How to Prepare for NADA 2024

There are dozens of events providing education and value to retail car dealers. From the large NADA Conference and Exposition to the small factory or 20 Group meetings, they range dramatically in both value and cost.

I have participated in hundreds of events, both inside and outside this industry as an exhibitor, sponsor or attendee. As a result, I have developed some methods to help select the ‘right’ venues and events for business and staff development. Over the course of 2024, I will present information about several industry events, and provide dealers (and vendors) with factors that they should consider when selecting events for their staff (or themselves) to attend.

There are several important questions to ask.

For a dealer:

—Who from my team will get the most benefit from attending?

—What should attendees expect to happen at the event?

—What is the format of the event?  Will there be both learning and an expo hall?

For a vendor:

—Will my customers be there in enough quantity to make it worthwhile?

—What is my most significant objective?  And will I have the means to accomplish it?

—What is the format of the event?  Do we need a booth? Is there a speaking opportunity?

First up: NADA Show 2024

Every year, the National Automotive Dealers Association hosts a major event referred to as the Super Bowl of the automotive industry. The show boasts more than 3,500 dealership leaders and more than 500 exhibitors. World renowned speakers and industry luminaries participate in the educational sessions. Dealers worldwide come to learn, discover innovative solutions, meet their factory representatives, walk the expo floor and generally do business, network and have a good time.

At NADA, a dealership’s entire vendor family is in one place — as well as all of the factory reps. It allows a dealer to explore multiple solutions available and make decisions. Dealership leaders from all over the country find value.

Shaun “Niff” Kniffin, Marketing and Technology Director for the Germain Motor Company, has attended over 15 NADA conferences.

In Niff’s words, “It’s really useful for the GM and the dealership leadership team to go together.” This allows those teams to selectively meet with both existing and prospective partners so that they can learn what solutions will best solve their dealerships together.  His preferred meetings are the small face-to-face meetings that help him get to know their industry partners.

April Simmons, corporate internet and marketing director at Horne Auto Group has been to only a few NADA’s.

She recommends that dealers and GMs attend NADA because technology partners always launch new products and solutions there. However, she warns “NADA is huge. Make a plan before you go. There are valuable learning sessions and vendors to meet, but you have to give yourself time to travel in between meetings.”

For Joe Hansen, director of corporate fixed operations at Cardinale Automotive Group, NADA allows him to meet with vendors face-to-face. “So much business is done virtually, and NADA allows me to see people in person and help me  understand the people behind the products,” says Joe. Joe finds the learning sessions to be very valuable.  But, he says “the biggest value is in networking and developing a camaraderie with both his team and his partners.”  Who should attend?  Joe says Service Managers, GMs and Owners should make the time to walk the show.

Vendors and partners approach the NADA conference with caution.

It is a big show — and a big expense. Nonetheless, it is common to believe that there is more value in attending the show than skipping it. The opportunities to participate are endless: exhibit, attend learning sessions, speak in a learning session, or even host a party.

Eric Schlesinger, CEO of ActivEngage, has attended 20 NADA’s in multiple capacities — as a dealer, vendor and allied partner. He unequivocally recommends participating in NADA. LIke the dealers above, Eric says “The biggest advantage is to be able to meet with our partners at one event.  We are able to be face-to-face with people, get ideas and sometimes solve problems in meetings that would otherwise be difficult to schedule.”

JT Thomson, serial entrepreneur and CEO of MOJO Platform, requires his staff to attend learning sessions. And, he believes the value extends far beyond the first sale. “It’s all about relationship-building, not necessarily the sales effort,” JT says.

According to Shane Stender, senior vice president and managing partner of Silverback Advertising, “The education is great not only for themselves but also for sharing the ideas and insight with dealers who are not able to attend. We are able to act as a conduit to share technology and ideas” with their customers.

Not all vendors agree that exhibitors should expect an immediate ROI. According to Chris Kerr, chief revenue officer for Clarivoy, “It can be difficult to measure ROI on NADA. The biggest value comes from strengthening relationships with current customers and partners. While we will close deals as a result of the show, it’s really the brand awareness that pays off.”

So, what are the big takeaways?

For dealers:

—Schedule time with your current vendors.

—Pre-set appointments with partners. Don’t forget to include time for your OEM meetings and educational classes.

—Sending a leadership team helps them both learn together and form closer relationships.

For vendors:

—Exhibit if you can. If you can’t, go and attend sessions.

—Get out of your booth and walk the hall. See the innovation for yourself.

—Coach your teams to spend time with both customers and partners.

—Wear good, comfortable shoes!

NADA is around the corner, and time is running out to get your tickets and hotel rooms. If you haven’t been to NADA, make this year your first trip. Download their mobile app and create your daily plan.  Let your vendors know, and you’ll likely receive an invite to dinner or a show. You will definitely reap the rewards!

Next Up:  David Kain’s 19th Digital Success Workshop on April 9-11 in Lexington, Ky.

This article originally appeared on AutoRemarketing, December 19, 2023.