Industry Events

NADA 2008 Review

I didn’t get much time on the floor this year as I have in the past. The crew over at MileOne kept me busy at NADA 2008. There were several people that I was supposed to stop by and shake hands with but I just never got around to it, so I do apologize to everyone that I was not able to connect with.

Being my first time there, I thought San Fransisco was wonderful. The weather was fantastic and the city provides an atmosphere like no other. However, in my opinion, this was not the best location for NADA. Having to travel outside between the West, North and South halls of the Moscone Center was a pain in the a$$. Thankfully the weather was nice and the AutoMotion girls were always out side to greet you with their sexy smiles and great attitude between buildings.

Compared to last years NADA Review this one will be a quickie. I only had the chance to visit a hand full of vendor booths this year;

I’ll start of with onecommand (formally know as callcommand). The demo was impressive and they seem to really know their product. Having one program that can take care of your sales/service email, voicemail and text campaigns is strong. I also like the fact that they have aligned themselves with some great companies like ExactTarget to help guarantee email delivery.


I sat through a demo with Autobase CRM to review the new features (features that should have been apart of the CRM years ago). That’s all I’ll say about that.


Once I actually FOUND the booth (hidden in the corner of the West room) I was able to get a taste of their new TotalControl Dominator, allowing dealers to control their own SEM campaigns. If this works as well as it demo’s, it’s a homerun.


I made a quick stop at the Polk booth where they were touting their Polk Lead Scoring.

TimeHighway has added a few improvements and a new look to their online service scheduler.

I stopped by the ClickMotive booth to check out their new Flashy Websites. The sites look good, but I’m still a leary about all the flash and stuffed HTML in the background.


vAuto continues to build upon their product and continues to impress. Their tool is so clean, it has one of the best looking interfaces for any software program in the dealer industry. I have never used it but if it applies everything that Dale Pollack teaches, then I would think this is one program worth taking a look at.

Last year the eBay booth was PACKED as they touted their eBay Local program. This year..dead. At least every time I walked by. I have to wonder how many dealers signed up for eBay Local last year but are singing a different tune this year.

Some of your more aggressive CRM’s are learning how to tie in personalized video responses in their systems and are building action plans according to whether or not the customer actually watches the video email. NICE!

After attending NADA for the last 4 years, there really isn’t a lot of new stuff to see. Yeah, some vendors will add new features to their products and every now and then you might find something that peeks your interest but overall it’s the same stuff year after year.

I overheard several discussions where dealers are searching for quality SEO vendors. Does this mean dealers are catching on to the snake oil SEO vendors in the past and are now fed up with it?


WHERE ARE THE HISPANIC MARKETEERS? by 2050, Latinos will be 29% of the entire American population but yet I only ran across one Hispanic marketing vendor. Props to Larry John Wright Morales, Inc.

Of course the best part of any NADA is the networking and the PARTIES!

The Chase Bank tequila tasting party pulled a nice crowd. Getting to taste 1,2 or 8 different tequilas was intoxicating to say the least. I stopped by the DealerTrack party for a few minutes then ended up at a small restaurant and bar called Annabelle’s while catching up Jesse and the Homenet crew.

Blue Flame6, DealerSocket and Century Interactive threw a way cool party calling it the “The 3 at the 4“. Each invitee had to arrive in a group of three and they were serving these tasty drinks called a “Threesome”. Very Nice!

The last party I attended was the ADP Reynolds & Reynolds party at City Hall. It was OK, the lack of Bombay Sapphire left me a little disappointed. The party had me feeling quite young, if you know what I mean.

A quick thanks to Joe Vraneza and the KBB crew for dinner Sunday night and Lance over at CarFax for a wonderful dinner at Mccormicks and Kuleto’s Monday night.

So what did I take away from NADA this year?

Dealers are STILL LOST! Seriously. Sitting through some of the presentations and over hearing conversations from other dealers, it’s crazy how much they still don’t get it. They still don’t get technology, they still don’t understand today’s consumer, they still don’t train their sales people how to be effective on the phone and how to answer internet leads in a timely manor. The list goes on and it amazes me. How has this industry survived?

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
"Dealers are STILL LOST!"

I have to agree with that Jeff. So are a whole lot of vendors! It almost seems like the bigger the vendor, the more lost it is. There are a few diamonds in the rough though.'s Total Dominator looks strong (I'll be using it soon), we did enhance our Call/OneCommand package, DealerSocket and eLeads have made some nice strides in the CRM race, and yes, vAuto rocks! Unfortunately most of the other vendors I met with seem to be just trying to keep up with competition.

