Well? Looks okay doesn’t it? MG’s first SUV, the GS, will be launched here at the London
Motor Show on 6 to 8 May. Enticing walk-in customers with free gifts or special offers can
only help improve brand credibility and presence, build up a customer database and concept
sell this very important, all-new model just in time to carve a slice of the thriving
British Compact SUV market
I have AROnline reader and good mate Neil Rapsey to thank for this one following his recent post about MG Motor’s latest offer of a free gift with every test drive on the Facebook page. He asked whether this smacked of desperation on the part of what remains of old the Longbridge empire and it’s certainly split opinion. The idea is that you simply steer into your MG dealer, take a new 3 or 6 out for spin and claim your free gift. There’s a choice of one year’s English Heritage membership, a sat-nav or one year of free breakdown membership. Sounds simple doesn’t it? However, it’s a bit more important than just that.
Let’s therefore isolate the trio of freebies. The first one is great, we are members of this along with the National Trust, they make for really good days out – especially if you like a bit of history. The second one is also really handy – use it yourself or keep in the drawer for that dreaded emergency birthday/Christmas present. What about the last one? Well, that’s equally useful – especially if you drive away from the dealer in your old clunker having not taken the plunge on a new car and much prefer to lurch and clunk around our fair isle in a worn out N -reg Vectra that burns more oil than the QE2.
MG Motor is not, of course, doing this because they are feeling flush – they want to sell you a car and, to do so, they have you entice you through the door to start with. Once you have done that, there’s a 50-50 chance you will buy – pretty good odds by all accounts. The post seems to have split opinion right down the middle, but in my own humble (ahem sniff) opinion I think it’s one of MG Motor’s better marketing ideas. I still shudder at the one they did a little while back whereby, if you dragged the other half into the Sales Centre on 14 February, they would throw a box of chocolates at you. It’s a numbers game.
To give you a smile-worthy example, I once worked with a lad called Barry Follow, who looked like a combination of someone that who had walked out of Belsen in 1945 and The Pogues lead singer, Shane MacGowan. He was colloquially known as ‘hollow legs Follow’ as he could drink more beer in one sitting than Ollie Reed, Paul Gascoigne and Georgie Best put together and still have room for a three-course Indian meal. Every Friday night three of us would go to this God awful club in Bedford – the sort of joint where you could bop away to yesterday’s music and drink beer at tomorrow’s prices today.
That said, for three single twenty somethings, it was heaven. Anyway, Barry would slowly but surely oil his inner cogs and walk up to any and every single-looking female (his prerequisite being at least four working limbs and a pulse) to simply ask if he could… Well, dare I say more? His well-polished patter nearly always worked though sometimes he would get a slap round the gills from the girl concerned or, at worst, a punch up the conk from an angry boyfriend. Let’s just say that, more often than not, three of us would go there but only two of us would come back the taxi. There you go… That’s how the numbers game works!
In the showroom, it’s called conversion – if 20 people walk in, 10 take a test drive and five buy, there’s your conversion. However, dealers cannot and do not just sit and wait twiddling their fingers waiting for the next walk-in customer to arrive – those halcyon days of a packed Saturday showroom are long gone. This is where the free gift or special offer kicks in – it serves not just give a reason for you to walk in, but for the dealers to get you there in the first place. Inflatable dinosaurs, face-painting, a meal for two, they are all basically nothing more than honey traps set by the dealers or manufacturers.
The average salary before commission these days for a new volume brand Car Sales Executive is around £10K and it’s not that long ago that many worked on a commission-only structure. In some showrooms, the pressure is so great it could make a bronze statue weep but, in my own personal experience, I found it enjoyable, stimulating and rewarding both financially and mentally. I got no bigger a buzz than seeing a customer almost jump with joy at the point where you shake their hand and hand over the glistening virgin keys to the second biggest purchase most adults ever make in their lifetime.
Oh, no not him! Oddly enough this marketing campaign and massive play on the word ‘free’
has turned the company around from a local unheard of into a national leader in its field
Mind you, some marketing ploys actually have the reverse effect. Remember Radio Rentals and Box Clever? Well, in the dying days of rented TVs and Nicam stereo video recorders someone up on the ninth floor hit upon the idea of hiring in local mobile DJs who would plonk a huge speaker in the doorway of the local branch. After cranking up his or her gramophone to number eleven, they would blast out a trillion watts of racket into the High Street while intermittently shouting out the latest deals on the current range of rental goodies – it flopped, rather badly in fact.
The public would sometimes cross over to other side of the road to avoid a shattered eardrum. After various branches copped brown envelopes from their Local Authority Noise Teams and the Bedford HQ received pleas from Store Managers up and down the land, they packed it in. Desperate times do, indeed, dictate desperate measures. Posters in shop windows, those bloody annoying double-glazing adverts with that balding, yelling North country bloke are nothing more than a proven way of getting you COME DOWN NOW or to plant a seed in your mind.
Offers like the aforementioned free gift for a whizz round the block from be it MG or any other car manufacturer can bring in far more revenue than the initial outlay and it’s nothing new. I’ve worked for dealers doing similar things – it does bring in business when done properly. Do I think MG is doing it right? Well, let’s just say I think it’s a huge improvement over previous efforts. The soon-to-be launched GS is pretty much the right car at the right time and the more the public are made aware, the more secure the future of Longbridge should be – that’s surely a good thing, isn’t it?
One thing is a fact with any manufacturer – in some folk’s eyes; they are damned when they don’t try to bang the drum and damned when they do.
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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