Innovation Series

AutoDealers Innovation Series attracts capacity crowds in Ottawa and Toronto

TADA Highlights, April 2016. By Ross Fattori

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association hosted its first AutoDealers Innovation Series conferences in Ottawa (March 8th) and Toronto (March 9th).

The Innovation Series conferences evolved from the Canadian Digital Dealer conferences in an effort to broaden the range of sales and marketing topics relating to all departments within a dealership, not just digital. Both conferences were hosted by Justin Poy, President and Creative Director, of Justin Poy Agency, and both were well attended.


The first speaker was Bill Wittenmyer, Partner at ELEAD1ONE, an automotive BDC, CRM & marketing provider. Wittenmyer stressed the importance of soliciting feedback from customers, peers and friends to help improve communication and follow up with customers. “Communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with,” he says, “and spend money on customer experience, not on gimmicks.”

Wittenmyer shared a number of best practices that can be implemented immediately, such as establishing a dedicated website for the service department; offering bonuses to receptionists based on the number of cars sold each month; and making referral (Bird Dog) fees something that matters to customers – $100 and more.

Following Wittenmyer, a panel of automotive professionals took the stage for a discussion about Millennials, moderated by Brent Wees, Partner/Client Service Director at Glovebox. The panelists included: Michael Cirillo, President of FlexDealer and CoHost of The Dealer Playbook Podcast; Alan Bird, President & Chief Executive Leader at SCI MarketView Canada; Justina Wilson, Branding and Communication Specialist at Mississauga Toyota; Derek Stewart, Sales Manager at Pathway Hyundai; and Daryl Marritt, Business & Development Manager at Attrell Toyota Scion.

The Millennial age group (those born between 1980 and 2000) account for 28 per cent of auto sales in North America, and 48 per cent of buyers in that group know what they want before they start their car buying journey. Selling to this demographic has been a challenge for automakers and dealers. Alan Bird suggested that all dealership principals and senior managers need to attend conferences and learn digital, and that digital marketing should be considered an investment, not an expense.

When hiring Millennials, it was suggested that dealers need to provide clear guidelines so that new hires can thrive, and that dealers need to over-communicate to this group.

At the Toronto conference, Andrew Assad, Strategy & Insights Manager for Auto at Google, talked about the results of Google’s 10th annual Think Auto research (Deepak Anand, Head of Industry for Auto at Google, spoke at the Ottawa conference). The Think Auto data studied the car buying habits of 3,000 Canadian consumers and found that buyers spent an average of 57 days to buy a car in 2015 (down from 66 days in 2014).

Assad stressed the four phases of the car buying journey: thinking, research, buying and caring. By the time consumers are in the buying phase, their selection narrows to three brands, and there is an 80 per cent chance that they will buy one of those three brands.

Assad also discussed the power of video in a dealership’s marketing mix. “People are looking for video reviews of cars because it saves them time,” he says.

The keynote speaker was Scott Monty, Principal of Scott Monty Strategies and former head of social media at Ford Motor Co. Monty spoke about the power of storytelling and that dealers have many stories within their stores that can be used to attract new customers, re-launch a product, or increase engagement. “As marketers, we have a responsibility to our customers and ourselves to understand storytelling,” he says.

He cited several examples of great storytelling, including a short story consisting of only five words by Ernest Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”); and he cited the words of the Roman statesman, Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), who wrote about connecting at the mental and emotional level with an audience. Cicero wrote: “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.”

Monty outlined the essential steps for developing great stories: defining a theme, setting up the stakes, developing the arc, showing vs. telling, making critical choices, and having a strong ending.

At both conferences, attendees were invited to share their thoughts and impressions on Twitter using the hashtag #ADIS1.

The TADA appreciates the support of all presenting and participating sponsors at both AutoDealers Innovation Series conferences.

The next Innovation Series conferences are slated for September, 2016. Dates and locations will be posted to later this spring.

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