Ford has certainly accomplished a lot since its inception in 1903. The motor company began as one of sole providers of automobiles to the public, but since then has had to deal with massive competition within the industry. As our society and technology advances, Ford has continued to take proactive steps toward keeping up with consumer demand.
Modern day consumer demand is centered around not only the product, but the relationship each person has with the company. Ford’s work with mobile applications, social media, and other online platforms has fostered a convenient, helpful, and sustainable relationship with their customers. Ford’s progressive approach can be viewed through the lens of the four-component Integrated Digital Marketing Strategic Model. Below is a breakdown of how Ford employs key tactics of the IDM Strategic Model to create sustainable customer relationships.
Define and Establish
Ford has been consistent in its efforts to aid and enhance the community, both locally and at large. They continue to strive for satisfaction of their customers, employees, investors, dealers, suppliers, and communities. These ideas are summarized in four words by Ford: quality, safe, green and smart.
Although Ford has always been a goals-driven organization, the company’s recent focus has been centered around the environment, preservation of water, and vehicle safety, as well as the health and safety of the manufacturers and drivers of their cars. Within these categories, Ford creates specific goals they hope to achieve each year. At the end of the year, the auto giant issues an annual public report enumerating their goals for that year and the status of completion of each goal.
Shape Brand Message
When you visit Ford’s corporate website, you are met with a concise value proposition that distills the company’s core values and shapes its brand message:
“At Ford, we go further to make our cars better, our employees happier and our planet a better place to be.”
This message also incorporates the overarching theme that Ford promotes among consumers, followers, and employees: “Go further.” “Go further” represents the work ethic and expectations that Ford sets for the company in order to achieve its goals.
Ford’s continuing investment in community and people is what will drive sales in the future. As an organization, its number one priority is to match or exceed consumer and employee expectations. Ford has a proud history of being a leader in the industry since its inception. Consumers have trusted the Ford brand historically and it is their intention to keep it that way. For Ford, this is done through thoughtful innovation, sustainable research and development, and prioritizing people over business.
Establish an Online Presence
Ford’s online presence is undeniable. Ford has created an interactive social website and has engaged with its consumers through several social media platforms including Vine, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Ford has been especially successful with social video promotion. Creative, informative, and at times comical videos are regularly posted on their social media accounts and originate back to the social website.
Convey and Promote
In 2016, Ford invested 182.2 million in cloud-based software company, Pivotal, in an effort to personalize the company’s manufacturing, marketing, and customer service strategy. Using leading-edge software to collect and analyze data has enabled Ford to personalize its content strategy to further enhance the customer experience and more directly meet customer needs.
Shortly after the acquisition, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields noted, “Our investment in Pivotal will help strengthen our ability to deliver these customer experiences at the speed of Silicon Valley, including continually expanding FordPass – our digital, physical and personal mobility platform.”
The FordPass app provides modern, mobile-centric customer services, like remote access to vehicles through a smartphone app, and mobility solutions, such as parking and car sharing.
Social Media Marketing
Ford has recognized social media as a way to cheaply and effectively communicate their brand message. Working on several social media channels, Ford is able to tailor the output to each channel’s audience with the most effective content.
Ford’s Social Media Director Scott Monty believes that that automotive industry has to do better at listening and engaging with customers online. To achieve this, Ford is answering questions and communicating directly with consumers via social media. Their focus is to do more listening and less pushing, which is revolutionary for the automotive industry.
Ford has also used social media to generate new leads and sales. One of the company’s first social campaigns was its Ford Fiesta movement in 2009. This campaign gave one hundred digitally connected consumers the opportunity to drive a Fiesta for six months. In exchange for the free car, each person created a themed video and documented their experience throughout the six months on social media. Ford reposted the raw footage that the drivers shared in real time, demonstrating their transparency and confidence in the model. The campaign received 132,000 applications, 82 percent of which were new to Ford.
Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search
In 2014, Stacey Coopes, CEO of FordDirect, a digital marketing extension for Ford and its dealers, relayed that Ford was investing heavily in digital marketing. For the entire year of 2014, Ford offered subsidies to dealers to cover the cost to advertise on Google and other search engines. Ford then began requiring dealers to put more of their advertising budget toward paid search and banner advertising.
