Conferences, conventions, seminars, boot camps, workshops, training…No matter what you call them, the auto industry has plenty. Having attended many of these events, spoken at many, planned a few, and now executed a major one, it seems like I get emails and phone calls every week from automotive professionals asking for recommendations. Before I begin, let me state that this article is based on my own personal opinions and perceptions, many will disagree.
I would also like to make a very important point right up front: I have attended well over 100 automotive events in my career and even the poorly managed and planned events have always provided me with something that yielded a gain greater than the cost and time invested to attend. In some respects the automotive conference circuit has evolved into a league of sorts with each event having their own groups of fans. So pick your team, I mean event, and go!
Many of you want specific examples and I only have space for one, so let me pick a conference inspired series of actions that resulted in an increase of over 1,000 additional retail units sold.
In 2006 I was working as the e-business director at Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix and attended the very first “AAISP Digital Dealer Conference” in Nashville. I also brought Joel Matteson and George Salman, our BDC manager and new car internet sales manager. While watching a presentation by Dennis Galbraith of J. D. Power and Associates, we were set back by a chart that showed that 42 percent of the vehicles purchased by new car lead submitters were used cars. I asked George, “How many used cars are we selling to new car internet leads?” George looked at me and said, with a straight face “ah, boss…the last time I ran the numbers we are between 0 percent and 0 percent on used vehicle sales to new vehicle leads…” Back in Phoenix we made radical changes to the work flows regarding new car internet leads…That year we sold over 2,000 used vehicles to internet leads; the year before we had sold 300. Our new car internet sales also went up, and surely there were many other factors, but I know without a doubt that if we had not attended that conference, we would have been far short of 1,000 used vehicle sales to internet leads. Again, this is just one of 100 examples I could cite.
The following is my list of six auto industry events to attend and I recommend all of them with some caveats as shown. You also have a great resource that is open for organizers and attendees to list and review automotive industry events online www.AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com/events.
AutoConnections Conference and Exposition (AutoCon)
Las Vegas in mid-September, this event was first held from Sept. 5-8 at the Aria Resort for 2012, but will move to mid-month for 2013. AutoCon conference information for the current or next scheduled event is available at www.AutoCon.us. AutoCon is hosted by Automotive Media Partners, LLC, founded by Ralph Paglia, Chris Saraceno and Mike Myers. These are the same people that started several popular online auto industry networks such as www.AutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com and www.dealerELITE.net. Seeking out the best possible project management and supervision in the auto vertical, AMP has contracted First Class Educators, a production company run by Carrie Hemphill, to produce the event. AutoCon’s workshops, general sessions, learning labs, and guided course selection reflects their intended audience of more advanced levels of dealer and manager practitioners such as digital marketing, sales management, service business, Google Adwords, social media, SEO, mobile marketing, measurement standards and process implementation. As the car guy and professional marketer who conceived AutoCon, I can assure you that our goal was, and is to deliver a greater ROI to attendees.
Driving Sales Executive Summit (DSES)
Las Vegas in mid-October at the Bellagio from October 21-23 for 2012. This event was created and is produced by Jared Hamilton and his DrivingSales team of auto industry veterans. The two previous years of DSES events I attended were characterized by enthusiastic attendees and a high level of speaker quality delivered in a standard lecture style format. Something worth noting that I have enjoyed about previous DSES events was their relative freedom from scheduling massive amount of poorly attended simultaneous sessions going on at the same time. You can learn more about DSES online at www.DrivingSalesExecutiveSummit.com.
J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Marketing Roundtable
Previously called the Automotive Internet Roundtable; Las Vegas at the Bellagio and immediately following the DSES event (October 23-25, 2012). In my opinion, this event is one of the industry’s most informative and data loaded. The combination of general session and multiple sessions, along with many moderated panel sessions, combined with Hollywood production qualities make this event a hit in my playbook. Learn more about this insight rich event at www.jdpower.com/events/2012-automotive-marketing-roundtable.
Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition
Las Vegas from October 23-25 for 2012 at the Mirage Hotel. I recommend Digital Dealer to those who have not attended previous DD events and for people who are new and would benefit from foundational basics. In addition, if the after-hours scene and networking with industry professionals is important to you, then Digital Dealer scores a home run. You can get the details (except for the parties) at www.digitaldealerconference.com.
Digital Warrior Academy
Has multiple dates and venues including the Grapevine, TX and Eatontown, NJ for East Coast dealers. The next session is in Eatontown, NJ from November 13-14. DWA is designed to give dealer attendees the knowledge and tools to make Business Development Centers (BDC) and Internet Departments run efficiently with the most profit possible. According to Brian Pasch, Digital Warrior Academy merges the educational value of a large conference with the intimate approach of a one-on-one coaching seminar. You can learn more at www.digitalwarrioracademy.com. I would describe the DWA sessions as the inverse of a Digital Dealer Conference: very detailed instructions and specific skill set acquisition, some of the best session facilitators in the auto industry and if you are looking to party, you will probably be disappointed at DWA where the work ethic is on DefCon 5.
National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA) Convention and Exposition
Orlando from February 8-11. This is the automotive event by which all others can be measured, whether in content, attendance, or significance. Add up all the attendees from the previous five events listed and the number will not exceed 10 percent of the industry professionals that attend NADA. If you can attend only one of these six, then NADA has got to be the choice. Learn more about the NADA Convention online at www.nadaconventionandexpo.org.0