Meet A New Layer In The Sales Channel: The Genius

Credit: Jayme Soulati; Santa Monica Apple Store

Credit: Jayme Soulati; Santa Monica Apple Store

BMW went on a date with Apple and the former liked the latter’s “genius model” so well that it swiped the concept flat out.  That’s OK; it’s allowed.

In 2014, BMW dealerships across the U.S. will roll out “BMW Genius Everywhere,” the program that puts IT-savvy youngsters complete with iPad in hand on dealership sales floors to interact with customers.

Just like Apple’s genius program where (mostly) 20-something men (have you ever seen a female wearing Apple genius shirt in store?) patrol Apple retail stores to help customers, BMW is doing the very same…taking a page from a successful Apple marketing and sales playbook.

As more vehicles go high tech with bells and whistles only IT-savvy dudes can figure out, BMW is helping its sales team by intercepting the customer  with a barrage of cool information about vehicle tech features inside the car.

This new talent will stop short of selling vehicles, and they will be on salary and not commission. The program is set to coincide with the 2014 rollout of BMW’s i3 electric car. Cadillac and Lexus already have similar programs in the U.S.

Thinking About Customers

I love this marketing program.

  • It’s a steel bridge from the prospect to sales  with the girder being a genius aka college upstart hungry to work with nothing but geek to share.
  • It finally puts marketing and sales on the same team; marketing gets to help disseminate information to prospects about vehicle features and pave the way for the sale.
  • Marketing gets to LISTEN directly to the customer with face-to-face interaction the likes of which only happens in a focus group session behind mirrored glass.
  • Young students can work nights and weekends without interfering with studies during the day.
  • Sales people are passed a hotter lead from the genius who can share more features and functionality about a vehicle than the sales person would know (e.g. how the USB port works and whether there’s a way to make the car a hot spot when driving).
  • As for customers, interacting first with a genius means no pressure to buy.  Someone can listen to the good stuff, walk away and phone back and ask for a sales person.
  • The program is already doing well in the U.K. and will roll out across Europe.

Your Brand
Let’s think a moment about how this impacts your brand, and it doesn’t have to be a luxury brand to think about how to engage customers and prospects on a different level.

Your company should already be engaging customers via social media channels; however, is there also room for a 1:1 program where your team is on the frontline with prospects?

Let’s talk about what that program looks like…creativity is the name of the game to cut through the chatter.

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12 comments
Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Cars will soon drive by themselves. But luckily they can't completely sell themselves!

 

I have been discussing this when it comes to marketing. It is really easy to get semi-snowed by a marketer or agency as a brand if they are specialized, like say Social, Digital, Radio etc. Because most likely they will have a solution for you from their bag of tricks. But maybe not the best solution for you. A Genius 'AKA non-niche affiliated marketing strategist' should be able to choose from all the bags of tricks to fit your needs.

 

In BMW's case I don't trust Apple users so I am heading to Mercedes! ;-)

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

First, you will be happy to know that there are a number of female uniformed Apple employees in the stores around here. 

 

This is really interesting Jayme, and I'm curious to see how it works for BMW. As you point out, from the marketing side, it seems like a no brainer, and this first layer of interaction could be a great pre-qualification tool on the sales side. 

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

Fascinating ! We only got our first Apple store with a Genius bar here in Sweden last year. Actually, at my local mall. It amazes me how this inspires people to come from all over the region to buy Apple from this particular store. Hitherto it's always been smaller retail stores or in the big chains. 

 

I don't know how it would work with BMW here. Audi is the premium German brand that's most visible in the market. At least now I have an excuse to go and check on the BMW showrooms !

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @HowieG Hilarious. I think you need Subaru in VT, Bud.  Did you see that Chevy (?) I think, is going after Ford and hooking up WiFi (fastest speeds ever) for middle console and screen in vehicles for better GPS showing traffic, construction, etc.

 

Hmm, I'm thinking it would be my email set up, too. Don't you? Esp. if I'm a traveling sales pro...now people really will live out of the car.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Adam | Customer Experience I do love this genius marketing, literally. Isn't it a good way for marketers to interact with customers in a non-threatening way?

 

Glad to hear females have infiltrated the genius bar at Apple by you, Adam! It's rare I see one; maybe 10:1!

 

Thanks for coming by; I'm seeing your good stuff and reading, just haven't been over to comment like I need to.

 

I'd like to get some good time with you at SoSlam on cam; we'll do a more-indepth interview about social customer service, if you're free.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @jonbuscall I believe the roll out is going to happen soon in Europe. I absolutely love this concept. Ford needed it for that big rectangle car I test drove as it had tons of connectivity when I was shopping.

 

I love how pundits love to bash Apple and then I watch as all the big brands borrow from the playbook!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Shelley Pringle We've all been there, right? One car that needs this help is my Mini Cooper; now that BMW is doing this, I wonder if Mini Cooper will engage, too? (As Mini is made by Beamer.)

 

But, the electric car rollout in 2014...now that's where the confusion is going be huge. Thanks for popping in, Shelley!

 

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Know the feeling -- hard to be everywhere. Same with you, been reading, etc.  Also, I've been meaning to reach out to see if you decided on SoSlam but it looks like yes -- looking forward to seeing you again! 

 

Happy to do an interview! We'll make it happen. However, I'm starting a new video series soon, so you might have to be prepared to have the camera turned around.  :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  @jonbuscall Disney was taught by Aple how to redesign their stores. But I don't have an Apple or Disney store nearby. I think maybe an apple store in Burlington 50 miles away. Otherwise Albany where my folks live 160 miles is the closest for disney and apple. Too bad they don't sell online ;-)

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