Western Canadian Dealer Summit Recap- Banff Sept 13–15 2015

western canadian dealer summit

Another great year in the books for the Western Canadian Dealer Summit that brings three provinces together to educate and entertain car dealers.  So what did we learn? Here is the highlight reel:

  • Claire Thomson from Google Canada gave us an overview of the newly released Think Auto Data. Overall auto shoppers are taking 9 days less to move from the thinking to buying stage and they are still not happy with the timeliness and quality of responses from dealers.  Claire reminded us that people are busy and that as a dealer you need to get it right online with the first interaction.  Mobile experience is still important and dealers need to focus efforts on mobile bid modifiers and location and call extensions.
  • Dealer Principal Tom White Jr. gave a top notch presentation on people, process and culture. At his dealership in Wichita they have flipped the org chart upside down and believe in what Tom has dubbed “servant leadership.”  Tom spends 80% of his time getting to know his people at their activity-based dealership.  (A Subaru dealership that happens to be 4th in the country while being located in a market with less than 500,000 people.)
  • Charlie Vogelheim from Motor Trend Audio gave by far the most animated and perhaps most honest presentation on the internet, 3rd parties and vendors. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are coming and all the big manufacturers have offices in Silicon Valley now.  Disruptive technology is on its way to the auto industry, get ready!
  • Jeff Cryder formerly of Lebanon Ford talked about online reputation management. The best question that he posed in my mind was Are your reviews a reflection of your excellent review process or of your quality service? Do not expect reviews for average service, nobody raves about average!
  • Ed Woiteshek from CarProof Canada talked about the think tank initiative that they have launched called Transparency Advantage. Car shopping has a long way to come and it is time to innovate or get disrupted.  The think tank is working on several initiatives with a lot of promise, go to TransparencyAdvantage.org to learn more.
  • Search Optics did an interesting survey of dealers and how they feel their digital strategies perform versus what they are spending. The insights presented were very enlightening for the dealers and provided some benchmarks for dealers to better understand how their own spend compares.
  • Yours truly was on a panel about data ownership and why it matters to dealers. Don Hansen, Emily Baum and Allan Chell presented very important arguments from different perspectives to create awareness about this topic for dealers.
  • Wrapping up the conference was Alan Bird from SCI Marketview who shared his “Driving Sales 2015 Most Valuable Insight” winning presentation. Alan and his team were able to prove with data that not only is the speed of a response important but that the quality of the response is extremely important at increasing closing rates.  (Auto-responders and weak response won’t cut it.) You need to focus on subject lines and greetings, answering and posing questions, giving prices and availability and your dealership value proposition.

It was a great conference and Jay Radke definitely deserves a shout out for hosting it again.  Looking forward to next year in Vegas!

Cheer and Promoting at the Western Canadian Dealer Summit

Wynn Encore, Las Vegas: November 6–8

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold… No — that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

We were packed into a business flight to Nevada when the $9-sandwich cart went past… That’s better.


Not long ago, Bill Warren and I left soon-to-be-frost-covered Edmonton to attend the Western Canadian Dealers Summit. But rather than the typical ticket to Toronto, the mecca of Canadian conference destinations, this time we were treated to a first-of-its-kind adventure to Las Vegas.

First off, we need to give a shout out to the MDA, SADA, and New Car Dealers of B.C., who worked together to put on a fantastic event and rolled boxcars in doing so.

Before we get into all the insights we took from the speakers, let’s give you the high-level highlights of the event:

Thursday got things kicked off with a sponsor-supported welcome reception where dealers hit the jackpot with a wicked food and drink spread. You expect everything to be more lavish in Las Vegas, and we weren’t let down.

Friday was Western Dealer Day at SEMA (enough said; SEMA gets its own post, coming soon); Search Optics also hosted a great bash, complete with a slick performance from three electric violin, classic-rock-playing ladies.

Then on to Saturday, where the dealers convened to listen to a world-class lineup of speakers. (Absent: Celine Dion, Blue Man Group, Tony Bennett, Siegfried, Roy.)


So what did we learn?

  • Grant Gooley from the Zanchin Automotive group began the events with an incredible presentation about the eco system that’s helping them to succeed online. No more inflatable gorillas — build some trust and transparency instead.
  • Eric Miltsch reminded us that as long as there are search engines, SEO is not dead; keep your focus on the local aspects of SEO.
  • Joe Webb, always a charismatic and entertaining speaker, explained to us the value of a great brand experience, using insights from Disney.

  • Yours truly, Duncan Cochrane (above), got a little more granular and presented dealers with cold, hard Canadian data on why you need to merchandise your inventory online — yes, you need to take pictures of your new and used inventory, and don’t be negligent over who actually owns the data.
  • Glenn Pasch, a staple in the automotive speaking scene, presented dealers with the How and Why of having a good online reputation.
  • Mitch Gallant shared his experiences and lessons learned from all the crazy things they have tried over at the Capital Auto Group. He might have had the best line of the conference: “They call me the chemist: not because of how I experiment, but because I can turn money into s%#t!”
  • Aleksandra Banas from Lexus of Edmonton showed us the must-use Google tools for your dealership, including a guided tour through Google Trends, Google My Business, and YouTube.
  • Social media marketer and master of props, Ryan Holtz, got everybody energized and then proceeded to have a dealer hold up a huge pair of tighty whities for a creative campaign he ran for a dealer: #dropyourgonch. If you’re a dealer and you don’t like free media coverage, then this was not for you.
  • Search Optics followed with their presentation — we missed out, unfortunately — and judging by the applause, the content strategies they shared were very well received.
  • Then finally the star of the show: Al Awadia from Google. I am going to write an entirely separate post on this because he shared way too much great information about 2014 and what happened.

Like TED talks for dealers, the presentations didn’t stop there.

Breaking up the set list at lunch, we had the chance to hear from both reality TV star Danny Koker from Count’s Kustoms and Steve Chipman, Chairman of the CADA, the latter providing an update on what the CADA is doing on behalf of dealers.

Saturday evening was concluded with a dinner gala where Cameron Chell shared his inspirational story and challenged us to ask ourselves us “What if?”

We had two carry-on bags, seventy-five business cards, five sheets of contracts, a bag of airline pretzels, a whole galaxy of multicoloured dealer pens, water bottles, and letter openers, and some psychedelic memories of an electric string trio playing “Kashmir”…

A 7:45am Sunday flight back to snow-covered Edmonton really makes us hope that what happened over three receptions in Vegas will stay in Vegas again next year.