And P.S. Saab… sporty? arty? What are you trying for?

“All that work?” My friend looked astonished as we talked over the sales of the new Guide to website usability that Andy Hayes and I recently released. “Six months of getting the ideas in the right words, and a workbook, and the conference call as a little extra? You ought to be charging 3 or 4 hundred dollars for it.”

I smiled a thank-you smile. Like a good friend, he hasn’t even read Why Your Website Sucks—and How To Fix It, and there he is praising my new work because he knows the quality of my old work. Friends rock like that sometimes—but friends who rock is not what this post is about.

Of course, this post is about car dealerships.

“Thanks,” I said. “And I agree with you in part. Feel free to buy a copy and overpay, I won’t object! But the Guide is priced at $37.99 for a reason—one that I’ve taken a close look at this year, as I had to replace my old jalopy with a newer jalopy.”

“Because of your car?”

“Well, sort of. You know, when you go to a dealership, they’ve got a few brands. Subaru, Saab, Cadillac. The Subaru for folks who want a steady, moderately priced car. The Saab for… maybe artier or sportier types. The Caddy, of course, is for top-of-the-line people.

“Occasionally the Saab people might move up to a Cadillac, but most people who come in with Saab dreams and a Saab budget go out with a Saab. The most they might want to do is add all the upgrades on to their XYZ1150.

“Then there’s the used-car lot, right next to all these shiny new cars. The dealer’s reputation is on the line, so of course these are good-looking, newer used cars, in tip-top shape. They’re for people with smaller budgets, who aren’t afraid of a little repair here and there, who are confident that a really good used car can deliver delight as well as any high-end choice.”

“Ah, I see. You’re hoping people will trade up to the Cadillac after they see what you’re worth,” he said, referring to VisionPoints’ Experience Design services.

“No, actually; that would be nice, but not really. When I bought my car this summer no one was going to talk me into a new one. I was purely a cash-in-hand, used-car customer. Some people may see the value we provide in such a compact package and decide to work with us, but most of the folks who buy the Guide will be purely do-it-yourselfsers—the Ideal Customers for the Guide.

“And I’m not worried about poaching our own customers, either—can you imagine Cadillac dealers worried about buyers who are suddenly entranced by the harder work and downscaled service from their used-car department? The Guide is a chance for Andy and I to ‘work with’ people we don’t normally get to work with in our businesses. We’re ‘working with’ them from a distance, in writing a book for people who want to attack problems on their own, but it’s a neat way to connect with more people than we usually do.”

We were out of time to chat and I had my next post all wrapped up. Nice work for a short conversation. You know your Purpose—the Vision that drives your business every day—and the Ideal Customer who needs what you, uniquely, offer. (If not, you can do a little light reading through the archives here at MCE and you’ll have it all figured out in a jiffy.) But what about the car dealerships?

Take a look at your business through the prism of the car dealers. How can you create a “used-car department” like our new Guide—not an inferior version of the “real” thing and not a hollow attempt to get folks dissatisfied enough to trade up, but a way to scale back what you offer and reach a whole new category of Ideal Customer—while keeping the products or services you already offer just as high-touch and as relevant to your core customers as ever?

Have you tried to add a product or service to reach a new category of Ideal Customer lately? What worked best, and what went badly? Would you recommend expanding with a scaled-back (or scaled-up) offering to other small businesses like yours?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson