The Evolution of Automotive Marketing: An Interview with Bob Ruth Ford
Over the past decade, we have seen so many changes in automotive marketing. The evolution of social media has changed the landscape of marketing. With the changes that have taken place over the past year in our industry, it is more important than ever to have your marketing processes and procedures in place. One area that particularly interested me is video, especially short video, and watching dealers use it to reach and convert their customers.
here are dealers across the country using TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to reach new customers. There are some who do an amazing job of taking their social media presence to the next level and then there are others who are still trying to sort out all the details to get their team (s) to fire all the cylinders.
Over the past few years, I’ve watched Dillsburg, Pa. Based Ford dealership Bob Ruth Ford take his social media presence to new heights. To say that I am impressed with their marketing processes and procedures is an understatement. When I had the opportunity to speak with their Marketing Director, Stephanie Clark, a rising star of automotive marketing, you know I was going to ask her about their video marketing philosophy!
Melanie: StÃ©phanie, Tiktok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube vs. LinkedIn. How do you determine which video platform to use / share on?
Stephanie: Determining which platform to use and what to share where is very important. To adapt our communication between platforms, we use our key of simple sentences. So, for example, Instagram is “Here is a photo of coffee”, Facebook “I like coffee”, TIC Tac âHere I dance with coffeeâ, LinkedIn âMy skills include making coffeeâ, Youtube âHere I drink coffee. So by ensuring that all of our content is reflected across all platforms, it helps us stay in good communication with every customer. We’re not going to connect with people on LinkedIn the same way we would on TikTok. Finding our audience on these platforms is all about who our ideal client is and where they spend their time. It is important to focus on the user, not the product. Showing them a brand new Explorer is good, but provoking emotions will go much further.
My favorite is Facebook. We have worked hard to build our credibility with our subscribers on this platform and we are getting a lot of engagement because of it. We’re completely transparent, delivering all the information customers could want or need, along with some fun and silliness incorporated along the way. This is my favorite because you can be so creative with it and touch SO many people, and it’s very trackable. We are seeing a lot of success with customer testimonial videos. New customers who see and hear a current customer say and confirm what we preach about who and what we are as a business makes all the difference. We could say something hundreds of times, but it makes so much more sense when it comes straight from our client, and they say it was their experience, and so it was so unforgettable.
Youtube is our holy grail! Every video we make goes to YouTube. Our customers can find everything they need to know about our dealership there. We have different playlists that fall into different categories – our VIP buying process, our VIP selling process, a day in the life at the dealership, how-to videos and all the ongoing event sponsorship events that we run. within the community. Everything is here. Our channel creates brand awareness while being entertaining. They can learn more about us as a business or any vehicle or service that interests them.
With Instagram Reels, Millennials are Instagram’s biggest users and spend around half an hour a day scrolling. This is where we show “here is a photo / here is a video of coffee”. Users scroll fast and need their attention to be captured quickly and it will only last a few seconds. Successful coils grab attention within the first two seconds. Communication on Instagram Reels is suitable for millennials who want natural-looking content. We are announcing here that “We are in business”, it is up to date and in good taste. Aesthetically pleasing food is what attracts people there. Much of the reels are proper CTAs (calls to action), there’s no point in releasing something without wanting to get some form of feedback. Using Reels on Instagram is an in-between fun and information. People don’t necessarily come to Instagram to buy a car – however, in our case, they absolutely can – but to see what our business is doing, it’s âhey, we’re in business! and that we follow our customers there.
LinkedIn – This is our ‘My Skills Include Coffee Making’ platform, which is an older demographic: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials. Here we create business relationships, show how and why we are ahead of our time in the industry, and keep our customers and subscribers up to date with our processes / the technology we use / suppliers and business partners who we work with / and how we operate overall as a company. We also post video content here – primarily informational content about us as a business and / or employment opportunities. Almost like a current event – what we do in the business world / how we impact those around us. It is a place where people can learn from us and vice versa.
M: Do you find that customers contact you through TikTok?
S: TikTok – this is our âfunâ platform. We show off personalities around the dealership but still incorporate hot vehicles and keep the Bob Ruth Ford brand / automotive content. We can follow trends while integrating them into the industry and staying relevant. People go to TikTok for entertainment so I think it’s a great place for customers to see us real and raw and that we’re people like them. There’s a younger generation on TikTok than, say, LinkedIn, it’s just around the age of the first car purchase, so it’s crucial to follow and get ahead of them. This generation will no longer see us on LinkedIn or even Facebook. Generation Z is more on TikTok than Facebook.
Our employees have become more comfortable in front of the camera and video because we use it so much, that it is just part of everyone’s workday, from sales to accounting to management. .
They’re used to having cameras in front of them and we’re not afraid to show off, and that has really benefited us. Which I think is a huge part of this rig, you can’t be afraid to do something stupid or outside your comfort zone!
M: What’s a tip for choosing the right sound and video content?
S: Always go with what is trendy. Anything that is trending can be aligned with the direction of the brand – as long as it conforms to the proper guidelines etc. You can take sounds and make them relevant to your brand and industry. It takes creativity and thinking outside the box, as well as your comfort zone. My team and I got embarrassed a lot, just laugh with those watching. The same goes for hashtags: we use our main list of hashtags that are part of our brand, as well as trending hashtags. This gives it a good mix for reaching new audiences and keeps our current hashtag followers up to date with the content. It’s also important to follow other hashtags relevant to your brand, which keeps you focused on what others are doing around you. Following these has helped us to see what the ‘trend’ is and how we can follow a trend but do it better and differently, staying on the brand with us.
I love Stephanie’s take on social media and hearing what works for Bob Ruth Ford who can be transferred to your dealership. The takeaways from Stephanie’s experience that I know will help leadership across the country are knowing your audience by platform, knowing what kind of content to share on those platforms, and feeling like you are. feel comfortable in front of the camera, and integrate marketing into the culture of the company.