Industry Events

3rd annual AAISP Digital Dealer Conference – Feedback and Review

3rd_digital_dealer_conference_iconAs I’m sure most of you are aware, the 3rd annual AAISP Digital Dealer Conference and Exhitition was held this week (October 1-2 2007) in Las Vegas.

I was unable to attend but would love to hear all about it!!

Some of the speakers included:
Rafi Hamid
Sandi Jerome
Roy Reutter
Stephen Stauning
Shaun Raines
Jim Ziegler
Cory Mosley
Mike Stewart
Ralph Paglia
Craig Criswell

So for those who attended..

  1. Who gave the best presentation?
  2. Did you learn how to get a customer into the showroom in the least amount of time?
  3. Was it well orgainized?
  4. Are you going to start a dealer Blog or podcast?
  5. Can you now run an effective Internet Operation?
  6. What was that “1” thing that you took back to the dealer?
  7. Was it worth it and would you attend again?

Leave your feedback!!

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
So today is my first day back at work after Digital Dealer. We have a 3 hour time difference so forgive me if this doesn't make sense. First of all, hats off to Mike Roscoe and his crew. I am a charter member of the AAISP (whatever that means) and attended the first conference in Nashville 2 years ago. What a difference 2 years has made. This year was huge! There were over 500 dealers in attendance. Most vendors were represented in the exhibit hall and there were good networking and cocktail events. I was really pleasantly surprised. I had attended just to be a not so innocent bystander and didn't really have high expectaions for the event. They announced another upcoming event in Orlando in April. The best presenters were Dale Pollak from VAuto, Ken from Cobalt and Steve Stauning from Asbury. Some of the other presentations were too Internet Sales Circa 1998 and the questions asked from the audience really demonstrated how few of us really get it yet. I didn't learn much but it was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone, hang out and have some meaningful conversations. Who all is going to JD Power in a few weeks? Maybe we should have a lil DealerRefresh Meet N' Greet!!!!
I am at a 3 hour layover in Houston on the way home from the conference.

Shouts out to my new friends at Reach Local (SEM that makes sense) and HomeNet, just because Jesse (CEO) is Jesse.

I missed the sessions referenced above, but here were the sound bites I took away:

Jim Ziegler - "What to do when the crowd has moved on." Dealers are still spending their $$$ where consumers used to be... TV, radio, newspapers... get over it... figure out this new media called the Internet... it is not going away... learn to bring your brand and customers for life strategies over to the new media.

Ralph Paglia... shopping cart ecommerce (transactional websites) is here... sell cars online as part of your strategy, schedule service online, parts and accessories too... why not in auto

Have to jump... boarding... the blogging was pretty cool too, more tomorrow. Awesome session
Okay... false alarm... Lexington, not Dayton. Other awesome sessions:

Shaun Raines (good friend): Change Your Mind to Change Your Results... The Internet has killed "What will it take for you to take this car home today"... the consumers you used to lure in to your showroom using traditional media so you could brow beat them in to buying... those days are over... the Internet is not going away... hold on to that nostalgic view of the past at your grave peril... "shadow in the valley of death" was the exact quote... would you do business with you?

Mike Stewart: Learning to do video and audio blogging... it is easy, quick and wow does it make your business come alive on the Internet... authenticity sells...

Dennis Colome... hadn't met him before... LOVE how he thinks... bow ties make you remember him... as ISM you have an interesting / unique / challenging RESPONSIBILITY to be the torch bearer of making sure that your dealership has success on the Internet - or at least learns how to listen. Waive that flag or close the doors. There are already dealerships closing their doors because traditional sales execution is NOT working... Have a /big 3 franchise... think you are going to survive a recession? The paring of the dealership ranks? What do you think is going to separate who survives and how doesn't? How do you make sure your dealer / GM, etc here the message? How bad does the pain have to get?

Thought having an Internet 101 (for newbies, not dummies) was a good idea - Cory Mosley.

This show is growing by 30-40% each time (only 6 months since the last one)... noticed more dealers and GM's at this one... but 500 attendees... 21,000 dealerships... still just a drop in the bucket.

And Vegas, well it is Vegas. You won't find any photos of my trip on Facebook.

Missed you Jeff. You should have been there.

Apparently having a shopping cart for cars (price, credit, interest rates, trade ins, F&I, monthly payments, etc.) isn't so "ahead of my time after all" now that Lithia has one at their new used car superstore (, AutoNation has one coming, etc. Maybe dealers don't need one, but expect to be competing with one soon.


