Why Tesla’s customer loyalty ratings beat Mercedes

Columnist Rob Enderle writes that marketing isn’t about selling stuff anymore. It’s about selling experiences. A recent trip made it clear that Tesla gets this and Mercedes does not.

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The Mercedes part is getting your car from the factory. But the dealerships do a better job of car delivery, you get the car more quickly from the dealership, you get to keep your trade-in and money far longer, and the car is better protected until you eventually get it. I found no advantage to picking a car up at the factory. It’s just stupid, even if you lived next to the factory, you’d have a hard time justifying this option because you’ll need the relationship with the firm that sold and services the car not the one that built it.

You don’t fix that -- you step back, figure out what you wanted to accomplish, and start over from scratch with a tight focus on the goal. If you don’t even know you have a problem, you’ll never do this. But Mercedes likely doesn’t even know they have a problem because they haven’t instrumented the customer adequately.  

Automated customer engagement

Mercedes Benz has a huge line of cars, massive distribution and global reach. Tesla has two cars, isn’t even wel- represented in every U.S. city and isn’t profitable. Oh, and it sells cars that don’t work with the existing gas based eco-system. Yet it has a massive valuation, Apple-like customer loyalty, and it gets hundreds of thousands of people ordering cars over a year before they are available. They are well along the path of doing to the car market what Apple did to the smartphone market.

Go back and search on the number of CEOs who were very vocal about how the iPhone would never be successful and then count the number that still have jobs, or even companies, today.

The market isn’t about selling phones or cars anymore; it is about selling experiences. Firms that get this can, and have, rolled over firms that don’t and you can’t sell experiences unless you connect with customers.

Tesla has aggressively instrumented its customers and engages with them more deeply than Mercedes, or any other company (though GM seems to be rapidly going in this direction), does. This is paying massive dividends and if the bigger older car companies don’t come up to speed quickly they may, like the old smartphone vendors did, wonder where their market has gone.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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