You Want Me to Pay for WHAT?!

You Want Me to Pay for WHAT?!

Arming yourself with this firsthand knowledge will let you make informed decisions and allocate your budget toward increased profitability in ways you simply cannot hope to when you’re playing telephone with your manager charged with executing on marketing.

The Stakeholder – Marketer Disconnect

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely been in the business for years, probably decades. You know the business, and you’ve seen your share of good and bad solutions to help you attract customers and sell cars. These days, it makes sense for you to direct big-picture decisions and budget approvals and let your marketing manager, internet manager or BDC manager take pitches and go to trade shows. Do they ever come back and pitch you something that seems way too expensive or way too fringe? 

We don’t run trade shows, so I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to their attendance. That said, I do attend them, and we consult with a lot of dealer principals and GMs in addition to CMOs and marketing roles. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a seismic shift in the relationship between stakeholders like you and conferences/trade shows. It makes sense how we got here, but you may be doing yourself a huge disservice by delegating in this area. 

Buzz Words and Shiny Things

A big part of why you stopped attending conferences is that they’re full of pitchy vendors looking for a piece of your marketing budget. Many of the shows are short on substance and long on doublespeak and new lingo, so they’re hardly worth your time, right? 

Not so fast…You stopped attending because you can see through the BS, but if you can see through the BS, you can also spot the diamonds in the rough. The automotive marketing and technology vendors are not all made equal, and there are really good solutions in the mix that you can’t hope to stay current on if you don’t get firsthand exposure. Not interested in any new solutions? That’s OK; there’s also an increasing amount of education available, especially at the less mainstream shows. 

Telephone Game

Statistically, by one day after an educational presentation, attendees will only recall the 25% of it that was most relevant to them. By the time they get back to the store and get some face time with you, that will have dropped to 10% or less, and it may not be the 10% that you would find the most important as the store operator. Where your BDC manager might have focused on ways to make their workflow easier, you would have focused on the impact on the store’s bottom line.

This effect applies to education and also to worthwhile product demos. Time and time again, I have had my dealers ask me for a second opinion after the person in charge of marketing returned from a conference and gave them a bad second-hand pitch for an expensive product. Sometimes, it’s for a product that’s a total no-brainer to sign up, but the marketing manager only remembers bits and pieces, and not enough to justify a large bill! This situation leaves you missing out on critical knowledge and technology that can radically affect your profitability in the coming months and years. There simply is no substitute for getting the knowledge firsthand.

Making The Most of Your Time

I’m not for one minute suggesting you should be going to every conference and trade show in the industry. Especially at the big shows, the education tracks and vendors are largely repeated, so you don’t need to duplicate your efforts. Go to NADA one year and Digital Dealer the next. My stronger endorsement would be for small automotive conferences. The types with under 1,000 attendees and a focus on education tracks. Digital Marketing Strategies Conference, Modern Retailing Conference, ASOTU CON and more are geared toward limiting pitches and maximizing value for dealer principals, GMs and store/group executives. 

I implore you…Get out in 2024 and attend some of these shows for yourself. Go with your marketer, or go instead of them this year. Check out the new breed of services, products and, especially, the educational presentations some vendors put on to bring operators with slightly dated knowledge into the know and the now. Yes, you should still put fresh batteries in your BS Meter, but especially at the small shows, you’re not likely to hear it going off very often. Arming yourself with this firsthand knowledge will let you make informed decisions and allocate your budget toward increased profitability in ways you simply cannot hope to when you’re playing telephone with your manager charged with executing on marketing. 

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