Industry Events

6th Digital Dealer Conference Review by Kevin Frye

I am not sure if it was because of the simultaneously scheduled “King of Cars” TV marathon on A&E or that the all male review “The Thunder Down Under” was completely sold out this past week, but Jeff and Alex were unable to attend the Spring Digital Dealer Conference being held in Las Vegas, and I kindly stepped up to provide this friendly review for each of you…

Located at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, this year’s spring conference promised some great entertainment combined with a strong agenda of current issues within our fast-moving market.  I teamed up with Alex Jefferson of Proctor Honda and Acura to attend multiple sessions, as well as to meet with several vendors to share some useful information with our DealerRefresh readers (please note the well-coached GQ pose that Alex prompted me to take…).

Kevin and Alex
Kevin Frye and Alex Jefferson

“Please God, what does it take to sell a car?” That is certainly a strong opening statement, and this session led by Gil Chavez, Joe Webb, and Kim Clouse reviewed some strong fundamentals to what it takes to utilize the Internet successfully to sell cars. This was a great session for the first day as it reminded everyone of the skills that build a strong foundation for your Internet strategy. With such a challenging market, and with so many things to do, Gil, Joe and Kim emphasized that today’s Internet manager must be “God-like” – which begs the question “What type of pay plan does a God-like Internet manager deserve…”

Joe and Gil
Joe Webb and Gil Chavez

Video is still a hot topic, and has been building interest at these conferences since it first hit our market.  Sean Bradley gave a great seminar that shared the benefits of video for your dealership, as well as several useful tips.  Some things that caught my attention included NOT using TubeMogul to distribute your videos – but rather taking the time to distribute unique content, and to mix up your titles and descriptions rather than just creating duplicate content.  There was also some discussion regarding using recycled content that everyone else is using (OEM videos) vs. creating unique content.  I learned about some technology developments in this arena from Sean that I think could provide some very interesting changes within our Video SEO strategies, to include pixel, voice, and face recognition technology within the search engines.  Google is concerned about content, and does your video content have audio that is saying the keywords you are targeting?  And in a side- note, if you are making video testimonials of your customers – are you getting a signed release to publish them online???

Dealer Synergy
Alex Jefferson, Sean Bradley, Karen Uriarte, Karry Moore

How about “Getting Social” online? Jesse Biter of Homenet led an excellent session on how to utilize social networking tools as part of your Internet solution. Jesse had a full-house of attendees, and this was definitely a hot topic for this conference.  I think Jesse summed this up quite well with telling us that social networking is just “word-of-mouth” online.  What is your dealership’s best closing source?  Referrals!  Social networking provides the tool to utilize “word-of-mouth” online to create referrals to your dealership.  I found 2 very useful recommendations from Jesse to include TweetBeep (which is very similar to Google Alerts, but allows you to keep track of any conversations about you and your dealership online), as well as to include your Facebook info in your signature fields for your emails as a great way to personalize yourself to your customer.

Jesse Biter - Homenet
Jesse Biter

Do you know what your customers are saying about you? Are you managing your online reputation, or just burying your head in the sand and hoping that everything goes ok?  Matt Lamoureux of DealerRater gave an outstanding presentation that addressed all areas of online reputation management.  He also shared how to share positive reviews online with your Facebook friends, which is a great way to build up more of those online referrals.  I think more than half of the sessions I attended brought up DealerRater as a “must” if you are serious about your Internet strategy, and I am strongly encouraged to see Chip Grueter and his team being incredibly aggressive in keeping their product on the cutting edge.

Matt Lamoureux - DealerRater
Matt Lamoureux

I know that it is hard to rate a “best” seminar with so many great speakers and presentations, but I have to say that Brian Pasch hit a home-run with his “SEO Survival Toolkit”. Let’s face it – the battleground of our market is on the search engines, and Brian showed us several useful tips on how to better search engine optimize our sites.  What really aggravates me is that what Brian is showing us (e.g. having duplicate titles and duplicate meta descriptions on our website pages is not good) should be common sense for SEO, yet why do our automotive website vendors still make these common mistakes? When we are paying thousands of dollars a month to our website vendors, why do we have to pay additional money to make their sites perform optimally in the search engine results?  Brian also shared great tips on using blogs, press releases, Google Map listings, and much more to better optimize your sites.