  • J
  • October 4, 2007
Thanks for the mention Brian. It was great putting faces with names and having enlightening conversations about the direction of the industry. I have to agree w/ most of Brian's points about the quality of the conference...

The overall message Shaun brought during his session was right on - make your website an extension of your brand and showroom, and treat your customers with respect.

Dennis was one of the first people I met at the conference and I immediately new he had a "different" approach than most people I have spoken to in the industry. Several points during his session were noteworthy; my favorite being how to manage yourself and your organization out of the chaos created from "change" through developing a vision and having the right leadership in place to reach that vision.

Overall a great experience and I'm glad we decided to sponsor. Will definitely be back at the next one in Orlando and look forward to staying in touch with everyone I met in Vegas....more to come tomorrow..

I wasn't at AAISP - I was at the Exact Target Conference in Indianapolis. Talk about AMAZING information. The conference is all about email marketing the right message and getting it to your customers. Keynote speakers were Martha Rogers from Peppers and Rogers and Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick. The conference was comprised of 1 day of general sessions (split between the first and last day) and then one full day of breakout sessions divided into four tracks. I sat through the Marketing Strategy track and while I believe we do well compared to other automotive dealers when it comes to campaigning, I realized we are nowhere near companies like, Home Depot, Ulta Cosmetics, etc. It was chock full of great tips, strategies and new companies that have never even sold into auto!

I am going to second Ashley on a JD Power DealerRefresh meetup - Jeff, you will be there won't you? ;) We should do one of those cool "meetups" you see on commercials, where everyone texts each other and then meets in the center of the lobby with silly string. Ok, those are 17 year olds....we can meet in the lobby with Martinis! Sounds like a plan!
You have to forgive Brian he was up late a few nights, I think he was referencing Dennis Rebalo on the bow tie. I sat next to Brian at that session and we were both impressed with his presentation. Mike Stewart was another speaker that was great to listen to, he spoke on blogging, podcasting, and online video. After seeing how easy it is to do I am hoping to have a blog up and running by the end of the month and have video on my website with in a couple of weeks.

The vendors were great, I don't know what the vendor count at the last two conferences were, but there seemed to be a lot more to choose from this time. I have to second Brian on Reach Local, a great group of people with good knowledge of SEM, it sounds like they are getting ready to release some really great stuff.

I have attended all three conferences and they just keep getting better and better, Mike Roscoe put together a great show. I can't wait to see what Orlando will bring on April 21-23(this is for the people that they didn't attend the last conference saying they didn't know about it, you know who you are)
This was the second AAISP conference that I have been able to attend. I am just now getting caught up from being gone for a week. I love these type of events because not only are they a refresher course, you can pick up tidbits of info that can make a big difference in your numbers. Since I had started a blog for my dealership in July (, I was most interested in Mike Stewart's session about video blogging. I knew that I needed a blog, but didn't quite know what I was missing. The way he explained the steps and tools that you need made it look so simple. I had a chance to talk to him at his booth in the exhibition hall, and he gave me some great info. He also told me to get off of the free google blogspot OOPPs! It is all about building relationships with potential and previous customers. We all know that the internet will reach potential buyers way before traditional media, and this is just another way to make that happen.
<p>Amanda,<br />Saw your work, well done!  You write well, very personal. A
few thoughts from the outside looking in:</p>
<li>Experiment with simple white background pages, they are far easier to read and look more professional (like your writing skills! ;-)</li>
<li>Try to work into your blog, a managers special of the week. Have them hand pick a unit and write up a summary on what makes the vehicle special.  Most managers are "time chalenged" and need help with the writeup. Ask the manager which rep. would give the best "walk around" on the car (most knowledgeable).  Then put on your journalist hat and look for things like: What can you tell me about this car? Is it a one owner? Does it have some special options that make it special?  Is there any warranty left? 
What is our warranty on this?  We've marked it down, what was the original price? etc...  ALSO, Be sure to mention cities in your area.</li>
<li>I build sites for a living, I am working on a new test marketing blog too, you may gets some ideas,  give it a look:<br /> <a href="" rel="nofollow">The Used Car Queen</a> </li>
<li>Love the personal touch you put on your employee reviews! Take an extra measure of caution when writing about female sales reps.  They go off on test drives and the Internet is the playground of strangers. Make it personal, but don't reveal where they live. I  know of one sales gal (my fiancee'!) and she was "taken for a ride", thankfully, with no harm done.</li>
<li>If you get any photos of deliveries with the rep and customer(s) shaking hands that's always good stuff. You'll need the customers permission. Speaking of photos...
<li>You take some great photos, but your camera needs upgrading (or its lens cleaned;-). When I viewed the large photos, they were grainy. AND we all know the photos tell a 1000 words!</li></ol>
<p>Just spreading a little DealerRefresh comradery about the place, like your efforts, Hope this helps!<br />Joe</p>

