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Refining Your Dealership Marketing Strategy Instead of Searching for the Next Shiny Toy with April Simmons

  • February 29, 2024
11 min read
Refining Your Dealership Marketing Strategy Instead of Searching for the Next Shiny Toy with April Simmons

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

April Simmons
Corporate Internet & Marketing Director, Horne Automotive

April Simmons is the Corporate Internet and Marketing Director at Horne Automotive, a dealership brand with 14 automotive stores nationwide. She is recognized for her vast knowledge in the industry and her skillful integration of digital and traditional marketing strategies.

In the pursuit of excellence, April emphasizes the need for staff training and the importance of customer care in today’s competitive market. She possesses more than 20 years of experience as a finance manager, retail desk manager, internet sales director, and marketing director.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The impressive expansion of Horne Automotive to 14 stores 
  • The importance of leaving room for unexpected networking opportunities
  • April’s aim to refine current operations 
  • The critical role of comprehensive training
  • Why industry friendships are so important

In this episode…

Are you ready to revolutionize your approach to business in today’s ever-changing market? Ever wonder how companies like Horne Automotive manage to thrive and expand in today’s competitive market? 

April Simmons outlines her meticulous strategy for making the most out of the NADA conference. She emphasizes the importance of adapting marketing strategies as the automotive landscape changes, focusing on refining and enhancing current operations rather than seeking out the next ‘shiny toy.’

In this episode of Inside Auto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay joins April Simmons, Corporate Internet and Marketing Director at Horne Automotive, to uncover the secrets behind their growth to 14 stores. Discover how integrating technology can streamline your operations, freeing up valuable time for strategic initiatives.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Fullpath (formerly AutoLeadStar).

Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform (CDXP).

Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first-party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional, hyper-personalized customer experiences.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:02  

Welcome to Inside Auto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay  0:13  

All right, this is fun.

April Simmons 0:14

This is so fun.

Ilana Shabtay 0:16

April Simmons, the director of marketing, your official title.

April Simmons  0:20  

Yes, so I am having business cards printed right now that just say April Simmons, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. That’s a better title for me.

Ilana Shabtay  0:28  

For what you do at Horne Automotive?

April Simmons  0:30  

Yeah, but my official title is the corporate internet and marketing director. All right.

Ilana Shabtay  0:34  

And you’re at Horne Automotive. So you got how many stores?

April Simmons  0:38  

We are up to 14. We did a couple more by sells this year

Ilana Shabtay 0:41


April Simmons 0:42

So we’ve been super duper busy. Yeah, we’ve got a couple of remodels going. We just been crazy, crazy busy most days. Am I coming? Am I going?

Ilana Shabtay  0:52  

Well, you’re rocking it. So you’re always rocking it? All right, tell us what you’re doing. Tell us what your main goals are for NADA, what are you looking for? 

Obviously, you want to see your friends. And we want to see you too. So we’ll talk about that. And then just in general, how you tackle this offer.

April Simmons  1:08  

You know, it’s interesting, as I think to really make the most out of NADA, you have to have a plan and have to come prepared. So I kind of do a little bit of old school and a little bit of new school. So before the conference, I printed the maps and I just highlighted all the areas I needed to go. 

Then I started deciding what times I was going to be where, because what I’ve learned in the past, I’ve made epic failures previously by saying, oh, yeah, I’ll meet you at your booth. What time scheduling a time and then realizing it’s a 45 minute walk seriously from Ryan person’s lives to somebody else’s booth. 

So you need to coordinate your time’s right in the same area with other people to maximize the banner. Yeah, the air especially here, right? Because there’s the North on this end, the West Hall in Dallas. It was all in one Hall. It was huge. It was in one Hall. Yep. Yeah. And that was tough. Yeah, it was as if you were on one side and the other side. It was still Yeah, five minute walk. 

And that’s so you mapped it out? Well, good. Oh, yeah. No, it completely mapped it out, then broke down. I was like, okay, Friday, we’re gonna do this Saturday, we’re gonna do this, just to make sure that I was able to visit every booth that I wanted to visit, and then I left last time.

Ilana Shabtay  2:22  

Okay, that’s fine.

April Simmons  2:23  

You better leave it that’s moving. Because there’s going to be something that somebody tells you, Oh, do you have any board of this company? Or did you? 

Did you know that they can do this and so that the networking and the in-between time is important, so that you will have the capability of seeing the things you maybe didn’t plan to see, ya know, what they were on?

Ilana Shabtay  2:42  

He’s everywhere. Yeah. And then would you say that is also by the way, one of your goals, like being exposed to new companies, new innovators, is that something that you actually seek out at NADA, or you just assume it’s going to happen, but something that,

April Simmons  2:54  

you know, it’s a little bit of both two years ago, I really was seeking out GA foreknowledge because it was before anyone was talking about it. But I knew all the smart people were going to be here. So I brought my laptop, and I sat down with people. And we really started trying to figure those things out. 

