Posts tagged influence
If you happened to study business in college, or are a corporate strategy junkie, you’ve probably heard of Michael Porter. If you haven’t heard of him, Porter is an esteemed Harvard Business School professor, served on Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, authored nearly 20 books (Amazon carries thirteen of them), and has published countless articles. Most would agree that Porter’s prophetic work has laid the foundation for the last 30 years of competitive strategy. I’d have a poster of him on our bedroom wall if my wife would let me. While Porter’s work has spawned numerous books, essays, and academic articles, I want to concentrate on one key piece: core competency.
Simply put, a company’s core competency is what only that company can do best. Ideally, this particular factor is not easily imitated by its competitors, and can be leveraged widely through many products, in many markets. For example, ADP was able to adapt its payroll technology it developed in the 50s for use in multiple industries, in multiple markets, and plays an integral roll (like it or not) in the car business. The better a company understands and develops its core competency, the more dominant position it will have in its market.
A lot of things happened long before you got into the car business. Slow, unreliable, cars made a dealership on every corner practical during the time franchise laws were written. An onslaught of foreign competition flooded the markets during the seventies because the domestic car business wasn’t prepared for rampant inflation and a decade of oil crises. The widespread suburban sprawl of the last twenty years has only paved the way for upstart competition that never existed across town. Oh, and that Internet “fad” happened, too. You can’t count on your location, your OEM, or having the most/newest/cheapest/bestest cars in town. In a 100-year-old business, it’s all been done before.
What hasn’t been done before? You.
You are an individual. You’ve collected years of rich life experiences that make you unique. Nobody can replicate you (scientifically, maybe, but not your personality), just like you can’t copy anyone else (unless you want to be known as a fraud). You are not the cheapest available option (and neither is Apple, Nike, Ducati, or John Deere, by the way). You have values, you add value, and people gravitate towards you because you possess certain qualities. Understanding these qualities not only allows you to transact with customers, but it will allow you to mentally connect with them, as well.
Many of us fall into the of trap copycatting. We feel that if we follow in the footsteps of someone we know, or a brand we admire, we can achieve the same success. How did Microsoft do with the Zune (you’ll never get that $200 back)? How’s IBM’s PC business working out for it (congrats, Lenovo)? How’s Buzz doing for Google (that buzz you hear is Twitter laughing)? Even the best companies can fall short when they fail to connect with the customer by straying too far from what they do best.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. It’s easy to read articles, attend webinars, attain OEM certifications, and comb through blog posts. Reading and retweeting the latest Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki post only takes two clicks. Simply following the pack doesn’t create any hurtles for someone who just wants to copy you. In fact, it makes it much easier for them to follow. If everybody is following best practices, you aren’t creating any distinction to set yourself apart to the customer.
Instead, use best practices to create a foundation for you to build on. Understand the philosophy of the author or presenter. Frame it in the context of who they are, where they’re at, what they know, and more importantly, what they stand to gain. Now focus it through your lens. Apply it using your words, your emotions, your experiences, your research, to your customers, in your market. Measure your results (every variable you can think of, not just what’s required), and discover where you excel. Use these strengths as the bedrock on which to build your core competency.
Unfortunately, Michael Porter is too busy solving global issues (seriously) to turn his attention to the auto business. It doesn’t mean you can’t. Understand those qualities that your competition can’t emulate. Don’t count on someone else to carry you to success. Dedicate yourself to recognizing and measuring your strengths to feed your core competency. Be proud of what you do. Blaze a trail that no one can follow, create an unbreakable bond with your customers, and build a fortress that no one can knock down.
Originally posted 9/7/2010 on DrivingSales.com
I bought a book a short time ago, and at the top it said: “Ignore this book at your own peril.” The quote is from the best selling author, entrepreneur, and Marvel Superhero Candidate, Seth Godin. Having read most of Godin’s books, I immediately bought the book he was endorsing.
While I won’t bore you with the details of the book (it’s an awesome read), it’s a prime example of buyer motivation. Although I had no intention of buying a book that day, I physically walked into a book store, browsed through the business books (yes I’m a nerd), saw the quote by Godin, grabbed the book, and promptly paid for it. The bookstore didn’t sell the book. The authors didn’t sell the book. The publisher didn’t sell the book. Seth Godin sold the book.
How often are you asking your customers how they heard about your store? How they decided what products to consider?
What prompted them to start shopping online? How they heard to ask for you? In fact, how often are you asking questions?
I’ve been actively mystery shopping dealers for the better part of the last five years, and it’s not very often that I’m asked personal questions. I’ve seen plenty of volunteered information about the dealership’s history, the General Manager’s name, and the MSRP of the vehicle requested. It’s not very often that I’m asked if it’s better to communicate via email or phone. I’m rarely asked if I’m considering comparable vehicles. There have been solar eclipses since I was asked how I chose their store.
Why is this question so critical? It’s simple: it gives you instant feedback about how well your customer acquisition/retention methods are functioning. The answers could range from “I was searching the Internet for good deals on Chevys” (that SEO is paying off), to “One of my friends mentioned your name on Twitter “(high-five to the social media gal; get the bird-dog check in the mail), to “I saw your ad in the newspaper” (people DO still read those), to “I’ve bought my last four cars from you! You don’t remember?” (it’s officially time for a new CRM). Asking this one simple question gives you the pulse on what methods of outreach are working in real-time. As an added bonus, it gives you insight into how your customers make a decision.
If a customer’s cruising Google for good deals, it’s more likely that they are value conscious and not too dealer-loyal. If a customer reacts to a Facebook post from a friend, it’s likely that they are influenced by third parties and that they are looking for objectivity/credibility. If a customer is responding to a newspaper advertisement, they’re more likely to be reactionary and more of a “traditional” shopper. Is it not easier to respond with valuable information when you know which hat to put on? Is it not easier to make investments if you know it’s already paying off?
Although I’m pretty sure I’d turn elsewhere for car purchasing advice, Seth made it easy for me to spend $22. Your customers are following various sources of advice everyday to get that same guidance. These sources of influence are selling your product, selling your process, and selling your dealership. The good news is that it’s much easier to find out who or what these sources of influence are than you think. All you have to do is ask!
Hey, by the way…what made you click on this post?