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Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Digital Dealer, JD Powers or DrivingSales, Where should I go?

Which fall event should you attend?
 
With so many great choices in industry conferences this fall, many dealership managers are asking which event to attend.  It’s a fair question that I want to answer publically.
 
Personally, I will try to attend all of them.  If you can do the same, you will certainly benefit.  However, if you have to choose it’s not a matter of selecting which is good and which is bad.  They are all good, but each has its own flavor and serves a different audience. Deciding where to go is an issue of learning which event is right for you and your goals.
 
JD Power Internet Round Table:
JD Power Internet Round Table is a high level Internet marketing event.  It has a big audience, mostly made up of executives from OEMs, Agencies and Vendors.  A very small percentage of the audience is dealership personnel; this event will have the fewest dealers in attendance of any.  I assume that is by design.  JD Powers seems to serve the agency, and OEM world the best. 
 
The topics are not designed around the dealership operations level, but they are innovative, educational and inspiring at the 30,000-foot industry view.
 
This event is very high quality, good topics and speakers.  If you are looking to network with technology execs and see high level OEM data this event is right up your alley.  I always enjoy my time there.
 
Digital Dealer Conference:
The Digital Dealer Conference happens twice per year, in the spring and fall, unlike JDPAIRT, they specifically target dealership personnel. The event is large with lots of variety. Digital Dealer has a strong focus on the "101" stuff, in fact a whole day is dedicated to ”newbie training.”  This is valuable if you are just getting into the business. 
 
Unfortunately, I continually hear from dealers that big portions of the workshops are just a 45-minute product demo or sales pitch.  This is a huge problem that Digital Dealer has been facing for years, they were smart to hire Cliff Banks and have him work on the issue.  It's important to know which presentations are high quality and to make a plan of what to see to avoid wasting your time with bad info or a sales pitch disguised as a workshop. 
 
I’d recommend seeing Sean Raines, Brian Pasch and Joe Webb without hesitation; they (and others) always provide huge value for your time.  Joe Orr is a dealer from Oregon and will be speaking this year too, be sure to see his presentation.  He spoke at the DrivingSales Executive Summit last year and did an amazing job.  They were smart to invite him to speak at DD9; he will be one of the stars for sure!
 
In the end, DD9 is a good event, and the best place to lock in the basic education for your store.
 
DrivingSales Executive Summit:
The DSES is the youngest of the events. Last year it was an “invitation only" gathering for a specific group of progressive dealers.  This year the doors have been opened for a limited number of attendees, but the focus is to exclusively serve more advanced dealers. 
 
There is no “newbie” or 101 training at DSES.  Every topic is for a progressive crowd and designed to support the dealership leader in creating and executing an advanced strategy.
 
Rather than sell speaking spots to vendors, DrivingSales has dealers suggest topics, and then hires the world’s experts on those topics to deliver the keynote messages.  This puts the quality of the presentations at a whole new level above the other conferences.  This year Jeremiah Owyang, a world-renowned web strategist and analyst, Dan Zarella, the social media scientist from Hub Spot and Scott Monty, worldwide head of social media for Ford, will be instructing the audience.  There will be a dozen breakouts with dealers delivering case studies on how they achieved amazing results and industry experts running training workshops.
  
DSES is designed as a smaller, more exclusive event. The combination of the highest quality speakers, the advanced topics and the concentration of progressive dealers make this the best event for progressive dealership leaders. It may not be the right choice for an ISM just getting into their position.
 
How to see them all:
To see all the events in a year you should attend Digital Dealer in the spring, and then DrivingSales and JD Powers in the fall.  Logistically this is easy to do because DrivingSales and JDPAIRT are both in Vegas, plus DSES ends the day JD PAIRT starts. It’s easy to see both in one trip.
 
Remember that many of Digital Dealer’s speakers present the same subject matter year after year.  Attending their show in the spring will help you get the basics down, then you could take things to a new level at the more progressive shows in the fall.
 