Nice write-up Jeff. Sorry to those of you I missed - I didn't get half of what I needed to get done.
Alex I take it that you use V-Auto? I am curious if anybody else is drinking the V-auto Kool-aid? I have been intoxicated from it the last few months. Dale's book "Velocity" is a must read!
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    Jeff Kershner
  • February 18, 2008
Brian, I did get my hands on Dale's book while at the show and read it on the plane trip home. Prior to reading Dales book, I had seen him speak at a few seminaries and realized the concept he was teaching was close to what I had implemented at my past dealer. It's what took the dealer from 10-12 used cars a month to over 40 used cars a month with an average of 1.3 million in inventory (all highend luxury). Like I said before, since I have never used vAuto, I can't testify that the software works as well as they say it does and the fact that they use a scraping technology sort of scares me (there is some controversy around this right now). But I do know the concept works, at least until everyone figures out that in order to make money with used cars you need to know how to price your vehicles. Before we turn this posting into a vAuto thread, I'm going to try and get an interview with Dale for DealerRefresh.

Alex, what advancements did elead have going on? I was only able to stop by the booth for a few seconds.

From what I hear and from past experiences, the DealerSocket crew are fantastic people to work with and since I believe the Van Tuyl auto group has a large invested interest in the company, they should have the inside scoop on what dealers really need.
O.K. I will try not to derail the thread. I know what your getting at with the data scraping and all the false traffic to sights, I.E.
Disclaimer on autotrader stating that their stats are probably not accurate.
I agree with Jeff,
not enough hispanic marketeers for sure!
Being brought up in an "Argentine" household and all of my direct family from South America and Italy I think it has given me a better perspective on our market and the needs of the hispanic dalers we serve. Much more needs to be done so thanks Jeff for bringing up this topic.

Mark Bonfigli | President, CEO, Inc
[email protected]
Brian - yep, I'm drinking the vAuto Kool-Aid....but it tastes better than Kool-Aid :)

Jeff - I had not looked at eLeads in months, and then saw their program again at NADA. It looks like they've added some cool features since I last looked: more campaigning stuff, call center stuff, and read-email notifications. I need to take a deeper look at them though - every time I sat down at their booth something came up.
  • L
  • February 18, 2008
Mark Bonfigli wrote:

"I agree with Jeff, not enough hispanic marketeers for sure!
Being brought up in an "Argentine" household and all of my direct family from South America and Italy I think it has given me a better perspective on our market and the needs of the hispanic dalers we serve. Much more needs to be done so thanks Jeff for bringing up this topic."

Gee, maybe that's why now owns, the #1 all-Spanish online automotive marketplace (even the listings are in Spanish, unlike AT's competitors) and is integrating it into their solutions to help AT dealers better market to this rapidly growing segment of car buyers.

I agree with you Jeff... this industry is so ready for the next big thing.

DMS is sooo 80's, CRM is sooo 90's, websites too, 3rd party leads, eBay Local and AutoTrader are sooo early 2000-2003. Is it just me or is the pace of things accelerating?

Answer this though... bring along the next big thing... for argument's sake, what if it was transactional website capabilities (shopping carts for car dealer websites... ;-) ) how do you get the industry to engage? How do you get your dealers to get excited? Love to hear the ideas.
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    Mel Bayo
  • February 18, 2008
Jeff and Mark, perhaps the comment that "dealers are STILL LOST" has something to do with the meager representation of Hispanic marketeers at NADA 2008.

Since we're talking about a group whose long term vision often suffers from a "make this month" mentality, maybe a look at the present and not too distant future might jog dealers into taking consistent action in the Hispanic marketplace and the marketeers will step up in numbers at NADA 2009.

The current cumulative buying power of over 43 million U.S. Hispanics is close to $900 million and is forecasted to eclipse the $1 trillion mark in the next two years! While I haven't seen numbers estimating how much of this will be spent in the automotive sector, Hispanics adults are also more likely to purchase a vehicle in the next 6 months as compared with the general public (16% versus 12%).

Many dealers in "gateway" cities such as L.A., Miami, Houston, NYC and others may have caught on long ago, yet the Hispanic population continues to grow at faster rate than any other minority community in the U.S. and is moving into areas of the country not previously considered to have a sizable Hispanic presence.

In many states much of the growth is happening amongst 2nd and 3rd generation families as compared to growth generated through immigration and while assimilation increases the use of English as a primary language among Hispanics, an affinity for the use of Spanish is often shown in complex transactions, such as the purchase of car.

Language preference, age, education, income, country of origin, and length of time in the U.S. are just some of the factors to take into consideration when marketing to the Hispanic population and dealers willing to jump into this market will indeed need experienced partners to show the way.

While being shown the way though, dealers will need to make a commitment to the market by hiring Hispanic staff to serve customers in all areas of their organizations or run the risk of losing out on the opportunity created by effective marketing and generating a negative perception of their dealership among the Hispanic community in their area.
I am a strong believer in VAuto and their pricing tool. I have used it for the past year and a half and my dealership has been the #1 Selling Certified Honda Dealership in the nation for over a year now. Dale is a dynamic guy and I am definately drinking the VAuto Koolaid (spiked with a lil Grey Goose!)

