10 Questions For David Preston
David Preston, speaker at MarketMix 2012, has the fortunate task of planning and coordinating media and advertising programs for Ride West BMW. He also manages over 750 members at Team Ride West, the largest dealer-supported riding club of it’s kind.
He was kind enough to let me bend his ear on life in Seattle, social media, and the importance of honest communication.
What ignited your love for motorsports?
Both of my parents were mechanical engineers and car enthusiasts, which was rare – in both dimensions. I grew up listening to dinner discussions of the engine and suspension design technology of the European classics.
A car nut from the time I was 5 or so, I was given a ride on the back of a motorcycle by an older friend of my brother’s when I was 15. That was pretty much a religious experience for me, in all seriousness. From that moment on I was a car nut AND a motorcycle nut, even though I did not actually get to ride a motorcycle for another 5 years.
What was the beginning like when you first started doing social media for BMW? What pitfalls have you encountered since your first tweet?
I actually began doing social media a dozen years ago before it was commonly referred to as “social media.” I began a second career in motorsports after 31 years as a junior and senior high school English teacher, and I used e-mails to create and inform small riding clubs I was organizing for that first dealership. It was about 5 years before it dawned on me that what I was doing, and in fact almost all of my job tasks, created as a whole a form of indirect marketing.
I have suffered very few pitfalls or disasters in my social media work. I think this because I came to this from being a writer, so I tend to be more concerned with what to say, how to say it, and when to say it than I am with the specific delivery system. I have suffered from haste, which has caused the occasional typo or six, but I have learned how to use that to my advantage as well, which I will cover in my presentation.
What is your most successful career decision? How did it help you?
I’ll cheat and provide more than one.
1. Changing my college major from “Math” to “English Education” was key because I learned to write, and then learned to teach, and then “practiced” both for three decades.
2. Inventing the job description for my mythical “best job” was a good idea, because when I started nobody else was doing it, and if nobody else is doing it then you are the best there is!
What keywords describe BMW’s social media strategy?
We are a BMW motorcycle dealer, but we sell many used BMW and non-BMW motorcycles as well. My strategy is based on Ride West BMW’s interests, which are not necessarily the same as the interests of BMW North America or BMW corporate. Keywords that resonate with me would be “enthusiasm, involvement, education, fun, openness.”
How would you define your personal communication style via social networks? Has honesty ever been a problem for you?
Honesty has never been a problem for me at all, although it has probably created a problem or two. In the long run, being open and honest with customers creates goodwill and by extension, sales that are of far more valueable than the loss of a few people you may rub the wrong way with the truth.
Years ago I did part time work for a car dealer, in the initial concept of what I do now full time. There was a situation where I was concerned about customer response to something I had not done but thought was really funny. The owner’s wife told me, “You know, Dave, there are some people we really do not want to sell a car to,” and that really resonated.
I would guess my personal style is well written messages and essays that are brimming with enthusiasm, and that bring a sense of humor and fun to everything we are trying to do.
What topics will you address in this year’s MarketMix conference?
The theme of the conference is “Thriving In a Conversation Economy.” I have been asked to present some material on the nuts and bolts of building a ‘community’ of customers by using e-mail and events and conversation.
A look at the other scheduled speakers for MarketMix 2012 would intimidate me in many areas, as all of them are justifiably well known for amazing accomplishments. However, in the specific area I will be discussing I think I invented a lot of it and so… I am raring to go!
My approach is based more on what to say than in the delivery system. You can use e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or other methods which I may never have heard of, but if the writing is not done well NONE of them will work for very long.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in social media community management in this climate?
My advice will probably not be a surprise, as it is to learn to write and spend a lot of time writing all kinds of things that are never “published” anywhere. If you wrote an essay a day for six months, on a different topic every day, you would be a better writer, even if nobody ever read the essays.
I believe the human brain wants desperately to form thoughts and ideas into sentences sorted by paragraphs, and will grow very skilled at it if you will just allow it to practice enough to get it down.
Even better advice is to write more, and then less. First write everything you want to say, and then write the same thing again using
½ the words. Then do it again. You’ll notice (if you pay attention as you work at it) that the writing gets better with each draft. Eventually you will have a good essay, a utile advertising line, or perhaps a great haiku!
Overall, it is crucial for a person who is going to manage a customer community to identify very strongly at their core with the community. I am passionate about motorcycle design and the joy of riding motorcycles, and that is the foundation of everything I do. A lot of people like skiing, but I do not care for it. I cannot see how I could function effectively in that community. You have to have a passion for what you are spending most of your week dealing with, which seems obvious except for all of the people who evidently did not get that little memo.
What are your business plans for the future?
I’ve been handed some really exciting concepts and projects for this year that I want to make reality. At the same time, at the age of 65 (my birthday is one day after MarketMix 2012) I can be open to new ideas or even new career paths, while enjoying the luxury of being very picky about what I would choose to take on.
What do you love about Seattle?
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and this area has always seemed to be the publishable edition of the first draft that was Minnesota. Bring in an ocean, lose the mosquitoes, park the snow where the people that like it (not me) can drive to it, and provide lots of great back roads for motorcycles and sports cars.
I don’t mind the rain all that much, because it gives us two things we take for granted that others envy – terrific water and amazing air.
Do you have any trend predictions for 2012 and beyond?
• The economy will continue a slow but impressive recovery.
• President Obama will be re-elected; a very good thing.
• The Republican Party will save itself from its currently suicidal lunacy.
• Things are on the way to “good” and will soon become “fantastic.”
• TV and radio advertising will become less relevant than ever. In fact, most all traditional advertising will become irrelevant unless it absolutely brilliant, because there’s so much of it that the buyer simply hears white noise.
• More and more customers will want to know, or at least think they know, the person they are dealing with – even in e-tail sales where there is no actual human contact. Perhaps especially in e-tail.
David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.