My Experience at NADA: Companies to Watch. Friends You Should Know.

By | January 29, 2019 | Conferences

The NADA Show has historically been one of the greatest and loudest events in the automotive industry: 2019 continued that trend.

Reunion Marketing brought four members of its Founding Team to stay on top of the latest industry trends, announcements, and ideas. It’s also part of our efforts to spread the word about Reunion’s industry-leading digital strategies.

We’ve paid a lot of attention to a number of companies and people in automotive digital marketing over the past year — and, in many or most cases, would recommend to our dealer partners — and thanks to NADA had the pleasure to get to know better.

This is my NADA recap!

If you’d like to learn more about Reunion’s partner initiatives and innovations, you can get more information from the list below, on our blog, or by reaching out to us. A majority of this writing, however, will cover other thought leaders to learn from or other companies to consider that might best complement our strategies.

Reunion Marketing Summarized Announcements and Innovations

Our Dealership Network — This gives us insights from all dealership partners to determine the best possible results on and off the website. We can continually optimize all accounts knowing what’s achievable and using best practices learned from the cream of the crop of dealerships across the country.

Responsive Search Ads — These offer dealerships far more real estate on Google Ads with three headlines, two 90-character descriptions (built from a format that allows every ad more than 43,000 combinations around which to optimize). RSAs are something most paid search companies in automotive aren’t prepared for or implementing.

Programmatic Channels — This is an important strategy that shifts dealer’s marketing dollars from less effective traditional stimulus channels (e.g. television) toward programmatic channels (e.g. video pre-roll) that are built around saving money by targeting the most qualified audiences. Keep this in mind considering the industry’s sales expectations are to dip below 17 million in 2019.

Evolving SEO Strategies — This means adapting to major changes in SEO, especially with regards to utilizing Google My Business functionality, matching onsite content with shopper search intent, measuring onsite behavior to ensure shopping expectations from prospects are met, and preparing for more and more algorithm updates built around user experience (while not forgetting technical SEO basics, of course!).

KPI Cafe — This is our video series that covers all of these topics and more, which keeps it current and topical among all automotive digital marketing ideas.

Okay, About NADA.

If you attended NADA, you likely know about all of the fun activities and events that happened. From cruising around Alcatraz and then across the Golden Gate Bridge with Vanilla ice to drinking one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer with George Thorogood, there were many ways to stay entertained.

I had the chance to play pool with Jeannette Lee, the Black Widow, at Spectrum’s event (and only lost by one ball, I should add!). That happened right after our team met Richard Petty and Steve Young while laughing at some hilarious Dana Carvey stand-up.

Still, that’s not what this article is about. This is about the people and the companies that we enjoy being around and believe are worth keeping an eye on — all with the end goal to be leaner with your budgets and move the industry far away from the $629 marketing cost per car sold and expectations this year for fewer car sales.

As an industry, let’s continue to get smarter and leaner with our marketing spends and help contribute to shifting the trend for gross margins back up for our sold vehicles!

(Please note that just because a company is not on here does not mean that we don’t endorse them or think they are a great fit in a dealership’s marketing plan. These are just some of the people who we were excited about seeing at this particular show and are making some loud noise in the space. There are several other great vendor partners out there to complement your marketing strategy!)

Trade Pending

From Left to Right: Andrew Kocha, Joe Dallas, and Chad Graves

Already a premier trade appraisal tool with a focus on user experience — saving shoppers time and offering great mobile integration. They recently launched Superlatives, which allows dealerships to merchandise their inventory better than ever to make sure the “cars are the stars.”

FourEyes

Andrew Kocha and Zachary Baza

With the number of marketing dollars spent to drive traffic to and creates leads on the website, these folks have built products to “reactivate” leads from shoppers who submitted a lead in the past but have since been marked dead and returned to the website to shop new vehicles. This along with an email response program that gives potential customers updates on vehicles and opportunities to buy ongoing after submitting a lead makes them formidable.

LivePerson Automotive

From Left to Right: Andrew Kocha, Denise Chudy, Erin Mueller, and Dave Spannhake

You probably knew them as Contact at Once! before being acquired by LivePerson. They have announced some exciting things to position themselves as a premier chat, text, and scheduling tool provider again. This includes integrations with Apple Maps that complement their best practices learned from their Google My Business data study and now Facebook Marketplace — all as they continue to dance “the tango.”

Epsilon

From Left to Right: Matt Triana, Jason Wiley, and Dave Spannhake

Epsilon is set to become a major industry disruptor in the coming years in digital marketing by leveraging all of its consumer data to better create marketing efficiencies at the dealership level. A personal and long-time friend of mine, Jason Wiley, is now heading up a number of digital marketing initiatives over there. I am confident they will become louder and better with helping dealerships’ digital efforts.

MAXDigital

From Left to Right: Patric McMcullen, Dave Spannhake, Benjamin Freedman, Andrew Kocha, and Peg Swoboda

Inventory management. Vehicle merchandising. They arm your team with information about every vehicle in your inventory. They are some of our longest friends in the industry and are a company that should be on your radar if not already — you must see what they’re doing with Digital Retailing and the Path to Purchase.

AutoSweet

From Left to Right: Andrew Kocha, David Lemmon, and Dave Spannhake

Craigslist. LetGo. Facebook Marketplace. They average more than 100 leads per dealership for costs far lower than many third-party integrations. The product suite continues to grow as does our excitement about what they’re building.

