This Is What Happens When A Texan Visits Toronto


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Published 3/14/2014

This Is What Happens When A Texan Visits Toronto

  When I left Dallas, it was 82 degrees and sunny.
Here is a little secret about Mike Haeg: Cold weather is not my thing. I've lived in it. I respect it. But I’ll take a blazing hot Texas summer over a harsh winter every time.

I admit that choosing Toronto for a late winter automotive conference doesn't make sense. I had second thoughts as the snow buried me upon arrival but my attitude was positive. I was ready to venture into new territory. I was ready to meet great people north of the border. I was ready to learn.

First, I needed to get dressed:

DealerTalk is a terrific new conference aimed at helping Canadian dealers with their sales and marketing. Hosted by Kijiji Autos, Dealer Talk is not a sales pitch. It’s noticeably far from it.

Ryan Thompson, Kijiji’s head of sales and founder of The Dealer Geek, explained it as a fresh approach to Canadian conferences. The recipe is pretty simple:

• Awesome speakers

• Smart dealers

• A fantastic venue

• Inexpensive tickets

• Good food and complimentary cocktails

The event is only two years old but feels like it’s been around a long time. That’s a testament to everything listed above and the welcoming vibe of friendly Canadians.

(Chris Harris, Scott Neil, Ryan Thompson, Mike Haeg)

Mike takes on Toronto

I’ll recap the content and speakers below but first, a shout out to Toronto. I spent Sunday roaming downtown Toronto with two main goals: visit the CN Tower and a Toronto Raptors game. That doesn't sound like much but anything outdoors was off limits in my mind. Luckily, I went 2/2.

The CN Tower is 1,815 feet tall. That’s really tall.

After the CN Tower, I hopped over to the Air Canada Center to check out the Toronto Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors. I snagged a cheap ticket off the street and waltzed my way into the warm confines of the ACC.

I’ll be honest, I was surprised. I took Toronto for just a hockey town but their basketball scene was rowdy and loud, just how I like it.

DealerTalk 2014

Enough about me though. Let’s talk about DealerTalk 2014.

First up to bat was Paul Potratz. Paul kicked off his presentation by hammering on the importance of PROCESS. As someone trying to change the way dealerships handle the phone, this really hit home.

Some key points from Paul:

• What is your process? Do you even have one? Does EVERYONE know the process?

• Driving a phone call lead from your marketing means nothing if it enters a dealership black hole. This is a place where phone calls disappear.

• The black hole of lost phone calls is happening in every business, not just at car dealerships.

• Find your leakage. Find the places where you could quickly plug a hole that is wasting you money and sales.

• People don’t suck. People want to come to work and succeed. Set them up for success, not failure.

The key? It’s all about traffic management. Driving leads is fine and dandy, but what are you doing with those leads? How are they handled? Are they invited into your dealership? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

The second part of Paul’s presentation focused on consistency in advertising. He wasn't shy to call out OEMs for failing to provide a consistent digital marketing message. Make sure that the experience of an advertisement and landing page actually seem to jive with each other. If your display ad touts a vehicle’s safety rating, then it would make sense to take the browser to more information about that rating right? Paul used plenty of live examples to highlight his point which gave the audience a clear view of what to do and not do.

Jason Craine – Ten Things To Implement In 2014

Want to get a crowd’s attention? Start with an unapologetic admission that you have never sold a car in your life. That’s what Jason did and I think (hope) everyone else appreciated his spirit like I did.

Jason is the Dealer Principal of Mills Buick GMC in Oshawa. His dealership faced a huge setback with the loss of Pontiac several years ago. He has fought hard to overcome this with a steadfast focus on owning social and digital marketing. Let me rephrase that: “Jason and his team fought hard to overcome this…..”

An underlying theme for him was the importance and value of a marketing team that just kills it. Find people who are really good at what they do. Find people who are passionate. Let them rock and roll. That seems obvious but Jason went out of his way to recognize how valuable his marketing team is to their success. I appreciated that immensely.

“Moneyball Metrics” was also a hot topic in Jason’s presentation. He referred to a Cobalt study that indicated hidden metrics dealers should be focusing on:

1.) VDP Views

2.) Time Spent on VDPs

Get people to look at VDPs for longer and you’ll sell more cars. That’s the secret. For Jason, it’s comically true how successful this can be. By upping the time shoppers spent on his VDPs by a few minutes, his used car sales increased by 116%. WOWSA!

One more point I appreciated was the psychological impact of confirming an appointment. Confirming appointments improves show rates. There is no doubt about this. His dealership uses the appointment boarding pass concept which works great. At a minimum, a phone call should be made.

Theo Fleury – Don’t Quit Before The Miracle

Theo Fleury is a household name in Canada. His resume includes All-Star games, a Stanley Cup, and an Olympic Gold Medal.

His story is deep though. It goes beyond hockey stardom. Theo was sexually abused repeatedly as a young man and fell into a life of drugs and alcohol. I won’t use this space to retell his stories but check out his book which quickly moved up in my personal queue.

Theo’s story was a not so subtle reminder to not take life for granted. Never overlook your family or friends. Take your health and happiness seriously. Help others.

The standing ovation was well deserved.

Jay Baer – Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype

Jay Baer’s Youtility has become a content marketer’s Bible. If you haven’t read it, I would recommend the quick Amazon order.

Jay’s vision is for companies to make their story bigger. To move beyond creating noise. To give customers what they actually need. By teaching better, we can sell more.

Jay made a great point that I’ve agreed with for a long time: “We are surrounded by data but starved for insights.”

The outdoor clothing and gear company Columbia is a great example of someone doing it right. They created a free app called What Knot To Do that recommends knots for almost any type of situation. There are interactive instructions for tying the knots successfully with lots and lots of helpful tips.

Ask yourself: Is your marketing so useful that people would pay for it?

Jeff Kershner - Why Travel Is Hard (A Memoir)

Last but not least, Jeff Kershner was on tap to present on Mobile Workflow: The Showroom Processes of the Future. Unfortunately, rumor has it that Jeff decided he was too big time for this conference and he was a no show. I heard he headed to the Caribbean instead of Canada.

Just kidding, of course. Jeff did everything in his power to make it to Toronto but a winter storm and mechanical issues created one hellish travel story. Jeff is a good friend of mine and when I spoke to him after the event, he was genuinely bummed. Hang in there buddy, there is always next year.

DealerTalk made up for Jeff’s absence with a quick panel session featuring Paul Potratz, Jason Craine, and Jay Baer. Each has his own expertise and angle, so it was fun to hear them tackle questions uniquely.

The day ended with a cocktail hour and networking. It was a great chance to unwind and meet new people while more snow dumped from the sky. Go figure.

All in all, DealerTalk put on a terrific conference. Many thanks to the fine folks at Kijiji for hosting the event and welcoming an out of towner with open arms. I’m looking forward to next year!

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