to share specifics, I will comment on their overall attention to detail with regards to usability and design – this stuff oozed quality.
Enough can’t be said about the small city they occupied on the convention floor. I especially like the “check-out” style demo lanes, which flanked the center bar. As I watched, it seemed to invited guests nicely without creating the perception of a lengthy sit-down style sales pitch demo.
DealerSocket: Hunter “Thompson” Swift shared his thoughts on the new products introduced: SocketTalk, RevenueRadar, EnterpriseDashboard, MobileCRM and MarketPlace. The general theme centered around integrating multiple data points for additional business intelligence, laser-focused marketing strategies and of course, mobile connectivity to workflows and reporting. They’ve done a great job of wrapping their heads around how the social enterprise concept can help dealerships stay connected with their employees and their customers.
DealerSocket also pulled off a fun social rock-star theme into their conference experience with a dress-up photo booth. Hilarious photos were uploaded to their company facebook page where friends could vote on the best costumes and poses; winners walked away with some pretty sweet guitars.
CallSource: Here’s another great example of how vendors are responding to dealer’s needs with a solid mobile solution for tracking customer phone calls, integrating across multiple devices and providing easy access to the reporting. The mobility workflow movement is alive and well – and for every department now.
Phone Ninjas: Jerry Thibeau has taken his phone skills training company from 0-60 in just a couple of years. Today’s customer is in a rush, wants the best information and demands to talk to well-prepared professionals – Jerry is responding full-steam ahead with his programs and also his expanding support team with talented individuals like Elise Kephardt.
Dealers United: Everyone is watching Jesse Biter’s new company closely. He’s got a solid concept: helping individual and small dealerships by providing access to group buying power when using automotive vendor solutions. Their first deal is slated to be annouced very soon.
Mudd Advertising: The powerhouse agency was busy introducing their new analytics platform called Mudd AdSuite. The platform is designed to provide real time access to client campaigns and performance data. Another nice example of how agencies are making the shift to accountability and metrics with regards to their marketing efforts.
The one item I didn’t hear much about is the inclusion of more location based marketing strategies. I can see LBS being integrated into more loyalty programs, using photo-sharing and as an extension of dealership analytics as mobile usage continues it’s rise.
Thanks to everyone who met with us, look for more interviews with Brian Pasch, Andrew Wright, Andrew Difeo, Sean Stapleton, Joe Little, Todd Smith, Stan Sher, Shaun Raines, Paul Potratz, John Hairabedian & Tom White Jr.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect on camera with people such as Jeff Kershner, Dan Moore, Ralph Paglia, Jim Zeigler, Alex Schoeneberger, Ken Potter, Eric Hoopman, Bill Playford, Joe Pistell, Alex Snyder, Gary May and Joe Webb. (Simply because Joe wasn’t there this year – and he was greatly missed.)
Huge thanks to the DrivingSales & DrivingSalesTV crews for letting me tag along in my first reporting stint. A little more practice and I could get into doing that more often – the DrivingSales Executive Summit is only eight months away!
What did you get out of NADA 2012? What caught your eye on the floor?