Brian Pasch - Pasch SEO
Brian Pasch

The exhibitor hall was huge, and unfortunately, not very full.  Our slow market was reflected in less vendors being present, as well as in where the vendors were. Several vendors are taking an alternative approach to these conferences, and are choosing to work the floor and the sessions aggressively with networking rather than have an exhibit. Depending on what service or product they provide, this can be a very effective approach. I tried to visit most of the exhibitors and learn what was hot, and what was new. vAuto has been upgrading their tool, and now has a new module where you can view a graph of where the inflection point is for your inventory pricing – or more simply – at what point of pricing does your online views suddenly jump!  eBay Motors is taking a more aggressive approach now in better training dealers on how to use their tool effectively.  More dealers are now looking to Live Chat to improve their website conversion rates, and ActivEngage was seeing a lot of traffic.  While speaking with Homenet, I learned about several new features that I was unaware of, but that have been available to me at no additional cost for some time.  This was a great wake-up call for me (and I hope for others) that all of us need to go back to our current vendors on a regular basis to train on their tools and ensure that we are using them 100% to our advantage.  It is also encouraging to me to see vendors that are constantly improving and upgrading their tools on their own initiative to help us in our business – that is the kind of partnership that my group looks for and is most beneficial for us. And before you ask, the “give-aways” were quite minimal this year, so Alex and I chose not to give a best give-away prize this year.  I am not mad at any of the vendors for this, in fact, this is a good sign, as when times are bad, ALL of us need to cut back on unnecessary expenses.

Very interesting concept – what happens when several different vendors are trying to sell their service, but find other areas that their prospects are struggling with, and are making it difficult for the vendor to close their deals?  Three proactive vendors decided to address this and banded together to provide a combined solution to best meet their customers’ needs.  Dealer 212 is a consortium of 3 vendors, Su-Lin Jasicki with CarSoup, Tanesha Bennett with ADTraffic, and Katie Jackson-Richter with Cuneo Advertising.  What impressed me about this approach was that they were willing to think “outside of the box” and put their heads together to find a solution that worked best for the dealer, rather than compete with each other for the best solution for themselves.  I am looking forward to seeing how this works out at the next session…

What was the “word on the streets?”  Was it text messaging?  Twitter?  Facebook?  Community Pages?  Video inventory?  Online pricing tools?  Best SEO tactics?  The “word” was OVERWHELMING. Listening to people in the sessions or at the exhibit hall showed me that attendees are struggling with how to manage everything that this job entails.  How do you manage 17 different social networking sites, 8 blogs, 4 community pages, Live Chat, inventory, video SEO, Tweeting all day, and 1001 other items every week when you are already pressed for time?  And on top of that, we are still fighting internal politics on getting the culture at our dealerships to change with this market. My advice is to choose your battles. You cannot do everything yourself. Prioritize what you need to do, and then do that as well as you can. Then choose to LEAD your people to take ownership of the Internet as well, and to help you with other areas that you cannot manage directly.

Patrick and Kevin
Patrick Workman, Kevin Frye

Another great benefit of attending these conferences is seeing opportunities for new businesses to serve our fellow dealers. With that in mind, Alex Jefferson and I are starting a new company called “BS Statistics.  Our company will provide any statistics you need to sell your product or service, and we can show you how our service will help increase your sales by 43.7%.  Further, with our help, ANYONE can become the “expert” in their field, using our BS statistics to provide the credibility you need in pushing the product or service you are selling.  Don’t believe us?  87% of the speakers at Digital Dealer are recognized experts in their field, thanks to our BS statistics…I hope this is taken in good form, as after attending countless sessions and product demos, we were beginning to question where so many often quoted “stats” come from…

Ah – the “after-hours” section of the review.  Hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? All kidding aside, the entertainment available in Vegas is unmatched.  Many thanks to Ruanne Varden and Stuart Lloyd at Clickmotive for a great dinner and a ticket to the Cirque de Soleil Beatles Love show (absolutely incredible, has my highest recommendation, and anyone going to Vegas without seeing a show is missing the best part).  Chip Grueter and the DealerRater team hosted a fantastic dinner and drinks session at Stacks (fantastic restaurant at The Mirage) that was well attended and lots of fun.  Whew – and then Jesse Biter and the HomeNet team kept me out the entire night at the exclusive nightclub Jet. No, I didn’t see Brittney Spears there (it is one of her places to go) but I did see Mike Roscoe, Patrick Workman, Phil Penton, and many others living it up. Thanks Jesse for your hospitality!

Nightlife with Kevina and Alex
Su-Lin Velin Jasicki, Kevin Frye, Tanesha Bennett, Alex Jefferson, Katie Jackson-Richter

With all that said, here is my concluding sermon. There is no “school” for what we do. And if some university started a degree for “Automotive Internet Professional”, the day you graduated with your degree, the information would likely already be outdated. These Digital Dealer conferences are invaluable – and they are the only “school” available to us that are up to date and are moving as fast as the market (hence 2 sessions per year). Even with the Las Vegas nightlife and some very late nights for all, the sessions were still highly attended. The people attending these conferences are serious and are not only attending the sessions, but are working the exhibit hall to network with others that can teach them more. My overall summary is that this was another outstanding conference, I came away with a lot of great ideas that can make our group better, and I would highly encourage everyone to attend the next one. Cheers to all (and I apologize if I could not mention all of the great folks I met with)!  And if you missed it, here is a short video clip of the Mirage volcano eruption.