More recently, Ford has taken its push for digital advertising even further. Each dealer now receives a monthly consultative call from a FordDirect digital advertising product specialist to discuss strategy.
FordDirect is hugely important to the future of Ford’s marketing and has also become increasingly more user friendly for dealers to work with. FordDirect has its own CRM website that provides tutorials, information, and other resources to help dealers transition to digital marketing.
The primary value of the FordDirect CRM lies in its capacity as a more efficient selling platform for Ford’s dealers and employees. FordDirect also allows dealers to operate within the same platform as its customers, streamlining communication and enhancing the customer experience.
Connect and Convert
Social, Local, Mobile: “SoLoMo”
In an effort to connect all of its users, TrustFord (a European independent auto dealer group wholly owned by Ford) created a centralized online engagement platform, Social Hub. Dealers, customers, and fans use Social Hub to gain information, interact with other users, and provide feedback to the brand. Social Hub connects Ford’s several Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts into one, user-friendly page.
“At TrustFord we are about more than selling cars. We want to stay in touch with our customers to show them what it’s like to be a part of the TrustFord Family and to enjoy their new vehicles with them!”
On the mobile side, the company’s FordPass app enables users to connect with their car directly through the app, allowing them to remote start, lock, unlock, and operate their car from their mobile phone. Additionally, Ford has partnered with ParkWhiz, Parkopedia, and FlightCar to enable users to find parking and rides easier. The app offers other features such as a live chat for customer service and even reward programs with several fast food outlets.
Lead Nurturing and Conversion
Ford takes a holistic view of lead generation, nurturing, and conversion, emphasizing the importance of building relationships to keep new prospects and existing customers involved with the product and the ongoing value of the brand. The primary way that Ford maintains their relationship with new and existing customers is through social media. Scott Monty, the leader of Ford’s social media initiatives, is considered a leading social influencer. Ford initially created a position for Monty to expand the brand’s social media strategy and to build up the brand’s social culture within Ford’s communication system.
In an interview, Monty explains that a vehicle is a complex sale, and corporate communications play a much larger role than people realize. Ford uses social media to improve the company’s reputation, build awareness for its products, and influence prospects at the consideration stage of the sales process. Under Monty, Ford’s social media strategy has focused on using open engagement to foster brand awareness and product consideration:
“You need to talk, listen and engage. Monitor what is going on. Just showing up and trying to push things down people’s throats won’t work, and they will object. It’s really just acting like a real human being, showing that there are real human beings behind a campaign.”
-Scott Monty, Ford’s Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager
There is no single aspect of Ford’s IDM strategy that fosters business success and customer satisfaction. Leads and sales come from a combination of the company’s reputation, how the brand manifests and communicates its values, and ultimately, the value of its products. That said, Ford is adept at using proven IDM tactics such as interaction on social media, customized emails, and personalized ad targeting to achieve its sales and marketing objectives.
Measure and Refine
Website, Social, Integrated Performance Management
Ford’s digital marketing team and their data cloud management partner, Pivotal, keep track of several metrics in attempt to track the progress of various digital marketing initiatives. Pivotal not only helps deliver innovation to customers more quickly but focuses heavily on analytics and the importance of customer data.
Socially, Ford tracks common social engagement metrics such as the number of followers, views, likes, and impressions to ensure the brand maintains a positive online presence. Ford compares interaction data from its web, social, and mobile campaigns with sales in an effort to establish a direct relationship between the two. In a data-driven world, Ford has become a data-driven organization.
- Is there anything specific in the auto industry that would push Ford and its competitors to make some of these strategic marketing decisions and embrace a more holistic marketing approach like the IDM Strategic Model?
- What kind of future do you see for companies like Pivotal, i.e. data cloud management platforms that collect, analyze, and measure consumer data trends?
- Reflect on Scott Monty’s quote (above) regarding the importance of engaging with consumers rather than pushing marketing efforts “down their throats.” What do you think caused this shift in marketing strategy?