The Fall 2014 Automotive Conference Showdown

It seems that in recent years retail automotive conferences have gained momentum in popularity. In fact so many conferences are popping up that car dealers now have a difficult time deciding on where they want to go. The reality has become that some conferences duplicate one another while others bring true value to the industry by offering unique speakers and settings. Let’s talk a look at this fall’s conferences and discuss what makes them.

AutoCon 2014 – September 3-5, 2014

AutoCon holds a special place in my heart. I did not attend this year or last year due to scheduling conflicts. However, I was honored to be a featured speaker at the very first AutoCon in 2012. The reason why I find it to be special is because it was the second time that I spoke at a major industry conference. The event has had some tremendous keynote speakers and was truly a first class event. I understand that the management of the conference has changed. In fact this year no one even knew if the show would go on. According to one of my sources, there were about 100 dealers at this event. I would say that is a smashing success considering that the event started to be promoted within 60 days.

I noticed that this year there were a lot of more dealer speakers. This makes it special because a conference that brings in top performing executives to train and speak really changes the game for conferences. You just cannot go wrong when you have people like Brian Benstock (Paragon Honda) or Richard Bustillo (Rick Case Honda) teaching other dealers how to be great. Let’s not forget the amazing Lon Safko as a keynote speaker. Lon is a social media marketing genius.

Industry Summit September 8-10, 2014

I attended this event in 2012 and was impressed because of how different it was. This event has a focus on topics that are not discussed as much as they should. There is a tremendous amount of content ranging from F&I, Used Car Retailing, CRM and other management best practices. The vendors are slightly different too because it is not the same digital marketing vendors that go to every single conference. While not being in attendance this year I am hearing a lot of great news coming from the event. Bobit Business Media is a class act organization so I am not surprised that they are having a successful event.

When you have speakers like Greg Goebel, Kate Frost, Dennis Galbraith, Yago Paramo and Paul Potratz you are sure to get quality education from some of the best in the industry. Let’s not forget the legendary Jim Ziegler, the Alpha Dawg. While I may not always agree with him on certain things I have to say with full conviction that he puts on a quality workshop. He is constantly evolving and also doing everything to defend the retail automotive business.

Digital Dealer 17 September 23-25, 2014

This is the original automotive digital sales and marketing conference. You simple just cannot go wrong.  For anyone that has never been to an automotive digital retailing conference I would suggest that this is the first one that they attend.  This conference has traditionally been great for basic strategies just to start getting an understanding of automotive digital marketing. However, in recent years this conference has evolved into something more. It seems that the folks at Dealer Communications have studied other conferences and found a way to make Digital Dealer even more exciting.

I am personally excited to see the keynote sessions. Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street brings some tremendous content. I know that he has a past and I also know the crazy controversy that other industry folks have started complaining that he speaking. However, I have watched his training and feel that he brings something very unique to sales. It is a style that no one in the automotive industry has ever been able to create. Let’s not forget his job is to motivate and inspire. He will talk about positive and legitimate things. People should never forget the past but they need to come into this with a positive outlook and walk away with some great nuggets to build their business further. Look the man generated $49 million in one year, crooked or not he developed a style. I say that every sales professional should expand their training just a bit further. I may catch some heat from haters on this. So let’s be clear I am not condoning what he did in the past. I am simply respecting his gift and talent to be a tremendous and sales and marketing expert.

I also want to see Jeff Hargett of Ritz-Carleton talking about giving the best customer experience. We all can learn a thing or two from Ritz-Carlton. In addition, I am looking forward to seeing old friends like Tim James, Russell Grant, Chip King, Mat Koenig, Paul Portratz, Kevin Frye, Sean Stapleton and many others. I am also looking forward to finally meeting Alan Ram, Dr. John Mlinarcik, and Tom Stuker after communicating on social media for years. Tom Stuker and Dr. John are partners and affiliates of one of Dealer eTraining’s partners, The Dealers Solutions Group.

Driving Sales Executive Summit October 12-14, 2014

I am so excited to announce that after five years of missing this exciting event I will finally be at this event this year. Every single year my schedule does not permit to make it out to Driving Sales Executive Summit. But this year I am committed. I have to say that Jared Hamilton is one of the most classiest business executives that I have ever met in the entire automotive industry.  We connected back in 2009 and he gave me permission to write blogs on Driving Sales. We have been friends for all of these years and I have proudly watched Driving Sales grow.  I hear rave reviews and after seeing this year’s agenda I am thrilled.

