I’ve been associated with the auto industry for more than 15 years, and I guess I always knew dealers were statistics geeks. From engine performance to sales metrics, they really do know numbers. I’ve stood around listening to a GM talk about a vehicle’s horsepower and pound ft. of torque like a baseball card collector talks about his favorite player’s batting average or RBI tally.

But I have to tell you, even I was surprised at the interest and enthusiasm for an industry-wide initiative that took place in Las Vegas in early October of this year. Its purpose – to develop the first-ever framework of standards to measure the effectiveness and value of automotive-related digital marketing tools.

I thought those of you who weren’t present might appreciate a recap of the meeting, so here goes.

AIMC is born.

The Automotive Internet Measurement Council (AIMC), a membership-supported, nonprofit organization, was born out of the ever-growing conversation around marketing cars on the Internet. At its inaugural meeting, close to 50 people from retail dealerships, manufacturers, analysts and vendors filled the Burgundy Conference Room at the Paris Hotel the day before the opening of Digital Dealer XIX.

This groundbreaking event was led by LotLinx’s own Chief Executive Officer, Denise Chudy. Denise has been a digital marketing and Internet analytics leader since her days at Google, cars.com and the Weather Channel. Dean Evans, VP/CMO of Hyundai Motor America, Brian Pasch, President of PCG Consulting, a top digital marketing education and training company, and Dave Spannhake, former Marketing Director of the large dealer group Leith Auto and currently President and Founder of Reunion Marketing, added their support and insights, along with dealers and digital marketing service providers who have gone public about the need to establish digital marketing measurement standards.

“We need to agree on common standards.”

I thought Dean Evans did a good job of summing up the feelings of a majority of people in the room when he said this:

“There has been exponential growth of digital marketing and advertising products into the automotive sales and service marketplace,” he said, “but the industry still struggles to agree on a common standard for measuring the validity, effectiveness, and reliability of these digital tools. The time has come for us to come together in an organized fashion to create a common language and agree on a common standard for measuring the effectiveness of these products.” 

Get out your pencils.

Keynote speaker Brian Pasch opened his remarks by challenging everyone to take a short quiz identifying digital marketing terms. While I knew many of the terms, I was stumped by others, particularly the acronyms. Brian pointed out that while some of the answers to particular questions were technically correct, the fact that the answers were all different highlighted that the industry hadn’t yet come up with a common language for fairly common digital terminology. This simple little exercise seemed to cement the idea that having an organization that could establish a common nomenclature and set standards – the mission of AIMC – was critical to the industry, and there was vocal consensus by dealers and other participants in the room.

Denise presented research on how car shoppers are behaving online, illustrated by current analytical measurements that quickly had the crowd engaged in some spirited debate on the very topic that AIMC was established to review – what are we measuring and how are we measuring it. She made the point that the comments illustrate the immediate need to open the dialog about what we are all measuring in the industry and standardize it.

Denise encouraged the attendees to continue the review and discussion and to become active in AIMC in order to move the industry forward. From her presentation, several subcommittees were recommended by the attendees, including one to study website performance, Adwords practices and social engagement methods.

Finally, the speaker portion of the meeting wrapped up with Dave Spannhake’s detailed presentation on the use of data by dealers in planning their sales and marketing activities. His remarks underscored that digital marketing now represents a material amount of retail sales across all brands. “Understanding the data and analytics that track digital marketing activities is critical,” Dave noted. “But without measurement standards, it’s ineffective.”

Mission accomplished? Not yet, but they had “Lift Off!”

The meeting wrapped up with a Charter in place and a mission statement: “To develop, implement, and continue to strengthen a well-defined set of industry measurement standards to accurately track the engagement with and behavioral impact on car shoppers that are effective, valid, and reliable.”

It was a great start, but I left the meeting wondering if the momentum of that very enthusiastic group would carry through to the high-energy event just getting started in Las Vegas. It did.

Word travels fast.

The next day, as I walked the Digital Dealer Conference Event floor, several dealers and service providers approached me to ask about joining the organization. I told them there was plenty more to come, including subsequent meetings, an AIMC website and more, and to stay tuned.

It was exciting to see dealers, OEM representatives and service providers alike all driven by common goals and a shared purpose. And I have to wonder…maybe there is a future in making “baseball” cards with a dealer’s face on the front and his or her Google Analytics on the back. Hmmm???