As for NADA this year I have to agree that there wasn't anything truly groundbreaking. I didn't find that next thing we are all searching for to revolutionize the industry. I did find all of my great friends, great parties, and generous vendors willing to wine and dine.The NADA Women's Dealer Breakfast had a great speaker/comic and the Honda party at City Hall was breathtaking. Cobalt had a nice party as usual and the Bel Air Partners Elite Dealer Dinner was an amazing event. Blue Flame 6 put on a fun bash too and I have to say the most innovative concept at NADA this year may have been the concept of the "threesome" party.

Great seeing you Jeff!
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    Ryan Vaughn
  • February 18, 2008
Good God I'm sick of Lightnup.

That is what I heard, the Nada in San Fran was not a good location compared to the others in the past! I heard there were more Vendors than dealers out there. The turn out was not very HOT!

I like what you mentioned "I overheard several discussions where dealers are searching for quality SEO vendors. Does this mean dealers are catching on to the snake oil SEO vendors in the past and are now fed up with it?" It is true the dealers out there are starting to learn the logics of SEO! I am not bashing any competition out there as being a vendor myself, but at TK Carsites we educate the Dealers on what SEO is all about and we stand for what we do.

The hispanic marketeers! This is huge! But remember to check into them fully first. There are so many different dialects of spanish throughout the United States that you got to make sure they are targeting that certain area for their dialect may be different. LA spanish to Miami Spanish community and so on can have a difference in the spanish dialects. If switching your site to be a spanish site and not knowing, the spanish community in your area would not understand it. Just a little heads up.

But again, thanks for the great info on the NADA~ Sounds like you had a lot of Fun!


Who in the world is lightnup in the first place?
We've out grown our in-house site and we went to san fran looking for a custom web site.

I've got 30,000 uniques a month that are my "captive audience". Of that number, 1-2% buy from us. My market is the 98% that went somewhere else.

I'll summarize my findings.

Don't ask for a CMS (Content Management System) to keep your site fresh. "Fresh? What do you mean fresh?" Would you run the same ad in the newspaper ad every week and just swap out the cars? Is this PRESIDENTS DAY? Do we sell a sh*t load of iron today? I’ve got 1,000 uniques a day. Do we want to create a sense that today is a special day to buy that car (on your d*mn day off?) Does our site look different? No! Hello CSS web design people! Is anyone awake out there?

Don't ask for email harvesting ideas if they haven't already thought of it. You can get all the custom features you need as long as it sits in one of their templates. Oh, and if any of your custom features make sense (and they don't offer it) we must realize that we can't have it because they know better because they run all these tests and we all are so... LOST!

I was amazed at how "rigid" these web providers are. Every single dealer wants to "accessorize" their site; a few (intellectual leaders) want a custom site. The current solution is to fit the dealers into their platform, rather than engineer a platform that lets the dealer walk his way up the upgrade ladder. Someone shoot me, am I an idiot? has this Vermont aura around it and I was convinced that they had it all figured out. I expected a flexible platform that would accommodate dealers of all intellects. To my amazement, was the most rigid (or should I say "least flexible") of my 1st tier picks. The rep saw my custom check list and broomed us! It was a nice broom! hahaha...

In all sincerity, before I entered the San Fran arena, BZ is the company that I cared for the least, one week later; they're still working hard to engineer in all of our ideas. Kudos’ to the BZ team for at least trying.

There are others that I won't name.. Nope, I have to mention This is a lesson in how to kill business.

eBiz is rippin up the SERPs and I would have enjoyed the chance to talk to the team roaming the floor (they had no booth). I don't need a booth, just a cup of joe, a laptop and 60 minutes with an intelligent soul is all that's needed. I called eBiz's office and spoke to a not so friendly phone rep (name withheld) and she couldn't understand why I needed to speak to someone in person. After 30+ minutes of giving lip service to my ideas, I could tell I was loosing her and I re-asked to get in touch with one of the reps at San Fran. and have them call me. No call. Too bad. Next.

I haven't included all of my experiences, just the ones that p***ed me off. Gotta love the net!

Great info Joe! I would love to speak with you if you had a few moments of your time. Not trying to sell you anything but to show you a few things.

Let me know!

  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • February 18, 2008

I love the site. Good recap of NADA. I didn't go and I never have been. Frankly, NADA seems to have to turned into a big technology expo which can all be discovered and explored on the net. San Fran may be a nice city but it is a long way to go for us East Coasters. Whenever I go to manufacturer meetings it is always nice when they have them in Chicago (good central location and a great town).

vAuto is pretty awesome. We have been using it for about six months and have seen an incremental improvement.

