April 15th 2019
EPARTRADE EXCLUSIVE: THE MARKETING STRATEGY THAT MADE PROLINE RACING A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH ON DIGITAL MEDIA AS WELL AS THE DRAG STRIP
It's one thing to build awesome drag racing engines that win prestigious events and set world records. It's something every bit as challenging to keep the global motorsports community tuned in to that success.
While ProLine Racing (PLR), Ball Ground, Georgia, is an industry leader in custom-built, high-performance drag race engines, turbocharging and supercharging, EFI technology and professional tuning, they are also masters of a digital marketing and social media strategy that earns them more than 500 "likes" a week on Facebook and Instagram alone, depending on what's happening at the time.
Indeed, just as impressive as its horsepower figures (ProLine's three engine packages range from 3,000 to 5,250 hp), is the company's loyal following on digital media. At last count, they had 88,400 followers on Instagram, 70,275 on Facebook, 5,427 on Twitter, plus 9,562 subscribers to their fast-paced YouTube content.
While you may think it takes a huge staff to produce those kinds of results, the fact is that ProLine's digital marketing team is comprised of just two individuals. One is Bud Hodge, marketing and media, a nine-year veteran of ProLine who created the company's online presence, and whose talents include graphic design, photography and videography.
The other is ProLine newcomer Debbie O'Rourke, strategy and marketing, who co-owned a two-car professional race team in Australia with husband Grant for over 20 years. Her professional background lies in corporate strategy, marketing, communications and public relations.
O'Rourke told us that accomplishing so much requires careful planning upfront. "Before we go out to an event, we sit down and work out a plan of what we want to achieve--who's going from a ProLine perspective, who's going from a customer perspective, what kinds of things we want to film, who we want to do interviews with, what we want to do stories about," she said.
Since race results are so time-sensitive, the ProLine marketing team begins uploading content to the various social media platforms straight from their phones and digital cameras at the track. Back at the office, everything they have captured is uploaded, and then content is created not only for that weekend, but for the days or weeks leading up to the next event and beyond. "We look at our calendar for the next few weeks and slot in any scheduled posts that we want to create and then work on those."
Measuring results is equally important. "We review what we think worked well and what we think needs improvement, and obviously that will be carried forward to the next event," O'Rourke noted. "We also try to communicate to the rest of ProLine what we've done and how we've done it, and give them an opportunity to have some input into it, as well."
The primary goal of the company's digital plan is to create opportunities for its customers and suppliers, according to O'Rourke. "Our main objectives are driving brand awareness for our partners and vendors, and supporting our customers and our team. We can't ever forget that we're here to help our customers win. That's what they're driving towards, that's what they're spending the money for, and we really want them to value the fact that ProLine has helped them get into the winner's circle. That's why a lot of our social media is centered around presenting our customers' results, following their journeys, and supporting them from a digital perspective."
ProLine customers, vendors, team members and staff are all welcome to post and to provide ideas, as well. In fact, one of the more noticeable attributes of the company's social media presence is a kind of personal touch, including photos and bios of every ProLine employee-- from co-owners Eric Dillard and Doug Patton, on through the tuners, crew chiefs, engine builders, mechanics and support staff--that allow followers to feel like they're part of the fold.
A recent example of these "insider" glimpses is a short video of PLR tuner Jamie Miller revealing the origins of the "Red Hat Mafia" moniker used to describe the track crew. "This year we'll be doing more of that kind of content, because all of our people and all of our customers have stories," said O'Rourke, who told us that humor is also a strong draw when it comes to content.
"You know, Steve Petty (PLR tuner) is jokingly referred to as 'Yoda,' so we have an upcoming piece on that. That kind of stuff really resonates with our fans and lets them understand that we have a team of real people here who go through the same things they do on a daily basis. We want them to know that we're approachable and that they can engage us to help them win whatever class of racing they may be into."
Another successful approach to engaging followers is asking for their opinion, as was done recently in a GALOT Motorsports post asking fans to weigh-in on a preferred color for a new T-shirt promoting the team, as well as PLR, ProCharger and FuelTech. "GALOT Motorsports is the owner of the ProCharged car that is setting the world on fire right now, and they are a major partner of ours," said O'Rourke. "They created that post and we shared it, which goes back to our first goal of supporting our customers and partners."
Another recent Facebook post showed an eye-popping new ProLine engine under construction--with the simple caption: "What y'all think it'll run?" In just 10 hours it garnered 957 likes, 162 comments, and 448 shares. A few weeks ago, before a big NHRA event, PLR ran a small on-line competition asking who fans thought would run the quickest time. "There was a T-shirt in it for whoever got the closest, which engages people, too, because our apparel is actually a very popular brand," said O'Rourke.
Although they have a successful plan in place, the dynamic duo of ProLine digital marketing continues to strive for even greater engagement in the fast-paced world of racing. Right now, they're planning a new series of more technically-oriented articles with staff experts, including time-saving trackside tips. They're also undertaking a complete refresh of the PLR website, which should be up-and-running mid-year, as well developing new programs to better engage, support and publicize the massive following they've been able to generate.
"We don't quite know what all of that looks like yet," said O'Rourke, "but we're really turning our digital marketing up another notch and looking at the next horizon that we need to engineer to keep the momentum rolling."