What are you really driving?

Earlier this year I bought a Mercedes. It was a 3 or 4 hour decision. The possibility was placed in front of me 6 days earlier, but I had no intention or reason to buy another car, any car. Then due to my daughter’s car being broken into, all of a sudden the need for another car came up, and the seed that was previously planted bloomed so to speak.

We did some car swapping and I got the Mercedes and it has been an interesting study in perceptions. All of this is my own lead-in to a story that was released today concerning marketing automobiles. Read it for yourself:

DETROIT — It’s an article of faith among enthusiasts that “product” — irresistibly appealing vehicles — is all that matters when it comes to attracting customers.

Perhaps no one believes this philosophy more ardently than Cadillac General Manager Jim Taylor, who has a background in engineering and product development.

Since the debacle of GM’s failed era that emphasized marketing, when the company was led by experts from packaged consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, product has been the undisputed king at General Motors.

But the company has learned, to the never-ending chagrin of the product guys, that marketing matters, too.

“A big part of the luxury game is image and fashion,” said Taylor. “You are not buying transportation.”

Consider the CTS entry luxury sedan. The car’s first-year sales — when hot new models rack up their highest numbers — reached 38,000, only 2,000 cars short of the company’s fondest hopes. But in subsequent years sales continued to rise, topping 61,000 in 2005. Four years after its launch, the CTS was selling 50 percent above GM’s most optimistic forecast, rather than trailing off, as is the typical pattern.

Cadillac has been able to keep increasing CTS sales, mostly on the strength of marketing, as the brand shifted its image from the sleepy, stodgy, has-been choice of the Geritol generation to a more vigorous, active and, ultimately, cool image.

That can be seen by the company’s measurement of consumers’ opinions of the nameplate. While that image shot up with the arrival of the CTS, it began sagging back toward its original levels a year later. But the introduction of the hotrod CTS-V and the launch of that car’s racing program corresponded with a rapid increase in that opinion during 2004 and 2005.

The CTS and the Escalade are also helping pull down the average age of Cadillac buyers. That stood in the low 70s five years ago, but has since dropped about five points into the upper 60s. With STS and DTS still popular in Del Boca Vista, the CTS and Escalade enjoy popularity with the prized younger customers.

Trouble with those customers is, there aren’t really that many of them out there, said Taylor.

“Everybody has that target guy in mind, who is 42 and good-looking and an investment banker, but there just aren’t that many of them,” he said.

Instead, empty nesters in their 50s, relieved of the cost of college tuition, are the segment who actually buys most luxury cars.

Cadillac’s SRX crossover SUV has lagged in sales, to Taylor’s frustration. But he said he hopes that an ongoing campaign to introduce the SRX to consumers will begin to pay off. Currently the popularity of the Lexus RX 330 and Cadillac’s own Escalade put the SRX in an unenviable position.

“Who knows how many SRXs we would sell if we weren’t selling 50,000 Escalades a year,” Taylor said.

To keep pressing Cadillac’s marketing momentum, the division dropped the Led Zeppelin-backed “Break Through” ad campaign it had used since 2001 and switched to hip new ad agency Modernista! “The Led Zeppelin commercials were getting too confining,” explained Cadillac spokesman Kevin Smith. It was time, Cadillac management decided, to move on.

Today’s commercials feature a variety of music, rather than sticking with a signature dinosaur rock sound, including on the “Evolution” ad, music of a younger generation with Iggy Pop singing a Teddybears song titled “Punkrocker.”

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Lessons Learned

This summer when I was interviewing people for a couple of sales openings that I had, I wrote the following on the whiteboard, paper, or back of an envelope, (which ever was there at the time):

H.
E.
G.
A.

Explanation:
This job will either become the HARDEST job you have ever attempted,
or the EASIST job you have ever had, hopefully both.

What makes the difference is do you have the GUTS
to take ACTION?

Another Lesson that I learned about 20 years ago when I was in Detroit:
Radio advertising if done right, can be as effective as Word of Mouth, only with a bigger mouth. I have on my own personal business cards the following “WORD OF MOUTH ADVERTISING WITH A BIGGER MOUTH” printed on there because of this fact.

Last lesson for now:
Advertising is simply sending out invitations to do business with you.

Too many times people plan for the party (set up their business), but never send out the invitations (advertise!) And they need to send out invitations all the time, not just once.

Have a Thankful Weekend

Sales made easier with a plan

Over the past few years I have discovered first hand and by observation something that others before me knew all along and that was in the sales world a significant ammount of money was lost due to lack of follow up. Last week I wrote the following to my team:

Don’t you hate it when you’ve talked to somebody once or twice about advertising with you and then you hear them on a competing radio station?

Yeah, it bugs me too.

Each of us have a limited amount of time each month.

We need to FOCUS ourselves. How many businesses have you contacted since you started here?

10?

100?

500?

How often have you been in front of them? Face to Face? Phone call? E-mail? Letter? Drop-in with a new idea? Ask them how their wife’s sister who has cancer is doing? Anything?

This point came to me again this week when I was doing an interview with a friend of mine that does 30 cold calls a day for a temp agency. I asked him how often he stays in contact after that first contact. His answer, once or twice a year, maybe. Wrong answer for success.

The reason we do all this prospecting is not to collect business cards, but to find people we want as clients. Let me repeat that. Prospecting is a process we go through to find people/businesses we want as clients.

Do you want to work with 500 different clients? I hope not. How about 10 good clients? If you have 20 good clients, you should be sitting pretty.

The steps to get from where we are today to those 10 or 20 good clients are the steps we need to do now, and next week, and the week after that, etc.

My job is to help you be successful, not just for the week, but for the month, the quarter and the year.

We will do this in bite size chunks.

Then today as I was doing some info gathering for a client I came accross this:

Follow up leads to profit
by Brian Parsley

Salespeople spend a lot of time trying to find new customers. They’re cold calling — trying to get an appointment. After getting the appointment, they spend all of their time working on a proposal — trying to win the contract. And after getting the chance to do business, maybe even at the expense of any profit — they lose the deal to a competitor.

The cycle repeats itself every day in sales.

What if it didn’t have to happen? What if, instead of cold calling, you were out picking up checks? Instead of telling people about yourself, people were telling others about you?

There’s a simple formula that will break the cycle and allow you to not only win the business, but also win the customer’s loyalty.

The formula is called Follow-Up.

Read the rest of this article

Declaration of Independents: Fighting against the Colonization of Our Local Communities by Big-Box Retailers.

Here’s a very interesting article that you can download. Check out all the other articles that are available too. Wal-Mart. Home Depot. Walgreens. The proof of corporate retail expansion is evident at almost every freeway exit ramp. But at what cost? A blighted landscape. A lack of diversity. The demise of community. An environmental crisis. Stacy Mitchell’s manifesto arms us for the fight.