The one thing I have yet to find that you have eluded to in other posts that may have justified a trip to this years show is a good CRM (including ILM) system. There just doesn't seem to be an easy to use all in one package that can operate efficiently. By that I mean integrate with my DMS without creating a bunch of duplicate names, redundant, concurrent processes, etc. I also need enterprise level functionality. I have four franchises in three locations with three store numbers in R&R, yet I have a centralized BDC that handles all electronic communications. I am working with R&R to consolidate my name file. However there just doesn't seem to be anything remotely close to "seemless" integration. Even R&R's ERA doesn't seemlessly integrate with Contact Management. The Daily Work Plan scheduling process is really complicated. Bells and whistles are nice. Plain looking systems are fine too. I just want a system that my less than tech savy associates can use effectively and easily. In addition, we want to implement an automated plan for continuous communication that is based on logical, easy to put together client collections. In a nutshell, I want a system that can "seemlessly' execute our processes. There always seems to be obstacles in the way. We need a system that we can easily tailor to do exactly what we want. If anyone saw anything good with regard to CRM's, please let me know.
@Joe: no, you my friend are not an idiot. Agree completely that you should be able to expect more from the website vendors. Been in your shoes before doing IT at a dealership and finally couldn't take it anymore... started my own software company. But not to solve the website problem...

Jeff, nice post. I love SF too, but agree it's not the best venue for NADA. Having to hoof it all the way to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for the keynotes is a bit much. Although Jay Leno made it worth the hike!

Also agree that once again there was not much new. It was my sixth straight NADA. CRM, inventory control, ancient DMSs on terminal-emulating PCs. Hmm.

Next year at New Orleans, however, there will be something new... something that could be the next big thing. It will help dealers manage what some believe is their most important asset... their people. Can't say more than that for a few months yet, but keep an eye out for DealerFlow.

Keep up the good work, Jeff. Love your blog.
Jeff -

Great 30-second rewind...wish I could have made it.

Thumbs up to the Hispanic awareness, vAuto & seeking out quality web development professionals.

(Post more pics!)
Andrew Wright - I feel your frustration. I was at NADA for the single purpose of exploring the various offerings. You've influenced my next posting on Dealer Refresh: The 2008 CRM Wish List - where we can all list what we want.

I am also from a multi-store, single-BDC dealer group on the East Coast. My needs may vary from yours a little, but I'd be more than happy to talk to you off of Dealer Refresh. My email address is axsnyder [at] checkeredflag [dot] [com].

If anyone else wants to help me with the wishlist, please shoot me an email.
Nice review Jeff and I'm still sorry we didn't get to meet up in San Fran. I have to agree with you that the convention layout in San Francisco is less than ideal.

Alex is correct in stating that many vendors are as lost as the dealers they're trying to do business with. After sacrificing nearly 8 years of my life to Reynolds and Reynolds I of course had to go by their booth to see if anyone I know still works there. I did see many old friends but, everyone seemed lethargic, uninspired or generally deflated. I don't know how their web division is going to survive. They're losing clients in big numbers at a rapid pace and there's nothing new to their product. I attended Ralph Paglia's ADM reception and he told me that ADP is eating Reynolds lunch on the DMS side as well.

My flip-flop vendor award goes to It's almost as if they themselves don't remember that they started building websites with heavy flash (I am glad they've turned this corner though). I'm also amused by Total Control Dominator. If a dealer really wants total control of their SEM efforts they simply need to spend some time learning Google AdWords then Yahoo and MSN. That's total control!

NADA 2008 left me wondering what the next big thing is going to be. Right now it's more of the same or variations of what already exists.

All the best,

Interesting little teaser there, Mr. Edward Brown!!! You certainly piqued my least enough to do a quick search for some more information.

Since you are reluctant to spill the beans here on DealerRefresh, I will take it upon myself:

The Dealerflow solution is targeted at the nation’s 21,000 new car and light truck dealerships. Addressing some of the industry’s most problematic areas, Dealerflow says it will help dealers reduce turnover, increase worker and team productivity and better manage multiple dealership locations. Dealerflow says these improvements will translate into enhanced customer satisfaction, higher profitability and a more loyal workforce. “Dealerflow will fundamentally change the way dealer companies are managed,” said Brown. “We see it becoming the lifeblood of getting things done at well-run dealerships.”

Dealerflow’s product is being designed to model both single store dealerships or multi-dealership groups. The software will include multiple forms of communication, including instant messaging, mobile text messaging and email. In addition, the software will include its own content management system. “Each department will have their own blog,” he says. “The way that we’re doing syndication of posts is such that you can go to any point in the organization and indicate which groups the post is for.” It will also include applications for human resources administration.