In the end, I think there is very little dealer overlap between Digital Dealer and DrivingSales since the DSES topics are more advanced. There is a large overlap in vendor attendance at each show especially given that many Digital Dealer presenters come to DrivingSales not to speak, but to network and learn.  This is a great testament to the level of speakers at DSES over the Digital Dealer events.
 
If you are a Dealer Principal, General Manager or senior executive and are still undecided let me close with this thought.  If you have attended Digital Dealer in the past, consider expanding your educational experience and take your dealership operations to the next level by attending DrivingSales Executive Summit.  With fresh content and the leading experts teaching on the strategies you need to compete in 2011, is there really a choice? 
 
Your education is important:
Having conference choices is a fantastic thing for dealers. Each event is geared slightly differently and regardless of where you go you will be better equipped to handle the ever-changing market. If you must decide between events, go to the one that will serve your goals the best.
Remember the price of education is nothing compared to the price of ignorance!  Make sure you attend at least one of the fall events.  Invest in your education; its what makes you great!
 
Visit the DrivingSales Executive Summit site.
 
Visit the Digital Dealer 9 Site
 
Visit the JD Power Internet Roundtable site.
Brian Pasch
I'll be attending DD( and DSES..no one has ever invited me to the JD Powers roundtable so I guess that I have not hit the big time yet. Jared, great post. I'm asked all the time which conference to choose from. If A dealer principal or GM has recently attended a Digital Dealer conference i would tell them to "know their unknown" and attend DSES.
Dennis Galbraith
Fantastic evaluation of the three events! When Charlie Vogelheim and I founded the J.D. Power conference in 2005, our intent was to provide advanced content for dealers as well as OEMs and their agencies. That never really worked out for the dealers, other than the very largest dealer groups. For dealers, the void for advanced content was filled by DrivingSales Executive Summit. May all three achieve success within their unique segments.
Gary May
I'm in complete agreement with Jared's post. In fact, the whole premise of DrivingSales.com is the leading information, discussed by the leading dealers (which needs to happen more DS members!) and applied in leading ways. DrivingSales Executive Summit is the only event to get to in order to find out about what's next. Even after not missing a JD Power since they started, it's a big data dump and some great content. But outside of sales forecasts for the next year, it's a download of 6-12 months of PAST data. It is a great networking event. Digital Dealer is a great event, I've attended half of them. Having a disdain for people called experts that are truly not, listening to the same content year after year from the same speakers and a general focus on starting elements with some fresh thrown in (seeing a Tim Jennings or Joe Orr speak is a delight and they're immediately trusted because...wait for it...they're DEALERS!), it's no secret that a new event had to be created. Sitting down with a dealer after DD8 in Orlando, complaining that his third time at Digital Dealer was getting redundant nearly caused me to lose it. Of course it's getting old. And the content is the same stuff that comes in the magazine. I've sat outside many of the sessions over the past two events now since the networking and meetings we have with dealers is way more effective. So DrivingSales Executive Summit is a big hope for an industry sorely behind in most things digital. And don't get the implied genre incorrect at all. It's not a social media event. Yes, many people coming and speaking are accomplished in social media. It's just a sign of being more progressive. The line-up that Jared and his team have assembled this year can fill 50+ pages of notes. Just get to the one that works for where your business is going. We'll be at 1 1/2 days of DD9, 1 day of JDPAIRT and the whole time at DSES!!!
Alex Snyder
Jared - you hit my Automotive Internet Seminar schedule right on the head. Digital Dealer in the Spring; Driving Sales and JD Power in the Fall. Looking forward to catching up with you in about 3 weeks.
Eric Miltsch
I sat on the sidelines for nearly four years before going to my first event - carefully listening to everyone's feedback. DSES was my 1st & was more than impressed with the depth & breadth of content & people Jared assembled; JD Power was my 2nd and showed me another layer of the industry - just as Dennis described above. It definitely appears there are valuable elements from each - including other targeted, micro-events such as the TLS held in LA and the IDS held in Denver.

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