Adam Dennis grew up in Rhode Island and described himself as “a relatively athletic geek”. He played football and track and field, but also loved reading books on science such as Isaac Asimov's Guide to Science. Adam says that he started working early with a yard business in his neighborhood and serving as a commercial fisherman with his brother. “I had to save money for college, which drove me to work hard. I did anything I could to get ahead.”
“I have done a lot of different things. I like to keep busy.”
Meeting with Adam Dennis to talk shop is like sitting down and plugging into several educational podcasts simultaneously. His energy, speed, and ability to navigate numerous topics and bring them back around are remarkable. Moreover, he is knowledgeable about technology, cybersecurity, the power of data, and marketing, making for a great combination of skills and experience.
The desire to work hard and do anything to “get ahead” is reflected through Adam’s early years after college.
In graduate school, I started a nonprofit graduate student organization dedicated to issues important to our student community. I worked with grad students from around the US (well before the Internet was popular). To fund our organization, and address a critical need for many of us, we started a national health insurance plan for grad students, sold from school to school. What’s amazing, and quite rewarding, is that the organization is still around to this day!
A few years later, Adam started another nonprofit that provided training to at-risk youth trying to get out of the drug trade in Washington, DC.
“It was quite successful, only two blocks from the White House,” Adam shares. “The kids traveled across the city after finishing school and took training courses in website development and network security.” Educational professionals visited the program from as far away as Japan to discuss the program’s methods and objectives. “We enjoyed what we did and it showed. I take this same attitude with everything that I do to this day.”
“As for my start in automotive, it was largely a fluke.”
I started a SaaS company in Baltimore in 2000. We began by offering a website CMS to a wide range of customers, but then branched into providing it to car dealers shortly after we started. From there, we customized the CMS for dealers and added a whole bunch of other tools, from an inventory display solution, to lead tracking and various other customized tools focused on optimizing dealer operations. I ran the company for five years and then sold it in 2005.
Adam moved to Antigua after he sold the business. “My wife is from the Caribbean, and my in-laws live in Antigua,” he shared. “They are two of the best people I have ever met, so I wanted my kids to grow up around their grandparents instead of just seeing them every 6 months. So, in December 2005, we packed up our house and moved to the islands.”
I consulted for several years, both inside and outside of automotive. Then, Dominion Enterprises, who had bought my company, asked me to come on as VP of Software Development and improve the operations of all of their acquisitions’ software teams. “Many of the acquisitions had tech teams that worked hard, but needed to integrate, and have a shared best practice driven value system for producing and engineering their software. That was my job: optimize teams and improve the stability and usability of the software that we produced.”
After six years, Adam had achieved the mission. “I had done what I was asked to do, so I approached the leadership and informed them that I was no longer needed. That might be surprising to some, but I took this action because I never want to be the Maytag repair guy who sits around with little to do. To Dominion’s credit, I was given a nice package and left the company in 2019.” Adam took some time off before being approached again by Dominion, “I ended up buying their web arm, a part of which I had originally owned and sold to them back in 2005.” Adam and his team reshaped the business, and SurgeMetrix was born.
The company was struggling when we acquired it, so for the next six months we focused on stabilizing our revenue, collecting data, evaluating options, and, most importantly, making our customers happy. We reshaped our image and began offering Hispanic marketing services alongside our website and other SaaS offerings. We were doing well, until the COVID crisis and chip shortage hit. This led us to expand our offering to include rich data on the digital ecosystem around a dealer website, such as the demographic composition of the community around the dealership, competitor positioning, and website performance.
We needed data so we wrote software that could analyze dealer website performance across the country as well pull in demographic and advertising data too. This data was used to inform work we did for our customers so that we could be sure we gave them the best services possible whether for a Google optimized website or Hispanic marketing services.
The pieces fell into place.
“Some dealers spend 100% of their budget on 60% or 70% of their market. It makes no sense.”
There is a lot of bad marketing going on in our industry. We have found that in some places, especially around big cities, the Hispanic population is as high as 30-40%. If you operated out of Boston, you wouldn't ignore the Irish culture in your marketing plan, but instead would shape messaging accordingly. Good luck if you ignored St. Paddy’s Day!
When the chip shortage hit, many of the dealers in our pipeline decided to hold off on marketing until things settled down. So, we pivoted and started talking to OEMs about data points on the Hispanic population. This was in response to one OEM’s inquiry about the density and composition of Hispanic populations in different parts of the country.
Our data service, SurgeRecon, provides information that allows us to analyze the digital ecosystem around the dealership and its competitors. We have successfully built a double-barrel approach to our service and product offering for the dealer community. Efficient websites, and the Hispanic data to position the marketing message specific to the location, are all backed by data.
“There was a time when we were not concerned with website sales, but we realized that they were selling without us allocating resources to that part of the business. We have discovered it is in our DNA. We create websites that load quickly, are easy to use, and are focused on selling cars.”
Finding and solving pain points for dealers is important to us. SEO, an incredibly valuable part of any marketing strategy, too often is ignored or seen as a costly option if the strategy is to generate keyword rich content on a regular basis. Enter SurgeAI, a new solution that we’ve assembled from our tight little team of programmers.
Think about the work that it takes to produce a steady supply of keyword rich content for social media and a dealer website… You need to decide on the messaging, get someone to write the content, and then push it online.
What if instead you could use a tool to quickly identify topics and then generate unique content for your dealership, a dealer group, or even an OEM, which has hundreds of dealers, in only a matter of minutes? Too good to be true? Nope.
What if you could also take that same content and automatically translate this content into Spanish flavored to the dominant country of origin around a dealership? Is that too good to be true? Again, no. SurgeAI can do both with ease.
Making things even more enticing, we’re creating APIs to feed this rich content to social media outlets such as Facebook and a dealer’s Google Business Profile. Business is flowing and what started as a tough challenge, has begun taking shape. We recognise our DNA which is rooted in our data recon abilities, and we are committed to creating solutions that help dealers succeed in an affordable way.
Adam and his team enjoy their work and love working with dealers. Adam likes talking about the dealers that have become friends over the years and the role relationships play in the business. He also loves data, a core component of all of his articles.
With much more to come, we look forward to what new things he and his team will do and discuss through Dealer Marketing Magazine.
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