Well, maybe that doesn't exactly spill the beans!!! Apparently Mr. Brown is a little skittish when it comes to describing his concept.

You can read more by clicking my name or this link :

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • February 19, 2008
Exposed, thanks for your anonymous feedback. Maybe Edward didn't want the beans spilled.
  • C
  • February 19, 2008
Why are dealers singing a different tune about eBay Local Market this year? I haven't read anything unfavorable about until this.
Was there a Meetup 2008? How did that go?

I read all the posts and wanted to comment on a few:

Alex - my wish is that we as an industry get together to establish communication standards for websites to talk to CRMs. The benefit of doing so would be to leverage real-time web activity. i.e. major buying signals all over the place. Easier said then done, but I'm using the Law of Attraction here. You have to put it out there.

Joe - I think your best website providers will be small shops of 1 - 3 people who approach the task like a fine art and fine science.

Shaun - You are correct, SEM is easy to learn, and doing so does give the ISM complete control. One issue I have with SEM providers is that they pad their numbers too much. A year ago, I sat in a presentation where they offered x amount a clicks for $1.50 a piece. The rep did not like it when threw down on the table a spreadsheet showing that I'm getting them for $0.58 cents a click.

The next big thing will be Mobile Marketing IMO. GPS and the phone is merging right now. Garmin just came out with a phone. Position-based marketing will be amazing. Until then, it'll just be new features on what we already have.

More Hispanic talent? I've been in the business a while and agree. Does anyone have a suggestion for a Hispanic Marketing speaker on Automotive? I'm looking for someone for a San Diego May 6 Hispanic Marketing seminar as the keynote/speaker. Please let me know. [email protected]

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    Jerome Jerenovich
  • February 19, 2008
Show was slower this time around than in previous years... both in terms of dealer attendance and vendor mega-marketing campaigns. It was the first time in years that I didn't almost get hit by one of thost massive BZResults Billboards-on-Wheels.
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    Jeff Kershner
  • February 19, 2008
Corey, after being a test pilot dealer for eBay local for several months the results were disappointing. I have also spoken with many dealers that were having the same results. I can't speak for the other dealers but I performing all the "best practices" according to eBay.

There seems to be a disconnect with the traditional eBay motors and the new eBay motors/local. Maybe it's just me but even when talking with some eBay reps, they too give me a feeling that they have been disappointed with the response. This might be a good subject for a post.
Any luck on the V-Auto interview?

@ Wayne:
How long does it take to track and tweek your pay to click to hit the .58 Mark? Could the time be better utilized perfecting the Autotrader process? Just some thoughts, I have been intrigued by pay per click, just curious of the R.O.I. money wise and time wise?
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    Jeff Kershner
  • February 19, 2008
Brian, I know a few people that know a few people. I should be able to put it together. Dale seems like a nice and genuine guy, I wouldn't see why he wouldn't. Maybe Jasen Rice will give me the hook up!

Hello to everyone, and especially to Jeff. Lot's of insights in these posts and it's nice to see dedicated professionals pursuing so many answers. I'm afraid I had to miss this year's show - busy replacing (and filling in for) a key employee whom I had to show the door, oh and busy building 3 (three!) pinewood derby cars this year.

I had several confidants who made the trip and had asked them to keep their eyes peeled. but they too returned with "nothing too new" reports.

I don't know much about Dealerflow, but they seem to be tickling at an area that could be poised for huge revision - the comprehensive DMS completely reborn with modern messaging and employee focused operation - merge that with Arkona and take on the world.

BZ dropped the rolling billboards - Good. Maybe that's a telltale we could all find uplifting. That organization has done the largest financial disservice I have ever... ah stop me here.

I would like to float a little prediction. the next big thing - perhaps... for dealerships...a system for developing UGC that allows a dealership's website to demonstrate with credibility - "how we get our customers to tell our potential customers that the experience was a good one when they did business with us."

Like joe says, "My market is the 98% that went somewhere else.

The next big thing will solve the puzzle of getting customers to talk to potential customers over the Internet platform. Imagine not as a bitch zone, but as a cheerleading section.

- Jeff

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    Lau Shi
  • February 20, 2008

The chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association expects a bit of a rebound in the second half of the year. Unfortunately he is basing this projection on what he has learned from the past and the issues we face today are very different.

Oil going to $100.00, 125.00 a barrel…or more, the housing market facing issues that are much different than before, the demographics of the boomers looking to unload, the increasing issues with the local, state and federal employees retiring and looking for their money, the military retirees whose number will be a huge one in the next 8 years. The meltdown in the US sub-prime real-estate market has led to a global loss of 7.7 trillion dollars in stock-market value since October. Hard to refinance now to buy that new $55,000.00 Escalade. It will be an interesting next few years for the industry in the US; maybe this is why there was a poor dealer turn out.

