What I learned about product marketing from buying a car

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I had to replace my poor Passat early December, so I was back on the market for a car. Since it has been over 15 years since I last bought a car, I found myself faced front-and-center by terrific product marketing at the various car companies…

Smart Packaging and Pricing

My basic specifications were an all-wheel drive, 3-row SUV with a moon roof. Pretty basic specs – nothing fancy. However, I was very impressed by the packaging and pricing of the various automakers.

For example, I test drove the Subaru Ascent, which their new 3 row SUV. The base price is an affordable $31,995. However, to get the moon roof, you need to:

  • Upgrade to the Premium edition, which is $34,195. (+$2,200), with heated seats, 2nd row climate controls, and other features
  • Add the “Sporty” package, which includes upgraded wheels, a navigation screen, and adds $4,260 to the price.

All-in to get the moon roof, you need to pony up a minimum of $6,460 which, by itself, should cost somewhere in the $2,000 range. However, because of the bundle, I was willing to pay for it.

Takeaway: As Product Marketers, how can we do a better job bundling features that can both deliver more value to customers and capture more revenue?

Sales Compete Readiness

I test-drove the GMC Acadia, which met all my specs (and had a similar pricing/packaging scheme as the Ascent with five different trim options and a moon roof package). The salesperson was a pro and asked me if I was considering other vehicles. I shared that I was going to test drive an Ascent, and he launched into a superb compete script.

He asked if I had heard all the issues with Subaru’s CVT transmission, where “it can sometimes be non-responsive to the acceleration pedal.” Believe me, when I test drove the Ascent, I was hitting the gas to see if there was a delay. The seeds of fear/uncertainty/doubt were planted.

Takeaway: Fair warning, it is going to be pop-quiz time at Sales Kickoff. Who can articulate the top weaknesses of our competitors in a succinct two sentences?

Gathering data from multiple sources

When I look back on the car buying experience, I considered all the data sources I used to inform my decision. Sure, I used the manufacturers’ websites, Consumer Reports, and the Institute for Highway Safety. However, I used a slew of other resources as well:

  • My co-worker who recently bought an SUV
  • My brother
  • CarGurus.com
  • Car Pricing companies: NADA.com, Edmunds, KBB.com
  • Aggregators: Autotrader.com, TrueCar
  • Apps like Fair, which has a new model of leasing
  • All the individual dealer websites

Clearly, the majority of sources are out of control of the car manufacturers, and it takes focus and work to influence how they show up.

Takeaway: It is time to take another look at how my company and my products are showing up on sites outside of my control & outside analyst reports. How are we looking on Gartner Peer Insights feedback? G2Crowd? The comments of news articles? Etc.

Decision time: So you made it to the end of this post, and I am sure you are wondering what car I bought…. I am the proud owner of a 2019 Ascent WITH A MOON ROOF. However, the Subaru product marketing team may have an issue with the discounting that ended up happening on the deal. :)

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