I attended the AAISP Digital Dealer conference in Las Vegas and can attest that relative to the previous 2 in Nashville, this one was far larger in any way you can measure these types of events. I believe, but am guesstimating that there were about 600 total attendees, 400 from dealerships and within that 400, over 100 were either Dealers or GM's. The remaining paid attendees were either Internet Sales Managers or Sales Managers. The vendor exhibits were exceptionally impressive and located in a very large conference room where all conference meals and receptions were served. The vendor displays were greater in number and much more complete and better staffed than the Nashville conferences. They almost looked like the mid-sized NADA exhibits, with some vendors such as VIN Solutions using a very large exhibit staffed with at least half a dozen people.

I was surprised to see several new vendors at the event that offer Digital Advertising products and services to dealers, which I am sure is related to the huge amount of money that has been migrating from conventional newspaper, direct mail, yellow pages and outdoor over to online advertising. This is an area of growth for our industry, and despite the fact that online advertising is about building brand awareness and putting a dealership at Top Of Mind for in-market car buyers, I am certain thet increased online advertising from dealers will also generate increased home-grown lead and incoming phone volumes, thus creating an ever growing demand for experienced and competent Automotive Internet Sales Professionals.

To me, one the biggest revelations (and most personally rewarding) were the industry's acceptance of multiple web sites, micro sites, landing pages and robust URL portfolios as a best practice in establishing a dealership's Digital Marketing efficiencies. I have been touting, using and teaching dealers to implement this strategy for at least 5 years and have often been accused of insanity!

The opening speech from Jim Zeigler was an eye opener with Jim talking about his 40+ web sites and landing pages in conjunction with over 100 URL's that he owns. I never thought of Jim as an Internet Marketing Guru, but it turns out that online inquiries is where most of his dealer business comes from... Who knew!

Rafi Hamid's presentation on Enterprise Scalable Digital Marketing Strategies showcased the Napleton Auto Group in Chicago. Rafi's very well attended workshop featured his use of reporting and Excel enabled analytics to evaluate the value of each lead supplier and various online marketing campaigns. Rafi included an overview of his fascinating use of multiple brand and regional micro sites along with his strategic utilization of over 500 URL's in order to better optimize his advertising, paid search campaigns and organic search rankings.

I (Ralph Paglia) made my first presentation to the industry on the rapidly evolving use of Transactional eCommerce capabilities within dealership web sites. ADP is a major leader in building the ability for dealers to accept direct payments from consumers online and I was not sure how well dealers would respond to the idea of letting people buy a car online. I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response and genuine enthusiasm I witnessed for Transactional Web site strategies during and after my presentation. My workshop focused on transactional dealer web site capabilities and the state of Transactional Sites from several vendors for dealers in the industry. Brian Hoecht, who owns AI-Dealer, a supplier of transactional shopping cart technology for dealers was in my session and despite the fact that ADP competes with Brian, he contributed to the overall discussion in a highly positive manner. Chris Gugliotta from Lithia Motors was also present during my presentation on transactional sites, and Chris added substantial color commentary on the recently deployed transactional web sites that allow consumers to actually buy a car online.

Stephen Stauning from Asbury Automotive delivered a high value presentation on managing vendors and suppliers, which was unusual for this type of event but incredibly useful... For the dealers that attended Stephen Stauning's workshop, the recommended supplier contract changes, combined with the tactics and negotiating advice presented would save them many times over the total costs of attending the conference. I can attest to the validity of Stauning's material as presented because I have worked on both sides of the dealer/vendor fence several times over the years.

All in all, the 2007 AAISP Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas was bigger, better and more productive to be at than ever before... Mike Roscoe put it well when I saw him at a private party in the VIP section of the LAX nightclub in the Luxor on the evening of the last day, and he stated "Our little conference has grown up...".
In response to Ashley Antonio's post, I will be at the J. D. Power Automotive Internet Roundtable event at the Red Rock resort in Las Vegas this week and am looking forward to seeing her, along with any other friends, associates and colleagues at the conference.

Ralph Paglia
[email protected]