This week I had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville http://www.digitaldealerconference.com it was my first time attending. Prior to my arrival I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The domestic automotive industry has recently gone through a very public and painful restructuring. And on the flight down to Nashville I was made aware of just how painful it really had been by reading Steven Rattner’s riveting first person recap on the take down of GM’s CEO: http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/21/autos/auto_bailout_rattner_excerpt.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2009102109 in the latest edition of Fortune Magazine.
I got off the plane determined to answer two primary questions while in attendance at the conference: 1. what is the current mood and overall perspective of the auto dealers in attendance on the future of the industry. 2. Determine if an industry in crisis is paralyzed its current state of affairs or if it is motivated by the challenges ahead and producing new and exciting technology.
When I entered the Nashville Convention Center there was no loud music or flashy big screen T.V’s welcoming my arrival. However the space had something much more important, vendors and attendees, lots of them. I was impressed by the number of people at the event and the presence of big name vendors. Keep in mind this was a conference focused on the digital aspect s of the automotive space, an area that is still relatively new in a mature industry. The second thing that caught my eye was the behavior of those in attendance. (I had a limited pass for the conference so I was unable to attend the individual breakout sessions, but they must have provided a spark). Rather than milling around vendor booths filling up bags of free SWAG, these folks were actually getting business done. Tables were full of people, one-on-one sales pitches, contracts, and handshakes. I quickly determined that the dealers here were in search of solutions. I was optimistic about the vibe and buzz in the room.
After surveying the general mood of the attendees it was time to discover what the vendors had to offer. I had been told (although unconfirmed) that the sponsor vendors had shelled out $50K to participate. There were many vendors to choose from: CRM providers, lead generators, and website providers. However two vendors in particular that struck me as fresh and inventive. The first was ClickMotive http://www.clickmotive.com based out of Plano, Texas. These guys combine savvy web design with Search Engine Optimization. They were pushing the envelope with mobile based solutions and clearly understand the growing value of optimizing dealer sites for the mobile search space. I believe ClickMotive provides valuable solutions for dealers that understand the importance of top search engine page rank.
The second vendor, and in my opinion the finest at the show, was Response Logix http://www.responselogix.com/index.aspx based out of Sunnyvale, California. What struck me about this vendor was the number of dealers lined up at the booth to learn more about the product. It was obvious that this young start-up was on to something. Apparently I’m not the only one that sees potential; Response Logix just secured a second round of funding for 5.6M http://deals.venturebeat.com/2009/10/27/response-logix-captures-5-6m-for-car-dealer-lead-gen . Response Logix was a perfect fit for the digital dealer conference offering a software solution that delivers customized quotes to internet leads in less than 10 minutes. The software integrates into the dealer’s CRM and reads real time new and used inventory for accurate quotes. The secret in the Response Logix sauce is the “Smart Follow” technology that sends an automatic email to potential internet buyers after 72-hours of noncontact. Auto Dealers that are looking to maximize internet leads have just found the silver bullet.
The Digital Dealer Conference was an eye opening experience for me. I entered skeptical about the industry and its ability to move forward in such challenging times. I left impressed by how its key players are embracing new technologies. For additional insight on the conference please follow this link: http://www.dealerrefresh.com/digital-dealer-7-nashville-review/
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