The issues America has been watching develop and watching the leaders sweeping them under the carpet are now becoming a issue to deal with. This is just part of the cause an effects… then look at India and China producing vehicles at half the cost as the US Market. It will take great skills for the smart/wise dealers to use to survive this coming challenge.

If anyone wants a real treat for an auto / dealer show check out the ones in China and in Japan. Both will revitalize those who attend. The use of technology is now beginning to unfold in China and I think we will see even more evidence of this in the next show. I think one of the benefits here is most dealers and industry folks do not have a lot of baggage from the past and are open to new concepts as the whole industry is a new concept to many.

Jeff's observations on ADP's event is classic and an indication of where this dinosaur is heading, thank God when that is over. It always amazes me that when I speak to some who have converted to another DMS system the usually say "boy what a difference". It is also a great observation on BZ Results. It is amazing that the faster the rising star the faster the burnout. With their pricing strategy, the fact their technology was old when ADP purchased them. (Reminds me of the timing of Steve Case's sale of AOL to Time Warner, some say perfect.) With the difficult economic times we are facing in America, the decreased business we (many) in the Auto Industry will face the next few years where can BZ go with their 5-6 K a month solution?

  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • February 20, 2008
I agree with Jeff Bonnell. I think that consumer driven websites like will eventually be JD Power killers. If you look at the money that manufacturers and dealers spend on follow up geared towards CSI it is crazy. Everything is geared towards dealers covering their rear ends and the manufacturers saying "gotcha - you aren't getting the job done for us." It is crazy. It should be more of a collaborative effort but it isn't. Customers are getting pounded with surveys and it is creating a lot of ill will. We have great CSI and we are constantly following up on people but the fruits of our labor are really not published anywhere for people to see. We just know based on the number of repeat and referral customers we have. We know the value of great service and the impact it has on our business. The problem the manufacturers have is that not all dealer's care about CSI. Every manufacturer is chasing that JD Power score even though the survey sample that JD Power takes is so small that I don't think it is entirely representative of what is going on at the retail level. We work our tail off to achieve the highest recognition from our manufacturer but most customers don't even know what it means nor do they care. We chase the numbers needed to win these awards because we know if we hit it the rest will fall into place (profitability, retention, etc.). I think the recent article in autonews about the type sites is highly indicative of where our industry is going. Look at how many people comment about products and services on sites like and I know i don't buy a computer or electronic without reading the customer reviews on The prevalence of this type of content is going to have a huge impact going forward. Whether it will be on our own websites or third parties remains to be seen.
Andrew - what would you think of manufacturers posting CSI surveys on their websites?

As a point of clarification... was it the ADP party or Reynolds and Reynolds party you attended Monday night? I'm sure both were yawning festivals (especially Reynolds).

Thanks for this post. I was not able to attend NADA this year and this is a very valuable resource to tap. I am building a "E-Commerce" Department from scratch and having to look at vendors with a fresh set of eyes. After being in this arena for so long I got settled with my old "stand by's" that I was comfortable using over the years.
Going through this process has forced me to reassess those "stand by's" and look at a new set of "solutions" in order to sell cars. I think many of us, especially myself, get hypnotized by the "functionality" of some solution and don't always focus on the the end result of putting metal on the road.

After being in both worlds now, I think you and Alex nailed it when you said dealer's are lost. However, I fault vendor's as well, in terms of their lack of follow up and support of the products they sell. My old boss is very cynical about vendors getting their contracts signed and you never see them again. I tended to disagree with him at the time, but as I go into a new environment with existing contracts, I see the how the vendors got their contracts and deserted the dealer. I have heard it said that it takes a "Champion" in a dealership to ensure a certain software is utilized sufficiently and to it's greatest potential. That is very true to a point. It is incumbent upon the vendor to do their due diligence and to go above and beyond to service their client.

I compare it to a dealer selling a new car and throwing the keys at customer and saying, "Good luck", and walking away. We know as car guys we are going to do an excellent demo and follow through with an excellent delivery. Moreover, we will follow up with that customer until they are ready to trade in or trade up.

There are a lot of great car vendors in our industry, however, even they at times have to be pushed to make it happen. Their is a a lot of lip service out there. They talk the talk, but don't walk the walk after the ink is dry.
@ Brian T -

my SEM plan is on auto-pilot right now. That's why I'm surprised to see software solutions out in the market to 'optimize' SEM. I login into Google about every other month. I think buying software to do it is overkill.

