Does your outstanding marketing benefit you or your competitors more?

Igor Pauletič / / Marketing

It’s no secret that I’m a Volvo fan. Shortly after I bought my first one, I already knew that my next car would also be the same brand. Not just brand, I also knew which model, trim level, and color. My enjoyment of the car was further complemented by my experience with the service staff, whom I saw every six to seven months in the past four years, every time I needed a 30,000 km service. I liked it that they never made any mistakes during that time, and also that the service receptionist made me feel that he really knew me as an individual. Even when I showed up unannounced at the service center a few times, Mr. Sandi greeted me by name and knew exactly which car I drove and what the last work on the car had been. Right off the top of his head, I’d say. It’s true that my visits probably make it easier to remember me than some other customers. And it’s probably also true that this is possible because this is a small Volvo dealership.

The point of this story is that, for me, the biggest marketing impact on buying a new Volvo was my conversations with Mr. Sandi. He knew what kind of car I wanted and what I could spend on a car. I only needed the right impulse from him as to when and why to do it. And he was excellent at that.

When I brought the car in for its final regular service, I mentioned that I had been hearing a noise in the front right wheel and I’d like them to take a look. When I came back to pick up the car, Mr. Sandi asked me to go for a drive with him, so that he could listen to the noise that was bothering me. His mechanics hadn’t found anything. We drove a few kilometers together and chatted pleasantly practically the whole time. About Volvos, naturally. When we got back to the service center, he concluded this way: “Igor, I know what’s wrong with your car.You two have gotten tired of each other.It’s completely normal that some Volvo drivers have some phantom noise pop up at a certain moment, one that bothers them even though nobody else can even hear it.This is the time to replace it.”

Whoever responds first sells first

Our conversation continued to the car’s age, mileage, projected loss in value in one or two years, etc. I needed to hear some excuses for this irrational buying decision. I can’t tell my wife that my car and I just got tired of each other. I told him that I would spend X amount of money and trade in the old car. He should think about it and offer the best Volvo could offer me for that price. And I’d be glad for this to happen while I’m on a business trip to the US, when I won’t need a car for three weeks. I even visited a notary and arranged an authorization so that my coworker responsible for the FrodX “back office” could handle everything in my place.

It seemed to me that it wouldn’t be possible for a customer to give clearer instructions than that. But things got complicated. The first disappointment was that the sales representative from the showroom at my favorite Volvo dealership didn’t even call me. When I called him myself two days later, he acted disinterested. Not to beat around the bush, but he wouldn’t hear of making the trade-in of my old car a condition for buying a new one. It just didn’t sink in for him that anyone would authorize someone else to buy a new car and sell his old one for him.

When a customer makes a purchasing decision, you must react immediately.  Click To Tweet

The whole thing annoyed me so much that I asked my coworker David to go to a different dealership. I was fired up and ready to purchase, and I didn’t want to wait any longer. I wanted that new car asap. The other dealership was more prepared to make a deal, and they bought my old car for cash, claiming that this gave me more options in buying a new car. They said that they weren’t the only ones that sell Volvos. Because they kept things simple, I was ready to jump immediately. Despite getting less money than I hoped for. Then they said that they’d give me an additional discount on the published sales price of the new car, because I’d sold my old car to them. Basically, by buying my old car they locked me in as a customer. Even though they said that I didn’t have to buy a new car from them in order to trade in the old one. They found their moment. It’s much better to sell an old car for a couple thousand less than to buy a new car for a couple thousand more. If you know what I’m thinking.

Are your marketing and sales coordinated, or are you investing in better sales for your competitors?

This story about replacing my car made me think. On the one hand the lesson is that there’s no better marketing than the outstanding experience of a satisfied customer. On the other hand it is key that the better the marketing, the more important that it is well-coordinated with sales. Otherwise, your marketing just works really well for someone else.

When a customer makes a purchasing decision, the key capability of sales is to be prepared for the sale. In my opinion this is “mission impossible” if this coordination doesn’t derive from a uniform business development process and, in the end, also tools that support this process. The days when marketing could survive through communication goals and building brand awareness are long gone. For “growth hacking” this is only a collateral benefit. The essence of it is a seamless merge with the sales process. So seamless that I’d go so far as to say that the promotion part of marketing represents a constituent part of the sales process. Until companies monitor it in a single report and manage it with a single tool or process, there is a high probability that the funnel is leaking. And yes—there is a chance that the money you invest in marketing helps the sales of another provider that is more ready for action than your sales department.