BRANTFORD, ONT. — A modest investment in social media has become an effective marketing tool for Brantford Kia, drawing customer eyeballs and traffic from outside the dealership’s market, said Sales Manager Tim Grosse.
The idea to start a YouTube channel for the dealership, about 100 kilometres southwest of Toronto, began with the 2015 hiring of a staff member with social media experience, Grosse said. Peter Lowe, who had produced video automotive reviews for the Toronto Star newspaper, became involved in discussions aimed at bolstering the store’s online presence.
“That work [with the Star] gave me insight into what auto reviewers get from the manufacturer, and of course I know what dealers get from the manufacturers,” Lowe told Automotive News Canada.
“Where I’ve had success is in connecting with people in a number of ways and giving them information that they don’t always see in other reviews or from a salesperson.”
Apart from the expertise provided by Lowe — who is the on-air personality and has the skills to do the quick video editing that
allows for new posts almost daily — the upfront capital investment was less than $2,000 for GoPro cameras, a drone, a Steadicam and audio equipment.
Lowe said the dealership actually began with nothing more than a mobile phone and microphone.
VIDEO MADE THE SALE
The return, Grosse said, has exceeded expectations. Brantford Kia’s YouTube channel has acquired more than 7,500 subscribers since launching in late 2015, and customers have found the dealership and its products across broad distances.
“We just sold a 2014 Tesla with 79,000 [kilometres] on it to people in Montreal,” Grosse said. “They finished up the deal without even being here. That was because we had video on the car, and they knew exactly what the car looked like.
“When leads come in, we have a shared document [for tracking]. We know that a customer is calling from Ottawa, he saw Peter’s videos, and that’s the reason why he’s calling us.
“People come into the showroom saying, ‘Oh, I saw Peter at the Canadian Tire up the street.’ That literally happens.”
One of the key elements to the success of the page, Grosse said, is that the videos are relatively simple and not heavily produced with flashy effects or graphics.
“When someone asks us a question, we do a video on it,” he said. “We don’t want it to look that slick. We want it to look like you and I are holding our own camera.
“Even Pat Hart, our owner, has done a number of videos on the new [Kia] Telluride and some of the other vehicles, just to be relatable to our client base.”
THE VALUE OF YOUTUBE
Kyle Orlando, president of eDealer.ca, a consulting firm that helps dealerships build an online sales presence through websites and social media, said YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world after Google.
YouTube creates opportunities for organic reach and exposure with no budget and even more value for those able to invest in advertising on the platform, Orlando said.
Brantford Kia, he said, is an excellent example of effective dealer use of YouTube.
“I think this dealer’s YouTube page would rank in the top one per cent of all North American YouTube pages for car dealers. Not many dealers are leveraging the platform.
“Early dealership adoption of YouTube offers extreme value to the advertiser. Cost is at an all-time low and will only increase in the future due to demand” for more dealership advertising.
SHORT IS SWEET
While Brantford Kia is doing many things right, Orlando said, one potential area for improvement is making videos shorter and more focused. As an example, he cited a 21-minute video review of a Telluride utility vehicle.
“While this video is extremely detailed, I would prefer something about one-third as long,” he said. “[There’s a] lot of talk about previous videos, the store, the [automaker]. I want to see the car.
“I think dropping that information in between segments more organically when shooting the video would have a significant impact on views staying through the whole video and receiving the information the dealer intends to convey.
“Maybe in addition to the 20-minute video, they add a ‘quick cap’ or something to that effect, which condenses the most important information down into one minute, 20 seconds, for instance, with a link at the end to ‘view full overview.’”
Employing the YouTube channel, Grosse said, is a way to adapt to the new reality: Online browsing is simply how people shop these days.
“We’ll sit down on a Saturday night and order clothes or find something on Amazon, and [with] free delivery it shows up the next day,” he said.
“Why can’t we do that with cars? I believe in that, and I believe that once you build that trusting relationship, we’re away to the races.”