It took me about 10 hours to complete my plan. I first brainstormed every possible way someone will enter phrases relating to our business. I came up with a list of 700 phrases and then wrote a specific ad FOR EACH PHRASE. I do exact-match. The title of the ad is the keyword. The ad description is the same for all. Yes - it's alot of work in the beginning - but I haven't had to touch it for years. I'm using the long-tail approach. Out of the 700 phrases, only about 200 of them are used by searchers in a given month. Some keywords are only used once a quarter, but ad those up and you get very cheap clicks. (costing .10) You then use your website metrics to figure your ROI. I've maxed out Google. I was paying $0.58 two years ago, now its $0.71 a click.

I don't bid to be in the top position. My average position is 2.9. A click is a click to me. It's a commodity.

I'm now focused on building my organic clicks with a hybrid 'flash +blog' approach.
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • February 21, 2008
I don't really have an opinion about posting CSI surveys on manufacturers websites... If they did, I don't know how much credibility they would have with the customers anyway???? JD Power doesn 't rate dealers, only manufacturers. I just think that these DealerRater type sites are going to gain in popularity especially given the way that DealerRaters process works for both customers and dealers. They give dealers an opportunity to respond to customer complaints before they are posted in an effort to rectify the situation. It isn't simply a post board for customer puke which these things can turn into.

The one thing that is for sure is that customers are over surveyed to the point of it bordering on harassment.
"My flip-flop vendor award goes to It's almost as if they themselves don't remember that they started building websites with heavy flash (I am glad they've turned this corner though). I'm also amused by Total Control Dominator. If a dealer really wants total control of their SEM efforts they simply need to spend some time learning Google AdWords then Yahoo and MSN. That's total control!..."

Responding to the above post:


Thanks for the award!

I am not sure that has never been heavy in flash website design although we did make several flash splash page designs for dealers that demanded them about 4-6 years ago but in general our designs have always been very search engine strong from the beginning. Our flashier designs represented about 5% of the sites we launched during that time frame. When our company was growing and in need of more business we were willing to do the flash designs every so often since they paid well. The truth is that we simply turn these opportunities down now since we have solid metrics and know that don't convert traffic nearly as well as the solutions we have launched over the past 4 years.

With regards to our TotalControl Search Engine Dominator, there is no way the average dealer could create local automotive search engine ad campaigns in 10 seconds like they can with TotalControl and have 8-10,000 keywords launched for any dept at the dealership. Additionally, the tools inside of TotalControl are above and beyond ad words in that they are all automotive specific and give the dealer unmatched control over creating vehicle specific ads for makes and models in stock in a matter of seconds that are fully tracked down to the call recording (at no charge!) What's even better is that there is optional landing pages that can be deployed for dealers that are not using the fully integrated website solution.

I urge you to contact me so I can give you a full walkthrough of this revolutionary new way to advertise all the dealership profit centers,

you will be truly amazed.

Best regards,

Mark Bonfigli
President, CEO, Inc

[email protected]
Response for Mark.

Regarding the award... you're welcome. ;) I certainly don't know the percentage of your customers today vs. two or three years ago that are on flash sites. My impression/experience with sites up until the launch of what I believe you call "SmartSites", was that built a lot of flash to compete with BZ. I know that most of the sites showcased in the early days were very much flash sites.

Anyway... I'm not beating you up about flash. In fact, I'm quite glad you're deliberately pursuing search engine friendly sites. Your customers deserve it!

With regards to your new SEM product, I agree that dealers can't create ad campaigns in 10 seconds that automatically produce thousands of keywords for multiple departments. It sounds like has done what many SEM companies have done which is create something for those that can't really handle "total control." For the record, I'm ok with that and completely believe that some dealers are best served by using a great SEM solution. On the other hand, I know dealers that are having such amazing success right now doing everything in-house that they've dropped and Autotrader.

There's room for lots of products and services in this space and maybe "TotalControl Search Engine Dominator" is truly amazing but, "total control" still suggests no assistance required.

Thanks again for your response.

My best,

I am glad to see you’re passionate about your work Mark. I also have to give props to Jeff and Alex (pardon me if I left someone out) for maintaining a site that is of the quality of that we can hear from the likes of folks that head some of the most important companies in our industry.
I for one do not have the talent or the knowhow of most of the folks on this board, which is why I come here. I want to learn from some of the best in the business. I have accepted the fact that this business will be driven by the internet in the years to come and I am sure everyone that visits this site has similar feelings. As a customer I feel as though I am getting value for my dollars spent at but as with anything in this business we can always strive for improvement. I have to give it to your support department, Jason is one that comes to mind off the top of my head, he is always willing to help me and improve my business. I have also had numerous other conversations with many folks up and down the chain of command and I have to say sometimes I feel as though the only suggestions I get from most of the staff involves me or more directly (my dealer) spending more money on something new. This could be my fault for not clearly stating what my issues might be or my lack of understanding this business. One of my first suggestions to when we signed up a couple years back was to have better more in depth training not only for me but for the guys or gals that help me (support staff)
One of the basics of my business is to drive home the fact that we are here to serve our customers before and after the sale. I am on the fence about whether has the dealer’s best interest in mind? Maybe you can shed some light on this subject for me. Thanks in advance for any help on this matter.

