Over 20,000 auto dealers and industry representatives including a select group from Australia embraced this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention &
Expo in New Orleans Louisiana USA, January 24 – 27.
Despite the colder than normal weather caused by an unseasonal polar cyclone, our AADA Study Tour group managed to roll with the crowd and participate enthusiastically in the many NADA University workshops as well as exclusive hospitality functions and group activities arranged by our experienced tour hosts, Corporate Blue.
This year the Convention featured 100 speakers presenting over 60 different workshops in 171 sessions including Dealer Ops, Human Resources, Sales, F & I and Internet Marketing.
Over 550 exhibitors were spread across eight massive halls and featured a multitude of products, systems and programs from conveyorised car wash equipment to CRM providers to an elevated car display which soars to three-plus metres from the ground and rotates continuously.
While the Expo got us walking, the Keynote Speakers got us thinking.
According to PERQ’s Tim Hickle, the Saturday keynote address by Steve Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine and CEO of Forbes, Inc. was ‘informative, entertaining, and unapologetic.’ This fan of free enterprise believes that the problems that the auto industry and health care industries are facing in the US could be freed up by opening enterprises up.
Unfortunately, I missed JR Martinez’s inspirational service on Sunday morning due to a workshop clash, however a number of people in our group said his story just ‘blew them away.’
Martinez was in Iraq when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb and exploded. He and three colleagues all survived but were badly burned and sustained massive internal injuries. To pull through, he endured 34 months in recovery and numerous operations. Today he’s a successful actor and highly sought after motivational speaker.
Will she or won’t she? That was the question which I’m sure was on everyone’s lips during Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s closing speech on Monday 27 January.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t forthcoming. When asked by outgoing NADA Chairman Dave Westcott whether she planned to run for President in 2016, Clinton said that she was more concerned with looming issues such as the debt limit among other things.
On a lighter note, Clinton did reveal that she hadn’t driven a car since 1966: ‘I remember it well. Unfortunately, so does the Secret Service, which is why I haven’t driven since then.’
Clinton also praised the role that auto dealers had played in rebooting the US economy and how rising auto sales and increased manufacturing reinforced the Government’s decision to invest in the auto industry.
Other touch points included the recovery of the US economy globally, the boom in natural gas and oil production and the need to build positive relationships with China.
In between these dynamic and entertaining keynote addresses, here are my key highlights from the Convention’s Marketing and Internet workshops.
First up, John Hanger and John Reed took us through the basics of mobile marketing and how these applications are being adopted by dealerships in all departments resulting in improved customer satisfaction, employee retention, compliance and operational processes.
Later that morning I checked-out Meredith Oliver’s lively workshop on how social media can help dealers sell more cars. Oliver started her presentation by saying that dealers have to meet and greet online and that peer referral was more powerful than advertising. She also discussed the social media channels, their audiences and how to determine the best channels to reach them.
Chris Deringer wrapped-up the day by explaining how to leverage Google Analytics to maximise digital marketing, suppliers and dealer staff. ‘We are all making business decisions; the question is ‘are we using the freely available data to make these decisions?’’
Unfortunately, most dealers do no formal website or digital-marketing testing; instead they rely on the HIPPO in their dealership. The dealers that effectively measure, track and optimise their website conversions generate four times the website leads of their direct competitors.
President and CEO of TVB New York, Steve Lanzano’s Sunday morning pitch was that TV has finally caught up with online. TV, he said, is the key to maximising word-of-mouth and a proven brand-conversation starter.
Also, Broadcast TV delivers the most highly socially engaged viewers and 51 percent of adults say that a TV ad prompted them to go online to do more research.
According to Facebook’s Kass Dawson, data collection should be a Dealer’s first step to building an effective marketing/advertising campaign. However, before dealers become advertising-planning masters, he suggested they check which of the three Car-Shopping Lifecycles the buyers are in.
John Moore, whose credentials included marketing campaigns for USA Today and Best Buy commenced his NADA presentation by telling us that he and King George VI had the same problem, and like him, he used similar techniques to overcome his stuttering. Which I thought was amazing considering Moore’s pitch was about using word-of-mouth marketing to build brand loyalty and cement long term customer relationships.
While one of my colleagues said that this year’s NADA was ‘a bit patchy’ I thought it rocked – especially when you consider the need to stay on top of the changes in information technology that can drive more sales, improve customer experiences and enable dealers to more effectively engage with their customers using social media.
Tristan Van Riel, Dealer Principal at Keema summed it by saying: ‘…this year, the workshops I attended were the best ever and worth every second.’
At the group’s farewell dinner, Frank Genobile, a Partner at Fordham’s commented: ‘NADA showcased the ongoing re-emergence of the US auto sector. Dealers are generally very positive in their outlook and are looking to grow their businesses and profits in 2014. The US automotive industry has got its mojo back!’
My only disappointment was that email marketing, one of the most powerful and measurable communication platforms available to any dealer, was left off the workshop agenda. Maybe next year?
Author: Charles Bayer