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Digital Dealer 19 Review with Kevin Frye

“Have you had too much to drink, sir?”

“Oui oui, my friend”…

Welcome to Paris! Or should I say that The Paris Hotel in Las Vegas welcomes Digital Dealer 19. Wow, I didn’t think Parisians like Americans that well, but apparently they LOVE car folks, and the different venue for this year’s fall conference brought some new excitement to the longest running Digital Automotive Conference.

Speaking of which…

Celebrating our 24th Anniversary at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant
Celebrating our 24th Anniversary at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Who can stand ME that long???  Apparently my lovely wife Julie – how about celebrating 24 years! Julie joined me for an early arrival on Saturday to take some time to celebrate our 24th anniversary. I got a terrific dinner/show package at The Paris which included a table with a beautiful view in the Eiffel Tower restaurant, followed by tickets to see Jersey Boys.

I didn’t stop there – how about a spa experience at The Paris Hotel the following morning, as well. That my friend is the secret to 24 years, lol…

Digital Dealer 19 badge
Digital Dealer 19 badge

EZ Peezy Check-in’s Easy!Check in was simple and took fewer than 5 minutes with the Sunday afternoon registration booths being open early. Sure beats the lines when the conference starts and I believe most of us were very happy to take advantage of this. I also liked the conference badges which printed your info on hard plastic (like a credit card). Easy to scan for the vendors, and no more stick on banners for “speaker”, “dealer”, etc that typically fall off after about 10 minutes. And with the extender cord, I can now attach it to Julie and not lose her at these busy conferences!  (Heads up – click on the names throughout this recap to follow great folks on Twitter)

Brent Wees, Earl Brown, and Cecil Bolling during Brent's "gamification" challenge
Brent Wees, Earl Brown, and Cecil Bolling during Brent’s “gamification” challenge

Honk if You are Horny! If you wonder what Canadians do across an 11 month winter, just spend some time with Brent Wees (with Glovebox) in his session “Helping Your Dealership Find Its Game-Face”. Brent shared a story where he sold his personal car online in fewer than 10 hours. He spent about 20 minutes writing a good description, took some photos and video, and posted his listing in the morning and before evening he sold his car at the price he desired. Of note, the lady who bought his car shared that the video was the key thing that helped her to make her purchasing decision.

Are you still failing to provide video for your shoppers?

Who has the best give-aways at Digital Dealer 19???
Who has the best give-aways at Digital Dealer 19???

Run Joe Run! (and you are OLD if you remember that Saturday morning show) Unfortunately, I had to leave Brent’s session early to get ready for my session “Who’s Crashing Your Website Party”.

After getting many strange stares while hauling all of my great give-aways from my room to Keynote Hall, I took stage. It is exciting to see so many fellow dealers taking ownership of measuring the performance of their marketing efforts, and I was glad to show folks how to not only identify which of their marketing partners were performing, but more importantly, how to see those who were “crashing their website party.”

Hey Yago Paramo and Jim Bell – I walked 5 miles on that stage!

Trick or Treat, smell my feet… No tricks, just treats here. I have been a bit concerned at some earlier shows I have attended to hear some “scare tactics” being used to convince dealers that Google Analytics is useless and bot traffic is so rampant that you cannot make an educated decision without paying someone else to help you with their service. I strongly disagree, and was able to show dealers how to identify and quickly filter the significant majority of bots in their website traffic so that they can see a better picture. And the cost for this? FREE. There’s your treat folks.

A gunfight broke out at DD19. Luckily Alex and I did not intervene...
A gunfight broke out at DD19. Luckily Alex and I did not intervene…

Ahhh, me likey!  I have talked about multiple times in earlier reviews that I usually skip 1 – 2 sessions during the conference to spend time in the Exhibit Hall to meet with current vendor partners and to explore new solutions. Digital Dealer 19 featured dedicated time slots (outside of meals) to spend time in the Exhibit Hall and this was incredibly useful as I don’t like to skip sessions. Traffic appeared to be brisk on the floor and outside of meeting with my current partners I did check out some new solutions. Keep this change DD!

