Buying a car is a lot like eating a poison apple. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last eight weeks, and anyone who’s been following the blog has read of my research and self-study. It all began when Toyota ticked off its loyal followers with a massive recall. So, I began to look around.
What’s below is the pathway to a near-final decision, and I offer this to you marketers and public relations peers to consider the immense number of touches possible in advance of a customer’s major purchase decision. At the end of the day, it all boils down to sales. Read what’s below, add yours, and then think about how you influence sales.
Car-Buying Touches, Word of Mouth & Sales Pathway
- Toyota screws up with a massive recall that has America and drivers reeling.
- Begin to search outside the brand reluctantly; use Twitter to query the Twitterverse, and the Ford Flex is recommended.
- Poke around at manufacturer Web sites for articles and other options because I’m NOT a Ford girl.
- Read Fast Company article about Ford’s in-vehicle technology that is heads and shoulders above other auto manufacturers; intrigued. The PR for Ford kicks! (Point for Ford.)
- Toyota ticks me off by not sending my bill on time two months in a row; purposeful? Could be, lease ending soon. (Point for Ford.)
- Test drive Ford Flex; what a hummer of a vehicle. I like it; it comes in candy apple red; has more gizmos and gadgets than needed: refrigerator, 120 amp three-prong plug, five moon/sun roofs. The grampa car salesman (~ 74-years-old) snoozed through the two-hour touch. He didn’t sell me, didn’t review other models, didn’t push hard, but he did bring over the manager who did his best to get me to buy that day. (Not too impressed.)
- Emailed preferred Toyota dealer and got a woman who was not interested in selling. She said the car I wanted only came with an auxiliary jack for iPod. As I wanted too many things she wasn’t sure she could find that car within a 200 mile radius. She sent me a general email response. I waited a day and emailed her back asking for more information; I never heard from her. (Point for Ford.)
- Read story in Wall Street Journal with Ford CEO Alan Mullaly again about the hot technology that is selling many cars for Ford right now. (Point for Ford.)
- Saw a Ford Flex being driven on the street, pulled alongside in adjacent lane and asked him how he liked the Flex. He said it was “the best road vehicle” he’s ever driven. After that word-of-mouth marketing touch, I had decided to buy a Ford.
- A call from another Toyota dealer where I wrote my Highlander lease. I told him flat out I’m looking at Ford Flex. I did not want to give him my business due to the mechanic shop; it sucks! He agreed and begged for a chance to show me the features of the Highlander. I could not deny him.
- I saw the 2010 Highlander; was impressed with all the features (nearly the same as Ford Flex), and gave him the specs I wanted.
- He began to work on the deal; emailed me within two days to say he was working with his manager and would have numbers shortly. (Point for Toyota)
- It’s been 10 days since I saw the Ford salesman. Guess what? He NEVER followed up! (Major point for Toyota.)
As of today, Toyota is leading in spite of all the points for Ford. The salesman there is earning my business; he’s eager to make a sale, and he’s communicating with me frequently about where he’s at with pricing. Speaking of which, the Ford Flex is ~$8,000 more than the Toyota Highlander all tricked out. Point for Toyota? You bet.