It’s time for me to purchase a new car. This time around, I didn’t shop very much — I had been satisfied with my 10-year-old Honda Accord, and the reviews/ratings all seemed in line that the car is as good value now as it was then. I purchased the car last time from the dealer nearest my home, and saw no reason to change. The biggest decision: Whether to stay with a standard transmission or switch to automatic.
In the last decade, it seems, the number of people driving “standard” has declined even more than when it was then — virtually no young people completing driving school are learning how to handle the gear shifts. Some manufacturers have discontinued standard models. The value proposition seemed better with “auto” so I took it.
There wasn’t much pricing negotiation — I got a few extras thrown in to make it a better deal. Did I squeeze every possible cent out of the dealer? Probably not, but I sense I probably got a fair deal for a new model car. Unlike previous cars, I elected to finance it — temporarily — as the cash to pay down the loan should be available to me within three months. Everything came together in a couple of hours.
Straightforward, but what about the car insurance? The broker from my previous carrier quoted a price not that much greater than when I was driving my 10-year-old beater, so I thought it reasonable. But maybe, on a whim I checked an online brokerage and discovered rates from reputable insurers about 30 per cent lower. This morning, my wife passed on the name of her car insurance broker. It seems that the house, the car, and (unexpectedly, through another broker) my business liability insurance are all with that carrier. The savings won’t rebuild my life — about $300 a year for somewhat enhanced coverage, but I’ll take the savings.
I share these personal observations with you because they relate to the decision-making processes for significant purchases. Sometimes analyzing how we do things can help us understand our place in the market. Of course, it is dangerous to export our own experiences and values to all (or even most) other consumers; we think through our own perspectives and experiences and decide things differently.
Nevertheless, there are some interesting points to consider:
- All things said, if you do your work right the first time, you’ll get the business the second. Even after 10 years, while I wasn’t wowed by the car dealer near my home, I was satisfied that the business would deliver the goods.
- Decision points on one matter invite reviews on others. New car = new car insurance. Here I shopped online using an web comparison service and discovered a lower price. However, by the time the broker representing the online service had called me in the morning, I had received a competitive quote from my wife’s insurance broker. Again, existing relationships and experience trumped what would ultimately have been a minor cost savings perhaps by shopping more intensively.
- External marketing (especially online resources) have validity but don’t trump the first two points above. For example, I reviewed carefully the Consumer Reports ratings on automobiles and discovered that while one or two brands might have scored slightly higher, my car was in nearly in the top ranks — so why spend time looking at others? And I used online resources to research the insurance prices, validating that I should consider a change, but in the end, prices being nearly equal, the broker/carrier closest to home relationships won the business.
You can see from these example how existing client relationships and referrals are so important in business and sales. Casting to the wind, advertising, spending hours on cold calls, desperately seeking business really wouldn’t have done much but to validate existing relationships. And when there was a switch (the car insurance), the move occurred because of the referral/relationship from the person closest to me.
This leads to one of the fundamental advice points of this blog: Before you worry about external marketing, review your client service/follow-up processes and embed strategies to enhance/improve your referral-getting capacity. If you are looking further afield (and longer range) look for ways to build your reputation and relationships — I find relevant client association membership and participation to be truly effective, if you are patient.
Have you analyzed your own purchase decisions and discovered how “marketing” works for you when you are on the consuming side? You can share your observations in a comment or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.