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • February 22, 2008
"props to Jeff and Alex (pardon me if I left someone out) for maintaining a site that is of the quality of that we can hear from the likes of folks that head some of the most important companies in our industry."

Thanks for the words Brian!

First responding to Shaun,

Thanks for the clarification and detailed response.

I am assuming you have not seen our TotalControl Product? It actually allows starters to get into the SEM game fast and with proven results with full lead, phone tracking and dedicated landing pages or empowers the expert to create very custom keyword lists and geo-targeted campaigns.

It just makes running things faster and easier than ever...sort of like typing an email with spell checker on. Imagine if you had to grab a dictionary every time you were unsure how to spell a word? I guess my point is that we have created a system so simple to use but so powerful for the advanced user that it simply makes sense for dealers to use this as a platform instead of a generic one like google...etc Even the various search engine's people have remarked how far ahead this is from their own platforms and how much this will help all dealers conduct their campaigns more aggressively.

Let me know if you would like to see it in more detail, I think you would be very impressed!


Mark Bonfigli
President, CEO, Inc
Now a response to Brian....

I think you bring up some very valid and needed points.

Over the past 2 years has made massive investments in our dealer support and account management staff and training programs. I would dare say they are breakthrough in the sense that we involved the State of Vt and various organizations to build a state of the art training solution that allows us to respond better to our clients issues than ever before.

As an example, just this week we added 8 new account managers that will all start at the same time and begin serving our dealers more and more over time as they become better experts in the field. In the past this was impossible since we did not have a large scale training program and the facilities to host it. We can now train anywhere from 1 to 30 people at a time and do it in an environment that is second to none. Our mission and focus is better than ever before since we were in a 4 story building for the first 8-9 years much like Cobalt's and it was a very disruptive environment that did not allow our people to talk in person and get "real" answers fast from each of our respective teams.

That issue was answered this past summer when we custom designed the ultimate customer service and technology center just down the street from our original HQ and created what is now the new home. View the full construction video here:

You might ask, does the layout and flow of the various teams and staff really matter to me the dealer? Looking from a distance it may seem superficial and unimportant but I can tell you that will all the incredible talent we have at DDC it could be likened to a college basketball player practicing with his teammates for years and then all of a sudden moving to a new sports complex having direct access to playing Michael Jordan every day instead. The level of each person's game rises dramatically.

As you know we continue to add industry experts to our team to help us with our mission of being the #1 most effective dealer marketing solution possible, our most recent addition was Dean Evans (formerly of Dealix, Ford..etc) that has offered a wealth of expertise to our teams and is even helping to structure better training and education the account managers that assist our clients every day. This will continue as our compensation plans for the industries top professionals are top notch and we will not settle for anyone but the best to join our teams.

We can always do better and that will be our mission in 2008 to deploy the very best possible training, support and proactive care the industry has ever experienced.


Mark Bonfigli
President, CEO,Inc

I can back-up Mark on his new DDC facility claims - the new building is nice! I can't imagine a better setup for a progressive tech company - I'm sure it would make some Silicon Valley groups envious.

Let me see if I can explain the layout...

The main part is a huge circle split into four parts to separate the various departments: sales, support, development, SEO/SEM with their prospective managers easily available on the outside of the circle. The middle of the circle has plush couches and vegetation that inspire people from the various departments to sit down together at. The second floor is a loft/balcony where the executives sit, able to see over 90% of the operation just by stepping outside their office door. There is a gym and tennis courts to go along with the casual-dress environment. It is a great place for anyone to work.

What does it mean for us (the dealers)? Happy employees for a start. Since the move, I have noticed an uplift in demeanor from all the people I work with at DDC. I've watched things happen much faster - my requests that need development work are done in days instead of a week or two. I can get tons of answers in one call as the rep I speak to can easily get to whomever has the answers right then. I'm sorry to ramble on about it, but I didn't realize how much things had improved until I read Mark's last post - thanks Mark!
Hello hello,

Jeff it was Reynolds we went to Monday night. And while we didn't go to this one, because we had plans with KBB, I heard the Aspen party was great - that will be a must do next year.

I didn't even make it over to the west building - totally missed all of my peoples over there!

And while Jeff likes to beat up on Autobase - they did get most improved booth this year. Worst booth went to this service training company that was literally under a stairwell next to the Paul Cummings booth and I believe they just gave up on Tuesday, bc their lights were off and no one was home.

Anything new? Uh No.

People that I missed that I am mad at - ALEX SNYDER!!!! You are in trouble. We are going to be in VaBeach in April - you better have on your entertaining shoes.