You can learn a lot from an auto maker. To Infiniti and beyond You can learn a lot from an auto maker.
It’s available in any color you want, as long as it’s black.
– Henry Ford
Marketing lessons for SOHOers can come from many sources, not necessarily from their own field of endeavor. For me, one of the best sources for learning about what kind of marketing works and what kind doesn’t (can you say Yugo?) is the automobile industry. Today’s lesson come by way of the Infiniti division of Nissan, a company that’s made a remarkable comeback in the last few years. One of the keys to Infiniti’s success is that it’s the only company in the Japanese luxury car market to offer an inexpensive model–the G20. You should look for ways to integrate your version of the G20 into your company’s product and marketing mix.
The Infiniti G20 is an oxymoron. It’s a low-cost luxury car that sells for less than some models of Ford’s Taurus, and $10,000 less than any new Lexus. Yet, despite the price tag, it doesn’t feel “cheap.” It is simply a smaller, less expensive version of the company’s more prestigious models. Nissan did this mostly by using a smaller, less powerful engine than found in its other cars.
Ask yourself which kind of product and service you can offer a client that’s cheaper than other items in your line, but that retains the essence of what you offer. This new product can introduce new customers to something they didn’t think they could afford, and then bring them into regular contact with company representatives. It also provides a way to offer “free samples.” When customers’ cars are in for service, Infiniti dealers provide loaner cars. What do they give them? A G20. Even if they already own one Infiniti, driving this less expensive model is not only convenient, but also provides incentive for considering one as a second car, further cementing the dealer’s relationship with the customer.
Just because it’s a low-cost product doesn’t mean you should lose money on it, however. Any new product or service has to make money. To increase margins, when you build your G20 product, offer a slight upgrade with increased profit potential. Infiniti offers a G20T or Touring model with a few more luxury bits and improved handling and performance.
Once you sell the product, don’t stop marketing. Infiniti regularly sends G20 owners brochures and CD-ROMs containing marketing information as well as music they can play on their car’s CD player. Do they send information on their I20, the next step up in the product line? Nope, they send information on their $50,500 Q45 flagship. You should use the same kind of cross-selling to upsell your new customers, but make sure the collateral material never, ever talks down to them or makes them feel like cheapskates. The entire Infiniti marketing philosophy is to treat all customers the same, no matter what vehicle they purchased. This is a lesson many SOHOers should put in place today! How often do you or one of your staff judge a client by what they spent, not but by what their potential may be?
Contributing Editor Joe Farace has been a SOHO photographer and graphic artist for more than 30 years. The Ford quote is probably apocryphal; early Ford Model T’s were available in several colors, including maroon and green.