WIth 2 of my favorite folks, long time friend Alex Jefferson and Brent Wees
With 2 of my favorite folks, long time friend Alex Jefferson and Brent Wees

Stop whining and start mining…  Recently we have been restoring a log cabin from the 1830s and my wife has been Googling items we need. For example, one thing she was looking for online was a sink. Note that she is shopping from home, but once she starts that online search, I almost immediately start getting emails at work with information about sinks. Have you seen the same behavior? Yep, Big Brother is watching and the latest thing in marketing is the use of information gathered with data mining to build a profile on you as well as how to target you when you are in the market for specific items, say for example, a CAR.

Getting a demo during breakfast with Tom Walls of MotoFuze
Getting a demo during breakfast with Tom Walls of MotoFuze

MotoFuze had strong activity at their exhibit and one of their products, ProfileFuze allows you to see the online shopping behaviors of your customers and much more. They are leveraging the data available today to enable dealers to best identify folks who are in the market to buy a car, while providing info that also allows you to best personalize that shopping experience. Good? I believe so. Shoppers have begged to only be marketed to when they are in the market, and today’s technology allows you to provide that targeted and personalized experience (and YES this is from the same guy who talks about privacy).

CoVideo hosts their booth at Digital Dealer 19
CoVideo hosts their booth at Digital Dealer 19

Remember that video thing I was talking about? We were very early adopters with video, to include using a hand held video camera many years back, moving on to Flip cameras when they came out, and eventually moving towards an App based video solution which we use today.

Two solutions we explored at Digital Dealer 19 include CoVideo and AutosOnVideo. Both of these solutions provide dealers with the ability to create quick videos to send to your shoppers. We are also seeing more of these solutions which enable dealers to shoot REAL video of their inventory to post online (not stitched photos). Has the time come for dealers to hire a full-time inventory specialist that is responsible for photos, video, and well written descriptions of their inventory?

Obligatory food porn photo from Digital Dealer 19
Obligatory food porn photo from Digital Dealer 19 – easy now folks…

Different Strokes for different folks… Different format for meals this time.  Instead of hosting breakfast and lunch in exhibit hall, meals were now held in Keynote Hall. I thought this worked out well as folks could multi-task and enjoy breakfast or lunch while then catching a session at the same time. In fact, on my final morning, I enjoyed breakfast while getting a demo with Tom Walls from MotoFuze and then caught the keynote presentation by Famous Rhodes – trifecta!

AutoDealer Live at Digital Dealer 19
AutoDealer Live at Digital Dealer 19 hosted by Dave Cribbs and David Villa

Gotta rush it to crush it! I had to rush through lunch on Monday to join the Auto Dealer Live panel “Keep It or Crush It” at 12:30 with Mat Koenig, Jonathan Dawson, and Laura Madison. I was flattered to join such talented people with great passion for the industry. Wow, I thought I was caught up in the Battle of the Atlantic. No, there were not a bunch of U-boats around me, but there were a LOT of periscopes. Seems like Periscope is the hottest new app in town, to include Mat using it right next to me.

We had a spirited discussion about several topics, with torpedoes flying everywhere. Curious? Tune in on Thursdays at 3:30 EST to what is rapidly growing into a must-listen session each week at . Go ahead and let it play in the background, and put up the Twitter feed, it’s a lot of fun and helpful for busy dealers in the workplace (talk about that multi-tasking again…).

Greg Gifford aka "King Gifford" packs the house at DD19
Greg Gifford aka “King Gifford” packs the house at DD19

All hail King Gifford! Yes, I proclaim, nay, I coronate Greg Gifford as the King of SEO and now consider myself the SEO court jester. How is that?

