Who is the mark and where is the marketing?

This is the internet and whatever I say is true, right? I’m superman, I am super intelligent, I am blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.
The problems really only come when you start believing it yourself or worse still, you try to maintain an unrealistic facade off-line.
I recently attended a seminar on e-commerce where the presenters were a particularly well known and successful Irish on-line car parts sales company. As I had only recently entered the on-line sales arena myself, it was an ideal opportunity for me to learn first-hand from those who set the industry standards and can call upon such exacting personal experiences.
The day was at times highly productive and informative when covering certain areas. However, it was also disappointing, if equally understandable, that the speakers did not delve into too much depth in terms of detailed data and figures relating to the business (i.e. how certain actions yields particular results, how some investments, financially or time-wise, are worth more than others). Essentially, the company did a fine job in outlining their own IT knowledge and business acumen in running an e-commerce and distribution operation.
However a number of presenting members of the company continuously proclaimed “we love car parts”. Strange, I thought, but ok I thought, giving them the benefit of the doubt. That they then reinforced it with the assertion that “every time a new range comes in we all go down and unpack the boxes, anxious to get our hands on them”, however was a step too far in the deep end for my own liking. This is, what some in the movie business refer to as ‘jumping the shark’ i.e. the point when the plot loses all credibility and becomes hard to believe.Image

This proclamation was cringe-worthy to say the least coming as it did in a room full of professional business people. However, to their credit they were not silly enough to try and justify themselves as experts in car parts. Like everyone I love good food, but I’m still pretty useless in the kitchen!
I have been in the coalface of the car parts supply business since 1984. I also employ mechanics in my workshop and work closely with them to gain knowledge and insight. Despite my vested interest lengthy career, and the life it has afforded me I maintain that you cannot love car parts. Is it possible to love brands? Sure! It might even be plausible to favour certain fitments and mechanical repairs over others, providing you are technically minded. You can love the business and all the activities it entails, but if I were to ask anyone which they prefer, the driveshaft of VW Golf or that of a Polo and why, I’d be met with some very strange looks, and rightfully so.
In reality I don’t imagine too many people in the room would be bothered whether their on-line protestations were true or not as it would have been excused as marketing, but to carry on the façade off-line was a mistake. Represent your brand but stay honest to yourself. Marketing your brand should be about identifying and duping marks. It should be about presenting yourself in a way that highlights all that is good (and true) about your business.

A bad reputation is effortless

Providing good service is generally not appreciated but expected in business and taking every opportunity to provide exemplary service and going the extra mile is where the accolades belong.

I was recently asked for a litre of transmission oil for a BMW 520 and advised it necessitated checking the label on the gearbox. As the customer had no means of doing this I seized the opportunity and offered to put his car on the lift in our garage and have a mechanic remove the plastic splash guard under tray to reveal the label, at no charge. Needless to say the customer was delighted and I was happy that the extra effort would result in a good relationship.

During the process the customer consulted with the mechanic with regard to and over revving issue and so the mechanic drove the car in our yard to help diagnose the problem. When the customer left he was all smiling and grateful and we were very satisfied with a job well done, albeit for free but as an investment for our future.

Imagine our surprise when the customer soon returned and complained that we had damaged his back wheel. We explained our procedure of removing the under tray and that it had no connection whatsoever with any mechanism of the rear suspension. The customer then insisted the issue was not there before we had looked at the car so we put it back on the car lift and raised it up.

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We diagnosed the issue; the mounting of the rear suspension arm was faulty and misplaced from its position. It would take 8 ton of pressure to remove this mounting and explained that this was a common wearing parts issue with this model. The bushing had worn over years and many miles of use. Outlining there was nothing we could have done to promote or cause this issue all fell on deaf ears as the customer stuck to his point of the fault arising whilst we had the car and therefore we were responsible. To add insult to injury, I was accused of going to such trouble to profit from the litre of oil I would sell. The profit on the oil was €2.20.

Good reputations are hard earned and even harder to maintain whereas bad reputations are effortless. What would you have done in this situation?