Below is a Q&A with Jessica Stafford, vice president of marketing for Cox Automotive Media Solutions Group and a 2017 Women in Remarketing honoree.
Jessica Stafford: I started out on the agency-side of marketing, working for several ad agencies in the telecom, hospitality and retail space. The opportunity to come to what was then Autotrader.com, gave me the chance to work in-house on the brand side of marketing. That was important because it allowed me to truly drive business decisions and not just advertising plans.
Autotrader was the first leg of my automotive journey. I've developed a deep love for the auto industry — in which products change frequently and competition is fierce.
As Cox Automotive has grown from a few automotive brands to 25, the car business has become far more than a line on my resume or a stint in my marketing career.
The opportunity to work in a space that's highly entrepreneurial has inspired and motivated me. I love marketing and the work that I get to do each day, but getting to do it within an industry that sits at the very soul of our culture, and see it from every angle — manufacturers, car buyers and dealer retailers — is an extremely unique experience.
AR: How is the remarketing/used-car segment of the business most different from when you first started out?
JS: I would say that the evolution of what car shoppers want has been the most dramatic change. Watching how consumers search according to their lifestyles and needs versus by make, model and location. If a mom can get an SUV that fits three car seats and has storage for a double stroller, then she may not care if the vehicle is a used, certified pre-owned or a new car. It's whatever works best and she and her family can afford!
On the retail side, for dealers, finding ways to keep up with changing consumer demand and stock inventory that answers all of those different consumers' needs has become more challenging. Not only does a dealership have to have the right car at the right price, they have to be able to sell and deliver it wrapped in a great buying experience.
It has been amazing to see how the industry has evolved and adapted to both digital tools and new selling strategies that allow for all of that.
AR: How would you describe your leadership style and approach to problem-solving?
JS: My style: It is all about the team. I strive to lead from a place of inclusiveness and warmth, but I place high expectations on that in terms of effectiveness and innovation. I try to create a very diverse environment where team members are free to share ideas and be creative in all that we do.
For me, the tricky part is always ensuring that creativity delivers value for our business and our clients. My mission every day is to enable the team I lead to empower themselves and each other. To me, Cox Automotive feels like a family. It's an entity that fuels and sustains itself with its own energy.
AR: What have been some of the top keys to your success in the car business?
JS: After 10 years at Autotrader, I can apply my experience on almost a gut-level. However, a key to my success is the ability to challenge those assumptions and my own thinking with new ideas and knowledge from the team around me. And it always helps to put the consumer first.
Understanding how car shoppers think and how they'd like to shop is the bedrock for everything that we do. From there, we build tools and cull information that enables the car industry, automakers and dealers, to match those consumer needs.
AR: Who are some folks, whether in the auto industry or not, that you admire professionally, and why?
JS: I would definitely list my parents at the top of the list of people that I admire professionally. They aren't in the automotive industry. They are in marketing and advertising and taught me to always strive to love what you do and do what you love. My parents set a great example of finding the right balance of professional success and personal happiness that enables the life you want for your family.
I'm lucky to have learned from amazing marketers and business people from inside and outside the company. I look at Mary Barra and see an amazing example of leadership in our space. Impactful, decisive leaders like Sandy Schwartz within Cox Automotive have influenced me and shown me how great leaders can actually create opportunity and change an industry for the better.
AR: When you are able to get away from the office or work, what do you enjoy? What are your hobbies, interests, etc.?
JS: I spend every minute I can with my family. My husband, Pete, and our two boys, Jack (5) and Cole (2). Those energetic boys keep me incredibly busy, from T-ball games to trips to the park, to bike rides in the driveway.
Their love for cars and trucks makes me know they are already obsessed with the industry and destined for great things in our world. I also enjoy traveling, fine arts and exercise, although my time for those things has dwindled these days while chasing around the two energetic toddlers.