A changing industry requires increased focus on customers and the factors that drive their buying habits.
February 2015, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
David Gesualdo, ADM Publisher
When Ed Bobit, founder and chairman of Bobit Business Media, passed away last summer, I lost a dear friend and the automotive industry lost a true titan. Ed published magazines targeted to underserved segments, including F&I and fleet management, as well as a number of titles that mailed to hardworking members of unrelated industries that either never had their own publication or had yet to read one that bore the Bobit imprimatur. In publishing circles, Ed was often referred to as the King of Niche Publishing, and he bore that moniker proudly.
Those of us who are tasked with carrying that legacy forward must constantly remind ourselves to stay on target. In November, we launched Compliance Summit, our first attempt at a regional conference, and it was a success. Dealers, agents, attorneys and executives descended on Miami from all four corners of Florida and beyond. It was, admittedly, a smaller group in a smaller venue than we are accustomed to addressing, but few can dispute the results: Two-plus days of invaluable, state- and region-specific compliance education, delivered to a fully engaged group of automotive professionals.
We have committed to moving forward with the regional conference model. The next Compliance Summit will be held this April in Dallas, where it will be joined by a Texas-specific incarnation of Dealership Sales & Technology, which launched in Las Vegas at Industry Summit last fall. That event will be followed by conferences this summer in Chicago before we return to Las Vegas for Industry Summit 2015 in September.
As we learned in Florida, an educational event focused on dealers within driving distance cannot fail. Regulators are creating new rules and taking action against dealers. Car buyers are demanding a transparent sales and finance process that begins online. I believe these conditions are not trends, but are in fact the new normal, and every second of continuing education is valuable.
This month’s issue includes four articles written by or about dealers and managers. Connecticut dealers no doubt recognize the name, if not the face, of Key Hyundai’s Jill Merriam, a fact of which she is all too aware. She left a position in the finance department at Microsoft to rejoin the family business alongside her brother, Jeffrey, believing that an auto group run to the strictest standards of a Fortune 500-level corporation would gain a competitive edge in personnel, lead generation and sales. Having launched a “personality marketing campaign” with herself at the center, Merriam has experienced the highs and lows of life as a public figure.
Our Sales Pro of the Month is among the youngest to appear in these pages. Justin Russell, 27, followed in his father’s footsteps at Washington’s Legacy group of dealerships before building — from scratch, mind you — a fully functioning Internet sales department at two different new-car dealerships. On the back page, Jason Heard returns to tell us why “Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless” (an alarming headline if ever I read one), while Paul Hatcher, a multistore GM for Lithia Motors, weighs in to explain how he eliminated the word “close” from his vocabulary and why he believes pressure from regulators and consumers (sound familiar?) will force sales pros to abandon their old closing tactics.
Finally, with tax-refund season in full swing, we bring you not one but two guides to capitalizing throughout February and March. Greg Goebel lists eight common mistakes made by special finance managers, while Paul Potratz weighs in from an online marketing perspective, offering expert advice for designing your 2015 promotions and reminding us that subprime-credit customers are hardly the only taxpayers who will receive a refund this year.
Those articles share a common theme: Be focused and deliberate, plan ahead and, above all else, stay on target.