Speaking at Dialogue’s Brand Communities Event, Porsche Club GB’s General Manager Chris Seaward reveals how automotive content marketing is invaluable in creating brand advocates and delivering customer retention.
The Porsche Club was formed in 1961 as an independent body. Originally, five people, who owned 356s, got together in a pub and said ‘Let’s form a club’. Now 56 years later there are 20,000 members, making us the second largest official Porsche Club in the world, creating automotive marketing events, publications, experiences and get-togethers for our members.
Buying a Porsche is aspirational: for a lot of people, it’s a dream: they saw the car as a child and then they get to 50, their kids have left home, and they’ve paid off the mortgage, so they buy a Porsche.
Automotive marketing events
From there, the next natural step is to join the Club, which provides a platform to do anything you want with your car – you can race it at one end, or polish it to within an inch of its life at the other and everything in between.
It’s our job to provide enough options in-between to get everyone involved.
The Value of a Brand Community
Porsche sells 14,000 cars in the UK every year and the club has 20,000 members. The manufacturer can connect with 20,000 engaged people who love the brand, so from a manufacturer lead perspective, tapping into an existing community is a very cost-effective way to reach potential customers because half of the work has been done for them. The up-sell is easier with this type of automotive content marketing.
The club also has seminars where groups of members will fly to where Porsche are based and will actively feed back on potential product ranges, enhancements and design. We do three factory visits a year with 50 of our members to Leipzig and Stuttgart. These automotive marketing events offer great insight for the brand.
Porsche have 20 people based in Stuttgart that are managing 500 Clubs around the world.
The role of print media
Our members aren’t offer-driven, they are there for the experience, and they will pay more money for a great experience. They want to drive their car in amazing places and enjoy their car. This should be at the heart of any successful automotive marketing event.
In a membership organisation you have to have something going through their letterbox every month to remind them why they’re a member. It reminds them they’ve a car in the garage that they should be driving and in that moment they are reminded of that passion.
For us, we will never go away from a printed magazine and our commitment to print is huge. It’s still our touchstone – we know that 20,000 people a month are going to hear from us in that format.
We run an annual survey as well and we get about a 12% response rate, which we’re happy with. When people pay a subscription, they are honest in their feedback because they feel empowered that it’s their club.
The role of social media
The automotive sector is moving fast with new models and trends: social media has been huge for creating communities and while that’s valuable for us, the one benefit we have over Facebook is that we do physical events that people can attend.
The Club model succeeds because it actually facilitates real world conversations – it takes a seed of a conversation and makes it happen in a real life environment.
Brand enthusiasts make great ambassadors
You have to recruit enthusiasts. You can’t spend time recruiting people who just buy a Porsche as a commuting car, because they don’t add to the soul of the Club. They buy it as a functional purchase. You can spend a lot of time engaging with those people but you’re not going to succeed.
Obviously there are some brands that would probably struggle to create a community because they are very functional brands. But I think anywhere people seek enjoyment from the brand and have an opportunity to build something, then brands can pick their biggest advocates and build something from them. Even if you don’t build a community, if you work with the people who love your product you understand the product more.
We have 110 volunteers that we work with throughout the country and they are fantastic people to work with – they’re brand advocates. If you can inspire people, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
Measuring success and ROI
We measure our success by retention – our model is quite traditional – you pay an annual subscription.
We run an 86% retention rate, which is where we want to be, so from the 14% we lose, 5% or 6% will either sell their car or for the others the club just wasn’t for them.
We also measure ourselves on our new member rate – we attract 10 new members a day, so we’ve got two very clear indicators of how we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.
The wider point is engagement: there’s no point having a club of 20,000 people if only 20 really engage, so we do a huge calendar of events from January to December. There are probably 45 big events that we’re centrally involved in, and the attendance at those events is crucial to the veracity of the Club.
We’ve got complimentary coffee, complimentary marquees, free parking… things that give members tangible reasons to be a member of the Club.
These metrics are all clear indicators of how we’re doing and if they’re slipping then we know we’re doing something wrong.
Recommendations from brand advocates
My advice would be don’t be scared to lose money on staging events. If you do an event and you meet people, they become advocates and you can grow from there.
Events are often expensive to put on, but you learn so much and it’s an important part of automotive content marketing, you get data, you meet people, you formulate relationships and you get content – there’s so much you can do.
Porsche Post and Marque 9 member magazines are produced by content agency, Dialogue.