Car Motivators

From Left to Right: Chad Graves, Matt Triana, and Sean Kelley

If you’re looking for a coach or trainer they don’t come better than Sean Kelley. Follow him on LinkedIn and consider him to help your dealership teams grow. He focuses on building a winning culture at dealerships starting at the top — believe me, it shows!

LotLinx

From Left to Right: Dave Spannhake, Gee Leung, Hannah Lifson, Elita Selmon, and Andrew Kocha

Since we first consulted for our friends at LotLinx about how to build goals and learn Google Analytics best practices, we’ve been impressed at the amount of and the way they look at data. It’s not just about pushing distressed inventory at risk of auctioning; it’s about the several ways they segment audiences and build plans around specific business objectives.

CarFilm

From Left to Right: Dave Spannhake, Alina Czub (not from CarFilm), Sean Weaver, Marni McClennan, and Andrew Kocha

Affordable, easy-to-use, and a great addition to any dealership marketing plan. Check these guys out to build a video library and strategy to speak to your customers with more clarity than ever!

Drive Motors

From Left to Right: Andrew Kocha, Matt Weinberg, and Dave Spannhake

Our friend Matt Weinberg is one of digital retailing’s subject matter experts. While Drive integrates well with all dealership websites, what we really like about them most is their focus on delivering an experience that matches what’s really happening with consumers, which segments of them are interacting with digital retailing at this point, and where digital retailing is going. Just don’t call it digital retailing when talking to Matt!

Experian

Chad Graves and Amy Hughes

At Reunion, our tagline is “Data Beats Intuition.” These guys have tons of it to have a greater understanding of your market, your target audience, the media consumption characteristics of the area, and much more — all while also having one of Chad Graves’ career mentors in Amy Hughes.

Laurie Foster

From Left to Right: Matt Triana, Andrew Kocha, Dave Spannhake, Laurie Foster, and Chad Graves

I remember Laurie from her Cars.com days when she visited 150 different cities in one year, teaching industry best practices, as I was an up-and-comer just taking on the role of Digital Marketing Director at a 33-store group that I eventually became the Marketing Director for. She’s one of the finest leaders, thought-provokers, industry challengers, and consultants that we know. She’s launching a new consulting practice for dealerships, vendors, and OEMs — and is definitely someone worth following.

George Nenni of Generations Digital

From Left to Right: Dave Spannhake, George Nenni, and Andrew Kocha

If you want to follow a consultant who’s always pushing vendors and agencies to be their best, follow him or reach out to him. He truly wants what is best for the dealership community and pushes vendors to be transparent, accountable, and dealership first.

Fixed Ops Digital

Dave Spannhake and Owen Moon

Fixed Operations is an oft-ignored component of a marketing budget. We really like their base offering as a recommendation for many dealerships. For those wanting to take it to the next level, they offer other service marketing options to increase exposure for the service and parts side of the business.

Dixon Hughes Goodman

Nick Brunotte and Dave Spannhake

We have not historically put a lot of focus on dealership accounting, but we’ve been very impressed with how they help dealerships pinpoint opportunities through auditing and accounting.  Reunion’s CEO, President, and CFO are all former accountants with Ryan Szwejbka and Brad Smith both still holding CPA titles — and Reunion definitely endorses these folks for all dealership needs in this arena.

NabThat

From Left to Right: Chad Graves, Jason Silberberg, Andrew Kocha, and Matt Triana

This may be the next big website player in the space. The user experience on the website with its focus on conversion has us excited about how they may become the next disruptor in the website game.

22 Squared

From Left to Right: Colleen Gomez, Nick Holliday, Dave Spannhake, and Rob Mautz

Perhaps the smartest Tier 2 agency in automotive, it’s always great to catch up with our friends over at 22 Squared to share ideas, discuss best practices, and generate ideas about what we think will come in the coming year.

Eliana Raggio

Eliana Raggio and Dave Spannhake

One of our good friends in the space has begun a new webinar series over at Digital Airstrike. She’s the best webinar host in the business, and we couldn’t leave the show without wishing her congratulations!

I didn’t have the chance for a photo opp with our friends Steve Roessler from DriveCentric — a CRM company that’s making noise with progressive dealerships and very much worth a look — and Dealership Superhero Shaun Raines, who has always been as on top of the automotive digital marketing landscape as anyone in the space (and whose opinion I value with the highest regard).

We also ran into our friend David Kain for some brief discussions. Our team looks to him as being one of the most pro-industry thought starters and one of the classiest acts in our space.

Last, but not least, you can’t have a great automotive conference without running into our good friend Arnold Tijerina. He was on a secret agent mission, so he couldn’t pop in for a picture, but it’s always good to catch up with him to talk shop.

We enjoyed great conversations with all of these gentlemen listed right above and look forward to catching up throughout the year on all of their new ideas. Next time, I won’t miss the photo opp!

I’ll admit. We also had a great time with some of our competitors at NADA. Because of the sheer number of digital marketing companies out there, many dealerships came to feel that SEO, paid search, social media, and other channels had become commoditized. Yes, there are “big box” solutions with template-level approaches that don’t offer levels of customization that dealerships should demand. And, yes, there are boutique providers out there that do not have the automations and ability to scale that more progressive companies can leverage.

There are still a handful of competitors who are like Reunion Marketing that provide the best of both worlds. I am happy to call these folks my friends, and it was great seeing all of them out there as well — keep pushing and doing what’s best for dealerships and the industry all of you (and you know who you are)!