Reunion Marketing Takes on The 2017 CBT Automotive Conference

Earlier this year, I attended the 2nd CBT Automotive Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, along with a few members of the Reunion Marketing team. It was a great experience, and I want to share some of the highlights of our trip.

I have photos from the venue, insights from the speakers, and some invaluable advice from Gary Vaynerchuk himself to share. Settle down and strap in – we’re going for a ride.

CBT Automotive Conference Main Expo Hall with Chad Graves

2017 CBT Automotive Conference: Why We Went

It’s always nice when a conference like CBT is convenient, and all we had to do to get there was hop a flight down to Atlanta from Raleigh. The biggest draw for me was the speakers, though.

After attending many automotive conferences, it’s easy to hear the same people speak multiple times. This time we heard from Gary Vaynerchuk (CEO of VaynerMedia), Scott Stratten (President of UnMarketing), and John Acuff (New York Times Best Selling Author).

CBT Automotive Conference main keynote hall

It was great to hear unique perspectives from individuals outside the automotive industry. All of these speakers are successful in their own right, so when they gave their opinions on the current automotive climate and the areas where they see opportunity, I wasn’t the only one leaning forward in my chair.

Key Takeaways: Gary Vaynerchuk Says Dealers Have to Adapt

Of the speakers I was excited to see, Gary Vaynerchuk stole the show. This was one of the best presentations I’ve seen at any conference, and you can watch the whole thing for yourself right here.

Gary Vaynerchuk speaking at CBT Automotive Conference

Looking around afterward, I could tell Gary had opened the eyes of many of the dealers in the room. He also challenged the vendors in attendance to stop operating based on past successes.

The industry landscape of 2017 is totally different from even 6 months ago, and it will continue to change at a rapid pace. Change isn’t a bad thing in our industry, but it’s something dealers and vendors have struggled to adapt to in the past. If you can’t keep up with the latest trends, your business will suffer — and Gary made that clear.

He also highlighted how cost effective Facebook advertising is for dealers today. It’s this way for basically every industry, but it won’t be this way for long.

Take Google AdWords, for example. In the early 2000s, buying broad match clicks of “wine” was 10 cents per click. Compare that to today where you have no intent behind that phrase, and if you were a marketer, you might shy away from it.

Facebook advertising today is comparable to the early Google AdWords days in the sense where it’s not really accepted yet as a main focus of businesses advertising budget. Gary preaches about the quality of the data (it is ridiculously clean and kind of scary) to target consumers, but he also talked about how cost-effective you can be to get the attention we all want. It doesn’t take a big budget to generate a ton of impressions through promoted Facebook posts.

Finally, I loved Gary’s focus on Q&A. He has a call-in show on YouTube, and that is literally all he does for 20 minutes in each episode, so I knew he would engage well with some of these automotive questions. If you can’t watch the entire keynote linked above, I recommend skipping to Q&A at the end where to pick up some really good tips from his responses.

Scott Stratten speaking at CBT Automotive Conference

Lessons on Listening to Consumers from John Acuff and Scott Stratten

The other speakers I enjoyed listening to were John Acuff and Scott Stratten. And not just because Scott literally fell off the stage. They both have brilliant minds for marketing.

(If you know me, you might think I’m joking, but it really happened.)

Screenshot of Brad Paschal tweet about Scott Stratten at CBT Automotive Conference

My favorite quote from Scott came when he was giving his take on online reputation management. When talking about negative reviews he said, “You don’t have a review problem, you have a business problem.”

After hearing John speak, my big takeaway, besides “You need to hustle!”, was that you need to be willing to adapt and listen to your customers.

John Acuff speaking at CBT Automotive Conference

He told a story about his time at Bose and how they released their headphones in three colors: grey, black, and darker grey. They poured millions of dollars into the product they thought everyone wanted, but they hadn’t drawn on any input from actual consumers.

Then another company came along and offered bright red, blue, purple, and a myriad of other colors on their headphones. Even if they didn’t actually sound better, that focus on style was enough to conquest market share. This company is Beats by Dr. Dre, and you probably know the rest of the story.


In this industry, the dealerships that truly care about and cater to their customers are the ones that set themselves apart. There might be four Honda stores in the same market, all selling the same product, but the ones who listen to the needs and wants of local customers are going to succeed.

Some good examples I’ve seen of ways dealerships respect their customers are with services like:

  • Express service
  • Online scheduling tools
  • 1 hour guaranteed sales process

And the list goes on. Some of these might involve retooling your internal processes, but you can also serve your customers better just by updating your website.  

I hope this recap and these pictures give a better sense of what the conference had to offer, from the vendor floor to the speaking hall. All of us from the Reunion Marketing delegation enjoyed our time at the event, and we hope to hear from the friends and new faces we met soon.

Matt Triana and Gary Vaynerchuk at CBT Automotive Conference

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