How to make friends and gain influence

Andrew Marsh

by Andrew Marsh, Engineering Director, AIC Ltd

Each month, millions of words and thousands of hours are dedicated to telling the business how to market to an ill-defined target audience.

There are some really powerful techniques, many of which belong to vast corporations rather than the lifeblood of any advanced economy, or small to medium sized businesses. We all know there are no easy ways to market our organizations, and that the very process can eat away a lot of time.

Take the recent Geneva Motor Show, for example. The doors opened to the press, and every OEM went out of their way to ensure their messages were bold, clear and readily understood. The same thing happens around the world as the international motor show circus visits each continent in turn.

However, one brand stood apart – Rolls-Royce. With new vehicles costing upwards of $330,000, those who are not in the market would expect the brand to remain aloof and somewhat cold. Year after year, venue after venue, their stand was predictably presented in the same fashion, with impeccably finished vehicles parked in a line in front of a large beige arch, sealed off from un-invited guests by an impenetrable belt of glass panels. No technology was ever on display, and usually the more interesting and latest models were in rooms deep inside the stand. This is in stark contrast to sister brands BMW and Mini, both of which are always completely accessible with every sort of technology on display alongside the cars – which are usually open too!

This was the situation until March 3 of this year.

On that day, guests of the Geneva Motor Show were indiscriminately allowed onto the Rolls-Royce stand, and permitted to get up close to — as well as into — the cars while also meeting the very people behind them. Rolls-Royce knows their market really well, having sold 4063 vehicles globally in 2014, to customers who, for the most part, are not necessarily automobile fans, approaching the purchase of company options in the same manner as buying another property, a customized passenger airliner, or the very latest phone. It really is another world.

Something like a Rolls-Royce is considered a status symbol, built on the very best craftsmanship to be found anywhere. It’s a given, but the point is, from time to time, we can forget to tell everyone what we really do well. The star car on the stand was lined completely, not with leather, but with hand-woven silk, which was then embroidered and printed by hand. The headliner alone took more than 600 hours of work to complete. Was this just pointless extravagance? Perhaps, but it was all about demonstrating just what could be done by supreme skill while effectively reaching out to their customers.

So what made the difference? Rolls-Royce had someone standing beside the vehicle, fielding questions. Very quickly this lady demonstrated an ability to convey the significance of the project with a great depth of knowledge, all in such a way that would have suited both a potential customer and someone with less of a disposable income. That established decade of enforced distant cold presence melted away in as many minutes by connecting what the company really was about with people through the use of its own team. Rolls-Royce’s desire to be home to supreme craft and art simply does not exist anywhere else in the automotive world.

Today’s paupers are potentially the new customers of tomorrow. Why does the world think Ferrari is attractive? Simply because they ensure they are accessible to all, and know all too well how to expertly harvest those with the right income to buy their product. For those who don’t yet have the right income, we mostly look on in admiration. If the dream is only sold to those who are already living it, the outcome is a sharp trajectory towards irrelevance.

For any commercial enterprise, it is just as important to reach those who are not in immediate need of using you services, so that those very people come to your business if/when they are.

Most collision repair customers care about what happens to their vehicle, but few will readily understand the range or depth of skills your business has at its disposal to achieve the end goal. Some customers could take the time to have a ‘tour’ of the business, but the key is always the interaction between the customer and any members of the team they meet.

It’s not all about price. If we concentrate only on price, then the value of the service is automatically diminished and open to some sort of disconnected comparison. Of course, operational costs and profit matter a great deal, but putting the craftsmanship and skill at the core of the business, and ensuring the customer is aware of some of those things will then make commerce a secondary discussion rather than a primary one. This in turn should lead to a more profitable outcome.

The automotive collision repair business is all about handcrafted restoration. There is considerable art in reforming panels, rebuilding new sections of body, finishing the panels with flawless paint and then restoring the vehicle back to a full functioning automobile. You know there is a bit of star dust around that process – so why not share some of that with the customers? It really is all about you.

 

About Auto Industry Consulting

Auto Industry Consulting is an independent provider of technical information and consultancy to the global collision repair industry which was formed by Ben Cardy and Andrew Marsh in 2011. Of the many services we offer two of our key products are:

Auto Industry Insider uses in-depth research to identify the relevant key industry challenges and their effect on the vehicle repair sector – see www.autoindustryinsider.com.

Ezi-Methods provides OEM based repair methods and information via our web service, now sold in the UK, USA, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. For further information, please visit www.ezimethods.com

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