This year. In particular, I’m taking some of the things that I currently know and understand and trying to find the companies that I know are ready to go to the next level that you see what they’re offering, right, what are they doing? You know, Volkoff is a really great example of a company that’s constantly evolving and trying to, you know, take what’s working great, and just make it a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better. 

And I think 2024, as we look at, you know, boss profits coming down, the efficiency is going to be key, it’s not going to be about finding that, you know, new shiny toy I agree with, you’re going to be about taking what you have and making them better. And that’s what I’m focused on.

Ilana Shabtay  3:55  

That’s great. I think that I think that’s right. I think everyone’s talking about data, data data. Yeah. But why are we talking about data? Because the better your data will be, the more efficient you can actually have your marketing, your sales operations, your F&I. 

It all is surrounded by efficiency. So this will be I agree with you. We’ll see what plays out at the conference to more people. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

April Simmons  4:14  

It’s gonna be like, it’s so fun. I mean, the conference just started.

Ilana Shabtay  4:17  

I know, it’s like, it’s so Rocky.

April Simmons  4:19  

I know. We’ve got like drums and whites and all kinds of fun and excitement going on. And I mean, it’s already been 10 o’clock, so Oh, it is oh, yeah, it’s Yeah. Wow. So it’s where you got in? Yeah, it is our leaving. I flew in this morning from Phoenix and yeah.

Ilana Shabtay  4:35  

How long is that flight? It’s like an hour right?

April Simmons  4:36  

It’s like an hour, like an hour. Super easy to plane but I did stuff you get up at like Korea. Yeah.

Ilana Shabtay  4:40  

We’ll go to the club. Yeah, but yeah. All right. Cool. Well, and then let’s talk a little bit about 2024. Beyond NADA, what are your plans? What are things in 2023 that you want to continue when it comes to your marketing strategy or operation strategy or etc, etc, step strategy.

April Simmons  4:57  

You know, it’s really I know a lot of people Been talking about getting back to basics. But I’m actually gonna go a step further and say we have to take a big reset, because back to basics to the majority of our staff actually means nothing. 

They have no idea what we’re even talking about when we say back to basics, because they haven’t been in the business for three or four or 567 years. So they don’t know what it means to walk and talk or how to sell a car. So it’s gonna be about training. 

Ilana Shabtay  5:25  

Also, demand was so high right? supply was low, demand was so high, there was no basis, it was like it was the easiest thing in the world to sell a car.

April Simmons  5:32  

Correct, right, right. and anyone could really make a living doing it right. And so now, people have got to be trained. So I think one of my big focuses is going to be really taking the time to train people to make sure they understand how to take care of our customers, getting back in the business, of taking care of business, so to speak. 

And that also, some of my big projects are how to make my time more efficient. So you know, in the dealerships, we spent so much time and reporting, and spreadsheets and all of these kinds of things. So really working with some technology to try to create efficiencies and my time to allow me to take on more things on my plate. So you know, putting in the deposit upfront, saves myself time on the other side. Yeah,

Ilana Shabtay  6:20  

I will say as a marketer, I did that for you know, wool pad. Last year, I was working out of spreadsheets, and I was trying to connect data and I made that switch. Wow, I have some writing reports delivered to me every day. I scan them. I’m good to go. Once a month. I do a deep dive like I have. I’ve saved so much time. I’m excited for you.

April Simmons  6:42  

Me too, I’m so excited. I’m gonna see you and my other friends. Yeah. 

Ilana Shabtay  6:46  

Oh, right. That’s the big goal for any VA you get to see your friends 

April Simmons 6:49

And, can you talk about this?

Ilana Shabtay  6:50  

I know. It’s so kick ass.

April Simmons  6:50  

You’re the first person to be in the full path read this morning. I gotta tell you all did an amazing job. The colors, the scheme, everything.

Ilana Shabtay  6:59  

Molly Monet. Our head of branding did an excellent job. She killed it. 

April Simmons 7:04

Yeah, beautiful. 

Ilana Shabtay 7:06

Awesome. Well, thank you for joining. Is that a podcast? It’s your second time actually with us on the podcast, surfing. And we’ll have to see. We’ll have to get you back on at the end of 2024. We’ll talk about your efficiencies. 

April Simmons 7:15

Oh, I love it. 

Ilana Shabtay 7:16

All right. Okay, Inside Auto Podcast. Thank you so much for joining. Have a great one. Bye.

Outro  7:24  

Thanks for listening to Inside Auto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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