Earlier this year I spoke at SES Miami (SEO conference) and I felt like I was in an AA meeting of reformed SEO practitioners. The days of “armchair SEO” have passed IMHO and the level of complexity involved with SEO is much greater. Greg filled the keynote hall for his “The Six Degrees of Automotive SEO” presentation (no easy feat!). One of the many tidbits he shared that I liked was this – Greg shared that he “loves those crappy little website links”. He was talking about those hyper-local links from sites in your community. Like the little league team you sponsor, the high school where you helped pay for the new football field, the local chamber of commerce you support – I think you get the point. Google sees those as positive indicators that you are a great local result for people searching for what you buy. Hmmm.

Bryan Armstrong, Greg Gifford, Jonathan Dawson, and Joe Webb
Joe Webb

I strongly admire Greg for several reasons. He is incredibly smart, he is a fundamentalist (no tricks) with his SEO efforts, and most important, he is committed to helping dealers like YOU to improve their SEO. Greg is now a member of the ALL-STAR team at DealerOn, and whether you are a client of theirs or not, he works to serve our entire industry if you need help. He has a unique talent for showing dealers how to improve their SEO with simple tactics in what is an ever more complex SEO environment.

What do you say King Gifford after that endorsement? Perhaps I can be a Prince now instead of the court jester?

Spending time with Erich Gail and Phil Sura, 2 leaders of integrity in automotive
Spending time with Erich Gail and Phil Sura, 2 leaders of integrity in automotive

What is this? Car Calculus??? Next up was “Applying the C x A = R Formula” with Erich Gail who is the Chief Operating Officer of the Cardinale Group. I was able to spend some time with Erich Gail this past summer in Austin and I am incredibly impressed with his intelligence, his passion, and his giving nature to help others.

Erich shared how to define success with management-driven goals (which are very aggressive). What does that involve from your folks? Hard work! And hard work spotlights the character of people. Erich further emphasized the importance of good character from your team being necessary to get the best results. Car guys? With good character? What kind of car calculus is this? One thing that caught my attention was this – When you work for a dealership, you must understand that someone has invested capital (your salary) in you and you are expected to provide a return on investment for that.

Oh boy…

A trio of fun at Digital Dealer 19 mixer!
A trio of fun at Digital Dealer 19 mixer!

As I climb the soapbox…  I venture to say I will not be popular for sharing this, but have you looked closely at yourself to see what kind of ROI you are providing your dealership when you attend these conferences? Sometimes I look around and I see folks that seem to make a profession of attending every conference on the calendar and it seems they spend more time at offsite conferences and meetings than at the very dealership they work for.

Heads up folks, many dealer principals are getting a bit perturbed with folks who are using the dealership’s dime to self-promote themselves into another job and location and are failing to provide value to the person paying their salary first. Call me old-school, but I believe that if you focus on doing an incredible job at your dealership FIRST, great opportunities will follow. Enough said now, but I encourage you to leave your thoughts on the forum on how many conferences do dealers really need to attend? Rant over…

With David Villa and friends - David made a huge impact on me with this great presentation on leadership
With David Villa and friends – David made a huge impact on me with this great presentation on leadership

It’s time for church! It sure felt like it when I sat down to listen to David Villa of Imperial Press Direct share his session “Leading with Significance”. Wow, I was incredibly impressed with David’s energy and passion for helping dealers to LEAD their people to optimal performance. David preaches a philosophy that prosperity is the ability to make others successful. That doesn’t always mean trying to be everyone’s friend. It is more important to do what is right and to have the passion to take that direction.

I learned later that David used to be a minister (and I believe he was a GREAT one after this session). Did you miss seeing David? No worries, he is one of the co-hosts of AutoDealer Live and you can catch him on Thursdays at 3:30 (that’s two plugs, do I get royalties for this?).

Finding more great friends during networking at DD19
Finding more great friends during networking at DD19!

Back to the exhibit hall where I spent a LOT of time working on issues with current partners, scrambling for a quick shower before the Cocktail and Networking reception. This is not only fun but one of the most IMPORTANT part of any of these conferences. Why? Taking the time to meet and learn more about your fellow dealers and vendor partners is how you build RELATIONSHIPS that make your dealership better.

