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Business Insights from Andrea Hill

Here's an example of what happens when even one detail of your operations, sales, or marketing fails to be consistent with the brand you have created.

You Can't Fake This

19 August 2007

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We bought a new used car for our son the other day, his first. I set the lowest budget I could set while still finding something safe, and started prowling the newspapers and Craigslist looking for my ideal buy. After weeks of distraction, escalating distrust of other humans, and a really scary fully armed guy named Hamid (why would you show up to meet a potential buyer of your Mazda 3-series truck fully armed???), I did what I have done for the last 10 cars. I went up to Beaver Toyota in Santa Fe, spent a bit more than planned, and bought a car in less than one hour.
I told our salesperson the story and he laughed, because he remembers me telling a nearly identical story back when we bought our daughter her car five years ago. I’m not sure why I shopped around first – maybe to convince myself I’d tried to find something less expensive. But I trust Beaver Toyota, and that’s where I always end up.
The service manager Frank always remembers me and my family, even though he only sees us once or twice a year. Alan and Aspen and Audrey (I’m sure they hire salespeople that start with other letters) have been incredibly honest and fair with us. The general manager Matt is a real person who comes out and meets with customers and demonstrates that he cares about what we have to say.
We’re not the only devotees of Beaver Toyota. They enjoy cult status throughout much of the state because they treat their customers so well. I can’t imagine they even need to advertise – their referral business must be astounding. But they are doing something that violates the brand they have so carefully created, and it’s worth considering.
About four weeks ago my phone rang, and I answered it, and a recorded voice said “while you were out the following message was left for you.” Then a recording of the voice of the Matt (the GM at Beaver Toyota) came on, reminding me that the lease on my Avalon was almost up and how much they want to be our dealer of choice when the time comes to turn it in. It was clearly a pre-recorded piece of marketing.
Yesterday I got the same sort of call. The GMs voice comes on (after the “while you were out” intro) and thanks me for purchasing our car at Beaver Toyota. All I could think of was that it would be better not to get a call at all than to get a pre-recorded message that required no actual consideration by any person at the dealership.
I will continue to buy cars from Beaver Toyota, because they are so good. But why are they doing fake customer attention when their real customer attention is so beyond the pale? This dissonance is an example of what happens when even one detail of your operations, sales, or marketing fails to be consistent with the brand you have created.


(c) Andrea M. Hill, 2007