TADA introduces new dealer conference series

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A panel discussion centered around millennials

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) hosted its inaugural Auto Dealers Innovation Series on March 8, 2016 in Ottawa and March 9, 2016 in Toronto.

Formerly known as the Canadian Digital Dealer Conference, this educational series was renamed to better reflect a wide range of content related to marketing, sales and technology, said TADA.

“The name of the conference was changed to remove the stigma that it was just digital or social media driven, which the previous name insinuated for anyone who had not attended recently,” said Todd Bourgon, Executive Director of TADA, in an interview with Canadian auto dealer.

“When we first launched Canadian Digital Dealer there was a desperate need to get a basic understanding of what methods of technology were available and how to begin to use them. Over the years we have actually evolved our content to include a wider range of marketing and sales topics that include and transcend the word ‘digital,’” said Bourgon.

Killer communication strategies

The Toronto conference kicked off with a spirited presentation by Bill Wittenmyer, Partner at automotive software provider ELEAD1ONE.


The TRADER team

Wittenmyer’s presentation on BDC strategies was packed with studies and stats to show dealers where they can improve their communication and follow ups with customers.

One of the biggest problems Wittenmyer sees is the wrong people at the dealership doing the wrong job. He said that dealerships hire salespeople who are great in person, but are weak on the phone and often fail to follow up with customers.

“We force them to do all of these things and wonder why they suck,” said Wittenmyer.

A recent statistic shows the average dealership misses 110 phone calls in their store every month, including the calls that go unanswered after hours.

What’s more, it takes about five attempts to get in touch with a customer. Long-term follow up requires a dedicated person or team of people.

For that reason, Wittenmyer wants dealers to think about who should be tasked with follow up. It might not be your salesperson out on the show floor. What he suggests is to create a dedicated team who can follow up with customers after 30 days, and reward them for their efforts.

“They will be hungry and they will work with those customers because those are the only ones they have,” said Wittenmyer, adding the team should create small, weekly campaigns to target customers. They should also determine each customer’s preferred method of contact, and follow up accordingly.

A new generation of workers

Dealers also heard from a panel on millennials, which included Michael Cirillo, President of FlexDealer & CoHost of The Dealer Playbook Podcast, Alan Bird, President & Chief Executive Leader at SCI MarketView, Justina Wilson, Branding & Communication Specialist at Mississauga Toyota,
Derek Stewart, Sales Manager at Pathway Hyundai and Daryl Marritt, Business & Development Manager at Attrell Toyota Scion.

Millennial panelists Wilson, Stewart and Marritt aimed to debunk some of the existing stereotypes about their generation, while Cirillo and Bird talked about hiring and working with millennials.

While the panelists discussed many topics related to hiring, working with and marketing to millennials, one interesting conversation revolved around flexible work schedules.

There’s a widespread perception that millennials seek a work-life balance, and are unwilling to work on Saturdays.

As a business owner, Cirillo said it’s important millennials and their managers sit down and have a candid conversation about the work environment.

Having worked at an advertising agency previously, Wilson was used to long, gruelling hours in the workplace but was willing to put in the time at the dealership. What helped was being able to talk to her manager about the ways she could achieve her goals, like having the flexibility to work from home.

A wealth of data

Andrew Assad, Strategy & Insights Manager for Auto at Google in Ottawa, shared the results of Google’s 10th Think Auto study, which revealed valuable insights into the auto buyer’s journey.


Todd Bourgon, Executive Director of TADA

The survey, in partnership with polling firm Ipsos Reid, included responses from 3,000 Canadians who had bought a car in the past 12 months.

At the end of the presentation, dealers learned about the different phases in the purchase cycle and how they could resonate with customers at each phase.

Assad said dealers play a big role in the research phase of the buyer’s journey — more so than an OEM — and should find ways to help customers make decisions and get them engaged
with their stores.

Connecting through stories 

The day capped off with a keynote speech from Scott Monty, Principal of Scott Monty Strategies, on the fundamentals of storytelling.

The Former Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Co. shared example after example of companies that had employed storytelling successfully to connect with their customers.

Take Monty’s former automotive company as an example. Monty said Henry Ford has become synonymous with the moving assembly line. He played such an instrumental role in bringing the automobile to the masses that his name still appears in cursive writing on the company logo today.

Monty said it’s people who move business and make ideas relatable.

When Ford planned to launch its 2012 Focus, Monty had to help create buzz around the new vehicle and excite the general public.

What he ended up overseeing was a series of about 50 YouTube videos, which featured an irreverent orange hand puppet named Doug, the spokesman for the Focus, and his straight-laced co-worker, John.

In each video, Doug and John are driving around in a Ford Focus, while usually arguing. Through the series, viewers are introduced to the various features inside the Focus, while being entertained.

As people who interact with customers every day, dealers can play to their strengths by becoming leaders in their communities.

The YouTube campaign was wildly successful, and even extended to Twitter and Facebook, said Monty. Everyone wanted to see how the rivalry between Doug and John played out. The result was a big increase in awareness and influence in decision to purchase, said Monty.

As people who interact with customers every day, dealers can play to their strengths by becoming leaders in their communities. It’s important customers walk into your store and feel like they are treated as individuals, not as numbers, said Monty.

The next installment of the Auto Dealers Innovation Series will take place
on September 14th, 2016, in Ottawa and on September 15th, 2016, in Toronto.

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