I suppose the cocktails are the fuel to get folks to loosen up and do that a bit easier. Dinner followed with one of our primary partners, VinSolutions at Gordon Ramsay’s. Thank you for hosting Sean Stapleton – always a great time to spend time with you and the team.

Enjoyed a GREAT dinner with even BETTER friends - don't look to closely at this pic...
Enjoyed a GREAT dinner with even BETTER friends – don’t look too closely at this pic…

Up and at-em! If you are gonna run with the big dogs – you better lead from the front. I was up bright and early and enjoyed a great breakfast while listening to the keynote panel “Dealership Marketing from Both Sides of the Fence”. Did I tell you I like this idea of having meals served in the keynote hall? Dealers enjoyed some banter between Greg Gifford and Shaun Raines on the “vendor side” and Bobbie Herron and Jennifer Briggs on the “dealer side”. Maybe it was better described as the Battle of the Sexes as the ladies stood strong while sharing their strategy for success with our valued vendor partners. Well done, everyone! (now pass the bacon please…)

Dancing with the stars? Maybe not, but how about "Breakfast with the Stars"
Dancing with the stars? Maybe not, but how about “Breakfast with the Stars”

And the Knights of the Peer Strategy Round tables begin…  If the discussion at our “Mega-Group” table was typical, we had a LOT of different ideas on how we are getting traffic to our sites, working leads optimally, keeping folks satisfied in our service drives, and much more.

One of the simplest ideas I walked away with was a simple “Reserved” hang tag (great idea used by the Norris Automotive Group). When you pull up the car of interest for a customer’s appointment, you place that hang tag in the vehicle with the customer’s name. When they arrive, they already start to see a sense of ownership in that car (not to mention the law of reciprocity is in effect when they see you “reserved” that car for them). Names, addresses, and phone numbers were exchanged before we left, and most important, new relationships were made to build upon after the conference.

This simple "Reserved" hang tag was just one great idea from our roundtable
This simple “Reserved” hang tag was just one great idea from our round table

Look at the watch go back and forth, back and forth…  Tim Triplett (with BestRide) presented what was easily the most entertaining session “Hypnotic Selling Skills”. People were volunteering to get hypnotized BEFORE the session even started – you gotta love car-guys. No fear at all. Tim presented a great balance of entertainment and training. In fact, I would share that we were “entertained” and I try to do the same thing in my sessions. We learned the power of persuasion in a truly convincing way when Tim hypnotized folks into (for example) believing they were “Miss America”.

Jonathan Dawson wins the "Miss Digital Dealer 19" title (while hypnotized...)
Jonathan Dawson wins the “Miss Digital Dealer 19” title (while hypnotized…)

Jonathan Dawson of Sellchology is my new hero. I met up with him after this session and asked him how he felt about being hypnotized, and whether I could use his photo. Not only did he share that I could use his photo, he emphasized that he strives to follow this Proverb – The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25). In other words, do NOT be afraid of what others think about you, and Jonathan actually embraces those moments that might embarrass you, as it makes him stronger and more confident.

I also sat on the AutoDealer Live panel with Jonathan earlier and he is another agent of positive change that I strongly support (OK, that’s THREE endorsements for you guys now, a new DealerRefresh record!).

What made the lunch following Tim’s session funnier is that the servers who were setting up the meal were enthralled in watching the hypnotized folks on the stage and running around the front of the room and creating tons of laughs. I can only imagine what they were thinking while they were distracted. Speaking of which, maybe that explains the mac’n’cheese being mixed with the salad.

Love Payton Hoffman and Ryan Leslie - true #AutoFam folks
Love Peyton Hoffman and Ryan Leslie – true #AutoFam folks

Go Mobile or Go Home. No seriously, that was the name of Michael DeVito’s session. Michael posed a great question for all of us. If more than half of our traffic is mobile, then why do almost all of our product demonstrations take place on a desktop computer? All of us really need to shift our focus to the mobile experience which is the primary place your shoppers are hitting you. If you are wondering how well your mobile pages are working, try using Don’t thank me, thank Michael who warned us about page load time being slowed down by 3rd party conversion tools you might be installing as well – beware friends, slow mobile page load time equals bad shopper experience and penalize mobile search results.