It is exciting to watch some experts from other industries present like Rand Fishkin of inbound.org and Moz or Mike Hudson of eMarketer, Inc. I am also looking forward to seeing Jeremy Anspach of PureCars as Dealer eTraining is a huge fan of this company and what they offer for car dealers. I am also excited to hear Eric Miltsch of Command Z Automotive Consulting because he has the latest pulse on technology. A dual session with my friend Shaun Raines (DealerOn) and Tom White Jr. (Subaru of Wichita( should bring an incredible combination of discussing brand identity. My friend Megan Barto (Ciocca Honda Hyundai) will be presenting with her General Manager, Andy Guelcher about dealership culture. Megan is the ultimate rock star and I have been a friend and fan for years. Also, my brother from another mother Mr. Bryan “Car Guy” Armstrong (VW Southtowne) teams up with the Bobbie Herron (Garber Automotive) to discuss one of my favorite topics, the BDC. Nothing like learning from people who are in the dealerships actually doing it everyday. I am also looking forward to seeing David Kain, Brian Pasch, JD Rucker and many others.

Unfair Advantage Automotive Mastermind Group September 7-9, 2014

Tracy Myers has been a great friend and supporter over the years. I consider him to be a class act and just an inspiration to everyone.  He has partnered with the fabulous Troy Spring (Dealer World) to create this event.  I have not had the chance to attend yet. However, I do a see some powerhouse players come together to create a family of automotive executives that are building a solid network. People like Bob Burg and Sean Moffett are part of the alumni. I notice that Subi Ghosh, Dave Anderson, Kate Frost, Glenn Pasch and Arnold Tijerina are just a few of the class act people involved in making this a successful event. The beauty of this event is that it is for everyone no matter how successful or unsuccessful they might be. It is great for large dealers and small dealers, franchised or independent. I hope to attend this event at some point in 2015 and believe that my friend Tracy Myers and Troy Spring have a home run here.

Final comments…

As you can there is so much to choose from and each one of these seven events has positive aspects to them. My advice for dealers is to really think about what it is that they want to accomplish. Do you want to network with other professionals? Well they are all great for that. Do you want to really learn outside the box, cutting edge information? Go to AutoCon, Driving Sales Executive Summit and Digital Dealer 17. Do you want to be a part of a true network and support team? Go to Unfair Advantage Automotive Mastermind Group. Do you want to focus on departments that generate revenue directly like retailing and finance? Go to the Industry Summit. Do you want to learn a mix of strategies? Go to Internet Sales 20 Group and Sales Management Super Conference. Regardless of what you choose you should bring back a whole notebook of notes and ideas to start implementing right away in order to be successful.

*All comments and opinions are made solely from personal experiences and knowledge of each event.  Everything spoken in this blog is meant to describe the full truth a seen through the eyes of Stan Sher, President of Dealer eTraining.

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Comment by Keith Wilkerson on September 11, 2014 at 9:43am

Thank you, Stan, for the rundown.  I did Digital Dealer in the Spring, and it was excellent (although the location wasn't a good choice).  

Comment by David T. Gould on September 9, 2014 at 8:29pm

I am glad to see diversified e-training opportunities for dealers. The more e-conferences offered, the more possibilities for dealers to get exposed to digital sales, marketing and management techniques. I recommend dealers and their relevant staff get out to any of them to get exposure to the ever changing digital market.

Respectfully, I also suggest that too much information for one is not enough for another... My personal feeling is that being exposed to many options allows me to know the options exist... Not necessarily for me to fully comprehend but rather to know enough to research, ask reasonable questions and set expectations later.

Good Selling! DTG

Comment by Mathew Koenig on September 9, 2014 at 6:12pm
Some are the same BUT training managers is different than training an internet salesperson bud. Different conference focus :)
Comment by Stan Sher on September 9, 2014 at 5:52pm

Mathew,

Take a look at http://www.internetbattleplan.com and http://www.zieglersuperconference.com. There are 5 speakers right off the bat. But it is all good. See you in Vegas.

Comment by Mathew Koenig on September 9, 2014 at 5:34pm
Stan. In regard to Jim Ziegler's Sales Management Superconference I spoke there in Texas and I'll be speaking in Atlanta in November. Let me be clear, it's not the same people from Internet Battle Plan (I wasn't there in Seattle) but also, it is content for managers. I know that personally I'll be speaking about mobile video and the role that the leadership team will play in it's success. In a conference like this is about equipping leaders to go back and lead better than before so the dialogue isn't the same as a conference for internet managers etc. It's an amazing event and I can't wait to be there again. I look forward to finally meeting you in person at digital dealer in Vegas too.

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