Last Thursday, March 7, Kijiji Autos held its first Dealer Talk conference in Canada. Taking place at the prestigious Four Seasons hotel in Toronto, the event drew more than 300 attendees, including both franchised and independent dealers and contained a number of high profile speakers. With Canadian auto dealer publisher Niel Hiscox as MC for the event, things kicked off with digital marketing expert (and Canadian auto dealer contributor) Paul Potratz. During his session, Potratz talked about the need to think differently and look at what the customer wants, advertising to the person, not pushing the product.
He said the growth in progressive profiling online has resulted in customers developing an virtual body language. “Search Engine Optimization is not so effective anymore because of progressive profiling,” he said. Potratz talked about the need for dealers to listen to their customers in order to develop the best marketing strategies they’ve ever had and a need to develop “giving” instead of “taking” websites that provide consumers with content and information, instead of just asking for theirs.
Keynote speaker Scott Monty, Global Digital and Multimedia Communications manager for Ford Motor Company, said that when it comes to social media, results don’t happen overnight. “People aren’t on there to be advertised to,” he said. “Millennials are interested in being part of something that is bigger than themselves.” He talked about the latest Fiesta movement which will emphasize user generated, unfiltered content, underscoring the confidence Ford has in its updated small car.
He also said that social media is for everybody, not just for kids and it’s important for dealers to understand that. “It’s not a campaign, it’s a commitment.” He referred to “Nana,” a 71 year old active on Ford Social who drives a 5.0-litre Mustang. He said dealers need to be there for customers using social media and embracing the platforms their audience uses. “Social media is actually a return to the roots,” he said. “It’s about being personal again.”
Keynote speaker, New York Times bestselling author, star of reality TV series Turnaround King and internationally recognized sales and business expert Grant Cardone, talked about the need to dominate your space. “Don’t compete,” he said. “Obscurity is the single biggest thing we all face and the only way out of that is to dominate.”
He said that some of the trends we’ve seen in the auto industry such as larger facilities, bigger inventories, massive advertising and lower prices is not healthy but destructive. He said that while competition is ultimately bad, a competitive advantage is good. He said that it’s important to train, read and focus on what you’re good at. “I’m interested in the gap, the gap between your reality and your potential,” he said. “If you do not dominate your space you will never reach your potential.”
Jay Onrait, co-host of the 1.am ET weekday edition of SportsCentre on TSN, is noted for delivering his own personal brand of humour and as lunchtime guest speaker, he soon had much of the audience in laughter, as he shared experiences and provided his own take on the world of professional sports and what he’s come to learn over the years.
The final speaker of the day, was independent dealer John Edelman. Based in the small community of Cayuga, Ont., Edelman and his family run Haldimand Motors, which has grown from a small two bay shop to a 130 bay facility that sells 5,000 cars a year.
Edelman talked about some of the reasons attributed to the success of Haldimand Motors over the years and that part of that is not only standardizing commissions so they are the same for every vehicle but empowering sales staff to actually give the customer the option of leaving the store. “Our closing ratios are 45 to 50 per cent. Out of those customers who leave to go home and think about it, 60-70 per cent call the next day and we close the deal.”
He said that you must be secure as a leader and be willing to take a chance at doing something different. “My identity is based on what I can give,” he said. “I challenge you to leave a legacy — not a boatload of money. Do it for the principals and the cash will follow.”
Besides guest speakers, Dealer Talk included several networking breaks where attendees got a chance to meet with sponsoring vendors, such as Boost 3.0, CarProof, Evolio and Strathcom Media. Vendors, dealers and speakers we talked to said they found Dealer Talk to be great event, with much knowledge and insight gained. And a number said they couldn’t wait to see Kijiji do another one. Watch this space.