About the Arthor: Kevin Frye is the eCommerce Director
for the Jeff Wyler Automotive

  • G
  • April 23, 2009
Great coverage, Kevin. Wish I could have been there. Jeff and Alex will have to let us know how that Thunder Down Under went.

Will some of the presentations be available for d/l? The SEO deal is ever-changing, so it would be great to stay current.

Gerald - You may have seen this, if not it's defintely worth checking out. Brian Pasch gave a great presentation and answered any and ever question in a straight forward manner.

Great reviews! Thanks for taking the time to spend with me, Karen and Karry. We all enjoyed getting to know you better.

*I am glad to hear that you got some good nuggets out of my workshop and our meet. If you have any questions what so ever or if there is something I can do to assist you feel free to call me 215-338-3600 or email me at [email protected]

Great write-up guys! Sorry I missed it, but now I feel like I was there.
Kevin, I love your reviews and photos. On behalf of everyone reading, Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.

And so you's actually Alex “The Thunder Down Under” Snyder.
  • J
    Jon Groenig
  • April 24, 2009
Alex, go the next 4 days with 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night, then you will start to feel like you were there:). You guys missed out on a great show, but if it makes you feel any better Dealerrefresh and Jeff's name came up a lot.
  • A
    Audrey Knoth
  • April 24, 2009
Great report ... thanks!
  • N
  • April 24, 2009
Great review. I need to try and catch one of these sometime.
Kevin, great write up and sorry I missed the conference...again! Any word on where the Fall Digital Dealer Conference will be?
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • April 26, 2009
Kevin, hands off of Tanesha!
Overall, I enjoyed the show. I learned a lot myself and enjoyed speaking with both dealers and vendors. One of my best memories from Vegas was on the first day when people were patiently in queue waiting to speak with us.

Outstanding job in reviewing DD6. It was great seeing you again and all the rest in Vegas. Mike Roscoe and gang did a great job coordinating the content of this conference. Every DD conference tops the last.

I enjoyed reading your review of Digital Dealer, but have two complaints...

First, I am one of you and your Jeff Wyler Family Team's biggest fans, and yet somehow i do not recall seeing or speaking with you in Las Vegas... That just plain bugs me, because I would have really enjoyed speaking with you in person.

Second, there was so much great material that was presented in concurrent workshop sessions, and so many interesting gatherings of people (especially my Sunday night shindig that I figured would result in less than 25 people attending, and over 100 showed up!), that your article referenced a relatively small portion of what so many others experienced, enjoyed and made the time and cost of the conference an unquestionably wise investment.

But, heck... What you did cover, you covered well! And, besides, I still use you and your team as evidence that my friend Jim Ziegler did not INVENT the concept of car dealers using self-made videos and the web to thrill and delight car shoppers, and create the differentiation needed to make people WANT to do business with the Jeff Wyler Family of Dealerships more than any others in your market.

Rock on, Mr. Frye... I remain one of your many ardent admirers and raving fans!

And, one last thing... Without offending "The Kershner", there are plenty more VERY entertaining photos and videos posted to the ADM site. Some of the videos are clips from actual DD 6 Worshops, but all good stuff, here's 2 samples:
Many thanks to everyone's kind remarks. Ralph - I did run into you on Sunday, but you were in a hurry to get to your next session, so we were unable to talk. I was also in your session on creating community pages, and in fact was texting Chip Grueter that you should get a birddog fee for your endorsement of DealerRater during your presentation, lol. You were so busy after the session that I did not get a chance to talk, I apologize. For everyone - I certainly acknowledge that I could not cover all of the sessions (including even writing up about all that I attended), but I had to keep my review fairly brief, and I tried to hit some hot buttons. I would share that the day I returned from the conference, I opened up my MS Outlook and started creating "tasks" for all of the useful things I wanted to implement from the notes I took while attending Digital Dealer. I have been non-stop busy since! I would recommend the same to all, as I often found myself with a pile of notes, but little benefit after conferences like this, and I want to make sure that I use the great info I learned. Ralph - one good example is here at this video (where we now added annotations, channel linkback, and adjusted our description linking per what we learned at the conference, make sure to view beyond the first 15 seconds) Cheers to all!