Takeaways from the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp

Three days of workshops, speakers, and networking at the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp was intense, but now I’m back in Seattle, where I can sit at my desk and think about the real world ‘takeaways’ from the event. Here are my three:


Takeaway #1: The plan doesn’t have to be perfect for you to start it.


This may seem counterintuitive, but the fact is this is fast moving landscape and there are lots of vendors (and dealers) out there trying many different things. In fact during the course of Boot Camp I heard two ‘expert opinions’ on one piece of SEO that were exactly 180 degrees from each other. The fact is, contrary to what we learned in school, sometimes there actually is more than one right answer. The practical approach I recommend is to grab whatever piece of the digital universe that makes the most sense to you and start there. Then build from that piece.


Takeaway #2: We’re all learning this together.


The vendors at Boot Camp were generous with providing ‘free samples’ of their knowledge and expertise and some of them made the offer to continue to provide information if you contacted them. In addition there are many places (like Dealer Marketing Magazine and other fine publications) as well as forums where you can submit your questions, solicit input, and get answers. We’re all learning this together and while I noticed some vendors at the event who thought it was important for you to view them as ‘experts’ (but not all of them by any means), really in the long view someone might have a five minute head start on you, while you already have a two-and-a-half minute head start on the dealer down the street (who isn’t reading this), so it’s all a matter of perspective.


Takeaway #3: At the end of the day it’s still about the message.


Sure this year, VSEO and QR Codes might be the thing, but next year it’ll be about something we’ve never even heard of yet. The tools will change, but behind it all, the core marketing message about whom your dealership is and what you stand for must still be the over-riding piece. Liken it to a new movie that uses the coolest special effects ever, but still has a lame plot compared to an ‘old school’ movie that is low tech, but has a engaging story. Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller probably hit this piece the best in my view. You have to ask yourself: What truly makes your store different from the guy down the street? And it has to be more that a dealer principal standing out on his (or her) lot next to a car talking about the ‘deal of the day’.


I’m personally a believer in using humor, but whatever your thing is, make it your thing. The sniff test—If you can substitute your competitors name for yours on your marketing and have it still work, then you’re not there yet. Brian Pasch hit this same idea on the final night from a different direction as he spent some time talking about himself and how he lost weight and upped his fitness goals with the idea that ‘all this’ isn’t just about numbers and technology, it’s about becoming a better person on all levels. Your dealership works the same way.


Good stuff. A sincere thank you again to everyone I had the opportunity to meet there (and apologies if you were there and I didn’t get to meet you).


Ed Steenman is owner of Steenman Associates that provides traditional and digital media services to automotive dealerships and dealer groups nationally. Ed is available to speak to 20 groups or other related events and can be reached at ed@steenmanassociates.com or his website www.steenmanassociates.com.





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