After hours event with Brian Skutta, Cliff Banks, and Veronica Dunford
After hours event with Brian Skutta, Cliff Banks, and Veronica Dunford

Na-na-nah-nah, Ne-ne-neh-neh, hey hey hey, good-bye…  Well, not really. I was able to spend some time with George Nenni of Dominion as he presented “How to Truly Measure Digital Marketing ROI”. If you know me, you know this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Hands down, my favorite quote from George was this [Tweet ““If you are not measuring ROI, then don’t invest in digital marketing””]. I cannot agree more, as dealers must take ownership of measuring their marketing spend today to ensure they are getting the best performance available. George presented a hands-on session that walked dealers through how to do this simply and quickly on their own – great job!

George Nenni finishes a great presentation at DD19
George Nenni finishes a great presentation at DD19

Girl Power! Jennifer Briggs of the Feldman Automotive Group was up next with “Learn the Language of Digital Metrics to Understand Digital Performance”. Sorry I was a few minutes late Jennifer, but I had to walk 23 miles from Bally’s back to the Paris. Ok, maybe not that far, but some of the sessions were at Bally’s to facilitate all of the dealers present (and presentations available). It was a good 5 minute brisk walk back and forth, but on the bright side, it was through the always entertaining casino (best people watching ever, hello) and then the “streets of Paris”.

I have been following Jennifer and she is a rising star among dealers who are working to get deeply involved with their key performance metrics – which she is teaching to her team at Feldman. I like how she drives results backwards from benchmarks that she researches and sets. Reminds me of what Erich Gail is doing as well – very successful!

The Women Who Rock Auto during AutoDealer Live, including Jennifer Briggs
The Women Who Rock Auto during AutoDealer Live, including April Rain, Bobbie Herron, Jennifer Briggs, & Subi Ghosh

Who is that man in the bow tie? That would be Scott Monty, who started out his keynote with a poem by Rudyard Kipling. What? Pray tell, is there a car guy who majored in the CLASSICS in college? A car guy that speak in full sentences and chews with his mouth full? Why yes, and not only that, but someone who has performed at the highest level, where Scott was the former Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager of the Ford Motor Company.

Scott reminded us that no matter what line of business we are in, it is still about PEOPLE. Social media is the gathering ground for many folks today, and that means we need to be there as well. If we are not there with them, they will make up their own narratives without us. I think he is saying you want to be involved in that conversation…

Fun filled and packed dealer appreciation party at Drai's nightclub
Fun filled and packed dealer appreciation party at Drai’s nightclub

It pays to be at Drai’s… Another great mixer followed in exhibit hall, and then “The Official Digital Dealer After Hours Party” followed at Drais nightclub. Note that this party was exclusively for “dealership attendees” which is a great gesture.

Truth is (for me at least), I love having our vendors there at these parties. It is one more opportunity to get together and build strong relationships while having a great time together. Some of the greatest discussions and strategies I have discussed with our vendor partners and other dealers have taken place in these informal settings.

Thank you Mike Roscoe for putting this party together – WOW, a first-class nightclub and lots of fun for all.

Tim Triplett, Alex Jefferson, Julie Frye, and Mike Roscoe at Drai's Nightclub
Tim Triplett, Alex Jefferson, Julie Frye, and Mike Roscoe at Drai’s Nightclub

And the winner for best branding goes to…. DealerOn! DealerOn hosted a VIP section at the after hours party, and you needed to put on one of their temporary tattoos to enter. Did I say “temporary”? As I write this, it has been 4 DAYS of scrubbing to remove this thing. I think this was some kind of diabolical plan by Ali and Amir to permanently brand me with their logo for free marketing for the upcoming year… Alright, back to the steel wool scrubbing.

