All the media is reporting what is happening with the recession, Obama’s pending inauguration and the bailout of just about every big business in the world. Those are very important issues, don’t get me wrong, but from a marketing perspective I want to speak on what the strategy of the Big 3 automakers is missing.
Decades ago, GM was the biggest and baddest company on the planet. They had enormous assets, loads of employees (and lines of people lining up to hope to be an employee) and clout like no other at that time. Now they are on the brink of bankruptcy even with the government loans. They, along with Ford and Chrysler, have a huge hurtle in front of them and loads of issues.
The last one they are probably thinking about is their marketing and how they are reaching potential customers. Faith in these companies is nil. Worry that they still will collapse is prevalent. So, why would they keep the same marketing strategy of using mass media and standard discounting and promotion to entice customers to come purchase their cars?
Every car company uses a similar tactic: 0% interest, $2000 cash back, free upgrades and services. The Big 3 should be thinking about what is the fundamental barrier of consumers purchasing their cars? (the recession notwithstanding)
Faith. Lack of faith in those brands.
I don’t want to purchase a car or truck from a company that I am not sure will be around in the next 3 years to still provide a warranty. An automobile is an immense purchase and liability. Why not reassure consumers that they are going to do everything in their power to come out of this financial crisis as strong as ever? Restore faith in your brand and company.
Engage your potential customers in dialogue. Provide them what they want, not what you think they want. Use some of that $14 billion in loans to research your potential target market. Through that dialogue, make sure they know you truly want their business and will make the sacrifices necessary to do that. Be real. Be genuine.
The consumer doesn’t take kindly to smoke and mirrors and half-truths.
In what I think is a brilliant move, the CEO’s of Ford and GM announced they would take a $1/ year salary if the government approves the automakers’ bailout.
When I say brilliant, I am not talking about the fact they are attempting to persuade the lawmakers to approve the loan. Although that is part of the strategy. Seems to be a feeble one, however. The Senators overseeing this process aren’t stupid and may see this gesture as hollow.
I say this is brilliant in the fact that the public will see the announcement as a sincere attempt by them to get their companies and the American auto industry back on track. By making this gesture, they are showing that they aren’t immune to the recession and they, too, will be taking a hit. Being empathetic to the public creates a favorable impression that they truly want to rectify the situation, and not just make themselves a profit. Whether it is true or not, remains to be seen.
The other positive impression they are making relates to their employees. CEO’s of large corporations are not seen as the “common man” and do not relate well to their factory line workers and employees. This token could increase morale and confidence in the company and it’s leadership. Perception is reality and could really help them in the long run.
Little do people know that there are several CEO’s and upper management that take minimal salaries such as Yahoo, Google and Apple. That doesn’t mean that they people aren’t making a fortune. Most of their compensation comes in forms of bonuses, stock options and perks.
Still, it is a nice gesture even if it is meaningless.
Do your clients trust you? Would they refer you to others? Do they take your calls every time?
Think about the best relationships you have had in your life. Those friends you grew up with. The group you shared the experience of college with. Those are the most solid relationships I have in my life. Any one of those people, I would do anything for. The camaraderie between us is solid, shared and significant.
Create that kind of relationship with everyone in your professional life. Three points to keep in mind to do that.
1. Be authentic- people aren’t stupid. Well, some are, but most people can tell if you are trying to pull a fast one on them.
2. Find shared interests- most everyone can find some common ground with anyone. Find those interests. Kids, hobbies, sports, movies, books, etc
3. Communicate often- every call doesn’t have to be a sales call. A quick email sharing a news article about your shared interests keeps your name in front of the prospect. Make sure you are keeping points 1 and 2 in mind when you are doing this. If you are off point, you could harm the relationship.