Is he famous? He must be - Famous Rhodes shares powerful insight during the final DD19 keynote
Is he famous? He must be – Famous Rhodes shares powerful insight during the final DD19 keynote

Did you hear the rooster crow? I didn’t either because I was up BEFORE that rooster and back down at keynote hall to enjoy breakfast, get a demo, and listen to Famous  Rhodes of AutoNation. Famous shared some insight into AutoNation’s efforts to move more of the shopping transaction online which is very interesting to fellow dealers.

AutoNation is the big player on the block, and let’s face it, 99% of dealers don’t have the resources they do to make aggressive moves like this, and we were curious to see how their efforts are working out. One thing that Famous shared really stood out with me. You should have the best pricing on your vehicle on your own dealership website and nowhere else. This is a similar approach to Southwest Airlines (and others to follow) that provide the best pricing on their own websites, and not on the other 3rd party travel sites. AutoNation uses a “Unlock the AutoNation price” form on their site that allows shoppers to get that special price. I enjoyed listening to Famous and I applaud them on their continued movement to minimize dependence on outside providers.

One final session before my scramble to the airport, and that was to see Ian Cruickshank’s (Speed Shift Media) encore presentation of “VDP Direct Traffic and Google Analytics – Are they really good friends?”  Is it the inner geek in me that attracts me to these presentations? Perhaps, but I am very curious to see the efforts of others deep inside their data to see if I can learn from them as well. I think George Nenni, Ian, and myself are following very similar efforts in exploring our shoppers behavior much closer.

Wow, this has double trouble written all over it - Jim Flynt and Renee Stuart
Wow, this has double trouble written all over it – Jim Flint and Renee Stuart

Whew! Another fast paced Digital Dealer comes to a close, and Digital Dealer 20 (can you believe it is the 20th one?) is scheduled for January 19th – 21st at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. Why only a few months away? Since NADA 2016 is scheduled for March of 2016, I believe that DD20 was adjusted around that.

Speaking of NADA…  I spoke for the first time at NADA 2014 with “The Digital Crisis that is Slowly Killing Your Dealership”. It was certainly a new experience, as your content is vetted extensively and a lot of material was removed to ensure that nobody was offended, even if it took away from the message. I powered through, and was proud to learn that I ranked in the top 10% of speakers for my first year.

Last spring at Digital Dealer 18 I had a standing room only presentation “Finding Your Optimal Digital Marketing Mix with Google Analytics” that was met with strong response by dealers, though perhaps not so popular with some of the bigger third parties. Why? I am always in the pursuit of truth, especially with the performance of our marketing dollars investment. And many of you know that has made me a bit controversial.

What happens when you prod some of the big folks in the industry? NADA 2016 declined my workshop. Perhaps the “3rd Party Nightclub Analogy” was a bit too controversial – yet true?

No worries my friends, I have found that the higher up you go in life, the more politically correct one must be in today’s world. I think this is also a reflection that our digital conferences are more dealer centric in allowing controversial topics to be presented that can bring great value to making our industry better.

Ouch, the hammer is coming down on me from everywhere!
Ouch, the hammer is coming down on me from everywhere!

David Villa asked an excellent question during his leadership presentation – what is your primary goal in life? For me, it’s simply this, to make a positive impact in the lives of others. I am humbled and honored to be involved in one of the most exciting times in the automotive industry, where everywhere you look you can find performance driven folks that are working through the biggest challenge this industry will likely ever see.

If I can help make this industry better while lifting up those around me that work so hard, that is a win. Sometimes that means being the messenger that shares an unpopular view, but the truth always finds a way to show itself. For me, that means being an #AgentofPositiveChange.

Do you want to join me??

Please leave your comments below, and connect with me on @kevinfrye1, would love to hear from each of you!

As a former Naval officer I am driven to produce results & to lead people to reach their full abilit Aviation, outdoors, tennis, running, weighli...